1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN, Family

The Bend – Earlier Daze

Before we learnt to drink beer on the banks of the mighty Tugela, we drank oros and water while observing our elders drinking beer on those same rocks on the same bend in the river that gives the farm its name. Here’s an 8mm ‘cine’ movie taken back in the early 1960’s – before we followed suit in the seventies.

These were the days when Thankful and Grateful – as that incorrigible axis of evil or mirth Sheila-Bess-Georgie-Lettuce called Frank and Gretel Reitz – would have large soirees on the farm with the Swanies, the Kemps and others gathering ‘in their numbers.’

In the movie Gretel, Joyce, Mary and Isabel walk along that stunning driveway lined with (amIright here?) Grecian (Roman?) columns to the old double-rondawel thatched homestead. Then the drinking party moves down to the river where Gee and Kai pilot the motorboat and Barbara and Bess paddle in the shallows. Check out Doc Reitz’s old Chev OHS 71.

——-ooo000ooo——-

7_Confessions, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN

My Years as a Temporary Farm Manager’s Part-time Assistant

Actually it was hours, not years, but that would have made a kak-lame heading and you might not have rushed over to read about it.

Kai Reitz once made the mistake – no, bold decision – to put the Lloyd cousin in charge of The Bend while he went off to murder sundry buffaloes and bambis in the Zimbabwean bushveld near Mana Pools.

I joined Lloyd on The Bend one weekend. As an adviser.

Things did not go exactly according to a Reitz-like plan. Nor did things run like a well-oiled machine. It was more like a military operation.

Lloyd had managed to get the Chev pickup stuck between two gears. So when I got there it was parked in the lands. Immobile.

Some parts of the farm did run flawlessly, it must be said: Ross-Merr did sterling work in the kitchen, making great big piles of delicious veggies. Lloyd had run out of meat and I had not brought any, and as we were now stranded for transport it was a healthy vegetarian diet for us.

Then Lloyd found a rifle and we went hunting for the pot, bravely. If Kai could do it, so could we. We strode out boldly, fearlessly, onto the lawn. The Zunckel walking with that action he got from Mad magazine’s Don Martin, taking exaggerated stalking strides with his toes hanging downwards. Great sense of the ridiculous had Lloyd. He was playing great white hunter in Africa. I was his gun-bearer, just not bearing his gun.

Don Martin

Ten metres from the house, high up in a pine tree a poor little dove was romantically asking “How’s father? How’s father?” and Lloyd drilled him. SHPLORT! If you weren’t a Mad Magazine fan, that was a Don Martin-type sound of a Cape Turtle Dove hitting the ground, morsdood.

The next meal Ross-Merr cooked had all the veggies, PLUS – a big meat dish covered with a lid. We opened the lid with a flourish, then peered closely before we spotted it – it looked like a plucked mossie had crash-landed in the middle of an empty swimming pool.

Next mishap: The big truck was accidentally reversed over a stack of irrigation pipes. That was not good. I saw big $$ signs, but when Kai got back he set about fixing them himself, cutting off the flattened sections, hammering thin pipes through them, then thicker ones until he had restored them to size, then welding them together again! They looked like they had cellulite, but they worked.

I’m sure we didn’t run out of beer though, so we weren’t completely disorganised.

.

There was another time Carl (Kai) saved my butt.

================

Ross-Merr – Rosemary

morsdood – stone dead, but implying a messy death

mossie – sparrow, but maybe not even a mossie, maybe a tink-tinkie

tink-tinkie – makes a mossie look like a rainbow chicken

4_Optometry Johannesburg, 7_Confessions, 8_Nostalgia, 9_KZN

Round The Bend

Mandy’s reply on the 21st post reminded me of The Bend – that sacred pilgrimage site we would repair to as part of growing up and learning wisdom and wonder. Also drinking, puking and dancing. Especially drinking. It was like Mecca.

We searched the whole of Joburg all term long for girls and women and couldn’t find any, but on The Bend there was always a goodly gang of inebriated bright young future leaders and fine examples to our youth, dancing, hosing themselves and matching us drink-for-drink.

