I was an Umkomaas Canoe Marathon Official once. Kakhuis Field Marshall for the start of one Umko. Appointed by the uber-command of KCC, it was my job to reduce the toilet-paper-in-the-bush syndrome around the start near the Hella Hella bridge. I had relayed farmer Barry Porter’s unhappiness at the phenomenon to the heavies, they were of course aware of the issue, so they roped me in to help solve it!
Lines of green mobile flush toilets were stationed at the start, and for kilometres before the bridge, starting up at the bend that drops you down into the valley proper, I lined the road with large neat signs exhorting paddlers to “Go Now”, “Use the toilets as soon as you get to the start,” “Avoid the rush,” “Don’t do it in the bush,” and other thoughtful and helpful suggestions.
Mindful of Umko Master Charlie Mason’s wise and thoughtful maxim, “There’s no better laxative than a full Umkomaas” my signs got more urgent the nearer you got to the bridge.
But I was handicapped.
– Firstly, my request for a suitable uniform and hat befitting my high station had been turned down.
– Secondly, my request to have full access to the public address system was denied. Would Billie-Boy Barron hand me the microphone? No.
I was going to thoughtfully say:
“Attention please! Aandag asseblief! Especially you Vaalies and Dabulamanzi ous: KAK NOU!!” I know for a fact that Meyer Steyn – most Umko finishes of anyone ever, while based inland – would have appreciated the reminder . .
Barry said to me later, he thought that year was the least mess he had seen in recent times! Making the local farmers happy is a big part of the success of river races, so I was very chuffed! Of course, if they’d given me free reign to wear the right uniform and exercise my full powers it would have been even better . .