Most male plot owners go armed. Hand guns are carried on the hip, either tucked into the wearer’s belt or in a holster. While the bushveld that surrounds us is a home to some creatures who could be injurious to your health, primarily the guns are carried for protection against other human beings. From time to time you hear one being used.
Not only men carry arms though. One older lady takes a loaded shotgun with her whenever she ventures out after dark. The advantage of a shotgun is that you don’t have to be able to shoot very well to be effective. If the person so armed, simply points it and pulls the trigger, he or she is bound to hit something – and do considerable damage.
Shots heard at night time are a regular occurrence. But this is less than surprising. In a community of a few hundred plots we have at least one break-in nightly and usually more than one. Tools and water pumps are major targets of criminals, but livestock, especially over Christmas when the market is biggest, is the most difficult to protect.
With the police largely ineffective, the smallholder has to deal with the problem personally. And this is not easy. The plot owned by Dawie, a pig and chicken farmer, is up against the deserted game farm which provides a ready escape route for thieves. When he lost most of his pigs in one night, and knew his chickens were vulnerable, he sat up rifle across his knees on the stoep of his house, waiting for the thieves. Unfortunately, his chair was too comfortable, the blanket in which he wrapped himself was too warm and the night superficially too peaceful. He woke up with a start just after three. His chickens were gone, every one of them.
So, in the dead of night shots do get fired, waking up other members of the community. Both intruders and plot owners have been wounded, occasionally one is killed.
While this state of affairs continues, people feel duty bound to explain on our local WhatsApp group any sound of shots coming from their property. So you get messages like – “Just doing a little target practice, don’t worry” or “Fired at an intruder, no sign of blood, must have missed” or “Somebody shooting down near the Apies River, don’t know who it is” and so on.
One of the more surprising messages was sent by Norman, a recent arrival from the city. After what sounded like a wild west gunfight he had this explanation: “Not an intruder, just a puff adder in the car. Does anyone here have car body repair skills?”
It seems there were bullet holes in some of the seats, in two places in the floor, a window was shattered, the lid of the glove box punctured and the radio demolished. The puff adder also died.