Careful Where You Step!

Recording and reminiscing; with occasional bokdrols of wisdom. Possibly.

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

– this swanepoel family –

My pre-marriage blog is vrystaatconfessions.com. Bachelorhood! Beer! River trips! Beer!

bokdrols – like pearls, but handle with care

Jammin’ and Draggin’ Main

Rob & Jay were in my senior class in ’73; Jim & Donny were a year or so 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 —

——-ooo000ooo——-

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

Me: OK. Here she is, seated right:

——-ooo000ooo——-

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 . .

——-ooo000ooo——-

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 ingrained. 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
——-ooo000ooo——-

poësie – poetry; right?

Give Rock and Roll Another Name

John Lennon said: “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”

Chuck died two years ago today. So I repost this post from my ApacheAdventures blog in tribute and an admission of ignorance. Hey! I was only eighteen and I hailed from the Vrystaat:

——-ooo000ooo——-

Jim Stanton was aghast! He had just invited me along to a rock concert in Oklahoma City and I had immediately accepted. Now he was exclaiming: Don’t say that! Don’t say you don’t know who Chuck Berry is!

My motto in Apache was I only say yes to all invitations to travel – only YES! Or Yes Please! I only have one short year in America; Gotta go everywhere! Gotta dodge school!

Jim’s follow-up questions had forced me to admit my ignorance. But I was willing to learn, I had a ball in the City, and I have been a Chuck Berry fan ever since!

What I didn’t tell Jim is I had even less heard of Bo Diddley! He featured with Chuck and they rocked up a storm. “My ding-a-ling” was really big just then! OK, that didn’t sound right, but anyway . . knowwaddimean . . .

He played all his hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline,” “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Reelin’ and Rockin’,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Surfin’ U.S.A,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” . . .

That was 1973. Recently I saw a 2014 pic of Jim on the internets. That’s him in the red T at an Apache Rattlesnake Roundup. Hi Jim! Never forgotten! Thought of you again when Chuck died aged 90 this year – 2017.

jim-stainton

Some Chuck Berry:

– “People don’t want to see seventeen pieces in neckties. They wanna see some jeans, some gettin’ down and some wigglin’.”

– “I love poetry. I love rhyming. Do you know, there are poets who don’t rhyme? Shakespeare did not rhyme most of the time and that’s why I don’t like him.”

– “It amazes me when I hear people say ‘I want to go out and find out who I am’. I always knew who I was. I was going to be famous if it killed me.”

– “I would sing the blues if I had the blues.”

——-oo000ooo——-

Bo

In 1963, Bo Diddley starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The supporting act was a little up-and-coming outfit called The Rolling Stones.

——-ooo000ooo——-

Oklahoma Mountain Oyster Fry

Back when I was seventeen or eighteen I became an American farmer – a certified Future Farmer of America and I can still hear how Mr. Schneeburger would say EFFIFFAY in Ag Shop class. In Ag-ricultural work-Shop I craftily constructed a rotating cattle feeder made of a 55gal drum, mounted on a wheelrim on an axle that would always turn away from the wind thanks to an angled weather vane on top. Thus keeping the cattle feed dry in all weather. Clever, hey!? Trouble was my birdshit welding. So it fell over in the first little breeze. Still, the thought was there and I was – maybe – on my way to greater things. Redemption? I have been found wanting as a farmer on more than one occasion.

I went to hog shows – where the winner wouldn’t be looking quite so pleased with himself if he read what his mistress had planned for him on her placard:

I planted peanuts in Fort Cobb – well, watched some Mexican fellas do it anyhow. I sprayed something on Jim’s lands. I drove in Walter & Pug Hrbacek’s – or was it Gene & Odie Mindemann’s? – airconditioned cab of their big combine harvester or tractor (yeah, a farmer should remember which it was!) with an eight-track tape sound system overhead. Remember them?

okla 8-track tape

My farming career peaked when I took part in the big annual roundup, catching, de-horning, castrating, branding and inoculating the bull calves. I was pulled in to the gathering and closely watched to see if this boy from Africa knew anything. At all. Well, by then they actually knew I didn’t, but I was good for a laugh! When I first got to Apache the local cowboys asked me if I could help them round up 18 cows. The maths nerd in me answered, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows.’ (actually, that’s a Jake Lambert joke, but not far off the truth!).

As the feverish activity took place I hovered around, just out of helpful range. Then we went home to wash up and joined up again to eat the produce and wash it down with beer. I was better at that. It was my first ‘mountain oyster fry’.

