I thought of Abe Sparks as the “Lord Mayor of Swinburne”.
Ever since he went to Texas he wore a stetson, cowboy boots and a string tie with a polished stone clasp. He was a larger than life character, colourful. He and Lulu were always very friendly to me. He drove an old Rolls Royce which he’d converted into a pickup truck, a bakkie. It looked something like the silver one in the pic. I think a darker colour, though, like the one below.
I have a clear childhood memory of it parked in Stuart Street near the corner of Retief Street, opposite the Post Office. Near Havenga’s. Near Basil’s Cafe. Near the corner Kovisco Butchery. Opposite Herano Hof. Opposite that Co-Op building. You know. Uncle Abe staring down at me with a big smile: ‘How are you Koosie?’
Abe owned the Swinburne Hotel which became the Montrose Motel, later bought by Jock Grant; scene of an interesting brandy-filled night many years later.
He and Lulu would throw big parties and the story goes . . yes, the old story goes – Rural Legend Alert! – that one night they decided to cook the mushrooms they had gathered in the veld / garden / woods that day. To be safe they fed some to the dog and asked the kitchen staff to keep an eye on it for the next hour or so. They continued partying up a storm with the grog flowing and then ate supper and carried on until one of the staff came in to say “Baas die hond is dood”.
Panic ensued as they all bundled into cars and rushed off to the Harrismith Hospital twelve miles away, had their stomachs pumped out and returned much later to the farm looking chastened, wan and sober.
Next morning Abe asked to see the dog and was shown where it lay dead and mangled. It had been run over by a passing car.
I imagine a pinch of salt was added to the wild mushrooms.
Baas, die hond is dood – Boss, the dog is dead
Leon Strachan, Harrismith’s finest author (nine books), publisher, historian, military buff, farmer, jam bottler, businessman, tour guide and all-round mensch has a much better grip on Abe’s life in Swinburne. His farm Nesshurst is in the same area as many of Abe’s sixteen farms over the years. He tells of pub tales, a Swinburne cricket team made up of eleven Sparkses (one was even selected to play for South Africa!), brandy taken internally and externally, and how the sheer size of Louis Bischoff’s schlong displayed for all to see on the pub counter was one of the few things that ever rendered Abe speechless.
Blafboom 1991, Leon Strachan – ISBN – 1-919740-21-1
This guy Nudie reminded me of Uncle Abe: Abe would have wanted his car!
Dad tells me Abe bought the Rolls Royce from fellow Harrismith farmer and character Nell van Heerden.
An old-car-nut Aussie confirms another version of the old sheep farmers / Rollers rural legend thus:‘I can see why the conversion was done. When the Silver Shadow was introduced, it was unpopular with graziers: it could fit only two sheep on the back seat; the Silver Cloud could hold three.’