TomTom has to keep a holiday diary for school. Daily entries. Verbally he can be quite verbose. When a story can be told in ten words, he can take twenty, then repeat them in case you weren’t listening.
So we went shopping and walked for miles in Westwood centre, then drove to the Pavilion, looking for soccer collectable cards and an album. Plus we had Kentucky Fried chicken and a Tab, bought plasters for him and disprins for me. And he listened to music on his headphones in the kombi.
In his diary he wrote: I have soka cards frommy Dad. That was it.
Earlier, we had arranged to go to the Palmiet River* at the bottom of our road. Aitch was out, so I told TomTom we should leave a note for Mom to tell her where we’d gone.
He wrote a big note. It said – in glossy silver pen: We have gone.
On my insistence he added some detail:
And we well come back
*Our Palmiet fossicking turned up tadpoles, mayfly nymphs, baby frogs, freshwater shrimps and little fish fry. Maybe he’ll write about them.
Aitch takes the kids for lunch at a Spur restaurant with her folks – Gogo ‘Ona and Grumpa Neil. It’s two days after their joint birthday – they turned 7 and 11, so it was 2008.
TomTom is wolfing down a bowl of ice cream he has FINALLY been able to wheedle out of his Ma. She feels he usually eats a mouthful and wastes the rest, so he has to persuade her before a wish gets granted.
His Gogo watches and comments: “My, Tommy, you’re eating that ice cream quickly!”
Well, he explains, We don’t get offered it much in our home.
Mom n Tom choose a cake for his party: A great big rocket with a number SEVEN emblazoned in smarties on its side, a star-shaped base and gleaming red aluminium foil fins. They choose the mixing bowl, run the Kenwood, prepare the star-shaped pan and – at last – pop the first part into the pre-heated oven.
It’s a hot, muggy day and Aitch plops down into a chair in the breakfast nook and smiles at Tom.
Mom! he says, I couldn’t have done that without you!
It gets worse. Later on he thinks of something and goes up to Aitch.
Mom, what treat can I get for helping you? he asks.
Hmmm, says Aitch, always sharper than me in dealing with the kids’ manipulations, Who’s cake is this?
So what do I get for helping YOU?
A hearty handshake, says the incorrigible one, without missing a beat, and goes running off chuckling.
We took the trailer and found a lovely campsite and settled in.
Tom was a mad keen fisherman and Jess loved the waves. Blissful. Peaceful. Tom had his first real fishing rod – a huge surf rod given to him by Trish’s Dad Gompa Neil. Jess was mad keen on gymnastics and swimming back then. Game drives were not as exciting – let’s go back to the beach! – but when I let them drive the kombi they were thrilled again. Such an easy-to-please stage of their lives!
While the gillie unties knots and baits up, the fisherman dreams of big catches: C’mon gillie, move it up already!
When we got back to camp from the beach fings had changed: The Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club had moved in with their V8 4X4’s, their caravans, tents and boats with twin many-hp Yamaha outboard engines, and surrounded us! There goes the neighbourhood, we thought. Huge tents and gazebos and afdaks and windscreens, caravans and trailers had sprung up, complete with large braais, TV satellite dishes and you-name-it!
Lovely people. We soon struck up a conversation with our nearest neighbour. The Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club had been coming to Vidal for their annual By-Die-See excursion for decades. The Highlight of Our Year, he told us. That night there was revelry and much smoke and brandy, but not too late – they planned an early start the next day to get their boats out to sea to fill their hatches and deep freezes. Serious fishermen, these.
Things settled and quiet descended on the coastal forest; then a big storm sprang up. A real gale. Soon the wind was howling through the trees and our trailer-top tent was rocking. I climbed down that treacherous ladder to check all was secured or stowed away. Soon after I got back to bed I heard an almighty crack and the sound of something heavy falling and striking a tent pole. Uh! Oh! I thought and listened, Dead quiet; then voices in the dark all around us, barely audible above the howling gale.
Soon a few engines were started and I thought “Here we go, they’re revving up their 4X4’s and the boat motors ready for a first-light departure.” Then a chainsaw started snarling and I thought “Give it a break, guys! Wait till morning!” but it carried on! Mayhem!
At last there was quiet. Next morning I hailed our neighbour: “Hey! Did you survive the storm?” He came scurrying over and in a hushed voice said “Yes, but Joan didn’t!”