It was like this, but in Walter and Pug Hrbacek’s barn, not at a church, and not in Texas:

Ball with Jesus_Testicle

They’re delicious, and they smell good – unlike the smell of burning cowhide from the branding! – but I found them best fried and covered in batter. You don’t really want to see them, especially not raw. I only ate the well-battered ones. They also get better with each ice-cold beer!

Okla testicles fried

Recently I found out they do it better in Montana where they add a competitive eating of bull balls, or “Rocky Mountain oysters” and they throw in women’s hot oil wrestling, a women’s wet-T-shirt event, and a men’s “big ball” competition – basically a men’s “wet thin white underwear show”. Sounds like fun, huh?!

They make good products too, good merchandise: One for an insecure man, and how useful is this one for a lady who has a dick of a boss? The Under-Desk Scrotum Stress Ball.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief

Quanah Parker: Son of Cynthia Ann Parker and the Last Comanche Chief to Surrender.

I learnt a bit about him in Apache and Fort Sill, Oklahoma back in 1973. Here I learnt more, thanks to Darla Sue Dollman of wildwesthistory.blogspot.co.za (edited version).

Cynthia Ann Parker. Photo taken after she was recaptured and returned to her white family in 1881, shortly before she starved herself to death, mourning the death of her daughter. 
Quanah Parker’s story is a complicated saga that begins in May of 1836 when a nine year-old girl living in a Texas settlement with her family was abducted during a Comanche raid. Her father was killed during the raid, but her uncle, a nearby rancher, soldier, and state legislator, Isaac Parker, adored Cynthia Ann and insisted the family continue to search for the child no matter how long it took to have her returned. In fact, it took twenty five years.
Cynthia Ann Parker: Quanah Parker’s Mother
Nine years after she was captured, Cynthia Ann Parker was chosen as the bride to Comanche Chief Peta Nocona. The couple had three children together: Quanah, Pecos, and a young daughter, Topasannah, or “Prairie Flower.” Cynthia Ann Parker was by all accounts a loving wife and good mother, caring for her children at the camp while her husband and the rest of the tribesmen raided Parker County Texas, named after her uncle.
In 1860, Nocona’s tribe was camped near the Pease River. The Texas Rangers raided the camp. Peta Nocona and his two sons escaped into the nearby prairie. Cynthia Ann, who wore her hair cropped short, was also wearing robes at the time of the raid and was almost shot by soldiers, but she held up her child to show she was a mother. When the soldiers questioned her they noticed her blue eyes and began to suspect she might be the long lost niece of Isaac Parker.
Cynthia was returned to her family, but twenty five years had passed and she appeared to be unable to speak English. In a moment of frustration, one of her relatives said, “This can’t possibly be Cynthia Ann” and Cynthia replied, “Me, Cynthia.”
The family gave her a home and some acreage where she could raise her daughter and support herself, but Cynthia was desperate to return to the only family she knew – husband Peta Nocona and sons Quanah and Pecos. She even stole horses in an attempt to return to her husband, but was captured again by her white family who were now her captors. Four years later, little Topsannah died of a fever in her mother’s arms. Cynthia Ann was devastated. Topsannah was the only family she had left. She starved herself to death, mourning the loss of her beloved daughter and her family.
Quanah Parker of the Quahadi band of Comanche
 
