Selling stock-lick blocks, in the second week of January 1978, I headed for the Western Cape via the Baviaans Kloof, west of Port Elizabeth, and spent a night with old friend, William Bond (ex-Loxton, Venn and Associates.) He and Winifred were camping there in that beautiful, wild, isolated rocky valley where Will was doing some botanical work for the Department of Nature Conservation. The next morning, I spent half the day with Will, seeing the famous fynbos biome for the first time in my life. The main species are ericas and proteas.
In the city of George, after spending the night at William’s home at the Saasveld Forestry College, I got orders for a truck-load of blocks to be sent to the Suid-Wes Graan Co-op. Heading west towards Mossel Bay to see one of their customers, I came upon a nightmare.
The road traversed hilly country through a succession of cuttings, but the road-reserve fences had not been relocated back from the edge of the almost vertical cliffs. A herd of cattle was being driven along the side of the road and had become trapped between in the ever-narrowing gap between the fence and the cliff edge. As the beasts from behind pushed forward, those at the lead were being bumped off the cliff, onto the road below.
At least one broke its back while several others broke their legs. The herders, the owner and I watched helplessly, horrified. Unable to help, I drove away, sickened.
The following week I did a circuit through Alexandria (where I had delivered chicory in 1975), Paterson, Cookhouse and Bedford. By the end of the week, I was back to visit farms in the Macleantown district, not far from East London. At one farmstead, I was told that the farmer was at the river lands, and was given directions. I stopped the company Cortina on a hill where the track split, pulled up the handbrake and got out to try and figure out which way to go. The steeper fork seemed to be going in the direction of the sound of a tractor in the valley below, but I doubted the car would negotiate it. As I turned back to the car, there was a rumble. Horrified I watched the vehicle tearing down the slope through the bush. Running, I nearly caught up with it when I stumbled and went down, smacking my knee on a rock. The car knocked over several trees before coming to rest against a sturdier acacia, wrapping its front end around it. A write off.
The bang brought the farmer homeward. He picked me up and gave me the use of his phone and a shower. My knee swelled up so that I had to throw my underpants like a lasso over my foot and shake it back towards me down a leg that wouldn’t bend! The pain got slowly worse that night until Sheila had to take me to the Casualty section of Frere Hospital in East London where, after a painkilling injection, I slept the rest of the night on a gurney.
After a couple of weeks and several aspirations to drain my knee of clotted blood, I was back at work, using a replacement car that kept breaking down. Mr Wormald was not best pleased. I was retrenched at the end of June. I would have said fired, but he didn’t replace me.