Circles in a forest
By Dalene Matthee
There was a movement in the underbrush to their left. At first he thought it was just a lourie or something, but then it moved again and he got the fright of his life when he realized that it was two giant ears flapping amongst the foliage. It was an elephant! He reached out to Jozef. Jozef saw it too and stiffened beside him. The elephant must have been standing there all the time, watching them. Saul knew that he and Jozef were instinctively choosing the same stinkwood tree to climb, but neither of them moved â they were petrified! His heart was beating so wildly that he could not swallow; the wind was against his back and blowing towards the elephant! When the thicket in front of them started swishing and the colossal body began moving forward almost noiselessly, Jozef jumped up and ran for the tree, shouting:
âItâs Old Foot!â
The next moment the elephant was standing in the clearing of the cripplebush. He stood there slowly rocking his trunk to and fro over the seven-week ferns as if he wanted them to have a good look at him. Where the huge, thick tusks bulged from their sockets at the side of his head, they were smooth like butter and yellow. The lower part, right down to the rounded tip, was stained greenish-black from many years of digging up roots and tearing off bark. At least a hundred pounds of ivory on each side of his head. Saul knew he had to get in the tree with Jozef, but he could not take his eyes away from the giant elephant. Under the eye that was turned towards him, a wet patch stained the rough, wrinkled skin dark and it looked as if he was weeping. Over his massive rump was a deep trench scored by a bullet years ago and in one ear there was a round bullet hole that had healed too. They said half of one foot had been shot away when he was still a calf, but Saul could not see it, for the huge feet of the animal were hidden in the ferns.
âSaul!â a terrified Jozef whispered from the tree.
But still he could not move. He kept having the feeling that the elephant was standing there so that they could have a good look at him and see for themselves that he was not just something imagined by the old woodcutters. There was something indescribably majestic about him. A dignity. Saulâs whole body was sweating with fear and yet something was telling him no to be afraid. Not then. The trunk suddenly stopped swaying, the elephant started walking away slowly and disappeared back into the Forest as if he had never been there.
âIt was Old Foot!â Jozef shouted.
âAnd he did not chase us!â were the first words Saul could utter. âHe could have trampled us, but he didnât!â Jozef climbed out of the tree and came nearer very cautiously. â Why didnât he chase us, Jozef?â
âPerhaps he didnât see us.â
âHe did see us! I know he did. And the wind is wrong, he did see us!â
âLetâs go,â Jozef said. He was uneasy and kept looking in the direction where the elephant had disappeared. âCome on!â
âMaybe he knows of Ma and Sara â¦â Saul suggested and could not think why. It was just that he could not understand why the elephant had stood there like that.
âDonât be silly,â Jozef said, starting to walk on. âIf that Bigfoot turns back today, weâll be trampled, Iâm telling you! Come on!â
Saul Barnardâs first encounter with Old Foot. Born in a woodcutters family in the Knysna Forest, Saul come to know all the signs of the forest, which they shared with Bigfoot. It was considered bad luck to call the elephants by their name.
On every major change in his life Saul will meet Old Foot as if they shared a brotherhood and when Old Foot finally goes on the rampage Saul is propelled into a confrontation with his past and his life as a woodcutter. In his fierce love and protection of the forest, we as the reader learn about the Knysna Forest which once was.
This is a novel about the extermintation of the elephants in the Knysna forest.
A must read!