A Karoo Graveyard: Thoughts, mist and memories
It’s one of those misty autumn mornings here in the Karoo, the perfect time to be strolling about the Cradock cemetery.
I can hear the resident harrier hawk, a juvenile by the sound of his hunting cry, as he sails through the grove of pine trees in search of breakfast. Across the Great Fish River, the first train of the morning passes through on its way up to Johannesburg. The massive overnight trucks in the main street begin to ready themselves for the day’s driving, grumbling and growling their way past the fast-food joints.
A true love story
Here in the cemetery, thick mist swirls about the old gravestones and statues, some headless, and I can’t help dwelling on a story from a long-time local.
There was a man who lost his wife and was inconsolable. On most nights after she was buried here, he would take a camp chair, a lantern and a book out to her graveside. There, he would sit and read to her until bedtime, when he would pack up and leave.
Cradock used to have two movie houses in the old days. Every so often, the bereaved man would drive down to the cemetery dressed in his “going-out clothes”. He would “escort” his wife from her grave to his car, help her in and drive off to the movies. There, he would open the door for her, let her out and buy two entrance tickets. During the movie, he would offer her chocolates. And afterwards, he would take her back to the cemetery, open the passenger door and allow her spirit to alight.
Cradock has many hard stories, some of them still in progress. But this one lifts the soul very high.
The Official Timekeeper
Here’s a simple black stone in the ground that only says: “Harry Edwin Wood – Astronomer”.
Mr Wood, history records, was the official Astronomer and Timekeeper for the Union of South Africa. He is also famous for his discovery of a comet recorded as “1660 Wood”.
In 1941, he retired and came to farm in the Mortimer area near Cradock. Legend has it Mr Wood, the one-time National Timekeeper, used to drive all the way in to Cradock (30km) to synchronise his wristwatch with the time on the steeple clock of the Dutch Reformed Mother Church. The ...