It is uncertain when or how Peta Nocona died. It is known, though, that when his oldest son Quanah was 15 he was introduced into the Destanyuka band, where Kobe (Wild Horse) raised him.
His first name, Quanah, means fragrant, and he was teased by his fellow braves when he was younger. As his mother had named him, he fiercely defended his name and his friends learned not to tease or taunt young Quanah, who grew to be a fierce warrior,
Quanah Parker, Texas State Library.
respected by his people who made him a subchief of the Quahadi (Antelope Eaters) band of Comanche. His anger over the loss of his mother never subsided and it is believed this is why he kept her surname, Parker, for the rest of his life. Prior to his life on the reservation, Quanah fiercely rejected any attempts toward peace made by white politicians.
When he reached his early 20s, Quanah started leading raiding parties on his own. When he was 26, Quanah led a daring night raid into the Cavalry encampment of Colonel Ronald Mackenzie, who was actually on a special assignment to hunt Quanah down.
Quanah and his men captured many Calvary horses and sent the rest stampeding through the camp. Quanah’s name was now well-known throughout Texas and he continued to lead raids into pioneer settlements, generally driving off the cattle and horses and taking whatever he pleased from the homes of the white settlers.
In the spring of 1874, the Southern Plains Indians (Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho) recognizing that Adobe Wells post and the buffalo hunters operating from there were the major threats to their way of life on the plains. The held a sun dance seeking guidance. According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Comanche Medicine Man Isa-tai promised victory to the warriors who agreed to fight the enemy–the hunters.
Quanah Parker
On June 27, 1874, Quanah Parker led 700 Indians from combined tribes to attack the post. At that time, there was 28 men and one woman at the post, but they somehow managed to kill 70 of the Indians, who were forced into retreat. It was considered a spiritual defeat for the Indians, and a lesson to the traders as well. In 1848, the traders destroyed the post because they realized its location made it impossible to protect. To the U.S. Army, it was the last straw, prompting actions to defeat the remaining tribes and end the ongoing Plains War.
Quanah’s anger could not be appeased. He would have continued to fight to his death, but the Comanche population was dwindling due to disease and war losses, and a low birth rate. One by one, the Comanche tribes agreed to live on reservations. However, the Kwahadi Comanche had never signed a treaty with white men. In fact, they refused to attend the Great Treaty Conference held at Medicine Lodge. They did not trust any treaties proposed by the white men, and rightly so. In the past, just about every treaty signed by the white government was broken by the white government.
Quanah refused to surrender and continued to lead his small band of warriors on periodic raids through the white settlements. The U.S. Army used a technique they often used when attempting to subdue the Native American Indian tribes during the Indian Wars–they stole or killed their horses and destroyed all food sources.
It was September, 1874. The Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne were camped in Palo Duro Canyon on the banks of the Red River. This was viewed as a refuge for local tribes. They had seen soldiers nearby and sensed something was in the works, but they were somewhat unprepared for the attack.
When Mackenzie and his men rode through the camps, the members of the three tribes chose to retreat, and Mackenzie responded as predicted–he burned their lodges and food supplies and drove off 1400 horses and mules.
Then Mackenzie reconsidered the horse situation and came up with an even more brutal solution. Knowing the loyalty between Indians and their horses–the Comanche referred to their horses as “God Dogs,”–he decided to have the horses and mules rounded up in Tule Canyon and shot. It was an act of cruelty that understandably caused the Comanche intense pain and sorrow. In 1875, Quanah and what was left of his warriors rode into a nearby reservation and surrendered.
 
Surprisingly, in spite of his reluctance to surrender Quanah thrived on the reservation.
Quanah Parker
For the next 25 years, Quanah was the leader of the Comanche, and true to his reputation and life example, promoted self-sufficiency and self-reliance among his people. He encouraged the construction of schools and educating Indian children to assimilate with the white culture surrounding them. These actions were not always acceptable to his fellow Comanche, but Quanah could be very persuasive.
Quanah thrived in other ways, as well. He promoted ranching on the reservation and, as always, did so by providing an example. He became friends with wealthy cattle ranchers and spent time with his mother’s relatives, the Parker family, to learn successful ranching techniques. He encouraged the signing of agreements with white ranchers to allow their cattle to graze on Comanche land, yet another controversial move, but he pushed this through by using basic logic–the white ranchers were already using Comanche land and the written agreement showed the Comanche had power and authority.
Quanah encouraged the Comanche to build homes resembling their white neighbors, and to plant crops. Unlike the Navajo, the Comanche were traditionally a roaming tribe, following the buffalo, but the buffalo were gone and Quanah recognized the need to change in order to survive. He even approved the establishment of a Comanche police force, yet another wise move that enabled the Comanche to “manage their own affairs”.
Quanah was sometimes criticized by Comanche for dressing like the white men and assimilating into their culture, but he also surprised the white men with his success. He owned $40,000 in stock in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway and is believed to have been the wealthiest Indian in America in his time. Quanah’s wealth made him popular in white social circles and a popular subject for magazine articles. He was also friends with Theodore Roosevelt.
Eventually, Quanah built a two-story eight bedroom house called Star House. He had separate bedrooms for each of his seven wives and his own bedroom. He had 25 children by his eight wives. One of his close friends, cattle rancher Samuel Burk Burnett, helped him pay for it. The house was moved out of the Fort Sill grounds to the nearby town of Cache in an effort to preserve it.
Quanah rejected orthodox Christianity, but adopted elements of it in founding the Native American Church movement.
Quanah Parker in ceremonial regalia. Photo taken in 1892.
Quanah practiced the “half-moon” style of peyote ceremony. He is credited with saying “The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.” Quanah and John Wilson, a Caddo-Delaware religious leader are believed to be the reason most Native American and Canadian tribes adopted the Native American Church and Christianity.
Quanah Parker was named deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma in 1902. In 1911 he became very sick at the Cheyenne Reservation from an unknown illness and died shortly after returning home on February 23, 1911. He was buried in his Comanche regalia, beside his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and his sister Topasannah, in Post Oak Mission Cemetery in Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957, the United States expanded a missile base in Oklahoma and moved the graves of Quanah, Cynthia Ann and Topsannah to Fort Sill Post Cemetery in Lawton, Oklahoma. On August 9, 1957, Quanah was once again re-buried in the same cemetery, in a section known as Chief’s Knoll, with full military honors.
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Oklahoman Honeymoon

