Horse Sense

2007-11-17 00:00

You know, I've been proud of bringing up my family to scorn this category of belief. Whatever virtues a horse may have, sense is not amongst them. It makes no sense to let another species ride about on your back all the days given you upon this earth, and when you're too old for the Hurly-Burly of Life to shoot you in the forehead with a pneumatic thingummy and sell your dutiful body to the lion park for a couple of bob.

My cousin Drusophilla, now, she had plenty horse sense, she brought up her children believing they would go mad if they ate food from a microwave oven. Like never eating potatoes anywhere near Chernobyl; residual radiation will light up your belly and brain like neon signs as these spuds slide around your inside tubes and tripes. Well, she declared, I read in an intelligent magazine called American Home that some children in Arkansas died from ingesting microwaved milk, and why take a chance when there's a perfectly good electric stove in the home? Drusophilla, dear heart, I explained, it's the same electromagnetic energy as goes from stove into pot into water into potato, only here it cuts out the in-between stages. But this was talking to the proverbial stone wall. Her kids went mad anyway; well, sort of dippy, you know, with a ma like that, and one bust out in horrid pimples on brow and bum from some dreadful bacilli that the electric stove hadn't sufficiently cooked.

My ouma, now, she had this horse sense about electric stoves. It's unnatural for fuel to come and cook your dindins along a wire that hasn't even got a hole in it, and anyway you never can tell what impurities they've mixed in there. Everybody has seen folks jerk about when they get an electric shock, and if you give children food with residual electricity in it they too will jerk about and catch the St Vitus Dance, all around you see children constantly hopping and fidgeting, those are the symptoms of it. When you've ironed a silk thing in winter in Pretoria small pieces of tissue paper will jump up and stick to it afterwards, and that's lingering residual electricity for you, that's why children get dirty so fast. My ouma had a no-nonsense tried and traditional coal stove, like a great black simmering steam railway locomotive in her kitchen.

My ma, now, she had good horse sense about things exploding. Bicycle tyres, of course, so I had always to look away when pumping mine up before setting off for school, lest I should get the eyeballs blasted out of my head and spend my adult life sitting before the City Hall with an old jam tin for small donations of money. But anything, really, might explode with just one little mistake: fountain pens, vacuum cleaners, telephones, almost everything, but especially coal stoves, which could cause the whole earth to catch fire, and explode. The earth is full of coal, you see, just waiting.

So she got a primus stove, to make sure. Well to light a primus stove, some of you might remember, you heat up the head with meths, then clear the little nozzle with a special pricker, then pump up the pressure on the paraffin and apply a lighted match and voila! Teatime. Only the old girl forgot about the pricker and a fine jet of flaming paraffin shot suddenly ceilingwards before her very eyes. JESUS, GOD AND MARY! cried she, THE PRIMUS IS EXPLODING! furiously flinging the flaming thing out the kitchen window clean into the garden of the Rev Greaves next door, into a stand of giant bamboo with plenty of old dried chaff two metres deep in between the great stalks. No need to phone the fire brigade, they saw the mushroom cloud from the other side of Maritzburg, but there was much yellow flame and little heat, the blaze was over in 90 seconds flat, like the Hindenburg, and a young fireman with a big helmet and a fire extinguisher walked about here and there, just to make sure.

Well you may now understand why I expected a certain gratitude from my children, indeed grandchildren, for warning them timeously about the dangers of fallacious logic. But do I get gratitude? Respect? No, I don't. I get dogs' abuse, that's what, just because I believe computers are a silicon-based life form living in symbiosis with us carbon-based life forms. They can't dig holes in the ground for metals or make plastics and stuff to build themselves, so we do that favour and they do our heavy thinking for us reciprocally, and if so-smarties say they can't be alive because they can't emote, well they'd have a right to opine we can't be alive because we're so slow at maths. And silicon is so close to carbon in the atomic table. But will my family read even this last simple sentence? No, they won't. Poppycock, they say, and Fiddlesticks, and even Ag bullshit, man!

After all I have done for them.

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