Cousin

My cousin Piet’s farm was set on a windy dirt road that later turns to the main road that heads into town. I visited my cousin Piet on his farm a lot and I would stay with them over the summer holidays in December, before we went down to the coast for Christmas with my parents and other cousins. Of all my cousins, I loved to be around Piet and my uncle. We used to have the best fun there. Their farm had a ravine and bush that went on for miles. When we were younger we would go and explore the farm taking with us pillow cases tied to a stick full of food which we need on our explorations. We would explore for hours and only come back to the house in the early evenings. We never tired of this game. Sometimes Piet’s father let us sleep outside on the stoep on hot days.

When we got older, I learned to drive with my uncles bakkie up and down that dirt road for hours. On weekends, my uncle would allow us to have a few mates over for a party. Bonfires were always a must on Saturday evenings just outside the confines of the grassy patch that surrounded the house. The grass surrounding the house was beautiful lush green and Piet’s mother’s bushes and flowers around the house just made it look like an oasis. Huge blue gum trees dotted the front and back yard giving us shelter on hot days. There we would lounge on some afternoons in the hammocks in the back yard sipping cold lemonade.

Piet lives with us now. We live in the town and close to school and since I had been closest to Piet, my parents had taken him in. My aunt and uncle had been driving back home one evening from town. Their bakkie had slid of the road and overturned into a steep bush below. They had died on impact. Piet, before the accident, used to be fun and lively boy. Now it was hard just to get a few words out of him. I see him sometimes wondering around the house looking very lost and sad. He does not talk about his parents, even though my mother thinks it is a good idea for him to talk about it. I guess it just hurts too much for him. He was very close to his father.

His father had been a good man, he had taught me and Piet everything we know about hunting and fishing. He was good tempered and he loved to play with us and he laughed a lot. He was however a prankster. He loved playing tricks on people and animals for that matter. Once when we had been about twelve, Piet’s father had bought home a fox terrier. He trained the dog to be a leg-hound. I do not know how, but this dog would just hump on your leg whenever Piet father was not around. Sometimes it was funny other times I would get irritated with it. I am sure you can imagine the amount of trouble that the dog got my uncle into. Once when I was at their farm after school on a Friday, a dominie came to visit Piet’s mother. He came around and parked his car in the front by the stoep and when he got out, the terrier was in wait to hump his leg. It was a sight and me and Piet where hiding behind some bushes to view this spectacle. His mother had come outside ready to welcome the dominie. The dog started humping his leg and at first, he tried to push it very gently away.

“Nee, nee, kom. Foetsek.”

The dog was very determined to hump the hell out of his leg. And it just kept humping. Piet’s mother watched in shock and horror at this spectacle and she started coming down the stars to assist. At this point the dominies face was turning a bright red and he was now shouting and waving his foot around. The dog held on and waved about in the air. Piet mother tried in vain to remove the terrier, but she could not. We were just killing ourselves laughing. We heard Piet father come up from behind us. We looked back and he was laughing so hard tears were coming out of his eyes. He did not like the church very much and this must have been his pay back. After a while he walked over to the commotion and called the dog to him. Piet’s mother and the dominie were very frazzled and seemed hot and bothered. Piet’s mother straightened out her skirt and top, she gave Piet’s father a severe look and took the dominies arm and led him into the house. When they had gone we laughed so hard I almost peed myself. That had been one of his best pranks yet. He had obviously known the dominie was coming and had left the dog out front. Piet’s mother had been very angry at us once the dominie left, but even in her anger she could see the funny side of it. So, we got away with that one.

I had loved Piet’s farm and it was a pity they had had to sell it when my uncle and aunt died. Along with everything that was sold, was Piet’s pet baboon. Piet had loved that baboon. He called it cousin. Cousin came with us wherever we went. When we took the car to town, we would put cousin in the back seat and put glasses on him. He would sit back in the seat and have an elbow sticking out of the window. He was the real thing, cousin, and he loved going into to town with us. My parents did not care for cousin and they could not understand why anyone would have a wild animal as a pet. They believed that cousin would come to a sticky end. Cousin did not, he was very tame and relaxed animal.

Cousin had been a gentle baboon and we knew he could not even hurt a fly. We treated him like a friend. But the one thing we really laughed about was the fact that cousin was petrified of snakes. And I mean the poor thing just ran whenever he felt a snake was around. Cousin used to run with his hands and feet, he was quick and it looked like he was busy pulling grass from under him when he run. But most of the times he walked on his hind legs.

Now as I told you Piet father loved his pranks. One afternoon Piet and his father concocted a plan to play a trick on poor cousin. And you can guess it. It involved a snake. My uncles friend Herman, had come from town that morning and he had bought a very live looking toy snake. It was colourful and it was soft and rubbery. If you did not know it was a toy, you would surely think it was real. So, they decided to scare cousin with it.

Cousin was mad about grapes. He would steal them if he had to.  Piet and his father tied the rubber snake to the grapes with a string. They had called cousin and I suppose he had seen the grapes from afar and he came bounding towards us in that strange manner of his, grass flying everywhere. He had seemed so excited. We could see it on his face. At first I felt sorry for him but Piet had told me about cousin’s reaction to snakes, so I was also interested to see what he would do. Cousin got up on his hind legs and walked towards the grapes. As he listed the grapes up, it pulled the string and the snake popped up. Cousin saw this and for a second I thought he would run away. Instead he went completely limp, standing up and he just fell like a log to the ground. It was very funny to watch, an animal faint. Now when cousin fell, the toy snake had landed on his arm. Piet’s father told us not to move and keep watching. So we crouched a bit further away and watched. A few seconds later, cousin came to. He looked at his arm and there the snake was. Slowly very slowly as he lay there, cousin started to move his hand from under the snake. And once he was free, that baboon took to his feet and got the hell out of there very fast, grass flying everywhere. I felt sorry for cousin, but it had been a good prank. We had laughed about it at school with our friends at school a few days later.

It was sad to know that we could never be that carefree again. At my house, everything is proper and my parents like children to be quiet and obedient, we’re not a very lively bunch. My father reads his books and my mother sews and has tea parties. I wonder were cousin is now, and I am sure Piet, as he wanders around, wonders too.

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