Woken by the Tamboekie

Harrismith was not richly endowed with pubs. It had kroegs, but pubs, not so much. So before the Holiday Inn brought mid-West America to the Vrystaat vlaktes, we were forced to drink and drive.

In those days the Road Safety slogan was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Will SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk.

Not as snappy as Speed Kills but nevertheless a very valid slogan.

Favoured watering holes were Little Switzerland on the Oliviershoek Pass and, because after a skinful you want to actually negotiate a whole mountain pass, the Royal Natal National Park Hotel.

One legend of Harrismith District Mobile Imbibing was Rob, whose surname will remain a secret because he might have become sensitive to this well-deserved reputation earned during his lengthy youth later when he was probably telling his own kids to BEHAVE themselves. And Speed Kills, and Wipe Your Feet, and Two Drinks is Enough, and Abstain until you’re Married, you young ‘uns, and other things that would have raised a knowing grin on the faces of his old friends if they had overheard this theoretical speech.

I mean, his rollovers (how many?) culminated in his lying on his neck on the roof of Steph’s white VW Beetle and when Steph said “Rob! Are you OK?!” he murmured “Shh! My favourite tune is playing” as he adjusted the radio tuner which had gone off a touch as the vehicle bollamakissied.

de Witts VW Beetle upside-down

Speaking of pubs, booze, cars and road safety:

The Catholics have it all wrong when they appoint Saints.

I mean NOT ONE of the barmen who put up with our shit has been nominated as far as I know – and they should be. They really deserve sainthood. Like the Little Switzerland barkeep who watched as we emptied the fine display of pampas grass in the foyer, stuck the stalks up our naked rears, set fire to the fronds and ran around the hotel corridors where innocent paying guests were slumbering, yelling “Flaming A’s! Call the Fire Brigade!” A pram was commandeered in the mock fire-fighting response – enough said, a grown man in a pram going Whee! Whaa! Whee! Whaa! – A fiasco.

Also a sainthood for Mother Mary, who loaned me her grey 1970 Ford Cortina to take an Aussie Exchange student there one night.

cortina 1970
like this one

On the way back I thought I heard faint snoring and a swish-swish-swish sound from far away. I woke up to find I was going along at a fair rate with tamboekie grass hitting the windscreen, Yabsley the Oz asleep on the seat next to me. I slammed on the anchors and got out to look. I didn’t have a clue if I’d gone off on the right or the left of the road, but following our track back through the long grass we found the road above the pass, reversed and wound our way home much soberer. Had I killed Michael Yabsley I’d have changed the course of Aussie politics, as he went on to become an MP and the Aussie Liberal Party’s federal treasurer.

There should have been a law against drinking and driving.

I do tell my kids to BEHAVE themselves, but I have a hard time keeping a straight face.

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I found a 1963 video of Royal Natal National Park.

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kroeg – males-only bars

bollamakissied – somersaulted; rolled

Generaal Koos de la Rey, Lion of the West, and me

Koos de la Rey was the son of Adrianus Johannes Gijsbertus, so like me he was lucky he wasn’t given his father’s names. I could have been Gerhardus.

He was Brave
He is generally* regarded as the bravest of the Boer generals during the Boere Oorlog and as one of the leading figures of Boer independence.
As a guerilla his tactics proved extremely successful. He ran the Brits ragged in the Western Transvaal. 

*well, by us, his descendants anyway . . .

Gen de la Rey 2

He was Pragmatic
Before hostilities, De la Rey opposed the war until the last, but once he started fighting he fought to the Bitter Einde. Once he was accused of cowardice during a Volksraad session by President Paul Kruger. He replied that if the time for war came, he would be fighting long after Paul Kruger had given up and fled for safety. This prediction proved to be exactly accurate. Once the war was lost, he spent a lot of energy getting his people to accept the Treaty of Vereeniging, even traveling to Ceylon to encourage Boer prisoners of war to come home.

He was Chivalrous
De la Rey was noted for chivalrous behaviour towards his enemies. At Tweebosch on 7 March 1902 he captured Lieutenant General Lord Methuen (whose arse he had kicked earlier at Magersfontein) along with several hundred of his troops. The troops were sent back to their lines because de la Rey had no means to support them, and Methuen was also released since he had broken his leg when his own horse had fallen on him. De la Rey provided his personal cart to take Methuen to hospital in Klerksdorp.

Lord_Methuen02 – arse kicked, life saved

His Earlier Life
As a child De la Rey received very little formal education, and as a young man he worked as a transport rider on the routes serving the diamond diggings at Kimberley (so he probably visited Harrismith?). He and wife Nonnie had twelve children and they looked after another six children who lost their parents.

