Road Trip with Larry

Mom lent us her Cortina. Like this, but OHS:

cortina 1970

How brave was that!? The longer I have teenagers of my own the more I admire my Mom and her quiet courage and fortitude back in the ’70’s! The thought of giving my teenage son my car and allowing him to disappear (it would be in a cloud of dust and tyre smoke) on a three week jaunt fills me with querulous whimpering. (I’ll do it, I’ll do it, but only ‘cos Mom did it for me).

Larry Wingert was an ex-Rotary exchange student from Cobleskill, New York. He had been teaching English in Athens and had flown to Nairobi, then traveled overland down to Joburg where we joined up and hitch-hiked to Harrismith. There, Mom parted with the Cortina keys and we drove to PMB then on to Cape Town. We took ten lazy days in going nowhere slowly style back in 1976.

Wherever we found a spot – preferably free – we camped in my little orange pup tent. In the Weza Forest we camped for free; In the Tsitsikamma we paid.

Driving through the Knysna Forest we saw a sign Beware of the Effilumps.

knysna forest

So we took the little track that turned off nearby and camped – for free – out of sight of the road in the undergrowth. Maybe we’d see a (very) rare Kynsna elephant. Not.

In Cape Town we stayed with Lynne Wade from Vryheid, lovely lass who’d been a Rotary exchange student too. She played the piano for us and I fell deeply in love, then disappeared on yet another beer-fuelled mission. Coward. We also visited Dottie Moffett in her UCT res. She was also an ex-Rotary exchange student from Ardmore, Oklahoma. Lovely lass too.

We headed for Malmesbury to visit Uncle Boet and Tannie Anna. Oom Boet was on top form, telling jokes and stories and laughing non-stop. That evening he had to milk the cow, so we accompanied him to the shed. Laughing and talking he would rest his forehead against the cow’s flank every now and then and shake with helpless mirth at yet another tale. Meantime, this was not what the cow was used to. It had finished the grain and usually he was finished milking when she had finished eating. So the cow backed out and knocked him off the stool, flat on his back, bucket and milking stool upturned. He took a kick at the cow, missed and put his back out. Larry and I were hosing ourselves as we helped him up and tried to restore a semblance of order and dignity.

Back at the house we gave Oom Boet and Aunt Anna a bottle of imported liquer to say thanks for a lovely stay. It was a rather delicious chocolate-tasting liquer and it said haselnuss mit ei. It was only a 500ml bottle, so we soon flattened it. It looked something like this:

haselnuss liquer

“Ja lekker, maar ag, dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”

Ja?

Larry and I decide to call his bluff. In the village the next day we looked for dark chocolate and hazelnuts, but hey, it’s Malmesbury – we got two slabs of Cadbury’s milk chocolate with nuts.

Oom Boet is bok for the challenge. He dives under the kitchen sink and starts hauling things out. He’s on his hands and knees and his huge bum protrudes like a plumber’s as he yells “Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” Anna has to step in and find things and do things as he ‘organises’. She finds a vintage blender and – acting under a string of unnecessary instructions – Aunt Anna breaks eggs and separates the yolks, breaks chocolate into small pieces. Boet then bliksems it all into the blender and adds a fat dollop of a clear liquid from a label-less bottle. “Witblits, Kosie!” he says triumphantly. He looks and goois more in, then more. Then a last splash.

It looked like this, but the goo inside was yellowy-brown, not green. And it had a layer of clear liquid overlaying it nearly to the top.

Oom Boet blender_2

He switches the blender to ‘flat-out’ with a flourish and a fine blend of egg yolk, chocolate and powerful-smelling hooch splatters all over the kitchen ceiling, walls and sink. He hadn’t put the lid on! And it was like a V8 blender, that thing.

Vroulief starts afresh, patient and good-humoured as ever. We mop, we add, he blends, and then it’s ready for tasting at last.

And undrinkable. That aeroplane fuel strength home-distilled liquor was just too violent. We take tiny little sips, but even Oom Boet has to grudgingly admit his is perhaps not quite as good or as smooth as the imported stuff. We add sugar, more chocolate and more egg yolk, but its only very slightly better, and still undrinkable.

Ten years later I still had the bottle and despite offering it to many people to sip as a party trick, it was still three-quarters full!

If we had marketed it we’d have called it Oom Boet se Bokkerol Haselnuss mit Eish!

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haselnuss mit ei – hazelnuts with egg

“Ja lekker, maar ag dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”- Nice, but we could make this stuff ourselves!

“Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” – Wife! Where’s the machine?

bliksems – throws

witblits – moonshine

goois – throws

R.I.P Steph

I can’t believe it. Steph. Died in a car accident today. Near Frankfort.

