SNA (Strydom, Newmark and Anthony INC.) was a great company to work for. If ever there was a company that felt like a big family, it was SNA. Headed by Dolf van Huyssteen, usually accompanied by Vissie Visser, the Headoffice party would come to site at least once a month for their site meeting. Invariably, when it was over, they would invite us site personnel to a braai and drinks, so we always felt as if the bosses were never out of touch with us mere mortals. I had huge respect for them, as, I’m sure we all did.
Other SNA guys I remember fondly on the Warmbaths job were Ian Jackson, the Resident Engineer, Vaugan Bonner (six-foot-six, who taught me to play Lie Dice), Lukas Nigrini, the head of the laboratory, Gerrie Coetzer, and Robert Damhuis (six-foot seven). So, at a meagre six-foot-four, I had a couple of blokes to look up to. Rob was also known as Par Five, which, as every golfer knows, is a long hole. (Lang Gat).
The Warmbath-Nylstroom job lasted something like a year, with me being home every night, but after that wound down, I joined their team near the Natal border, where LTA Construction was building ten kilometres of access road to Majuba Power Station. I only went home every second weekend.
An interesting inhabitant of these grasslands, which I’d never seen before, is the giant girdled lizard, locally known as the ouvolk, a species of Cordylid, or sungazer.
My companion dog at the time was a Staffordshire terrier, Mack, which I had bought from our vet friend, Marius Theron, in Warmbaths. Mack and I had board and lodging on a farm not far from site as there was not enough room at the single-quarters.
(I got on well with the farmer and his wife, but their 19 year-old son was a problem. He was a staunch racist supporter of the AWB Afrikaans fascist organization, so we had words, which eventually led to the farmer apologetically asking me to leave.)
One Sunday, I went to visit the Amajuba Mountain where the famous Boer War battle had taken place. The First Boer War Battle of Majuba Hill (near Volksrust, South Africa) on 27 February 1881 was a resounding victory for the Boers. With nobody else around, Mack and I climbed up to the top and found a British soldiers’ graveyard there. I love reading headstones, so walked amongst the graves.
Mack started growling. The hair on his back rose and he trembled, looking anxiously around. He was obviously seeing ghosts. I spoke to both him and the ghosts, introduced ourselves and said we meant no harm and asked them to stop scaring the hell out of my dog. Perhaps they thought that he might raise a leg on their tombstones?
However, Mack soon relaxed, after that. I visited another memorial soon afterwards with Mack, but got no reaction. Either there was nobody actually buried there, or the occupant loved dogs. Or perhaps, by that time, Mack was a seasoned ghostbuster.