Post a Comment. Follow by Email. The luncheon was an opportunity for the ranch to thank those who have contributed to the ranch with money, materials or hands on efforts and to give an accounting of its stewardship. Jimmy has been at the ranch for only a few months, but he and the people working with him, have tackled a mountain of challenges and have gained far more ground than anyone expected. Pastures have been mowed, deferred maintenance on some of the homes has been tackled, gardens planted and the grounds spruced up. It was that way Tuesday. He ran down a list of people who have benefitted the ranch in one way or another and what has been accomplished.
The achievements are impressive, especially considering that the bank account totaled only four digits when he assumed the job. Jimmy operates with a lot of faith. When new roofs were needed on some of the homes, a gift appeared. Ditto money for a desperately needed tractor.
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So when he went down that ambitious list of future projects, I did not doubt that they will be accomplished. They have been dealt bad hands in life. They have parents who died, or who went to jail, who abandoned them, or who otherwise could not take care of them. Right now there are a dozen girls living at the ranch. There spoke the idealist and the theorist.
That was over thirty years ago and the great rush of skilled labour has not happened yet. I was amazed at his cock-sureness; for I felt certain that I knew more about land settlement than did Kipling, and I would have hesitated about telling the Boers how to run their country.
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Then I remembered that he had been for years on the editorial staff of a big Indian newspaper. Once a man has been privileged to use the editorial "we" he feels that the world is out of joint, and that he is born to set it right.
Remember Dickens's editor who said: "Let us remind the Emperor of Turkey that we have got our eye on him. Kipling is two men--a sort of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
I sat next to him at dinner one night, and he put off the toga of the politician and put on the mantle of the author. It was most fascinating. He yarned away about shoes and ships and sealing-wax and cabbages and kings; interested in everything; asking questions about everything; jumping from one subject to another, from his residence in New York to border battles on the Indian frontier; from the necessity of getting your local colour right, to the difficulty of getting a good illustrator.
As he spoke, his face lit up and you began to notice the breadth of his head and the development of the bump of perception over his eyes. His training as a journalist may have made him a bit of an adviser-general to the world at large, but it taught him to talk to anybody and to listen to anybody, for the sake of whatever story they might have to tell. You could have dumped Kipling down in a splitter's camp in the back-blocks of Australia and he would have been quite at home; and would have gone away, leaving the impression that he, was a decent sort of bloke that asked a lot of questions.
As for the rest--I asked questions. March 29th --Outside Bloemfontein. Met Hector Macdonald, the fighting Scotch "Tommy" who rose to be a general and afterwards passed into limbo. One of the world's great soldiers gone wrong. I had expected to see a dour, hard-faced Presbyterian sort of general, with the brand of the sergeant-major all over him.
Instead of this, I saw quite a young-looking, pleasant-faced man with quick eyes, mobile mouth, and a general expression of light-heartedness; a man with a devil-may-care look in his eye, as if he would fight a policeman on the least provocation and think nothing of it. He yarned away about the Australians at a great rate, and obviously thinks our troops are as good as any for the work here.
He looked young enough to be Lord Roberts's son. He must be a wonder to have risen from the ranks to the position he holds, while still so young a man. Macdonald is as little of the "Muckle Sandie"the typical Scot--as any man I have ever seen. A genius in his own line, he shared the fate of that other great genius, Oscar Wilde. At the same time met Kitchener. As far as mobility of expression goes, you could put Kitchener's face on the body of the Sphinx, and nobody would know the difference. He has the aloof air and the fixed expression of a golf champion. His staff say that he is all right when you know him, but you've got to know him first.
They say that he has some humour concealed about him, and that he is a collector and is fond of literature. Perhaps he is like Thomas Bracken's hero, "not understood". He is taking over from Lord Roberts and will have a thankless job, as the English are sick of the war. There is a lot of jealousy in the army--in any army. The Piccadilly generals say that Kitchener is only a nigger-fighter, well enough when the enemy will rush at him and try to stab him with a spear, but not exactly the man that they--the Piccadilly generals--would have selected for the job of catching De Wet.
As a matter of fact, De Wet nearly caught him. Kitchener was occupying a house at some distance from the main body. The next thing was that De Wet's men raided this outfit, galloping up to the lines in the darkness and shooting off their horses into the camp. If they had known that Kitchener was in that house, they must have got him. As it was the great K. March 18th --At Wessell's farm, outside Bloemfontein. We are moved out here probably to keep our troops from getting into mischief in the town.
This is the best bit of country we have seen in Africa. We are camped on a high ridge, which is like nearly all the rest of Africa that we have seen perfectly bare of trees. The grass is knee-deep, almost exactly like our kangaroo-grass. Below is a flat of about six hundred acres covered with maize, growing very well, and about eight feet high. All among the maize there are thousands of melons--water-melons, rock-melons, pie-melons--and pumpkins; the fruit is so thick that a horse can hardly avoid smashing it as we ride through the rows of corn.
From this ridge, at least six houses are in sight, each with its dam of water, its mass of willows and poplars, and its fruit garden. The soil is a rich red loam; and the grass is so good that horses, when turned loose to graze, hardly move ten yards from the same spot. The owners of these farms, and their farmhands, are the Boers of whose uncivilized ignorance we have heard so much. They have the latest air-meter windmills, they use the springs of water to the best advantage in irrigation, and in the town we can get anything that could be got in an Australian town of similar size.
If one goes to these outlying farms, the man of the house is always away on commando, but the Afrikander woman is as a rule the exact counterpart of the girl of any Australian country town. They are great on tennis--nearly every farm has its tennis-court. They have their little assembly balls; and one clique does not mix with the other clique, just as in Australia. In peace time they go to Johannesburg for balls and races and so forth. Now they go to the hospitals and act as nurses. When they were besieging Ladysmith, the wives and daughters and sweethearts of the burghers used to go down from Heidelberg by excursion train every Saturday and hold a kind of picnic.
Old Piet Joubert found them such a nuisance that he forbade any women coming down, except nurses. Then they all put red crosses on their arms and went as nurses--more nurses than patients--till even the nurses were not allowed to go down. When we cleared the Boers out of Heidelberg, all these women rolled up to our hospital and started nursing the sick Tommies with just as much interest as their own men. The Boers have been fighting all through their history and they take war as they find it.
Outside Thabanchu --Went with two celebrated civil surgeons, Drs MacCormick and Scot Skirving, with an ambulance to pick up a wounded man. Rode round a kopje and found ourselves right in the middle of a Boer commando. Great chance to see how they campaigned.
We saw a lot of rough, dirty, bearded men, just like a crowd of shearers or farm-hands, as no doubt most of them were. Each man was leading a pony and carrying a rifle. The rifle was the only thing neat and workmanlike about them. Their clothes were poor, ready-made slops; their hats every kind of battered old felt; their saddles were wretched things, worn out of shape. No two men were dressed alike; they were all ages, all sizes and all classes; all were dirty, with rough, unshaven faces. But we did not take much notice of that, as campaigning is not clean work, and we ourselves had not had our clothes off for a week.