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Marshpig’s Father

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"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.

He 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 respectful distance.

"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 ugliness."

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 North."

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.

"He 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 hair was.

"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."

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.

Mitch Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of several books on African wildlife and survival

"Marshpig’s 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!"

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