As I settled in the seat of the Delta Air plane en route to Texas and the Gulf I read in the newspaper that I’d scooped up where someone had abandoned it, that the one thing I did NOT want to be doing was flying over Easter.

When is Easter? I asked the stewardess. ‘Tomorrow’ she chirped brightly.

Change of plan Aitch, I announced: We’re going to Oklahoma instead of the Gulf. I explained and showed her the newspaper (airport congestion, overbooked flights – us on a cheap Delta pass). Aitch had been dreading going to Apache: ‘They’ll all know you and I won’t know anyone and I’ll feel left out and . . ‘

But now she had to face her fears. As soon as we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth we booked the next flight to Lawton Oklahoma, heading back north instead of carrying on south. There was just enough time if we scurried. Aitch decided she’d skip the loo and go once we were airborne. Mistake. It was a narrow little propeller plane like this, two seats a side, a narrow aisle, no airhostess, no loo. Ooh!

delta-small-plane

We landed in Lawton after dark and she made it. We set off further north for Apache in a rental car. Apache: My hometown for a year as a Rotary exchange student in 1973. Arriving on the Patterson’s farm outside town we saw a ‘yuge’ SA flag waving from the flagpole! Jim had borrowed an oversize flag from the SA consulate in Houston to welcome us!

Apache Patterson Lunch (1)

Jim & Katie Patterson, the loveliest couple in the whole of the USA were just the same as ever!

They welcomed us with open arms to their beautiful and comfortable ranch house and it was as though we hadn’t been apart for fifteen years (during which time I had received exactly two letters from them. ‘Well, Peter’ said Jim with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, ‘We didn’t want to flood you with correspondence’).

Apache Patterson Ranch_cr
ApachePattersonRanch (11)

Katie took Aitch on a night drive in the pickup looking for owls. Both girls were suitably lubricated plus they took extra stocks of their tipple. They had the windows down and were hooting weird owl calls and hosing themselves. When they returned they were laughing uncontrollably, leaning against each other for support. They had seen a possum snuffling around and Aitch was fascinated – she always LOVED the little night creatures. Katie followed it offroad into the fields, keeping it in the headlights. When it stopped she manoeuvred so it could best be seen and whispered to Aitch “Shall I kill it?” She was surprised at Aitch’s distraught look of horror. Then she twigged: “No, no, not the possum! I meant the engine!”

They collapsed laughing when they both “saw it” and were still laughing helplessly when they got back home where Jim and I were watching ‘the ballgame’ – Basketball I think; OU I think.

One morning I woke up to breakfast in bed. It was 1st April, my birthday – thirty three young today – and Aitch delivered a tray of goodies!

Jay Wood & Robbie Swanda come for a barbecue; Robbie wears my Optometry rugby jersey (that I gave him in 1984, then regretted doing so! My only one!)
– Jay Wood & Robbie Swanda come for a barbecue Robbie wears my Optometry rugby jersey, number 8 –

Jim n Katie arranged a lovely barbecue poolside and invited my best mates from high school back in 1973. Jay Wood and Robbie Swanda had made the year unforgettable and here they were again, also with wives now; Robbie wearing the Optometry rugby jersey I had given him in 1984 when I visited after kayaking down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.

Jim unwraps the winter covers - Early for Aitch
– Jim unwraps the winter covers early for Aitch –

Jim even unwrapped the Caddy convertible from its winter covering weeks earlier than usual and presented Aitch with the keys. She drove as far as the gate and then said ‘I think you must drive now Koos.’

