Careful where you step!

Recording, reminiscing and occasional bokdrols of wisdom.

Random, un-chronological memories after marriage, children and sundry other catastrophes.

My pre-marriage blog is vrystaatconfessions.com

bokdrols – like pearls, but handle with care

Jammin’ Gigs and Draggin’ Main

Rob & Jay were in my senior class in ’73; Jim & Donny were a year below. We used to jam in the garage and in Rob’s bedroom; I was an onlooker, really! I learnt one riff on the guitar which I believe I can still play . . Forty years on and they’re still playing gigs – or some of them are. Some are still based in Apache. Their bands have had various names.

At school, Rob drove a Mustang, Jim a Cadillac convertible, Jay a Camaro and Donny I forget, but I remember his Dad had a lovely old pickup.

Apache’s population sign on the road approaching the town was already faded when I got there in ’73 and the jokes hinted at “1500? Yeah, maybe.” But I was told the population shot up in the oil boom a few years after I had left when the middle east put up the price and we had to drive at 80km/h and hide our jerry cans. But it soon went back down, and when I visited in 1984 and 1988 the clapboard motel which had sprung up to house the workers and drifters, and the two extra liquor stores to relieve of them of their cash were abandoned and flapping in the prairie breeze.
I should write a western.

I see in the 2000 census the population was up to 1616.

The Apache Population 1500 sign was near the start of the quarter mile drag strip where the petrolheads had painted a line across the road. 440yards further was another line, much to the sheriff’s annoyance. It is ILLEGAL to paint lines on guvmint roads. Also to burn up your fat tyres on said road. Jay had a wicked Camaro with fifteen inch rear wheels, raised rear suspension and something I didn’t catch under the hood, despite him telling me many times. It went like smoke and he was very justifiably unhappy with me when I put it in a ditch with the one tyre off its rim. Beer. Terrible stuff beer. Jay was a gentleman and went easy on this foolish foreigner that night!

Just a bit closer to town than the drag strip, a local lass had written in large white spraypaint letters across both lanes: WELCOME TO PEYTON PLACE in pissed-off anger at love’s disappointments.

I taught Rob and Jay the wonderful poetic lyrics of Balls to Your Partner – remember? “If you’ve never been fucked on a Saturday night you’ve never been fucked at all”. We’d been talking about a sexy chick from a few villages away, hot pants and crop top, and Jay said laconically: “Well, she’s been fucked on a Saturday night by that little wine-maker: ME”.

Once we were dragging Main in Robbie’s turquoise Mustang, and Debbie pulled up in her car next to ours. How the conversation got there I don’t know, but one of the guys said “Ah, suck a dick, Debbie!” to which she shot back: “Well, flop it out!”

A semi-selfie in the Mustang with me safely in the seat without a steering wheel . .
A deserted Main Street

But please don’t think there wasn’t culture. I got invited to a Pow Wow by the local Native American Movement where they gave me a gift of a colourful shirt and jewellery.

— pic of presentation here —

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Reed: Screw the Camaro and the fat tyres. More about Debbie please.

Me: OK. Here she is, seated right:

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Of course on hearing about me ‘jamming with the guys’ and knowing my lack of any musical talent, the rude comments flowed!

Brauer: Koos jamming!! Playing the washboard? Or just Koos Konfyt ahead of his time?

Reed: They would have had a lot of trouble finding a replacement for you, Koos.

Me: Nah, they moved on. Here are some later pics when they called themselves The Grissleheads:

Grissleheads, Apache OK

Taylor: Did this jamming involve making jello sandwiches? Didn’t know you played any instruments?? Except wind . .

Brauer: Played the organ, did he not?

Taylor: I am sure he has done many solo recitals – unappreciated by the world at large but deeply gratifying to the organ player . .

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Reminiscing about old songs began:

Taylor: I am glad to see you took the cultural exchange program seriously. Balls to your partner counts as poësie . .

Brauer wrote: OK. So let’s see how deeply your culture is engrained. Who knows all the words to “Balls to your partner”; How about the Ingineer’s Song?

Me: All, I dunno; but I do know a lot of them – both songs. A-hum a-hum

Soutar: . . and . . “Up jumped the monkey in the coconut tree, it was a mean motherf___ it was plain to see; it had a 10 bopper nanny and a ten inch ______. Time overdue for a song reunion, have song sheets . .

