Arthur Charles Jackson converted to Christianity in Karoo sheep pasture. In his teens he had high hopes of becoming a farmer and went to help out on a Kuilspoort, a farm belonging to his father’s cousin, Julius Jackson. While out in the veld one day Charles had an epiphany and gave himself to God “behind a Karoo bush.”
In Manna In The Desert, A de Jager Jackson, writes: “In 1894 a young cousin, Charles, was so impressed with the shepherds’ forlorn state, the lonely deaths, the rude and summary burials and absence of aid in the hour of trouble – that he shortly threw up farming, qualified as a missionary and went to labour among the poor.” After being ordained Charles went to Pamushana mission, in Zimbabwe. He married and in 1909 his second child was born prematurely when his wife went into early labour due to malaria medication she was taking.
The weather was bad and, when this emergency arose, Charles could not get help. He eventually managed to a neighbour Bob Richards and he asked him to get a message to the doctor at Masvingo, the nearest town. Bob raced off on a bicycle. He had to cross five swollen rivers and carry his cycle across some precarious pedestrian suspension bridges to reach town. By the time he did he was in a state of utter exhaustion and nervous anxiety. The doctor was astonished to see a wide-eyed, wild-looking man burst into the his rooms announcing that on a far away farm there was a man with a newborn baby in his pocket.
This was in fact true. Charles did not know what to do with the premature baby, so he fell back on his Karoo farming experience and popped it into the deep pocket of his jacket. He knew many Karoo farmers had saved newborn lambs in this way. By the time the doctor arrived three days later after negotiating the swollen rivers by donkey cart, Charles’s wife and child were fine.
The Karoo can become bitterly cold in winter and farmer Pieter Lund, from Bleakhouse at Nelspoort, confirms. “In winter lambing season farmers have been known to place eight to twelve half frozen lambs, already stiff with cold, into a sack, take them home and lay the sack by the fire. Mostly the lambs thaw and survive.”
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- Rose has written the very popular Karoo Cookbook (published by Struik in 2008) and co-authored Yeomen of the Karoo: The Story of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, independently published in 2016.