– Koos! It’s too wide! – You drive! –

All I got was this old tractor that I had driven for Jim back in ’73.

Here's what I get to drive (memories of 1973)
– here’s what I get to drive (memories of 1973) –

OK, in fairness, he also gave me the keys to the Chevy Suburban you can see in the background with the door open. Which was so much fun I missed the Rotary meeting! Now THAT was embarrassing! Unforgivable! Everyone was forgiving / understanding (‘well, you ARE on honeymoon, after all’) but that REALLY was a major gaffe! Damn! Fifteen years later and ten thousand miles away I have ONE meeting to remember and I forget it! *blush!!* We were out in the countryside looking for a Vermilion Flycatcher and I just clean forgot. We did see a lot of birds that day.

Well, our five day trip to Apache stretched to a week. Wherever we went all I got was an elbow in the ribs as the local inhabitants shoved me aside and crowded around Aitch. Every now and then one would mutter over his shoulder at me: “Now you look after this gal, boy! Y’hear?” Aitch’s dread of going to “my” hometown had turned into a reluctance to leave “her” hometown!

After ten days I sat Aitch down and said “Now listen girl, we still have things to do, places to go and people to meet. We can’t stay in Apache forever!” She was having a ball, reveling in the attention and she and Katie were getting on like a house on fire. I suspect on all their jaunts when they would breeze off in the Lincoln saying “Ya’ll stay home and watch the ballgame, y’hear?” that Katie was teaching her how to manage me and telling her how she managed Jim. Aitch obviously soaked up the lessons! It was Katie who had asked me as a seventeen year old back in 1973: “Peter, who do you think chooses the marriage partner?” Following my confident (wrong) answer she put me straight, telling me how, when Jim arrived for his first day of work at the bank in Oklahoma City she had turned to her friend and announced “I’m going to marry that man!”

So it was very reluctantly that Aitch agreed that I could book for the next leg of our extended honeymoon.

On, northwards, to Ohio to see Larry.

~~oo0oo~~~

PS: I forget if it was on honeymoon in 1988 or after the Grand Canyon trip in 1984, but I needed a haircut and went to the local barber, Rotarian Oscar Caldwell. He and his wife Sonia ran the shop. I had dodged them back in 1973, letting my hair drop down onto my shoulders. Their son Dallas was in my second senior class (I did three matrics: HS, second half of one in Apache, then first half of the next one in Apache).

Oscar and Sonia (both pronounced Oh! – Oh! scir and S Oh! nyuh) were full of beans and shit and could stir.

I walked into the barber shop and said to him while he slaved over some oke’s scalp – in my best Okie accent – ‘I have a complaint! I had my hair cut here in 1973 and I’ve never bin satisfied!’

He stopped snipping, stared at me over his specs, eyes widened and he said “Peedir!”

..

That I remembered. What I hadn’t remembered was a prank I played on Oscar back in 1973. Sister Sheila recently (2020) returned the letters I had written the family back then.

Oscar loaned me a projector to give a slide show and I asked if he wanted it back tomorrow. ‘No,’ he said, ‘That’s too late.’

I said How’s midnight tonight? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’d prefer 4 in the mornin’.

We left it at that. I gave my talk. With me was my good Apache mate Robbie and fellow Rotary students Eve from Durban and Helen from Zim. We went back to Robbie’s house and jol’d. Then at 3.15am, we drove out to Oscar and Sonia’s farm outside town in Robbie’s Mustang. I knocked persistently and Oscar dragged himself to the door where I said Hope I’m in time! I thought you might be wanting to show some home movies?

He blinked, gulped, then fell right in: ‘Yes, Yes,’ he says ‘I did. Come right in.’  He led us in shaking his head muttering ‘This Boy’s Alright, isn’t he?’

He and Sonia then insisted we sat down and proceeded to show us way too many slides with total bullshit commentary : ‘This is a picture of Mars taken on our second trip there . . ‘

Robbie and I were hosing ourselves, Eve and Helen were falling asleep. Sonia then announced it was actually Oscars birthday, so we sang him HBD and left after 4am!

..