Me: Fourteen-beer song evenings. I remember them well
-ish
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poësie – poetry; or pussy

Old Man’s SWA Memories

The ole man’s first visit to South West Africa was by train in 1939. The trip cost six pounds return. His father, our Oupa, being a railway man probably got a him good family-rate deal. He would have ‘entrained’ here:

Pietermaritzburg station – where Oupa worked

. . crossed all of South Africa to Upington, then passed through Keetmanshoop, Rehoboth and Windhoek:

Keetmanshoop station
Rehoboth station
Windhoek station

.. and arrived at his destination station: Okahandja. The last stretch on a narrow gauge line.

Okahandja station

He remembers a lovely wooden dining car, wooden tables, wooden carriage walls. His destination was his uncle and aunt’s farms. His aunt Isabel and her husband Theunis van Solms farmed on Engadien or Engadine. They did a lot of hunting.

‘Skiet hom!’

The farms were clustered east of Okahandja – about fifty miles east, he says.

One farm called Nooi Bremen – Was originally owned by a German Count someone – a scion of the Staedtler pencil family and fortune. Or was it the Faber-Castell pencil family? They had more counts.

Daantjie’s farm Uitkyk – original name Onjombojarapati (meant ‘giraffe fell in a hole’)

Sarel’s farm Hartbeesteich – he left his father (or got kicked off the farm?) when he couldn’t stand the abuse any longer. Was sent away with nothing, but rounded up 600 cattle and drove them off to a widow’s farm near the village of Hochveld, 70 miles ENE of Okahandja, where he farmed for her and with her. When she died he bought the farm. Hartbeesteich. ‘teich’ = German for pan.

Japie’s farm was a dry farm; he drilled eighteen holes but never struck water. Dad can’t remember ithe name of the farm.

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Forest Lawn, Elston Place

Our services were like this –
except for no silver caskets, no drums n bugles, and no liveried employees!  

When Bella died we buried her in the garden under the copse of trees over the birdbath. Then Aitch died and we – well, “we”, read about that! – buried her ashes there too. Then Blackie the gundwane (gerbil) and Cheeky the other gundwane (hamster) followed.

Then Janet and Trish’s dear old Dad Neil died and not too long after that – a year or two – their Mum Iona died. Neil’s ashes waited for Iona, and then when she was ready, Janet laid them both to rest in the same spot as well, with good ole Tobias Gumede’s help. He needed to re-cut the path so she could get there, the lovely remembrance spot had become very overgrown!

Lots of laughter and tears. Just like life with them all, come to think of it!

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Since then Sambucca the 12yr-old labrador has been plugged into the Elston Place earth, as has Flaky the 12yr-old American corn snaky! Both buried by TomTom – for a fee! Talk about a garden of remembrance!!

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gundwane – mouse; rat

Bella – dog; Aitch would say ‘doberman-ish; I’d say Canis africana

Aitch – Trish; dear wife; boss of the household; dog purchaser

Neil & Iona – outlaws; in-laws

Janet – twin sister of Aitch; sister of mine

Sambucca – only dog we ever paid for

The ‘Tree of Life’

Back in 350 BCE, Aristotle regarded the essence of species as fixed and unchanging. He wrote his Historia Animalia, grouping animals according to their similarities of looks, actions or dwelling place: animals with blood and animals without, animals that live on water or on land, etc. Aristotle grouped his animals hierarchically from ‘lowest’ to ‘highest’, with, of course, himself – or us, the human species – on top! This view was pretty much unchallenged for the next two thousand years.

Hold on! How Eurocentric! The earliest pharmacopoeia was written by Shen Nung, Emperor of China around 3000 BCE. Known as the father of Chinese medicine, he is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs to test their medicinal value. His ‘Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica’ included 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals.

Then around 1500 BCE medicinal plants were illustrated on wall paintings in Egypt. In one of the oldest papyrus rolls, Ebers Papyrus, plants are included as medicines for different diseases. They have local names such as “celery of the hill country” and “celery of the delta”.

OK, now we’ve shown it was Asia, then Africa, let’s go back to Europe and Aristotle . . One of his disciples or students, the philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus, classified plants into three categories: herbs, shrubs and trees. He classified local specimens as well as specimens sent to him by Alexander the Great, collected during his expeditions to Asia and elsewhere in Europe.

