#1  In Search of the Mammoth Woolly Poggenpoel Sheep in the Karoo

A mission to find the Golden Fleece of the Karoo begins and ends in the Calvinia Museum.

The opening chapter of Karoo Roads III by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit is all about the wondrous apparitions to be found at the Calvinia Museum in the Northern Cape.

The authors go on a road trip with the aim of discovering The Poggenpoel, said to be the shaggiest sheep in South Africa. En route, they bring a thunderstorm to the drought-stricken town, and uncover some of the most unusual artefacts you’ll ever find in a country museum:

- A section wholly dedicated to the Lombard Quads of Loeriesfontein. Born in Calvinia in 1951. Klasie, De Waal, Jan and De Villiers all turned 70 sometime this year. The room comes complete with four child-sized dolls dressed in bowties, waistcoats and cricketing whites (each holding a little shepherd’s crook), four walking rings, four cots, four christening robes, four baby’s bonnets and what looks to be four toddler-leashes for controlled outings.

- Trekboer Corner, with an ageing diorama of a settler couple completely engrossed (as they have been for many, many years) in preparing supper in their outdoor asbos skerm (lye bush shelter). There’s even a glow in the fire.

- A corner dedicated to the 120-odd Jewish families who once lived in Calvinia.

- A four-legged ostrich chick that was shown to farm kids for a penny at a time.

- A classic 1952 Ford V8 bakkie, with its distinctive white grille. In the Wool Boom decade of the 1950s, it was a farmer’s favourite, full of style and attitude.

- The Makadas Class 24 steam loco that used to haul Calvinia’s wool to Williston, then to Hutchinson and finally onto the main line to the markets of old Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha).

- A huge sheep that once belonged to Danie Poggenpoel, from Bonekraal Farm up in the Roggeveld Mountains. It went AWOL from its flock for a few years and skipped many shearing seasons. It was so remarkably tatty that the farmer kept it like that and, when it died, had it stuffed and donated to the Calvinia Museum.

“These marvellous old platteland collections of memories are a priceless lifestyle window to long-gone eras of the Karoo,” says co-author Marais. “They often tell you more about rural communities than a history book could ever do.”

For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the Three-Book Special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Karoo Roads III by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R760, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at julie@karoospace.co.za