My man Tobias Gumede has lost seven of his herd, once twenty five-strong, in the drought. He lives downstream of the Jozini dam on the Makathini floodplain on the right bank of the Pongola river. Not on the riverbank, but some kms away.
His son Mpilo is his herdsman and the poor fella is certainly putting on mileage as the cattle venture ever-further in search of grazing. Lately where they have found grazing there’s no surface water, so every few days they turn round and head off near home to drink. He gets home on average every third night for a meal and a bed, leaving early the next day to get back to the cattle wherever they are.
That’s when you really have to know your cattle as there are no fences and they can mingle with anyone else’s herd. Good thing Marguerite Poland recorded all the names of the coat patterns and horn shapes, and good thing her cousin Leigh Voigt painted them!
Winter – Now his son is home without the cattle. They have not been seen for weeks. They have headed off on their own.
October – The rains have arrived at last. The cattle are home again. Tobias estimates (he’s not good with exactness) they’re down to just eleven in number.