Then in Europe came, in no accurate order – and probably missing out many! – an Italian, Cesalpino (1519-1603), a Swiss, Bauhin (1560-1620), who described about six thousand species and gave them names based on their ‘natural affinities,’ grouping them into genus and species. He was thus the first scientist to use binomial nomenclature in classification of species. By the time the Swede Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was born, there were many systems of botanical classification in use, with new plants constantly being discovered and named. He became famous for ‘sorting things out!’ His book Systema Naturae is regarded as the start of modern nomenclature.

The more people classified things, the more they realised they were related. And so came the first ‘Tree of Life’ (that I could find – there are sure to be more, earlier, better):

Hitchcock 1840

Not only is MAN on top, he gets – we get – a crown and cross. Palm trees get the plant crown. Then came Haeckel’s Pedigree of Man, still with animals and plants separate, even though this is a real tree!

Haeckel 1879

Most of the subsequent line of naturalists, zoologists, botanists and herbalists worked on classifying, describing and naming. The first departure from this approach was probably by Frenchman de Lamarck (1744–1829), who launched an evolutionary theory including inheritance of acquired characters, named ‘Lamarckism.’ Others, like Erasmus Darwin, who, like most people looking into classification accepted that evolution happened, but HOW it happened was not known. He – the elder Darwin, Charles’ grandfather – proposed his evolutionary theory that ‘all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament.’

The next big step in evolutionary theory was when in 1858 in London Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace proposed that evolution proceeded ‘by natural selection’. This theory of Darwin’s and Wallace’s changed EVERYTHING.

Huge jump here: When DNA and genes and genomes were discovered and worked out, everything changed again. No longer did one have to painstakingly study an animal’s anatomy and habits to classify it, its DNA classified it accurately even if you looked on in astonishment and thought ‘can’t be!’ If the DNA says they’re related (or not) they they’re related – or not.

So our 1969 school Tree of Life below was still intent on showing how single-cell animals were low down and we were high up. But at least we were starting to learn we weren’t the crown of a tall tree. But at least we were separate from plants and fungi! Well . . .

1969 tree of life

But the more we know, the more we know. And we now know it’s us and fungi. Get used to it, us and fungi.

So next time you scoff a plate of mushrooms, feel a bit guilty. And when you see a live mushroom growing, say ‘Howzit Cousin.’ And get used to it.

See bottom right the little word opisthokonta? That’s us.

Us opisthokonts

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Thanks Dave’s Garden ; Vision Learning ; wikipedia ; Science News ; EDIT ;

Cockroach Thermidor

Oh, I do love this! When you do careful examination of DNA you find out where animals – and all living things – fit in the Tree of Life. You’ll also find the old tree we learnt with ‘humans’ proudly at the top as the crowning glory, was done before we knew much about DNA.

And it is sometimes very surprising. For example, when Charles Sibley and Jon Ahlquist started classifying birds according to their genetic code, they found this bird on the right:

American wren – Australian wren

. . is more closely related to an Australian crow than it is to the bird on the left! They look and behave the same due to convergent evolution.

So for decades and centuries ornithologists knew the two birds were related as they had the same beaks and the same habits, so you can imagine some of them were none too pleased to be told in 1988 by relative newbies that what they thought – heck, what they ‘knew’ – was wrong!

Just like zoologists had known for a long time that mammals in Australia had evolved to fit various niches. These two are more closely related to each other than they are to dogs or squirrels:

thylacine and sugar glider – both marsupials

And so we come to the even more recent discovery: That cockroaches are crustaceans.

Not only should we eat insects as a better way of producing protein, we should charge higher prices for them! The menu at my new restaurant will feature in future – Cockroach Thermidor SQ

crustaceans

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An Old Friend Returns

I heard this call in River Drive Westville KZN in 2002 and went looking.

And I found a new bird to add to the long list in our first home: An Olive Bush Shrike!

This year on the other river in Westville, the Palmiet, I heard the call again and got that ‘I know what that is, but I can’t put my finger on it’ feeling. So I recorded it and posted it to the Friends of Pigeon Valley whatsapp group. Jonathan Hemson came back promptly with the answer. A new addition to the list in Elston Place.

Olive Bushshrike – Chlorophoneus olivaceus

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Thanks xeno-canto for the recording; wikipedia and africanbirdclub for the pics..