Remembered thanks to a letter written in Oct ’73!

~~~oo0oo~~~

My Life as a Cowboy

We sweated in the dust, mopping our brows with dirty red bandanas. The bull calves didn’t like what we were doing, but we had to do it. We wrestled them to the ground, us wranglers, hog-tying their feet before de-horning them and branding them in a cloud of smoke. Burnt flesh smells filled the air. Then it was out with a sharp, clean knife and off with their nuts, deftly. Yep, we castrated ’em. The royal ‘we’ mind you, they wouldn’t let a rank amateur like me do that. Lastly we injected them, and then we untied ’em.

They didn’t like it. They stood shakily, wondering what the HELL had happened (now, if you tell anyone I wrote about a bull calf’s feelings I’ll deny it. Us cowboys don’t do emotion, but I’m setting it down for the record, see). Earlier that day they had been romping in the pastures without a care in the world, and now WHAM! No horns, no nuts, and pain in three places!

That evening we gathered in the barn out near the Hrbacek’s place (near Boone, I think, west or SW of town) for a mountain oyster fry. Copious amounts of beer washed down the delicious deep-fried and battered ‘oystures’, round, oval and all sizes from marble-sized to about a No. 8 pool ball size. Those last calves had obviously been born early – well before the roundup.

A mountain oysture fry
– another ‘mountain oysture’ fry –

At least we were discreet. In Texas the sign where a church was holding a mountain oyster fry shouted: “COME HAVE A BALL WITH JESUS” !

~~~oo0oo~~~

Another cowboy day out on the range was horseback riding with Jim Patterson and his Dad Buck Patterson. Everybody had to call him Buck, nothing but Buck. A bit like my gran in Harrismith was Annie, nothing else. But I called him Granpa Buck and he allowed me to!

