How to blow up a jackal
by Herman Labuschagne

My grandfather had a blasting license. Nobody knew how he managed to obtain it, but he had one. And he had been itching to use it for years.


Ours was a family of Merino farmers. And on a Merino farm, the traditional enemy of all that is good has always been the silver backed jackal. Between my family and the jackal, generations of warfare had existed. By the time my dad was a boy this running conflict had been refined to an art already. The were fox hounds for following the scent, greyhounds and horses to run them down, and fox terriers to go after them into heir burrows and kill them underground.


One day my grandfather had a jackal trapped in an antbear hole where it could not be reached by any means. Finally he decided to blow the jackal up. He had long been waiting for a chance. Accordingly, he poured a drum of petrol down the hole. Now the lot had to be detonated, but without the aid of a fuse this was tricky. He therefore stood at what a man with a blasting license deemed to be a safe distance and proceeded to flick matches at the hole.


After several tries a match found its mark and went down the hole. Immediately a loud whoosh resulted, followed by a pillar of flame and a black mushroom cloud that shot out the hole and curled lazily up to heaven. Unfortunately there had also been a snake hole that that lead all the way from the antbear hole to where it reached the surface right in front of Grandpa's feet.


There too, a pillar of solid flame shot up nearly between his legs. A split second later Grandpa staggered back clutching his face with both hands, much to the alarm of all who had gathered to witness the extermination. When he recovered his senses, still numb with shock, the only damage he could show was a wounded pride and a singed moustache. As far as I know he never had use for his blasting license again after that episode.


Down at the White River there was a big rock that obstructed the flow of water into an irrigation weir. Grandpa was often asked if he wouldn't blow that rock up for us so that we could clear the obstruction. Seeing that he had a blasting license and all. He always refused to practice his skill again and over time the channel was abandoned and left to silt up.


When I was a young farmer fresh from university I cleared the ditch so that I could use it for irrigating my own fields. But that rock was still there. I stood and stared at it many a time - as my dad had before me - and sincerely wished I had a blasting license. The irrigation project was never a success. And the rock still stands there. To me that rock has become symbolic. Sometimes I still think one day I'll get a blasting license. And then I'll make the water flow like it was meant to.