By Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit
Drive through the southern Free State town of Jagersfontein these days and you’ll think: “Sleepy Hollow”.
Once, however, it was really rocking. They dug monster diamonds out of the local mine, with its deep, deep Big Hole. One of them was The Excelsior, which weighed in at a massive 971 carats, yet somehow never made it into the Imperial British Crown Jewels collection.
Did you hear about the drunk who thought he fell into the Jagers Big Hole one time after a heavy bout with the bottle? As he dropped, he grabbed onto the protruding root of a tree. Clutching it like a lifeboat, he made a pact with God that if his life was spared he would never touch a drink again.
As first light dawned, though, he saw that he hadn’t fallen down the mine hole at all, but into a small excavation instead. The bottom was only six inches from his feet.
“That deserves a drink,” he declared. He would have no problem finding a watering hole in Jagersfontein. Back then, the settlement boasted 34 bars and five hotels.
One night, a gang of revellers grabbed a local cop, tied him up and hung him from a street light by his feet. They left him up there, complaining bitterly, until they were ready to go to bed.
Lots of hard men and women in one dusty country spot make for raucous times and tasty legends.