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1_Harrismith 5_Army days 7_Confessions travel

High Speed Tug – or Stress in the Army

I suffered severe stress in the army in 1979. Once.

My two-tone 1965 Opel Rekord 4-door bench seat, column-shift sedan in sophisticated shades of grey: dark grey body, pale grey roof, grey upholstery; got indisposed while parked under the bluegum trees outside the Medics base camp on Roberts Heights – then Voortrekkerhoogte, now Thaba Tshwane. She wouldn’t start.

koos-opel-1976

This was serious! We had a weekend pass and there was a party on in the City of Sin & Laughter, aka the metropolis of Harrismith, as everyone knows.

Not a problem, said KO (surname). We were all KO’s: candidate officers. He kindly offered to tow me to Harrismith behind his V6 Cortina bakkie. A short piece of nylon rope was found and we set off.  I immediately thought Uh Oh!! as we hared off, accelerating furiously. Soon we reached what felt like 100 miles an hour. Slow down! I screamed silently. We hadn’t arranged any signals or communication, so I simply gripped the steering wheel and concentrated. If cellphones had been invented I’d have sms’d him: WTF RU MAD? Then I’d have worried about him reading his sms while driving at that speed.

I sat tensely, staring at the rear of the bakkie a mere six imperial feet from my bonnet. I couldn’t even see the towrope as we roared along. We’re going East so fast we hasten the setting of the sun.

Then it started to rain! Then twilight fell. Then it got dark, with the rain falling ever harder as my wipers feebly swished back, and then later on, forth. With the motor not turning, the battery got flatter and flatter and the wipers got slower and slower. Blowing the hooter and flashing my lights just made things worse – the wipers stopped if anything else was switched on. Upfront in the bakkie the music was so loud and the chit-chat so intense they didn’t even notice us. Or pretended not to?

There was nothing for it but to hang in there for hours. Worst journey of my life. My chin got closer and closer to the windscreen and my knuckles got whiter. Still the KO kept the bakkie floored! He had to get to Durbs where a girlfriend was waiting. My neck was tense and I don’t think I blinked once, staring at the top edge of the bakkie tailgate. My right thigh ached as it poised ready to brake – delicately! – at any moment.

An eternity later we pulled up in Harrismith, unhitched the towrope and off he went, on to Durban. ‘Hey, thanks!’ I said. ‘Appreciate it!’

Fu-u-uck-uck-uck!!! I had never felt such relief. The beer soon relieved the stress though. And soon the testosterone was saying ‘It was nothing.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
5_Army days 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

Graham DryBright Lewis

For army basic training we were posted to Loopspruit outside Potchefstroom. We were ‘medics’ we were told. The place had been a reform school before and we were billeted in old houses converted into barracks – or most of us were. Our gang (platoon?) got the science lab, and boy, were we lucky. The other guys spent their days sanding and polishing old wooden floors. We had linoleum. All we did was sweep and – unfairly – we often won the prize for neatest inspection. Every so often that meant a weekend pass, so we were careful to keep the place clean, removing our boots at the door and shuffling around on ‘taxis’ – cloths you  step on and scoot around on, cleaning as you go.

Uniforms and beds were inspected too, so evenings were spent cleaning and ironing and smartening. Some would even sleep on the floor, unwilling to mess up their crisply-straightened beds. One of our guys found this all a bit hard. Graham. What a lovely bloke, but Tidiness R Not Him. He would get bombed by the corporals for untidiness, so we took to doing his ironing and smartening for him, forbidding him to move as we shone his boots and dressed him for inspection. If he moved he would get boot polish on his browns, so we ordered him: SIT! STAY!

One weekend we were all given a pass but Graham was ordered to forfeit his. On our arrival back in camp Sunday evening we were greeted by the disturbing sight of  our dazzling floor looking dull and scratchy. It had lost its shine!

Graham explained: Bored all alone over the weekend he had spied an electric polishing machine and some ‘DryBright’ polish in one of the houses and thought he’d do us all a big favour and get the floor to a dining shazzle the likes of which had never before been seen in military history.

floor polisher Lewis.jpg

Well, the more he polished the duller it got. So he polished some more. Eventually he managed to get it to the disastrous state we now saw before our ‘thinking-of-lost-weekends’ eyes! Fortunately we knew where Graham’s heart was, so we saw the funny side and set to rescuing the situation as best we could.

But we never let him forget it: Graham DryBright Lewis!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s the man a few years later. Probly explaining his floor-polishing theories:

Lovely chick thinking OmiGawd! as Lewis 'splains things to Reed
– Graham ‘splaining things to Stephen while his girlfriend thinks . . . –

His lovely partner for the evening is thinking Omigawd . . . as many of our partners seemed to do back then, I dunno why . .

~~~oo0oo~~~