Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clay pigeon shooting

Mid-1985. The UDF-led uprising against apartheid is spreading across the country. But you wouldn't have said so in the heart of the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet where my then wife and I spent the odd weekend with her folks. We visited some of the historic sights, made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Valley of Desolation, and at one point I joined my father-in-law, and probably a brother-in-law or two, on a farm outside the town for a spot of clay pigeon shooting.

My pages of sketching paper were too small to accommodate the Dutch Reformed Church which dominates the town. That's why the drawing was done on two sheets. Consecrated in 1887, the building is loosely modelled on Salisbury Cathedral.

From the Toposcope, just below the Valley of Desolation, you look out at Spandau Kop, which lords it over the town.

Then, looking further west, you see a side-on view of the massive dolerite columns which constitute the Valley of Desolation.

Part of the group I was with, one of whom is clearly scanning the sky for some bird life.

Once you are among those weathered dolerite columns, the full impressive magnitude of them strikes you.

Back at the Toposcope I did this sketch of a corner of the town, which is cradled in a curve of the Sundays River.

This is one of the many Cape Dutch buildings, possibly a museum, in the town, which was established in 1786.

Since at the time I was a reporter on the left-leaning Evening Post in Port Elizabeth, having worked previously for the liberal opposition PFP, and having despised my enforced role as a military conscript, I felt rather uncomfortable as we headed out to a farm for some clay pigeon shooting. It had an obvious Monty Python ring to it, but was not something I associated with SA. Anyway, here were okes who clearly got their kicks from firing birdshot from shotguns. It gave me a chance to do a few quick sketches, mainly in pencil crayon, which I later coloured.

I think this sketch captures something of the split-second, all-action nature of the activity, as the marksman waits for the clay pigeon to be catapulted into the air, follows its course with eyes and gun, and fires in the hope of shattering the target, mid-air.

One of the shooters crouches, with shotgun open on his lap, awaiting his turn.

Former father-in-law Philip with shotgun in hand.

This being South Africa, of course the donkey work wasn't done by a whitey. No they had a "handlanger" to load, wind up and fire off the "pigeons" from this device.

And this profile of the lad seems to indicate he wasn't all that happy with his lot.

But the manne were right into it. This looks like Phil with special ear protection.

At one point I used a pen, giving a more sensitive feel to the work. I like the power in that right arm holding the shotgun.

Some okes just don't look cut out for such things. This may have been the son of the farmer on whose property we were.

Another action image, done in a few seconds.

Bam! Bam! Two rifles are visible here as the marksman moves with the flight of the clay pigeon.

Another softer pen drawing of one of the protagonists.

Then time to fire away again. This time it's an older, more out-of-shape character at the helm.

1 comment:

  1. I have just looked at your sketches and they are really excellent .... thanks. Steve