In the quest for a farm manager to look after her cows on our farm near Warmbaths, South Africa, so as to get away to visit and stay with me in Maun, Botswana, Sheila advertised in the Farmers’ Weekly.
Francis Hanrahan, (31) arrived on 29th January 1992. She found him to be keen and pleasant in the first few days as she showed him the ropes. By the Sunday, she had fired him for not doing as he was told, but took him along when she was invited to supper with my parents. He told my mother that he was now jobless and had nowhere to stay, for which Sheila bollocked him out for involving my mother in his problems.
On Monday, he refused to be put on the train, refused to give any details about his family and appeared to be cracking up altogether. Eventually Sheila got his sister’s number and she was able to get hold of his father who told her that Francis was a frontal lobe epileptic. This explained why, without his medication, he messed up any job that Sheila gave him. Some of his peculiar doings were to bury books in the garden, singing and talking to himself, writing letters and replies to and from God, and kindly giving the contents of the ‘fridge to the maid. His brother fetched him on the Tuesday.
Convinced that a woman would do a better job, Sheila fetched the next applicant from the bus terminal in Johannesburg, accompanied by her 16-year old gay nephew. He, in his worldly wisdom privately told Sheila that the young lady was a lesbian! That, of course, didn’t faze Sheila until she fell in love with Sheila and suggested they go away together. Sheila made things clear in no uncertain terms. Rejected, she sulked. When the girl smacked one of the calves she was feeding over the head with the glass bottle, Sheila fired her, too.
By mid-March a Royal Agricultural College graduate James, applied. He was a Brit who wanted more money than Sheila could afford, but he was allowed to stay on until he could find something else. Quite an arrogant lad, he refused to stop at stop-signs as he said they didn’t have them in Britain. A young Croat, Jegko, (27) joined him. After some training, Sheila felt that it would be possible to come to visit me in Maun for a while.
When she returned at the end of April, she had lost half her milk customers due to the milk having sand in it and/or going sour. Frans, her faithful stockman, reported that the Croat was filthy; didn’t wash his hands before milking and didn’t change his overalls for a week at a time. He said he does not like working for a woman. After Sheila had got rid of them both, she got her phone bill. It was more than we normally paid in a year! James had been regularly phoning England…
They were replaced by retired farmer, Cuan McCarthy (63), an ex-SA cricketer. He was a tippler, but Sheila did not realise how devoted he was until she had left to spend the night in Johannesburg with her brother, Tommy, prior to catching a plane to Botswana the next day. Our neighbour, Loré Mathews phoned to say that Cuan had let the German Shepherds off their leads, contrary to strict instructions, and they had attacked, killed and mutilated some of the calves.
Sheila tore home the next morning to find Cuan setting off to sell milk. Too drunk to drive himself, he had employed the services of the licence-less fifteen year-old son of one of my father’s labour to drive for him! In a rage, Sheila pulled the man from her truck and threw him to the ground.
Sadly, it spelled out loud and clear that it was time to sell the farm and the cows. We began to wrap up the farm affairs so that Sheila could move to Maun.