Living in Africa, especially when you have spent your whole life up to date there, you get used to things and only realize how amazing they were when you leave. Since moving to Australia a few years back, we have recounted to friends a few stories of everyday happenings in Swaziland, and they have been astounded. And I began to realize that life in Africa is amazing and exciting and one huge adventure.
One of these memories that my sister and I love to remind each other of is the story of Compost the Goat.
We had gone to Manzini to fetch some American girls who were doing volunteer work at the church, they had a day off and my mom had offered that they come and spend the day with us. Reaching our lovely house which stood beside a large mango grove, the four girls were warmly greeted by our two German Shepherds, Ted and Toff. They were covered in muddy footprints and slobber by the time we managed to bundle them inside and send the dogs on their way. Ted and Toff never tired of guests and were always excited to see anyone. We had lunch, and then afterwards decided to go on a walk. Beyond the grove were sugarcane fields, a little dam, and beyond that, pineapple fields. The sugarcane was already quite mature, and we would often walk in the water strips between the fields and suck the sweet sugarwater from the stem. The American girls had never heard of sugarcane and were curious to see what it was, so clipping on the dog’s leashes, we headed off. Ted and Toff were so boisterous and so keen to sniff and run that we normally let them off the leashes when we were out of range of Vusi’s house. (our neighbour who had a pack of unruly mutts that were always looking for trouble.). Tenique, my sister, let Ted off the leash, but for some or other reason I kept a hold on to Toff. I am glad I did, as we see what infolded next.
There was a mad pounding of little hooves and heavy paws through the cane as the reeds bucked and shivered. We stopped and strained our necks to try to see, but the cane was too high and it was a very large field. The chase stopped and the next minute came a terrifying scream – almost human, over and over again. We were shocked and suddenly realized that Ted had chased something and caught it. Toff fought to get free, she was more vicious than her bear-like brother and had already had her fair share of killing small innocent creatures, she knew the sound of pain and terror. We ran down the water strip and to the other side of the field where the dam stood. Tenique was calling Ted over and over again, the unnatural, eerie screaming has stopped a while ago, and there was just silence. The girls were totally freaked and wanted to go back to the house, but we managed to get them to continue to the dam where we had them sit down and rest on the bank while Tenique and I went back to try find Ted and more about what happened. The cane began to ripple and parted to give way to Ted, he was heaving and panting, obviously tired after a chase and fight. He had blood on his teeth and lips and looked over excited. We began to really worry – what could he have attacked in the cane? Next minute we see two men emerging from the cane dragging a moaning goat between them. Mduduzi, our groom was one of the men and he called us over with a worried expression. He had heard the screams and literally leaped over the tall wire fence to come to the rescue. When asked later how he did it, he just answered with a laugh and this explanation, “I don’t know, I just had to get there and went over the fence.”
The other man was one of Vusi’s gardeners, and also the goat keeper. He was fuming and going off in Siswati… I don’t blame him. The goat was lying on his side wheezing, a coupel of holes in his neck where Ted’s teeth had sunk in. We told Mduduzi to tell the goat keeper to let us take the goat home and fix him up as best we could. He agreed, not wanting to get in trouble with Vusi and so, calling the Americans to join us, we made out way back. Mduduzi walking ahead with his cargo and us following at a safe distance, Ted and Toff pulling hard on their leashes.
Locking the two dogs up in the courtyard we proceeded to clean and bandage the goat’s gaping wounds. While Tenique did that under the curious eyes of the American girls, I went to make up a batch of homeopathic medicine to help prevent infection and boost healing. When that was all done, we took the goat to an enclosed area outside the kitchen and left him there on a rug to recover from his shock.The girls left a little while later telling us that they would never forget that crazy day – to us it was the stuff of everyday life.
He healed well and started becoming the pest that their kind are renown to be. He would dart into the kitched when the door was slightly open and run around bleating. Any leftovers he would gobble up like a machine and from that trait we gave him his name – Compost.
A few days later we saw fit that Compost was healed enough to make his short journey home again. Locking up the dogs, we let him out of the enclosure and tried to herd him to the gate. But being a billy goat and immensely stubborn, he ran in the opposite direction – straight to where the dogs were waiting. Mduduzi ran after him and grabbing onto his tail, hung on. Tenique and I wanted to help – but it was just so funny, we had trouble standing we were laughing so hard. Mduduzi didn’t let go as the goat bleated and ran about, dragging Mduduzi after him, but getting the crazed creature to face the right way, he let go and we all joined forces to chase him out the gate, shouting and clapping our hands. We then watched as Compost happily trotted down the lane, incident forgotten, bleating for his family to rejoin him. We saw him a few times after and would always exchange among ourselves, ‘Oh look! It’s Compost!’