"When I first saw him, I knew Marshpig was easily
the ugliest man in South West Africa," Danes said.
He used the pre-liberation name for Namibia and
fixed me with his piercing hunter’s stare. Built like a pit bull –
powerful and close to the ground, and almost bald due to a
testosterone excess, his bald brown pate was crisscrossed with the
pale lines of years of thorn tree scratches.
It was late at night and the flames were low. We
were hunting on Oom Soon’s farm named Vrede (Peace). We were hunting
the way it should be done, making a temporary camp under the open
Namibian sky next to a dam somewhere on the farm, far away from the
tame places of this world.
took another swig of his Tafel Lager and sighed with contentment.
"I met him two years ago far up the North where I
had a contract to build a primary school. I had to find the building
site with a GPS. They give me the coordinates and I just build."
As he leaned forward to continue his story, a
Black-backed Jackal called nearby. He paused and we sat and listened
as the mate answered the melancholy call in the distance.
"I did not believe that it was his real name at
first. But all the guys at the Katima bar said it was true. A big
fat strong bugger. Long black hairs on his nose and lots in his
ears. Big dirty hands and thick bloody arms."
He looked with mild distaste at his now empty beer
bottle. "Hey Cappy!" he shouted "more beer!"
Captain was our camp captain, a witty and skinny
yellow bushman with a deep passion for skokiaan, the lethal
alcoholic drink of Africa. He would work when he did not have money
to drink, and once he had enough he would disappear into the
underground shebeens of Rehoboth again for 6 months.
He quickly got up and got two more cold Tafel Lagers
from the icebox, gave each of us one and sat down quietly at a
"Ja, Marshpig is an ugly mother." Danes continued,
"But he said that his dad was even uglier than he was - but no-one
believed him. We knew for sure that Marshpig was the champion of
He paused for dramatic effect and pushed a thick
Oumawood log deeper into the fire with his boot.
"And then I met his dad half a year later up in the
He paused and stared deep into the fire for a while.
He slowly shook his shaggy head at the memory, as if he was still
amazed by what he saw then.
was right. His dad was bigger and uglier than him. He had a long
face like a Ovambo donkey and his nose was big and red. His hair was
white and thick like a Springbucks’ mane." Danes opened his hand and
spread his fingers next to his head to show how long and wild the
"He also had hair on his nose and it came out of his
nostrils too. Long white ones. The hair on his forearms was also
white and it looked like steel wool, you know - the pot stuff."
I was very surprised that Danes actually knew what
steel wool was. I believe he had never washed a pot in his life.
"After a couple of beers Marshpig’s dad told me that
he ran a drilling rig and drilled boreholes for water.
"One Sunday he drove to a nearby farm with a bottle
of Klipdrift brandy and two liters of Coke to visit the farmer. He
stopped at the stoep and knocked on the door but there was no
answer. He went round to the kitchen. The door was open and he
knocked there too but also no luck. The kraal was close to the house
and as he walked there he heard the sound of someone milking a cow.
That zrrr zrrr sound from the bucket as the milk comes from the
Teats? It was about here that I began to suspect
that this was not a story after all, but a joke with the punch line
just ahead. But Danes remained straight-faced and serious. He leaned
forward as he continued. Maybe this was a grim story about the bush
war after all.
"Marshpig’s dad looked over the kraal wall and saw a
cow standing tied up with riems by the back legs and an old Ovambo
on a small stool, milking her. He put his elbows on top of the kraal
waal and just stood there looking. The Ovambo did not see him and
kept right on milking.
Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of
several books on African wildlife and survival
dad did not like the Ovambo being there on the farm with the open
house and no whites around to check up on him and in the kraal with
the cattle, maybe even taking the some of milk for himself. He
leaned over the kraal wall and said
loudly: "Hey vambo! What you doing?"
"The Ovambo got such a fright that he jumped up and
kicked the milk can over, but when he saw Marshpig’s dad he said: No
man, I’m not scared! I know that thing you are wearing. It’s a
mombak!" (a mask)
Danes leaned back and hooted with laughter and
slapped me on the back.
"Can you believe it?" he said. "Someone as
ugly as that!"