After numerous enquiries as to what has happened to A Far Kraai, Murray and the editorial team of The Village NEWS have selected a number of his earlier columns to re-run this December and add some mirth to the festive season. Murray is currently taking a much deserved break and his new series, For Fact’s Sake, will launch in January.
Klippies Combrink learnt the concertina while growing up on the family olive farm. Pa, like Oupa before him had earned the reputation of having the hottest boereorkes in Heaven’s Valley, and over the years the Combrink Combo played in all the coastal towns dotting the curve of Walker Bay.
Being a family affair, various members were obliged to learn different instruments. Pa played bass and called the tunes, while Ma steadied the boat on drums. His two older sisters played guitars and keyboards better than he did, so choices were limited. He tried his hand at the donkielonge (accordion) and was pretty sharp, but in the end chose the krismiswurm (concertina) because it was lighter and had more gees (more soul).
Initially they all sang harmony, but this vocal quintet soon became a quartet due to Klippies, who stuttered. Adding random syllables to the vocals would throw the others out, and they’d often grind to an embarrassing halt and have to start again. So he concentrated on his concertina and, being naturally musical, soon became regarded as ‘Die Krismiswurm Koning van die Overstrand’.
As time passed, so did Pa. Ma, now deep into her eighties and losing it a bit, stubbornly turned every song into a waltz, and his sisters had recently found husbands and fled. Klippies’ kids were appalled at the thought of joining the band, so the final curtain came down on the Combrink Combo.
Apart from being an olive farmer though, he kept his fingers nimble by ‘guesting’ for various bands at functions and cultural events like the annual Miss Shucked Perlemoen Pageant in the Old Harbour.
Anyway, he was asked by the local dominee if he would please play at a funeral. A harmless and homeless old man who’d lived in the hills above the Restless River had passed away, and was being buried at noon on a remote farm further up Heaven’s Valley. Klippies accepted immediately. He’d seen this old guy over the years and felt honoured and humbled to dignify a pauper’s burial with a farewell lament or two.
The krismiswurm was the perfect instrument for a funeral and he relished the idea of dragging out Hier kom die Bokke and Bohemian Rhapsody as soulfully as possible. He’d learnt that the further apart the hands were, the more tragic and mournful the wheeze and bibbertoon (vibrato) sounded. Ideal for sad occasions.
He glanced at the time. Eleven o’clock. He was given directions, but he’d never been to that neck of the woods before, and with his stutter – which usually induced cussing and blaspheming – asking directions usually ended in bloodshed. It was time to go in case he got lost.
Turns out he not only got lost, but had a puncture as well and only arrived at the grave well after noon. He was mortified. The dominee and hearse were nowhere to be seen. Any mourners had also gone. Only the digging crew were left and they were eating lunch under a nearby tree. He waved across at them and approached the grave. The coffin was already half covered with sand, but he could see enough to feel a bond with the departed.
Out there on that desolate hillside Klippies became as one with his concertina, and together they sucked in and wheezed out the most gut-wrenching sounds a dead pauper could wish for. With tears streaming down his face he segued asthmatically from one melancholy lament to the next.
The workers put their lunch aside and slowly approached. For the next ten minutes emotions overflowed as Klippies squeezed condolences out of every quivering quaver his krismiswurm could offer. They all sobbed openly.
Eventually, overcome and heavy-hearted, Klippies turned and trudged slowly back towards his bakkie.
“Never seen anything like that,” he overheard one of the diggers say between sobs, “and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”