I’d love to know which bright spark invented the cattle grid! Probably some farmer somewhere got sick and tired of having to get out of his vehicle (an ox wagon, perhaps) to open a gate. It evolved from the gumpole model, because heavy tractors and trucks took their toll on them, and a more permanent solution was required. Then came the train-track type. Very efficient. Lasted forever. Trouble was, Spoornet was a bit reluctant to chop up their tracks to supply them.
Enter the metal-rod, reinforced, cement ones. But some engineer didn’t do his sums – how could this version bear the weight of a 10t truck and trailer with a 20-cattle load crossing over the grids year after year? The cement eventually crumbles away, leaving a gaping hole that can swallow a car tyre and the car too!
“Our cattle grids are dangerous,” I complained to neighbour Jan. “Who do we advise?” “The roads engineer,” he said. My formal letter was polite, but firm, forecasting a serious accident. With surprising alacrity his representative arrived to inspect the grids, promising instant action. Action we got.
Two days later, a work gang arrived, erected chevron-emblazoned barriers across the grids and opened the adjacent gates to allow road access. But that was two months ago! Umpteen phone calls enquired when the grids would be repaired. They were getting quotes, was the response. And there was no money in the budget.
Sheep were now roaming freely on all our farms because no-one closed the gates. This caused havoc and accusations of stock theft. A motley group of bulls and rams were running among our prize heifers and ewes, putting paid to our carefully planned breeding programmes. “Jan, we should sue! But who?”
“The roads engineer will hide behind government red tape,” Jan said, “and our neighbours will say they always close the gates and blame the roaming labour force. But there is another way. We’ll chain and lock the gates and give keys to our neighbours.” Soon a letter from the roads engineer arrived. “We’re told you’ve chained and padlocked your gates. It is illegal to bar access on a public road. We instruct you to remove said closure forthwith.
Failure to do so will result in legal action.” You just can’t win! But revenge was sweet. Jan and I, in the dead of night, put a hefty chain and padlock around road engineer’s gate at home. He had to call the fire department with a bolt cutter to get his car out of the driveway. I wonder if he’s got the message? – Derek Christopher |fw