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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Old ox waggon.

Nothing on this farm is ever thrown away, or disposed of. There is a plethora of old farm implements that go back for more than a century. One of the old pieces of farm equipment is an old ox waggon, still fully functional, all you need is a span of oxen. Here in SA a team of oxen is called a span. 

A span consisted of about sixteen oxen, yoked (spanned) two by two, the strongest pair right at the back, (the wheel oxen), the two most intelligent right in front. A well trained, matched span, (all black, all brown or the same basic hide pattern), of oxen was a mans pride and joy. Each ox had a name, like "Goliat", (Goliath), "Swartman", (Blackman), that rolled off the tongue, each ox new it's name and responded to it. 

At "inspan" time each ox new it's place in the span and went to stand next to it's yoke. After eight hours of work time oxen needed eight hours to graze,+-, and eight hours to rest and chew the cud.

Click to enlarge.

This metal plate reads, " 1940 Natal wheel tax" and in Afrikaans "wielbelasting".

I choose to do these photos in HDR (High Dynamic Resolution) to bring out the texture and one could say "grittiness" of the old waggon.

Waggons were built with indigenous hardwoods, stinkwood, yellowwood, and others. Each part of the waggon was made out of a different wood. Axles out of the hardest wood, wheel spokes out of something more flexible.

For more than 200 years most waggons in SA were built in the town of Paarl, (Pearl) in the Western Cape, a sort of waggon Detroit. Each part was handcrafted, blacksmiths pounded out steel parts at their forges, wheelwrights assembled the wheels, and each spoke, cut planed and shaved to the correct size by hand.

This particular waggon might have been built here right in Estcourt, at the Estcourt Waggon Works, still in existence, though they don't build waggons any more. This business, now selling and servicing, ride on mowers, golf carts, brush cutter, etc., has been in the same family for about a 150 years. The type of business they do has changed, but the name hasn't.

Back wheel.

Hub, the closer you get the more fascinated you become with the intricacies of waggon building.


Gorges Smythe said...

Neat. I was thinking a span was just a pair over here and the whole group was called the team. I could be wrong, since I don't know anyone who uses them.

Mark Kautz-Shoreman said...

Wagon building was truly an art.

Kay L. Davies said...

Fascinating photos and information, Phillip. I love the names of the oxen, and the fact that they knew their own places in the span.
I also love the names of the different kinds of wood. When I was growing up in British Columbia, Canada's most westerly province, its economy was based on logging and fishing.