Me
Oh, and Generaal Koos de la Rey had a sister; She had a great great grandson also called Koos.
That’s me.

lodderssoutars-baldy B&W2 me

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  • thanks, wikipedia for the war history, and sister Sheila for the family history

Getting Around in the 70’s

School holidays. We have to DO something or we’ll go crazy!
Ma, we want to go and climb Mt aux Sources.
How are you going to get there?
We’ll hitch-hike.
Over my dead body! or words to that effect. NO, I think she meant.

So two days later we get home – me, Claudio Bellato and Carlos da Silva – drenched, muddy and weary, having reached Witsieshoek, but not the mountain, as the heavens had opened up, torrential rain turning the roads into quagmires. So the mountaineering goal of the expedition had been thwarted, but the main goal – having fun – had not!

Where have you been?!
To Mt aux Sources, like I said.
How did you get there?
We hitch-hiked, like I said.

One of our lifts was with one of the Trading Greys, dunno who exactly.
The rain bucketed down and I learnt a lot about driving in slick mud by watching him continuously turn into the skid on the muddy Witsieshoek road.

As always, Mother Mary couldn’t stay cross with me for long.
My companions on this adventure, Claudio and Carlos, loved it as much as I did.

The images show that same road in sunny weather years later. Then it was wet and gravel, not dry and tarred.

witsieshoek

~~~oo0oo~~~

A Brief Encounter

I had skipped rugby in matric, then played seven games of high school American football in Oklahoma. When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen Barker joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go in the green 1969-ish Toyota Corona 1600 he inherited from his gran to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.

wanderers rugby2

I doubt there were 30 players among the under-21’s so we made the B side – probably by default; Opposition teams I remember were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers; Pirates; Rugged bliksems all.

At Strathvaal in the Wes Transvaal we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the senior 3rds – they were short. Their game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man and  – BOOM! was carried off on a stretcher.

Who knows what happened, but at about ten seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shit houses and seemed to enjoy them some explosive contact!

The yellow & blue hoops of Strathvaal!

Strathvaal rugby

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I played a short international soccer game too, once.

Farming Kenroy

I’m a farmer. I know I’m a farmer because I have the keys to the bakkie and instructions on how to run a dairy.

The instructions were flung at me outside the door to the Platberg Bottle Store in Warden Street along with the bakkie keys as the car taking Des and Tabs to Jan Smuts airport roared off. They were late and could miss the departure of their flight to Harare and on to Mana Pools on the Zambesi.

Were they written instructions? No, shouted instructions. The three-second short course on the finer aspects of dairy herd management: “You’ll be fine! The bakkie’s parked in Retief Street.”

O-kay! Let’s see: What did I get wrong? I ran out of feed for the cows, then bought the wrong feed at the mill and it was made clear to me I’d have to go back and change it; I had the farmhands look at me in amusement once they realised just how little I knew; I had Des’ horse King realise he had a novice on his back when I took him for a daily morning ride; And I had a cow get stuck in labour with a breech calf. I had to phone Kai to come up from Bergville to sort that out.

What did I get right? Well, I ate breakfast every morning. Quite well. Gilbert presented me with a plate with one egg, one rasher of bacon and one slice of toast, arranged identically on the plate each morning at 6am sharp. That I was good at.

Decades later my nephew Robbie told me dairy farming was all about managing your pastures. Hell, don’t tell Des, but I didn’t given his grass one glance all week.

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The picture is Kenroy but there were no ladies on the gate when I was farming.

Veld and Vlei

Veld & Vlei at Greystones on the banks of Wagendrift Dam in the July holidays of 1972. ‘Leadership School’ – a physical and mental challenge, they said.

Veld & Vlei Greystones Wagendrift
– Veld & Vlei leadership course July 1972 at Greystones near Estcourt –

Memories of a busy week: The tough obstacle course – carry that 44-gal drum over the wall without letting it touch the wall! Other obstacles, including tight underground tunnels. And HURRY!

Chilly winter nights in these old canvas bell tents – we slept like logs:

Cross-country runs; PT by military instructors. What’s with this love for things military? Brief immersion swims in the frigid water of the dam every morning; The lazy bliss of sailing an ‘Enterprise’ dinghy out of reach of anything strenuous!

Then the second week: Being chosen as patrol leader; A preparatory two-day hike in the area. One of our patrol was a chubby, whiny lad, so we spent some effort nursing him home. He was worth it: good sense of humour!

Then the climax, the big challenge: The course-ending six-day hike! By bus to the magic Giants Castle region in the Drakensberg.

Photographic trip to Giant's Castle Vulture Hide with Helen

We set off with our laden rucksacks down the valley, up the other side towards the snow-topped peaks, heading for Langalabilele Pass and the High ‘Berg. We had walked about 5km when a faint shout sounded and continued non-stop until we stopped and searched for the source. It was an instructor chasing after us and telling us to “Turn around, abort the hike, return to Greystones! Walk SLOWLY!”

Someone had come down with meningitis and the whole course was ending early!
We were given big white pills to swallow and sent home with strict instructions to take it easy: No physical exercise.

But our rucksacks were packed . .

mt-aux-sources_rucksack_2

  • – my rucksack – seen here on Sheila’s back –

. . and our wanderlust aroused, so we headed straight off to Mt aux Sources soon after getting home. Up the chain ladder onto the escarpment and on to the lip of the Tugela Falls, sleeping outside the mountain hut.

Mt aux Sources_2 (2)

Mt aux Sources ca1970

