Seven years before my mother was born, my grandfather, Robert Deans, took a job in the Transvaal on a farm which belonged to a doctor’s wife, Mrs. D, who had inherited it from her family. Her husband, Dr. D, worked in Joburg, and came to the farm only on weekends. Grandpa Deans took the job for £5 a month, plus £5 for every lamb and calf raised, and a third of the crop. (The picture shows my grandfather as an old man on his own farm, near Bethal in the Transvaal.)
Mrs. D had a fearful temper, and was very shrewd with money. When the maize was ready to be harvested, she sent in her animals to ensure they ate up as much of it as they could. Grandpa was indeed paid a third of the crop, but only the miserable amount remaining, and she conveniently forgot about the animals that he had so diligently reared. He couldn’t bear the constant rows and the aggravation, and he eventually resigned in disgust.
He was content to get out of that toxic environment and chalk it up to experience, but my grandmother never forgot a slight. She wrote a blistering letter to the Farmer’s Weekly, which shamed his erstwhile employer into paying up, and shortly afterwards, Grandpa received a cheque for £37. He was delighted at this unexpected windfall, and thought no more about Mrs D, until a few years later, when he was told a disturbing story.
Mrs. D was rumoured to have frequent petites rendezvous with her lover who visited her on the farm during the week while Dr D was hard at work in Johannesburg. The two of them often got blind drunk together and played loud music on the gramophone. Rumours of this illicit relationship must have reached her husband, as one night he drove to the farm midweek. Taking care not to give the lovers any warning, he turned off his headlights and his engine, and coasted down the driveway by moonlight. He silently crept into the house, where he found his wife and her inamorato passed out in a drunken stupor in his marital bed.
When Mrs D’s lover awoke late the next morning, he was conscious of an unfamiliar chemical smell permeating the room, and an acute pain between his legs. Disoriented, he opened his eyes and sat up, pushing the bedcovers back to investigate. Horrified, he saw that his scrotum bore a line of even black stitches. On the bedside table stood a bottle of chloroform next to a clean drinking glass, which contained his neatly removed testicles floating in formaldehyde, staring up at him like a pair of sightless eyeballs.
(Originally published on http://cathyevans.com 14th May 2022)