Friday Fables: How the Waterbuck Got His “Toilet Seat Rump”

In South Africa, we have an old tale that goes a little something like this:

Once there was a man building a camp site in the bush. This campsite was to be one of the best in the land and the man went to extra lengths to ensure that every element of this campsite was perfect – including the bathroom!

To keep up with the classy standards of the time, the man decided to paint the lid of the loo a bright white colour (this is obviously impractical as white gets very dusty in the bush, but the man had a vision and visions cannot be tampered with).

After lathering the loo with a very generous layer of glistening white paint, the man (who was exhausted after a long day of building and painting under the hot African sun) decided to reward himself with a short snooze under a nearby acacia tree.

At about the same time, a young male waterbuck trotted passed the camp and noticed the toilet shimmering in the afternoon light. The waterbuck had only heard rumours about such a contraption and until this very moment had never believed them. Could it be true that humans sit on this smooth, cold and hollow rock to do their “business”? How barbaric!

But the waterbuck was young and curious about the world, so he decided to investigate. Checking that the tired man was still fast asleep under the tree (which wasn’t difficult provided that his snores were now reverberating across the savanna) the waterbuck moved in towards the bathroom, turned his rump to face the toilet, sat down and proceeded to have a piddle.

The toilet seat was definitely cold and hollow but instead of smooth it felt sticky! Repelled by the texture of the seat, the waterbuck quickly stood up (not very glamorously I can assure you) mid-wee and scampered back into the safety of the bush.

When the man reluctantly arose from his slumber (he was probably dreaming about biltong and braais) he went over to the bathroom to inspect whether the paint on the toilet seat had dried yet.

Low and behold, it was now covered in a layer of coarse antelope hair! His dream of building the best campsite in all the land was ruined!

Defeated, he popped open an ice cold Zamalek, slumped back under the tree and cursed under his breath, “I hope that whatever antelope did this will suffer for the rest of its days!”

Meanwhile, the young waterbuck (oblivious to the distress he had just caused) trotted back to his herd hoping that he could blend back in amongst his fellow antelope and keep his recent ordeal a secret.

It was not to be.

“What on earth is that white mark on your bottom?”

In his haste to return to the herd, the young waterbuck had failed to observe the white concentric ring that had formed on his backside. Embarrassed, he rushed off to the nearest watering hole, jumped in and attempted to wash the paint mark off from his usually perfect pelt.

He scrubbed and he scrubbed and he scrubbed and he scrubbed but no matter how hard he tried, the mark simply wouldn’t budge!

Nor did it ever disappear.

Now, hundreds of years later, you can find the waterbuck near a watering hole or a river still trying to rid himself of the white toilet mark on his bottom.

Turns out the man’s curse worked after all.

Photograph: Andre Duvenhage, Camp Ndlovu