~~~oo0oo~~~

I had no camera, no photos, the only record I still have of the course is my vivid memories – and the felt badge they gave us on completion.

But then I found a website by someone who had been on the same course – Willem Hofland from the Natal South Coast – and he had these black & white pics which I am very grateful to be able to use! He also had his course report and certificate, which I no longer have.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Giants Castle pic from howieswildlifeimages.com – thanks!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Rugby Free State u/13 Champs

It was quite a year. I had shot up and was the tallest blonde in the team. Coenie Meyer was the only other one, but he was a stocky centre and I was a lanky lock in the serious half of the team, the half that did the hard work and won the ball – only for the frivolous half to donate it to the opposition, starting the whole process over!

But our real strength lay in an outstanding flyhalf called De Wet Ras; and in great teamwork and determined tackling.

We were coached by a bespectacled tennis champ called Bruce who inspired us to give our all. His sidekick Ben backed him up and supported us – a kind soul was Ben Marais. We beat all-comers and moved on to play against bigger teams. We drew one game against Bethlehem Voortrekker 0-0, our ‘winning’ De Wet Ras drop kick sailing high directly above the right upright, so the ref did not award it. We beat them in a re-match 8-3.

We were the Harrismith under thirteen team of 1967, playing in bright orange, looking for all the world like mangoes complete with little green leaves on top and some black spots below!

HarrismithU13Rugby cropped_2.jpg

At the end of the season we were unbeaten and happy.

But then we read in the newspaper, the Engelse koerant, The Friend of Bloemfontein:

Free State u/13 Champs: 140 points for and 0 against!

And they weren’t talking about us – it was an u/13 team from Virginia. We thought: Free State Champs? Like Hell! We also thought: Where the hell is Virginia? That doesn’t sound like an egte Free State dorp.

Bruce Humphries phoned them and challenged them to come and play us. ‘No, we’re Free State Champs,’ they said, ‘Can’t you read? You’ll have to come to us!’

Off we went to Virginia in Bruce’s new 1966 white Ford Cortina and Giel du Toit’s tweede-hands black Mercedes 190 – about 1959.

Cars Harrismith_2

There we watched their second team play Saaiplaas, a little mining village team with an egte Free State dorp name. We cheered Saaiplaas on and exhorted them to victory! I can still hear our hooker Skottie Meyer shouting mockingly – he was full of nonsense like that, onse Skottie – “Thlaaiplaath!! Thlaiplaath!!” They beat the Virginia seconds 3-0, their first defeat of the season.

Our turn next and the Saaiplaas boys did their best to be heard above the din of the enthusiastic local Virginia supporters. It was a tight match but we had the edge, our left wing Krugertjie being stopped inches from the left corner flag and our right wing Krugertjie pulled down inches from the right corner flag. Yep, identical twins, find them in the pic. The difference at the final whistle was a De Wet Ras drop goal from near the halfway line. 3-0 to us to complete a bad day for ex-Free State Champs Virginia. Which they pronounced Fuh-Jeen-Yah.

What’s Next?
Now Bruce Humphries had the Free State’s biggest fish in his sights: Grey College Bloemfontein. No, they didn’t really think they’d want to play us; and anyway they were off on a tour to Natal that week, thank  you. ‘Well’, said Bruce ‘You can’t get back from Natal without passing through Harrismith, and you wouldn’t really sneak past us with your tails between your legs, would you?’

So the game was on! That day the pawiljoen at the park was packed with our enthusiastic supporters and cars ringed the field. Our followers’ numbers had grown as the season progressed and excitement at our unbeaten tag increased. No Grey College team had ever played in this little outpost of the British Empire (yes, we were that, once!) before.