I’ll write later.

Here’s how we’ll always remember him. Us who knew him in the 60’s and 1970 (his matric year).

The fab five strikes! Pierre, Larry, Steph, Koos; Tuffy must have taken the picture
The fab five strikes! Pierre, Larry, Steph, Koos; Tuffy must have taken the picture

His more recent friends and family remember him like this: Mad keen fisherman, yachtsman, can-do builder, taker-on of major projects. Big-hearted friend, generous to a fault (he would dispute the ‘fault’ part).

Steph funeral 5

His family and colleagues put on an amazing memorial service and wake for Steph at The Pines this Saturday. Entertained us royally. His daughter tells me he has seen to it that each of them are set up with something to do to keep going.  was his saying. There were grandkids running around and the day was just as if he had organised it himself. It typified Steph as it was Generous and Inclusive. The family did him proud.

I have written about our schooldays here:

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/raiders-of-the-lost-saab/

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/chariots-of-beer/

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/woken-by-the-tamboekie/

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/an-old-mystery-whose-fault/

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/the-night-we-hijacked- the-orange-express/

https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/i-must-go-down-to-the-sea-again/

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Later, I can write:

We were a gang of five that came of age together. Really fun days. Beer, wit, song, wisdom, ‘borrowed’ cars, adventures and escapades *  and um, extra homework (some of these things may be disputed by some) . . . Pierre du Plessis and Steph and Larry Wingert  our American Rotary exchange student were 1970 matrics, me and Tuffy Joubert were 1972 matrics. I phoned Larry in Ohio to let him know the sad news last night.

One of the things I am most grateful for (I’m in awe, really) and I try hard to apply some of it in a balanced way to my Jess & Tom, is just how TOLERANT our 1960’s and ’70’s Vrystaat parents were!!! I’m sure Steph’s Mom Alet and my Mom Mary, Pierre’s Mom Joan, Tuffy’s Mom Joyce often knew we were out and about but they would just check we were OK in the morning. **

Steph’s Dad the legendary Koos de Witt died when Steph was in Std 6. He was a prominent builder: Built many Much Deformed churches all over SA. Steph did civil engineering at varsity then started building. Made and lost fortunes. Owned a huge ocean-going catamaran, house in Cape Town, ‘cottage’ in Kommetjie, game farm in Limpopo. Then he was back – bought the biggest stone house in Kestell while he had big contracts to build roads and a shopping centre in Qwa Qwa. I looked him up there on our way to Lesotho once. He was driving a huge imported Ford F250 pickup truck. When I told him which road we were taking into Lesotho in my kombi he said “You can’t go that way, Koos! I built the road to the border and that’s fine, but after that you’ll never make it!” Well, we did, but Aitch veto’d that route thereafter.

He always kept The Pines – their big old house in Harrismith and ran it as a B&B. He wanted to start a museum and had bought and restored his Dad’s big old Dodge and his Mom’s old Karmann Ghia.

Next month Steph was going to take another exchange student from my year who they hosted to his game farm – Greg Seibert’s first visit back to SA since 1972. We’ll have to fill in that part of his itinerary.

His year had their 45th matric reunion last week (older sister Barbara was in his class and was involved in organising it) outside Swinburne. But Steph didn’t go. Getting together with the hele klas wasn’t his style. A few beers with the boys would have done it. Although: For their 40th reunion he and Pierre organised, hosted and paid for the whole thing. Wouldn’t take any money from the rest of the class! Generous. His funeral was organised by his brother JP, his kids and his wife and ex-wife just as he’d have wanted it. All his workers invited, all his friends and more. LOTS of food and drink and lasting the whole day. At The Pines.

Now he’s gone. Well, none of us would have predicted Steph dying of old age in bed, that’s for sure. But this soon? No, no, no!

Our last reunion was in 1996 when Larry visited from Ohio:

Larry Visits from Ohio (4)
Pierre, Francois, Koos, Steph, Tuffy, Larry

*I told you how we stood innocently in assembly while the headmaster promised threateningly that he would catch the blighters who had left tyre-mark donuts on the netball courts – “Ons sal hulle vang!” – and we thought “No you won’t”.

** The other day I was about to growl “Turn down that noise!” to Tom when I thought to myself I don’t remember my folks ever doing that to my full-blast Jethro Tull or Led Zeppelin! Amazing!
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Pierre at Steph’s funeral:

Pierre at Shady Pines

Moonrise over Bobbejaanskop, Platberg as I left Harrismith that sad day:

The moon rising as I left to go back to Durbs