P and K were two of the naughtiest kids in our town, and their families were at their wits end as to what to do with them. If they weren’t getting into mischief at school they were getting into mischief elsewhere. They did some classic naughty things at school and drove one teacher to distraction.
One balmy night, and well after 9pm, they slipped out of their bedroom windows and met for a rendezvous at their preferred place near the Kruidkoppie. This landscape feature was a very small rise of shale rock in the centre of town. At one stage around the time of the Boer War, a strong room was built on the top of this hill to store explosives in. The building however had long been abandoned by our time although the room still remained locked. At a later stage it was renovated and is still there today.
P and K jumped the fence of a well known gardener named Uncle Jan, in the dead of night, to help themselves to some ripe bunches of grapes. Knives in hand for cutting the stems, they started their access at the furthest point of the yard and had to make their way up the garden pathway to where the small vineyard flourished in the hard soils of this dry place.
Now Uncle Jan was wise-up to the antics of some of us. We, however, were not the only perpetrators of stealing good fruit. The good old African Porcupine could smell fresh produce from a long way off and having armour to suit their foraging they would venture out of the wilds right into town to help themselves to the best fresh fruit and vegetables. Porcupines are so tough they can virtually walk through a chicken wire fence. At times special porcupine traps are made out of chicken wire in a tapering formation. The Porcupine enters a rounded entrance of chicken wire and then as the tunnel tapers the porcupine becomes stuck and if they try to retreat their quills get tangled in the chicken wire rendering them trapped. That was one method. The other method was far more severe. This method resulted in the decommissioning a singe barrel shotgun. The barrel would be sawn off making the total length including the breech, about 30cm long. The barrel would then be moulded into a block of wood and fastened to it. Shotgun cartridges were procured, opened up at the front and the pellets removed and sometimes half of the gunpowder was taken out so as to reduce the force of the explosion. Grains of coarse salt were then loaded into the cartridge cavity and the front closed. Once the cartridge is loaded into the breech of the miniature cannon, the hammer is cocked and then, with a trip-wire set up across a perceived route, the wire is connected to the trigger mechanism. The hammer can then be cocked in anticipation of an event happening. When fired the coarse salt would be projected at speed into the object which could either be the flank of the Porcupine or the leg of a would-be fruit thief.
P and K were just about done when they perceived a noise emanating from the back veranda of Uncle Jan’s house. Thinking that it may be Uncle Jan himself in his nightgown and shotgun in hand, they took off at speed right into the path of the trip-wire…… BANG!
The small cannon exploded its contents from the short barrel. As luck would have, P was at the front of the escaping duo. His skinny leg tripped the wire and the force of this action tilted the small cannon backwards. The exploding contents poured out of the end of the barrel and hit P on his left buttock and into the seat of his shorts, which, it would seem, saved him from sustaining any real skin damage. They both made haste over the perimeter fence and disappeared into the night. Now there was nowhere to go. K could go home but P was in a bit of discomfort with some salt burns to his bum and need K to get him back through his own bedroom window. He spent a miserable night lying on his bed not even being able to whimper least his parents heard him. The next day was a Saturday so the two got together and made their way to the Outpatients Ward of the Hospital where they explained the injury as gravel rash from falling off a bicycle. When P was asked at school the following week as to why he was limping he evaded the question. The truth only came to the fore many years later. Much later P became the Police Chief for our town. I wonder if he ever mentioned this episode of his life on his CV ?