Another tough game ensued, but a try just left of the posts by the tallest blonde in our team was the difference: We beat them 8-3, all the other points being scored by our points machine and tactical general De Wet! Die Dapper Generaal De Wet!

What a year!

see: Not that Generaal De Wet.

Beating the Rest
When it came to selecting an Eastern Free State team, the other schools introduced a twist: Not only did you have to be under thirteen, you also had to be in primary school! This excluded a few of our boys, who were in Std 6 (Grade 8). Only four of our team were chosen. So we challenged them to a game. Bruce told them it would do them good to have a warm-up game against the rest of us before they went to the capital of the province, Bloemfontein to play in a tournament. Having been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could still play for ‘us’! Plus we ‘innocently’ added Gabba Coetzee to boost our depleted team – with their knowledge and permission. He was in Std 6 and just too old to actually be under thirteen. He was a legendary machine of an eighth man!

Ho Hum! 17-0

—————————–

On the LEFT: Bruce Humphries (coach); On the RIGHT: Ben Marais (assistant coach)

All Heads Left to Right: Dana Moore, Attie Labuschagne, Leon Fluffy Crawley, De Wet Ras, Redge Jelliman, Skottie Meyer, Conradie, Hansie, Irené Tuffy Joubert, Coenie Meyer, Peter Koos Swanepoel, Kruger, Kobus Odendaal, Kruger, Max Wessels

– I wonder what that trophy is that De Wet is holding? I cannot remember what that trophy might have been for.  ‘Handsome Vrystaters Floating-on-air Trophy’ maybe?

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We got word that Bruce Humphries passed away in about 2011. 
Go Well Sir!  We'll never forget that 1967 rugby season. We soared high and grew our self-esteem that year. Thank you!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Just Call Me Wally

It was 1981 and we were new in Durban. We decided to watch the Comrades Marathon, an 89km exercise in insanity being run “up” from the coast at Durban to the heights of Sleepy Hollow that year. Those days it was easy to follow the race: You just got in the way, parked wherever and got out whenever you felt like shouting encouragement to the possessed. Early in the morning we stood near 45th cutting and soon the runners arrived. Near to us was a short old bald whispy-haired fella shouting enthusiastic encouragement and giving two-thumbs-up to virtually every runner, some of whom – quite a number – seemed to recognise him.

Once the last stragglers had passed we started to head off to Dave’s green VW Beetle, but noticed the old bullet seemed lost. Can we help you? we asked. Do you know the way to the finish? he asked. Sure, and we’re going there, we said, wanna come along? I’d love that, he said gratefully, and that’s how two complete Comrades ignoramuses ended up driving Wally Hayward in the back of a Beetle to the finish of the 1981 Comrades – a race he had run five times AND WON FIVE TIMES!

Well, you couldn’t spend a morning with Wally without hearing a whole bunch of tales and we milked him for more and fell under the spell of this warm and unassuming bundle of energy. At the finish we sat on the grass and heard an announcement that some old bullet who won the race decades ago was there and was going to do a lap of honour. The wonderful brave soul – I think Phil Masterson-Smith, the 1931 winner – shuffled slowly around the track to tremendous applause, none louder than that coming from Wally who watched intently, quivering like a bird-dog with a huge grin and a wistful look in his eyes. I winked at Dave and snuck off to the announcer’s tower and told them we had the 1930 winner Wally Hayward with us, and could they make a fuss of him, too?

They could indeed! And so, 51yrs after first winning the race Wally hit the track, totally surprised – but also totally chuffed – and ran that 400m with a smile like a truck radiator and his knees flying past his ears looking for all the world like an escaped ostrich! I bet his 400m time would have been way up there among the quickest ever for a 73yr-old!

Yes, Wally had won in 1930, then again in 1950, ’51, ’53 and 1954! He had run this crazy ultra-marathon only five times in all and won it every time he entered, the last time at the age of 45, a record which still stood in 1981. It was only broken much later – in 2004.

It took us a while to find him after his lap of honour, celebrity that he now was, but yes, he still wanted a lift back to Durban please.

I s’pose he didn’t know the way!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Six years after we enjoyed this magic day, Wally ran Comrades again, thirty three years after his last run and shortly before his 80th birthday. He ran a magnificent race, beating half the field and beating the winner Bruce Fordyce on an age-handicapped calculation. Bruce himself mentioned and emphasised this after the race.

Wally’s memoirs were published in time for the 1999 Comrades by a wonderful friend of mine, fellow Comrades runner and Dusi paddler Bill Jamieson. He titled the book: “JUST CALL ME WALLY”.