Some of the drinking was very formal, with strict protocol, enforced by some kop-toe okes who had already been to the weermag and wanted to show us lightweight long-hairs what DUSSIPLIN was all about. Louis was very disciplined under General Field Marshall Reitz as was I under Brigadier Field Marshall Stanley-Clarke:

Late at night important stuff would happen. This time it was inventory control. It became vitally urgent that we help Kai clean out old Dr Reitz’s expired medicines. Mainly by swallowing them. The muscle relaxants caused great hilarity as we pondered what effect they might have on our sphincters. Yussis you’d think with a resident pharmacist we’d be told the possible side-effects, but all we were told – or all we listened to – was “Fire it, Mole!” and down they went, chased by alcohol to enhance the effects. Highly irre-me-sponsible, but all done for research purposes.

The Bend Old Drugs

  • Dr Prof Stephen Charles dispenses –

The research was inconclusive. We fell asleep before any fireworks happened.

In those days we all shared one cellphone, which you didn’t have to carry in your pocket. It was already there when you got there, nailed to the wall so it couldn’t get lost and so everyone could overhear what you were saying. There it is:

Bloody bottle shrunk!

  • I forget what this was, but it was important and Stephen Charles was giving it his rapt attention –

Sometimes farming interfered with the serious part of the weekend and then we would be of great help to Kai. We’re taking his mielies to market here. Don’t know what he would have done without us. Airbags and seatbelts were not highly essential in those daze, as we were usually well internally fortified, and as our driver had his foot flat we knew we’d get there quickly. So it was alright.

Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags.

  • Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags –

Back: Me; Kevin Stanley-Clarke (now a Kiwi); Glen Barker (now an Oz). Front: Pierre du Plessis; Steve Reed (a Kiwi in Oz); Lettuce Wood-Marshall (a Chinese or an Oz?); Dave Simpson;

glossary:

kop-toe okes – taking themselves seriously; which made them more hilarious

weermag – ‘again might’, as in ‘we might have to go there again’; involuntarily

mielies – maize, corn; sometimes schlongs

schlong – your mielie

koperasie – co-operative: socialist gathering of capitalist farmers

In JHB, a mate swears he heard me giving directions to the farm. I’m sure he’s mistaken, but Trevor John says: Swannie, I will never forget your directions to a farm in Harrysmith – 2 quarts of beer to the right turnoff; one pint to the next turnoff; and a small shot for the next left to the gate .

1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 7_Confessions, 8_Nostalgia, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Safe as a Guinea

On Tabbo’s Warden farm ‘Rust.’ Mine host Tabbo is second from right, yet another ale in hand.

old-harrismith-warden
– Tony Porrell, Koos Swanepoel, Nev Shave, Charlie Deane, Dirk Odendaal, Ian Fyvie, Rob Spilsbury – Nick Leslie, Doug Wright, John Venning, Mike Curnow, Tabs Fyvie and Guy Kirk –
– Gillon Thake – son of Doug Wright’s sister, Yomi Thake –

None of those guineas were killed by me (second from left) with my old man’s cheap Russian shotgun, even though the barrel was smoking. A marksman I am not! I was ‘Rust’-y.

Kai Reitz once tried to cure my handicap of not being able to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. On his farm, The Bend on the Tugela river outside Bergville, he gently lobbed up big sandclods in a ploughed field and I filled the air surrounding them with birdshot. Then they plonked to earth. Thud! Unharmed.

It was for naught – he had to give up.

With the last two shells Kai took the shotgun. I hurled two empty shell cases as hard as I could. Blap! Blap! he hit both of them. Bang went the gun and bang went my chance of using faulty Russian alignment as an excuse.

Bloody guineas better watch out, I’ll bring my mate next time!

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

As always, Sheila has the details:

