Willie’s problem is that his plot is up against the Wildsplaas. Now, the Wildsplaas is no longer a place where wild animals are kept, as its name suggests. But it is an excellent place for thieves to hide out and raid the plots bordering it.

In a month, Willie lost one hundred three-day-old chicks, twenty-four pigs, all his avocados that were close to ripening and ten kilos of biltong, being cured on his back stoep. The stoep had only a screen door protecting it. The thieves had sliced through the screen wire without any trouble.

“I’m going to shoot the bastards,” Willie told me. “I’ll bury them in the bush down near my boundary.”

“Don’t do that,” I said. “You’ll go to jail forever. You can’t just go killing people who are not a threat to you at that moment. Rather catch them, tell them to put up their hands and let your wife call the cops.”

“That’s what I’ll do,” he said. “I’ll sit on my back stoep with my rifle on my lap.”

“Be careful,” I said.

I saw Willie again a week later and asked how it had gone. “Not well,” he said. “I fell asleep and they got away with one hundred eggs.”

“You sleep soundly?” I asked.

“Only when I’ve had a dop. And last evening I finished a whole bottle of red wine.”

“This is not working,” I suggested.

“I know it,” he said. “I’m not going to drink in the evening anymore.”

“Good for you,” I said.

The next morning, after he had spent a sober evening, I had to know what had happened, so I called him. “I fell asleep anyway,” he told me. “But this time I had nothing much to steal and they didn’t come.”

“The so-and so’s,” I said. “But you’ll have to find a way to stay awake. What about a dog?”

“A Doberman,” he said. “A big Doberman. They’re strong and they’re fast, and have you seen their teeth? It’s not surprising that those teeth are called canines. A Doberman, better still two Dobermans, will scare the dingus out of them.”

“A small dog will be better,” I told him. “A light sleeper. His job is just to wake you. Get a Yorkie.”

“That’s what I’ll do,” he said.

The next day I was passing his place so I dopped in. “I got one,” he said. “And he’s perfect. He wakes up if a mouse creeps across the floor.”

“Excellent,” I said. Then I saw the Yorkie. It was small enough to fit into his jacket pocket. He had bought a miniature.

“Not too big,” I said.

“No, he’s perfect. He hardly eats anything. I got more chickens today, and me and Mr Yorkshireman – that’s what I call him – are going to lie in wait tonight.”

I reached out to stroke Mr Yorkshireman, but as soon as I came close, he snarled, barked

more loudly than I thought possible for a dog his size, and tried to bite me. “Isn’t he wonderful?” Willie said affectionately. “He’s protecting me.”

“Just don’t shoot him by accident,” I advised him. “He’s only a little fellow.”

“Shoot him? Never.” Willie said.

It was a few days later that I ran into him at the Petronella Hardware store. Mr Yorkshireman peeped out from his jacket pocket. Willie was feeding him jellybeans, while he was in the act of buying a role of roof repair tape. “Cleaning up a bit of rust?” I asked.

“No. I shot a hole in my roof accidentally, two actually.”

“Were you aiming at the thieves?”

“No. They came, but they woke Mr Yorkshireman. He barked with his mouth right next to my ear. I got a helluva fright. And I had fallen asleep with my finger on the trigger.”

“And the thieves?”

“They got away with just one rooster before Mr Yorkshireman woke up. As far as I can tell, they’re still running.” He stroked Mr Yorkshireman. “Isn’t he wonderful? So brave and such a big voice.”

“He’s an asset,” I said.

“Now you’re talking,” Willie said.