Our house is right at the back of our small-holding, only twenty paces or thereabouts from the fence. On the other side of the fence is a cattle farm, commonly called the Beesplaas by the locals.

Over some months our fence suffered an invasion, but it was conducted by the most charming invaders. They were Black-eyed Susans. If you have been deprived of a relationship with Black-Eyed Susans and do not have the privilege of an acquaintanceship, let me explain that they are the most charming orange flowers, each with a black eye that contrasts perfectly with their colour. They are a delight.

Image credit: BR Cutrer, Inc.

The Beesplaas is divided into a number of camps and for some years, as the grass has been allowed to recover from grazing, the camp across the fence has stood empty. But then, with our Black-eyed Susans growing in dense profusion along perhaps fifty metres of fence wire, the owner of the Beesplaas did the unthinkable. He let his cattle into the camp. The cattle in question were Brahmans, huge white cattle, beautiful in their own lumbering way. The bull was about the size of a pick-up truck, if your pick-up truck is pretty big.

This formidable creature knew what he wanted. And what he wanted was our Black-eyed Susans. So did the rest of his family. The herd descended on our fence with purpose. In an hour it was denuded of the flowers, every one, leaving us with bare iron wire. It was very sad.

But that is not the end of the story. A metre or so on the inside of the fence is a water tank on a steel stand. The slaughter on the fence was observed by a single Black-eyed Susan plant clinging to the stand. It had just four or five flowers and what was happening on the fence must have been terrifying.

In the year or two since the day of the massacre that plant has taken up the fight and there are now hundreds of flowers on the stand, but still none on the fence.

Recently the Brahmans were again let into the camp. Remembering the scene of their previous crime, they made straight for that section of fence. But flowers and leaves were gone and those on the water tank’s stand were out of reach. All they could do was stand around disconsolately, drooling over the flowers on the stand. I crowed with vengeful delight.

But know this: the stand is close enough to the fence for the Black-eyed Susans to close the gap easily and spread across to the fence, but they have stayed where they are safe. So don’t tell me flowers can’t think. Our Susans certainly do. And don’t tell me Brahmans do not possess memory. This lot does.

The Black-eyed Susans and the Brahman