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

Actually it was hours, not years.

Kai 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 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 ran flawlessly, with Ross-Merr doing 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, 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.

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.

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

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Ross-Merr – Rosemary

morsdood – stone dead, but implying a messy death

mossie – sparrow

 

 

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.

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 (Chinese or 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

koperasie – co-operative, socialist gathering of capitalist farmers

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

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!

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!

Donald’s Fearfully Great Lizard

My mate Donald Coleman found, excavated and re-assembled a complete fossil back in about 1962. 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. 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 Lystrosaurus or Thrinaxodon (common in the Karoo 235 million years ago and has been found in Harrismith) or Cisticephalus.

It looked something like this picture, but completely whole, not embedded in rock.

 

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. His lil boet Eddie thought he may have buried his fossil on their farm outside Bergville – just to confuse future paleontologists, but older sis Anne says no, it was given to a museum – she thinks in Bergville. 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