Turns out a massive branch had fallen on top of one of their party sleeping in their tent near ours, missing the husband by inches but landing on Joan. A Durban friend of ours camping nearby went to assist, as the she was a veterinarian. She had to give them the sad news that Joan’s chest was crushed, she had no chance and had died instantly. The police arrived, then a mortuary van. The whole gang from the Boksburg and Benoni Fishing and Hengel Club, tight-knit friends as they were, packed up and left to accompany Joan’s husband home, the adventure over before it had really started.
We had a look at the branch: Now in pieces, it had been over 3m long and over 50cm in diameter and had fallen from about 10m up. What a bummer. As we watched, a beautiful green snake appeared on the sawn-up branch. Life and nature carries on.
We’ve always looked for the biggest, shadiest trees to camp under. Now we do a more careful assessment of where exactly to position ourselves.
Aitch doesn’t mess around. Suddenly a big marquee was pitched on the front lawn. What’s that for? I ask. We’re having a party, says me wife. Oh. OK. So tip-toe’ing discreetly past my half century mark is not going to happen?
So I help the guys lay down a dance floor; and I carry chairs. And I carry chairs. Do we need so many chairs? I ask. Carry chairs, I’m told.
Then a minibus arrives and musical instruments are carried out – a trombone, a saxophone and a guitar – and one of the guys looks familiar. Big, braces, white hair. Mario!? I say / ask in amazement. Yes, says he in an Italian accent. What are you doing here? I ask, onnosel-y. He just smiles. I spose he’s used to that.
Mario Montereggi! When he’s not marshaling his Big Band, he runs a trio, Music Unlimited, for small events: Him on trombone, a guitarist and a saxophonist.
WOW!! Aitch certainly does NOT mess around!
The theme was Africa, but Brauer thought it was Out of Africa, and of course he took it literally. You know how he is . .
Instead of a solemn speech full of half a century of carefully censored praise . .
Terry and Pete sang a song full of scurrilous exaggerations – and duped the rest of the mense into singing the chorus! Everyone knows Billy Joel’s Piano Man tune . .
Then Jonathan and Aitch said some words and I had to correct everyone and put them straight.
Trish (Aitch) and 5yr-old Jess made a paste-and-cut album when we got back from our trip to five Southern African countries. I found it lying around so thought I’d photograph it and paste it here as a gallery. Hope you enjoy.
Former Apache resident Rebekah Cooksey (about fifteen to twenty years after me, I guess) wrote “Top 10 Things Heard This Weekend in Apache, Oklahoma” after a return visit to her hometown. Her blog now seems to have disappeared, but I got these extracts from it.
Small town Oklahoma defined my early life. My hometown was Apache. Population: 1500. Our school was so small we had no class electives; My class pictures between kindergarten and 12th grade included all the same people, generally in the same position.
I am the youngest of seven kids; Dad was a minister, Mom was a nurse. I think at one point we were actually below the poverty level but I have such great selective memory that period is all kind of blurry. I do remember being laughed at because of my clothes and wishing that we could live in a mobile home because some of my friends lived in them, and their homes were nicer than ours. While I had good friends (whom I still keep in touch with), I always knew I would move away because there really wasn’t anything there for me.
Those of you who actually read my blog (thanks, Mom!) know that my family and I went to Apache Oklahoma this past weekend to attend the annual Apache Fair.
Going to Apache is always a bittersweet event for me. Growing up in this small town of 1500 people was mostly a frustrating experience, and I spent my junior high and high school years plotting my escape. But even after almost twenty years of being away, I am tied to this place by my memories, my values, and my dreams for my own children — because the kind of town I ran from is exactly the kind of town I’d like to raise them in (but hopefully with a larger population by a factor of 10).
Why bittersweet? Going back reminds me of the many wonderful things about being raised in a town where everyone knows everyone, where the same families have farmed the same land for generation after generation, where the values are so traditional that Home Economics is a required course for girls and Ag Shop (agricultural workshop – welding, woodworking, leather tooling) is a required course for boys. But, it also makes me sad, because many of the store fronts are boarded up, the family-owned businesses have been replaced by Sonic and Dollar General, and the landscape is dotted with barns falling into themselves, rusted cars and vans, and, in general, signs of the struggle of the lower-middle class.
