Klerksdorp is a small town in the Transvaal where gold has been mined for so long that no one knows for sure when it all began. It began for me in 1968. It began when I enrolled in the South African School of Mines and became part of a unique culture. As with most beginnings it was also an end, the end of childhood and the protection of innocence. The futility or effectiveness of our lives is often measured by an evaluation of the change we have created in the world around us. Change within ourselves has little value unless it makes an impression on a world that exists into a future beyond our
own. This future could be mankind‟s continued existence or some sort of spiritual
eternity. Whatever the future turns out to be, we by the nature of things can never be assured of a continued role in it. The striving that we do, we do in faith, hope or charity; our human frailty using any one of the three as haphazardly as chance dictates. We believe that the results of our actions will assure us of a place in human memory or in an eternity of some kind. Perhaps the one is necessary for the other. There is, of course, a large part of the human race that seems to have no intention of creating anything permanent at all. For this unfortunate group there is no future and they enthusiastically build castles in the sand, enshrining themselves in turrets of greed and self-justification. They laugh today and sing, gazing down on the rest of us from tall, seemingly substantial turrets held together by nothing more than water. Tomorrow the tide has come and gone and all is as it was before. The tragedy is that sooner or later it begins to look as if they did in fact have the answer. I write a great deal and have always believed that writing should either pose questions or provide answers. I have found few answers but many questions in what follows. Many of the people that I hope will come to life between these pages acted as if they knew the answers. Their stories and mine are authentic. I have, however, used my imagination to name them and the places where they worked. Their stories do not reflect intensive research; neither do they represent the feelings or memories of others. The stories are my memories and as such are tempered by my philosophies and coloured by my vision. The intention was never to present the reader with an investigative account but to rather illuminate and present the courage, desperation, pettiness and camaraderie of an industry. An industry that seems to me deserves to be understood rather than protected or destroyed. You do not survive on the mines if you do not have one kind of strength or another. I do not suppose that I can say that I really succeeded on the mines in any special way and the person that I was at the beginning did not survive; I came away changed, both by the many people that I met and the society which they have created. These people, both brutal and missionary have all a strength and it is to them that I dedicate this book; a salute to the roles that they play in a very real and dangerous world.