Wally Hayward 88

89km in 9hrs 44mins just before his 80th birthday.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave Simpson wrote to me on seeing this post:
Hi Pete,
Well this does bring back memories – 33 years ago at that! Actually, we originally only planned to go as far as Fields Hill.
When Bruce Fordyce past us outside the Westridge Park Tennis Stadium, with his bunch of early race ‘klingons’ and yelled out ‘Walleeeee’ as he strode past the great man – we knew we were dealing with someone special. The rest you’ve said.
Great story.
Hood

Me: I’d forgotten that! It was Fordyce’s first win that year. The first of nine.
In the back of my mind I thought we did know there was something special about him, but we weren’t sure who he was.
When he asked for a lift, did we already know who he was?

Dave again: No, we did not know who he was. When he asked for a lift, he told us that he was there with his mate, who wanted to follow his son who was a plodder at the back of the field. Dear Wally just assumed that we, like him wanted to watch the front runners.
As it turned out, Wally was wrong – we just wanted to be with Wally!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Among many other running achievements, Wally had also won the Harrismith Mountain Race. After the race, in typical generous Wally style, he called ‘The toughest race in the world!’ – just what we Harrismithians wanted to hear!

The Wally Hayward medal

Wally Hayward died in May 2006 at the age of 97. In November, the Comrades Marathon Association announced that a new medal, the Wally Hayward medal, would be presented to runners for the first time in 2007. These special medals are awarded to those runners who fail to earn Comrades gold medals – awarded to the first 10 men and women finishers – but still come in under the six-hour barrier first broken by Hayward in 1953.

Wally Hayward was one of the greatest ever Comrades runners, with five wins in five starts over twenty four years, then two more finishes, up to fifty eight years after his first run. Comrades Association chairman Dave Dixon said in announcing the new medal, ‘He had a remarkable Comrades career, and is still the oldest person ever to finish the race.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

thanks to brandsouthafrica for some of the info here – read how Wally was branded a professional and barred from winning more Comrades; thanks also to Bill Jamieson’s book ‘Just Call Me Wally.’ Bill was a great character, Comrades runner and fellow Kingfisher Canoe Club member. In his later years we would meet and he’d regale me with his stories and his worries. A lovely man.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Years later, Dave Simpson met another SA sporting icon:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Fresh in the USA

Fresh from the City of Sin and Laughter, OFS, where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I arrived in New York with great expectations.

I was READY – more than ready! – to see the big wide world. After landing we – the gang of South African Rotary Exchange students -were bussed to a hotel in Queens. Someone – a Rotarian, I guess? – checked us in and then left us to go to bed for the night. Early the next morning we’d be boarding different planes to the various states we’d been assigned to.

Go to bed?! Fuhgeddaboudit!

But most did! I was horrified. “Excuse me, no WAY I’m going to bed”. Only one other guy (was he Gary or was he heading to Gary, Indiana?) joined me and we went to the night porter. “Right! Where can we go for a night on the town, sir? We want to go for a walk, which way shall we head?”

Oh, I wouldn’t advise you did that, he drawled, I’ll get the hotel bus to take you someplace.

So off we went, noses plastered against the windows, fascinated. Our personal chauffeur dropped us off at a brightly-lit truck stop and asked when we wanted to be fetched. “Three Ay Emm” we said, pushing our luck. Check, he said without blinking. So we sat and watched a New York night go by drinking beer and eating burgers n fries till he fetched us as arranged.

After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded a HUGE helicopter for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I would be going on to Oklahoma, OFS – uh, USA.

Sikorsky chopper JFK airport 1973

Hello Cock goes missing

Uncle Jack Kemp had a big dilemma. He loved a party and there were two parties on, one at our house and the other at Ronnie from Threeburgh’s place. To get from the one brandy bottle to the other he had to walk down our front steps, down our little-used front path and out the gate onto Stuart Street. He then had to cross the road and walk northwest to the other corner where Ronnie and Martie were whooping it up – and they could whoop it up!

Then he had to retrace his steps in case there was something more exciting going on where he had just come from.

After a few such sorties he went missing and Isabel Necessary asked her Koosie (pr: coosie) to go and look for him please my love, throwing back her head to let out a peal of loud cackling laughter, drink in one hand and ciggie in the other.

I found him under the willow, flat on his back with the unspilt brandy glass balanced on his big boep.
Hello Cock, he rasped. Hello Cock he’d say to everyone. Saved him remembering names.

Uncle Jack was fine, he had just run out of steam and vertical-ness and was thinking about his next move.

95 Stuart St

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In the map the four dots mark our yard. Just above the top dot is the van Tubbergh home, showing the short route Uncle Jack had to negotiate. In the house pic there’s a willow tree on the left. Just out of picture on the right is the willow tree under which he came unstuck.