I was beginning to realise that the gap between Greet and I was huge, and made serious attempts to bridge it. We went to England and Holland to meet both our families, and see if sharing our common European backgrounds would help. Her family was more hospitable and practical middle-class than mine, which was more snobbish; public school and wealthy.
Greet was, and is, an honest, hardworking and kind person. In many ways she was younger than her early twenties, due to almost no exposure to the big wide world, and little interest in current affairs. I found myself lecturing her, rather than having any discussions. The situation encouraged a certain inherent pomposity and arrogance in me, which, with no opposition, began to grow like a noxious weed.
Returning from the UK, I took her to the Eastern Cape; 1820 Settler Country. For the year of 1975, I managed a farm in Trappes Valley, belonging to Dr J. S. Starke from the Grahamstown district, a well-known Bonsmara cattle-breeder. We grew chicory for the factory not far away in Alexandria, maize for silage, and some pastures for 500 Merino sheep and a 200 beast cattle feedlot as well as a breeding herd of about 100 beef cows.
Our son Ryan was born in Grahamstown, by caesarean section, after Greet’s three-week hospitalisation to prevent him aborting. Due on 14th May, he arrived on 26th February, weighing 1.2kg. In the incubator, he lost another 200g before starting to gain weight. His leg, from heel to hip, was the size of my little finger. It was yet another three weeks after his arrival before we could take him home.
Our daughter, Nicci, fourteen months old by this time, was in my sole care while Greet was away. She went with me everywhere and was even zipped up in my jacket when I was ploughing. She was potty-trained before Greet got back home.
Dr Starke directed me to fetch a two-year-old Bonsmara bull from his farm to augment the four-year-old Hereford with the beef herd. On the way back, he broke out of the wooden partition that had kept him near the cab and wandered, lurching, around in the otherwise empty truck-bed. Alone, I had to get in with him, persuade him to go back behind the wreckage, and repair it with him inside. I was mightily a-feared! But eventually it was done and I could get going again. We had built up a certain rapport by the time I got him home. Starke assured me that there would be no problem putting the two bulls together, but the next day, the herdsman reported that the Bonsmara had battered the Hereford to death!
In my spare time, I began to write the story of a group of skydivers who got inveigled into going to Mozambique and then were used as pawns in a power game by Communist agents to “prove” that South Africa was involved in Portugal’s war against Frelimo. It was published thirty-five years later as THE BARROS PAWNS.
At R200-00 a month, my salary was less than half of what I had been getting, thus I was unable to pay the hospital bills. I had my last parachute jump that year, then sold my Para-commander Mk1 to help pay my debt.
Hoping to find a better-paying job, we moved back to my parents’ farm near Warmbaths at the end of the year, using it as a base to look around. In March, 1976, I went on a course to learn about the artificial insemination of cattle at the world- renowned veterinary institute at Onderstepoort, near Pretoria, and qualified as a registered inseminator. I met a fellow on the course, Ashley Wentworth, who was a sales rep for Meadow Feeds, part of the Tiger Oats group. Despite the fact that I had no faith in my ability to sell anything, I applied for a job and was taken on strength. I was trained by their senior rep for three weeks before being installed as their sales rep for the Northern Transvaal, which stretched from Warmbaths all the way to the Botswana and Rhodesian borders.
But also on the course at Onderstepoort was a girl named Sheila with whom I fell hopelessly in love.
And still am.
I shall be forever sorry for the hurt I caused Greet and my children, but I shall never be sorry for sharing the rest of my life with Sheila, despite a sometimes rocky road.