I wrote home that I was kitted out with horse, hat, boots, cattle and dust; we rounded up the cattle, corralled them, separated Jim’s from Buck’s, then the calves from their mamas. They’d been on the wheat fields, so they had the runs and I got cow poo everywhere, even in my hair. Got home half an hour before I had to present a talk. Made it!

~~~oo0oo~~~

‘My’ Oklahoman Tornado

In Apache Oklahoma in 1973 I lived with the charismatic funeral home owner, fire chief, ambulance driver, hearse driver and tornado alert man, Robert L Crews III. In the funeral home. While I was there we sounded the siren for tornadoes twice and watched them approach. Once we even went down into the basement as it came so close. But both times it went back up into the clouds – didn’t touch ground. The clouds that day:

ApacheOK73 (7).JPG

In May we heard of the Union City disaster. We drove there to look-see. The image that stuck the most in my mind was the main street with many buildings completely gone. One shop had some shelves still standing – with product on the shelves – but the roof and walls were gone.

I found this recently:
Union City Tornado Makes History
NSSL revisits its past as it celebrates 40 years with NOAA – by Rachel Shortt

Tornado Union City 1973   Tornado Union City 1973 Path 17km path

On May 24, 1973, a tornado rated F4 struck the Union City area and was the first tornado widely documented by science as part of storm chasing field research. NSSL out of Norman, Oklahoma placed numerous storm chasers around it to capture the life cycle on film. As the devastating tornado tore through the small town of Union City, no one knew the tremendous impact it would have on the development of weather radar. Researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory now look back on that day as a significant event in the history of severe weather research and forecasting.

And I was (sorta) there!

For a human interest story, see the New York Times article written on the 20th anniversary (1993):
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/05/27/us/tornado-veterans-wait-for-next-one.html

Football Turnaround – So Glad You Could Leave!

Played football in Apache Oklahoma in ’73 for the Apache Warriors. The coaches did their best to bring this African up to speed on the rules and objectives of gridiron. We played two pre-season warm-up games followed by five league games. And lost all seven encounters!

Myself I was kinda lost on the field, what without me specs! So here’s me: Myopically peering between the bars of the unfamiliar helmet at the glare of the night-time spotlights! Hello-o! Occasionally forgetting that I could be tackled or blocked even if the ball was way on the other side of the field! Ooof! Hey, what was that for?

At that point I thought: Five more weeks in America, five more games in the season, football practice four days a week, game nights on Fridays. I wanted out! There was so much I still wanted to do in Oklahoma and in preparing for the trip home. I went up to Coach Rick Hulett with trepidation and told him I wanted to quit football. Well, he wasn’t pleased, but he was gracious. We were a small team and needed every available man, how would they manage without me?

By winning every single one of the last remaining five games, that’s how!!

Coach Hulett won the Most Improved Coach Award and the team ended up with one of their best seasons for years!

– amazingly, Coach Hulett could manage without me! –

I like to think the turnaround was in some small way helped by the way I cheered my former team-mates on from the sideline at the remaining Friday night games! Ahem . . .

I watched them home and away whenever I was free.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Speaking of deposits . .

I was mentioning dog deposits here.

Way back in 1973 I was staying in Oklahoma. My host Dad Jim was vice-president of the local bank.

One morning he and his friend Tom the president were chatting, OK coffee-strategising, in Tom’s office when one of the ladies popped her head in: “It’s opening time and a dog has left a great big “do” right in the entrance. It needs to be cleaned up, gentleman”.

Tom looks at Jim: “Well Jim, you’re in charge of deposits!”

Honeymoon 1988 itinerary

Venturing forth . .

. . into Deepest Darkest America, we go kitted out in readiness . .

– off to Darkest America in a Ford Sierra (well, to the bottom of the garden anyway . . ) –

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Eight weeks; Yep, lo-ong leave; Seven destinations in the USA and one week in England;

I got these details from Aitch’s diary

FLORIDA – Miami airport – 3rd March 1988;
Fly on to Orlando, Florida – Sheraton Hotel
Disney World
Epcot Centre
Rent a car and drive east to Merritt Island – sparrows and mosquitoes
Kennedy Space Centre

Fly back to Miami and rent a car
Titusville (Town Motel $28.90 for the room)
Biscayne Nature Reserve
Florida City (Town Motel)
Everglades – Long Pine Key; Mrazek Lake; Mahogany Hammock

– Florida Everglades –

Flamingo Lodge in the Everglades

On Saturday, 12 March we drive to Big Cypress along the Tamiami Trail and on to
Everglade City – The Rod & Gun Club – 2 nights

CALIFORNIA – San Francisco, California – Tuesday, 15th March

Aitch said “I want to see an American city, not just nature reserves! so we walked , bussed and rode trams in the city. Stay in a Howard Johnson’s Motel, where I use the phone book to enquire about hiring a camping van. Its more expensive than a small car and motels, so . . we hire a Ford 351 cubic inch V8 RecVee from Western RV Rentals! The first night near Escalon we sleep in a parking lot – maybe illegal, but free!

– I worked out it would only be a little more expensive than a small car plus motels – right! –

Yosemite National Park
We walk to Mirror Lake
Badger Pass Ski Resort
Wawona Rail Creek
Camp in Wawona campground (pay $6 in a box – honour system)
Maraposa Grove
Paso Robles
Atascadero
Santa Marguerita – Campground ($8)
Rinconada
Santa Marguerita Lake
Los Osos; Baywood Park
