“Do you want to come with for the drive?” asks my dad… and I’m running for the door. I love going with my dad. Since we moved to South Africa he has been working self-employed and that means I can go with him to jobs. Sometimes it’s a bit boring, but almost every time I can find something interesting to look at or discover or do.
Today he is going to meet a builder and discuss work. The builder lives on a farm. A farm! Yaay! This is exciting.
We follow a dry bumpy dirt road through low thorn trees and bush until finally I can see clear fields and an old white-painted farm house. There is a car waiting for us; it’s the builder man. I know him. He’s nice. I get out and climb the fence while they talk. Across the fields I see another man coming towards us.
“That’s Ed.” The builder says, “He’s slow.”
He seems to be walking at a normal speed to me, but my dad explains that “slow” means Ed’s brain, not his feet. Ed’s parents rent the farm from the builder. Only his dad is dead now so it’s just Ed and his mom. The builder says how sad it is. Ed has no brains and can’t do anything. He’ll never be able to take over the farm now his dad’s gone. Ed’s no good for anything, but he stops talking there because Ed is close now.
He’s old! I’m surprised. Ed looks older than my dad and my dad is 35. Pretty ancient.
Ed is tall, skinny and brown. Everything about him is brown, his clothes, his old dusty hat, his leathery skin and even his bright deep eyes. He’s sort of drawn thin and dry, like something left out in the sun too long. Ed has stubble on his chin and his clothes look raggedy, but he has a nice smile. He says “Do you like puppies? We have puppies.”
I look at my dad. Puppies! Dad nods, it’s okay. I can go to see the puppies.
Ed and I walk back across the fields to the farmhouse in happy silence. We don’t need to talk. It’s spring and there is so much noise. Birds, cows, wind in trees… I can walk in happy silence and listen to spring… and think about puppies.
At the house Ed opens the front door into cool deep shadows. Inside the walls are peeling paint and the ceiling has holes. It feels like a ruin, but it smells like a home. The scrubbed wooden floors echo under my feet. An old lady comes out the kitchen. She’s dried out and brown too, but her hair is white. She’s wiping her hands on a big white apron. She says “Ed, you haven’t put the horse out yet.” Ed nods… and opens the door to our right. I can’t believe my eyes! There’s a HORSE in there! I can see a big farm dresser and a table against the wall… and straw all over the floor. A horse in the dining room! It’s a beautiful pure white horse. It looks like the horses you see in fairytale books. It comes to the door and “huffs” gently. I can feel sweet hay breath on my face. Ed tells his mom he’ll take the horse out later. He smiles, “I’m going to show her the puppies.” He tells his mother. His mother frowns, but says nothing. She goes back into the kitchen. The horse peeks at us from around the door, then goes back to eating hay in the dining room.
Ed takes me to his bedroom. It’s a huge room full of giant old wooden furniture and in the middle of the floor is a rug and on that a blanket. There’s a dog lying in the blanket... and the puppies.
Ed tells me to stay by the door. He explains that Jessy is a new mommy and very protective. We must be quiet and calm and not scare her. Jessy will bite if she thinks we are dangerous. He explains how Jessy needs to feel safe. I am quiet and I do as he says. I walk in slowly. I go only as fast and as far as Jessy is happy with. Every time she growls… I stop.
Jessy is some kind of farm work dog. She’s brown, like Ed, and she has long floppy ears. I don’t remember much else. I’m too busy looking at the puppies. They’re all the same brown and their eyes are still shut. They’re little wriggly brown squeaky blogs. Ed lets Jessy get to know me and once she’s relaxed he picks up a puppy for me to hold. It’s tricky. It wriggles so much and its fur is so silky. I’m scared I’ll drop it, so I give it back to Ed.
Ed tells me the rug always belongs to Jessy, but the cats have their kittens in the hatboxes. Hatboxes? He shows me. There’s a big old wooden wardrobe standing half open against the far wall. There’s a long shelf at the top. It’s filled with old hatboxes, probably Victorian. Big round ones decorated with faded stripes and roses, square ones in dark rich colours. He knocks on one… and a cat looks over the edge. Another cat peers out from another box further along. He sighs, “Can’t keep them out,” he says “The cats just love those hatboxes.”
His mom comes to call us. My dad is leaving, time to go. I say thank you. Ed waves goodbye as we drive away. I will never forget today, it has been a magical adventure.