Smoke House Burning

Once a year my parents slaughtered a large ox and a very large pig. From these animals biltong, dried sausage (droe wors), smoked ham , smoked bacon, salt beef, lard and soap were made. In those days we had no fridges so the only way to preserve meat was to dry it, pickle it or smoke it.

The smoke house was a circular thatched construction which was on a one metre raised floor made of mud and stone. The thatched part was about one and a half metres in diameter and about the same height. The roof was cone shaped with a small hole at the top for the smoke to escape. The oven or furnace for creating the smoke was about three metres from the smoke house. The smoke travelled through a round  galvanised funnel from the oven into the smoke house floor level. The smoke house had wooden struts from wall to wall which was for hanging the meat for smoking. The smoke was made by burning maize husks(mielie stronke) in the oven. According to my parents they gave the meat a nice flavour.

I must have been about eight or nine years old when my sister Meg and her family were visiting us at the farm. Bobbie my nephew and I were playing in the vicinity of the smoke house. Now there is one thing that has a magnetic attraction for little boys and that is fire. I cannot remember who was the instigator of the pyrotechnics. As I was the older child I suppose I will have to take the blame. We pulled pieces of straw from the smoke house ignited them in the oven ran back to the smoke house and tried to set it alight. The flame on the straw kept on going out before we got to the smoke house. After trying for quite some time we actually set the smoke house alight. All hell broke loose as adults descended from every side with buckets of water to douse the flames which were quite high. The smoke house was in a bad way but fortunately the flames did not jump to the dairy which had a thatched roof.

What is strange about this whole incident is that I did not even get a hiding for my actions.

Butch Hannan



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