This was taken on 1 September 1974, at a shoot at the Fyvies’ farm ‘Rust’ near Warden. According to my 1974 diary, we had had a wonderful party at Nick & Anne Leslie’s farm ‘Heritage’ the night before – “Had delicious supper. Danced. Sat & chatted” most of us spent the night there, then moved over to Rust the next day, where the guys “shot about 60 fowls.”

~~~~~ooo000ooo~~~~~

8_Nostalgia

Donald’s Fearfully Great Lizard

My mate Donald Coleman found, excavated and re-assembled a complete fossil back in about 1962. He was about ten years old at the time. I can see it now, at the back doorstep of their house at the foot of Platberg: About 500mm long I’d guess, every little bone in place. A stout, lizard-gecko-looking creature, it now seems to me. He found it thanks to the excavations for the new N3 bypass around the town which went right near the mountain end of Hector Street, which was where the Colemans lived.
Wonder what happened to it?

To me, searching in hindsight, it looked like a Lystrosaurus. It could be Thrinaxodon, common in the Karoo 235 million years ago – and has been found in Harrismith. Or maybe Cisticephalus.

It looked something like the top picture, but completely whole, not embedded in rock. Paleontologists surmise one of the smaller species looked like this:

– lystrosaurus –
– the location looks right –
– the size looks right –

Dinosaur: “fearfully-great lizard” – as used by Homer in THE ILIAD, written around 760–710 BC. I looked it up: While everything said about Homer is subject to debate, the popular opinion is that he was a blind bard who composed and recited The Iliad and The Odyssey a few hundred years after the events described.

Tragically, Donald died around 1972 in a car accident, or he would have told us exactly what his fossil was and where it is. I want to find it and have it assessed. If it’s a new species I’ll ask them to call it Harrysaurus donaldii !

  1. Our house
  2. Pierre du P’s house
  3. Donald’s house
  4. Area fossil was found
  1. Hector Street Playground.jpg

I got some feedback – via Sheila to Eddie to Anne:

Donald’s lil boet Eddie: Hi Koos – I got this e-mail from Anne today and it’s in reply to a request from Sheila about Harrismith days – I think the fossil mystery may have been solved! I did like my theory about the farm burial though! Eddie had said earlier: I have an idea Donald buried it on a farm we lived on near Winterton – just to confuse future geologists!

Donald’s sister Anne: Hi Sheila – my memories are very hazy. We left Harrismith when I was nine years old. The vivid things I remember don’t really involve school. I remember going up Platberg frequently for picnics at the Gibson Dam; the new highway under construction close to Hector Street – so it became our playground and Donald found a fossilized small animal all intact – that is now at a museum somewhere – I thought Bergville. I also remember early morning Sunday swims at the public pool – Ken(my dad) had some arrangement with the caretaker and we used to pick up children in the neighborhood – definitely you guys. I remember Miss Nicoll – Donald and I used to go to her everyday as a kind of pre-school – she was a formidable old lady with wild grey hair – she seemed to be about 6 feet tall – but that was probably because we were so small. She taught us to knit – even the boys – and to weave cushions and do cross stitch. And every year we had our items exhibited at the Harrismith Show – with great excitement. As far as school goes – I do remember that Donald was left handed but was forced to write with his right hand – his left hand was actually strapped behind his back !!!! And he came home from school and announced that his left hand was his “home hand” and his right was his “school hand”. Poor thing ! The mind boggles at how primitive some teaching methods were in those days. I also remember a teacher that had a leather strap on a stick and she would creep up behind you and give you a resounding smack if you were being idle! Did I make that up? Sounds like something out of Matilda! I wonder if anyone else remembers such a thing. (Me: Yep. Miss Jordan). I do remember what fun it was to melt snow on the little stove in the classroom. I remember swimming in the gala at the public pool and it was night time. As far as the children I knew – there was Lesley Wessels whom I idolised and thought she was so beautiful. Then little Heather Mackenzie who was so sweet with amazing hair and blue eyes and freckles! I also really enjoyed the Wood family – I remember Anne and Lynette and that their mother was a kind lady and I loved going to spend the night there . Then there was Marian Searle – a bit older than me – I used to play there . I remember Joan du Plessis teaching us to swim and Ken impressing on us that she was a springbok swimmer and the best teacher we could have. She did a really great job and when we left to go to Bergville we swam in the Christmas gala and cleaned up! Of course I remember your farm too Sheila – and I was riding a huge tricycle at great speed down a very long driveway and the front wheel came off and I fell off and skidded on my face. I remember the carnation milk factory Christmas tree and that Jean made me a dress every year for the occasion . I remember the blossoms in the middle of the road above your house – and each year Ken took photos of us so that we could see how we had grown. Gosh it takes me back! Will email should I remember further ! Lots of love Anne

– Me, Anne, Donald & Sheila –

Just left of this pic was the Coleman back door where Donald placed his fossil; and not far past the house in the background was where he found it. Platberg mountain in the far background.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Pics from wikipedia by Ghedoghedo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,