Morro Bay
Cayucos Beach
San Simeon
Los Padres National Forest
Plaskett Creek camp ($8) – Van loo overflowed – Big clean up delayed departure!
Carmel town
Sunset Beach KOA camp ($20.95, ‘all amenities’)
Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges Park
Halfmoon Bay
We return the RecVee – and pay $59 damage for a fender scrape in Yosemite! Ouch!
Total $679 for 7 nights – more than car hire + motels, it’s true. But much more fun!

– whattavan! – whattagal! –

Hired a car (from Snappy!) and drove around San Francisco – Lombard Street, Chinatown, over Golden Gate bridge to Muirwoods Rec area & beach
Marin – Fountain Motel
Downtown San Francisco – Macy’s, Sears, JC Penney – Aitch finally saw a few shops! I bought a telescope – not a good buy!
Slept in the airport; Aitch wrote postcards;

WYOMING – Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Tuesday, 24th March (via Salt Lake City)
Toyota Tercel 4WD – I loved it!
Antler Motel ($28 for the room); Dinner at The Blue Lion (delish. Aitch: “Like St Geran”)
Breakfast at Vernet Cafe
Wilson (saw a Dipper underwater!)
Dinner at Anthony’s
Turned back before Teton Village – road blocked due to thick snow on the Moose/Jenny Lake road; Yellowstone south gate closed!

– the Grand Tetons –

Moran Junction to Jackson Lake
Sleigh ride at Teton Village – see a white grouse in a tree
Kelly (NE of Jackson Hole)

WASHINGTON – Seattle, Washington (via Salt Lake City) – Sunday 27th March 1988
Puget Sound
San Juan Islands
We hire another all-wheel-drive Toyota Tercel and drive north to Anacortes – San Juan Motel
Ferry crossing to Guernes (Guemes?)
Orcas Island
Capt Cook’s Resort

– me and our Toyota Tercel – with sort-of 4X4 – On Orcas Island –

Drive up Mt Constitution until snow blocks road
Walk around Mountain Lake
East Sound
Doe Bay Resort – stay in a rustic cabin (very rustic! but its cheap, Aitch!) called Decatur; hot tubs, ‘suits optional’

– Aitch in the hot tub sans suit –
– the Pacific in the Puget Sound visible in the background –

Back on the ferry – 30th March; In Seattle we handed back the little Tercel – our 2nd-best vehicle on honeymoon;

OKLAHOMA – Fly south to Dallas / Fort Worth, planning to go to the gulf; But we change our plans and head back north to Lawton, Oklahoma – 30th March; This because the newspaper said: ‘You don’t want to be flying over Easter’ and we asked our air hostess ‘When’s Easter?’ and she said ‘Easter? That’s tomorrow;’
We drive to the farm outside Apache – Apache Oklahoma – 31st March;
Only Jimmy there when we arrive after dark;
Jim & Katie arrive – 4yrs since my last visit; 15yrs since I stayed with them;

– Jim n Katie got a huge SA flag from the embassy in Houston! –

Anadarko shopping

Jim gives me the Chevy Suburban 4X4 keys – ours to drive – our best vehicle on honeymoon!

1st April, my birthday – Breakfast in bed!
Lunch with Granma (Patterson)
Mary Kate arrives from OU

Big family gathering at Plantation Restaurant in Wichita Wildlife Reserve, near Meers. We drive past the old Patterson Ranch;

Jim gives Aitch the Cadillac convertible keys – hers to drive!

– You had Mustang Sally and now there’s Cadillac Aitch –

Tuesday 5 Apr – We take the Cadillac convertible to town to the First National Bank of Apache’s drive-in window
Lawton to the drive-thru liquor store
Porter Hill
Clung’s Store

I forget to go to my Rotary meeting! Damn! That really was a bad slip-up! BIG BAD!! We were searching for a Vermillion Flycatcher and I forgot!

Jim and I settle in front of the TV to watch a ballgame. Oklahoma U playing someone. Katie and Trish decide that’s way too boring so they load up on Bloody Marys internally and in a hebcooler and drive off in the night looking for owls. They spot a possum and tail it in the headlights. It shuffles onto the dirt road in front of them and Trish is watching in awesome wonder when Katie asks, ‘Shall I kill it?’ Trish is horrified and gasps ‘No!’ and Katie, seeing what she’s thinking exclaims, ‘Not the possum! The engine!’

They collapsed with laughter as they repeatedly regaled us with the tale when they got home, giggling and unmanageable.

OHIO – Fly away!! Lawton/Dallas/Ft Worth/Little Rock Arkansas/Cincinatti – Akron
Akron, Ohio – Friday 8 April
Dave “Z” picked us up and took us to his condominium and fed us (Larry busy)
On to Larry’s beautiful old home on North Portage Path
Cuyahoga River State Park (Quarry area)
Shopping at a great Deli
Larry cooks delicious steaks and he and Trish hit the piano. They ask me not to sing so loud;

– we bought, we cooked, we drank, we ate –

Kendall Lake

– a bit of gentle hiking to justify yet another banquet –

Cleveland
Lake Erie
Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; Home to liquers and piano and song; They ask me not to sing so loud;
Bed 2am, rise 5.30am

MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Massachusetts – 13 April – we rent a car and drive on the busiest highway to date – thru Boston in traffic
Hingham (stay in motel $39)
Cohasset
Cape Cod

– Cape Cod, Massachusetts –

Daniel Webster Inn for supper
Sandwich (stay in Country Acres Motel $33)
Wellfleet Bay
Orleans
Meadows Motel ($35)
Back in Boston its late and we have to return the car so we stay in the most convenient place, a Ramada Inn ($89 for the room! Most expensive night in the USA)

Boston/ JFK New York/ London – 18 April 1988

Last flight: Our 30-day Delta pass expired, but we still had a free return ticket we got for giving up our seat on an overbooked flight earlier on; So we use it to get from Boston to JFK

On to England: A week in England – to Paddock Wood in Kent where Val & Pete Excell, oldtime friends of Trish from Cape Town, host us; Then they take us on a road tip to Cornwall, through Dartmoor to stay with Mel Spaggiari’s folks Den & Mary Blewett on their farm outside Bodmin. Where we saw a newt and a hedgehog!

Then home – HOME to our Marriott Road flat in Durban.

– back home – me, Mel & Enea Spaggiari and sister Sheila look at honeymoon pics including Mel’s folks’ place in Cornwall –

~~~oo0oo~~~