The best way to describe it, I’ve decided, is ‘Mayberry’ meets ‘Sanford and Son’, with a Native American twist.
So, in a lighthearted way, I’m going to attempt to share with you some of the highlights of the weekend. Again, while this may appear like I’m poking fun – well, OK, it will be poking fun – but remember, I grew up here, so I’m allowed. I’m laughing with my fellow Apacheans, not at them.
Do you feel that breeze? There was a lot of controversy over the installation of one hundred and fifty wind turbines southwest of Apache because of the blight on the landscape. Not surprising: when you have been living with an unobstructed view of the Wichita Mountains for years, and suddenly someone proposes to build wind turbines across the horizon, that’s bound to put a bee in your bonnet. But the Slick Hills (as the foothills of the Wichitas are known) supposedly have some of the best wind in the USA. The Blue Canyon Wind Farm now produces the energy equivalent of powering 60,000 cars on the road. Now with gas hovering just under $4 a gallon, I don’t think the residents mind so much anymore.
We actually didn’t stay in Apache for the weekend; instead, we rented a cabin in Medicine Park, a tiny tourist village about half an hour away just outside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. If you can desensitize yourself to an over-abundance of junked out cars, scrap heaps, and crumbling mobile homes, Medicine Park is quite a cute destination and the natural beauty is astounding. Definitely worth a weekend trip from Dallas-Fort Worth. But my mention here is just about the one-lane bridge that goes across the river in Medicine Park and joins East Lake Drive with West Lake Drive. You don’t see many of these anymore.
In Medicine Park we found what must be the actual model for Tow-Mater from the animated movie Cars. Also in Medicine Park, we were amazed that the most beautiful real estate in at least a 200 mile radius is used by a waste water treatment plant is astounding to me. With a view of the Wichita Mountains, Lake Lawtonka and the surrounding hills, anywhere else this plot would be turned into million dollar homes (or, adjusted for Oklahoman prices, maybe $250K homes). Seriously, it made my heart sad to see the $32.5m facility sitting smack dab on top of the best view in the area.
I remember when the blinking red stoplight was installed at the main intersection when I was in junior high in the early 80′s. It seemed like no time at all had passed before the light burned out. No one seemed to notice, really, and it took years before it was replaced. Clearly progress has been made because the town’s only stoplight was blinking when we drove through town.
Rattlesnake Festival – Our little town of Apache is host to one of the largest Rattlesnake Festivals in the USA. The Apache Rattlesnake Festival was created by some local townspeople (one of whom was my high school best friend’s Dad) back in 1986, and features guided snake hunts, contests for the longest/heaviest/ugliest rattlesnake, an ever-growing flea market/craft fair, and a carnival. Last year, they had 60,000 people come through for the 3-day event, and Discovery America was there to film it. Pretty good for this small hometown.
Livestock Fairs – One of the big attractions of the Fair is livestock judging. Most FFA students have animals that they show at fairs such as this for prize money and bragging rights. This night was cattle judging night, so Jack and Luke got plenty of opportunity to see cows. I think this was the first real “Moo” they had ever heard, poor things. Usually it’s me trying to sound like a cow when I sing Old MacDonald.
Glimpses into Me — By Rebekah Cooksey on August 20, 2008 Blog: MyKindOfMom – ‘Fraid Rebekah’s site has ‘gone off the air’!
When the new boy moved in I experienced times of being firmly relegated to 2-IC, second-best, sidekick, supporting cast – in Aitch’s life. Me and TC had to step back as she fell deep and hard in love with Matt. Here’s when she found and chose him:
He was not glossy, so we called him Matt.
Then he grew. And his coat became glossy on the expensive vet’s food Aitch fed him. He was at the tail-end of the docked-tail era.
This was back when these dogs were our children (prior to adopting two of the longer-lasting, more expensive, less appreciative, two-legged kind!).
I found Matt on the freeway late one rainy night. He was probably after an intriguing new smell which enticed him out (he hadn’t wandered before). He was a growing boy, after all! Hit by a car on the M13 when he went loping off thinking “Love Is In The Air”, he was dead. His collar with our details on it was still attached.
We shed tears. I dug his grave. We buried him in the garden.
Then we got a lawyer’s letter and the guy who hit him sued us for the damage to his car. He was entitled to do that, and we paid. Felt crappy, though.
True love – Aitch & Matt; Matt about 1989 to 1991.