Painting of the Wagon

The Story behind the Painting of the Wagon on the North East facing side of Ossewakop mountain in Wakkerstroom.

      This is a translation of a story published in a booklet, written by Oom Chris Smit.  The booklet is available at the Wakkerstroom Tourist Information Centre at the Old Bioscope on Van Riebeeck Street.

      Entitled – Chris Smits Se Storie .

      The Story is based upon the contents of a letter dated 10 September 1988, which was received from Mr P E Reid, who was directly responsible for the organising and packing of the stones, making up the outline of the Wagon back in 1938.

      The Idea to construct a wagon on the mountain originally came from the headmaster of Marthinus Wessel High School at that time.  He wanted to make this part of the Ossewatrek – festival which was to take  place in 1938.

      In his letter Mr Reid writes, that he was a  young teacher at the school, and lived in the School Dormitory. This building no longer serves as a Dormitory, but is now used for the care of the aged, known as Dana Tehuis.

      Mr Vercuil, the headmaster at the school, was not a young man.   So he sent Mr Reid up the mountain with a large roll of sticky paper, which was about  seven  meters in length.  Mr Reid was required to unravel the sticky paper, which could not have been an easy task.  To make it easier to complete his task  he had to pin the tape down with stones.

      Mr Vercuil in turn monitored Mr Reid with the use of binoculars from below.  The reason for the exercise was to determine the approx shape and size and positioning of the wagon, as well as the lettering.  Mr Vercuil then sketched the proposed final product on some Graph Paper.

      The aim was to make the wagon “presentable” when viewed from a distance.  Mr Reid then tells how after completing this preliminary task, the real work began.  First of all hundreds of steel pins had to be made and in turn numbered.  The Boys from Grade 8, 9 and 10 were instructed to assist with the exercise.  The task facing them was huge, since it was impossible to lay out the finished product all in one go.  It had to be done bit by bit.

      To give one an understanding of the magnitude of the task facing the team for instance the letter 1 (one) is 27 Meters long by 1,2 meters wide.  Every afternoon after school the boys climbed the mountain, and using the plan drawn on the graph paper packed the stones accordingly.  The boys quickly became fit and could jog from the base of the mountain to their working position.  Mr Vercuil decided one day to inspect progress on the mountainside, and approached the working area from the Honeymoon valley side of the mountain, on horseback.  The farmers in the area had heard about the project and quickly realised that the project was not going to be finished on time.  They decided to lend a hand and helped by supplying some farm labour.  This was of great assistance and helped speed up the completion of the project.

      On the Saturday when the stones were ready for painting there was great excitement in town.  The lime and water had to be transported from the base of the mountain to a determined position, not far from the Staffordshire knot.  The farmers had provided oxen to assist with the task.  The lime had been mixed in preparation a few days earlier, and transported in drums to the assembly point.  All team members were provided with a small bucket and a piece of sackcloth.  The townsfolk were very aware of the activities on the mountain and watched in anticipation as the picture unfolded.

      In his letter Mr Reid says that on the day, he very much doubt if any work was done in town.  The magnitude of the task can only be understood if one understands that if a person stands next to the “Dusselboom”  you battle to see the person standing behind the back wheel of the wagon.

      Once again the Wagon on the mountain has received a new lease on life, thanks to the hard work of the farmers and townsfolk of Wakkerstroom.