When I was a young lad, my Dad used to share stories with me as I went to bed. Because I was a boy in South Africa, many of these stories were from his recollections of “Jock of the Bushveld” written by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. I was given the book for my 11th birthday and it is still a treasure for me today. The stories of hunting, the dog Jock and the intrepid Zulu Jim, formed my childhood memories. ![Jock.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmSkdrXdAV9k18xNfCmpQKoxf4WRwfHV8sJ9s9gbodJL2M/Jock.jpg) (Jock, every boy’s dream dog) Other stories were about his childhood. My Dad was one of four siblings; Eric, Clem (my Dad), Dolly and Peter. Many of all his stories involved Eric, his older brother. Their father, nicknamed Spuddy, worked for the South African Post Office. ![colesburg post office.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmQR9RZ8yfwfA5qYuMQ769C49p6dzAqD9wyFcUG7WkBmiY/colesburg%20post%20office.jpg) He was a hale fellow, well met, and much admired in the community. His children were born in the 1920’s. Spuddy was relocated several times to various towns in South Africa. It seemed as if they spent quite a few years in Colesburg, a farming town in the Karoo. Another town was Kimberley (where the "big hole" is), here the boys went to CBC (Christian Boys College) and sport was the major focus of their lives; rugby, tennis and the manly art of boxing, just to name a few. ![colesburg.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmPMJQeGExGXPCeKAuVeM2SJrXrbXVAZiiURvcVwpFynMZ/colesburg.jpg) My father was so similar to me! Listen to this: just before my Dad entered the boxing ring, his opponent bought him a large ice-cream. Being from a not well-to-do family, he naively ate the ice-cream with great gusto. When he got into the ring he suffered from severe cramps and got clobbered by his cunning foe. Yes, I cannot turn down the offer of food either! Eric on the other hand was not so foolish and was terribly strong, in another tournament he fought against the SA universities champion who had been undefeated for 5 years as a young boxer. In the first two rounds, he defended tenaciously, until in the third round where the champion let his guard slip for a moment and it just took one punch from Eric to knock him out. Once I visited Uncle Eric when he was well into his 80’s, he still remembered how sad his defeated opponent looked while sitting on the canvas. Regret tinged his voice when he spoke. ![boxing club 1934.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmTMGuh7rJ6doqyTqifwtBWrjTX8spjJmni1UKcdQXuZig/boxing%20club%201934.jpg) (the boxing club) Those of you who have ever been to these towns like Colesburg and Kimberley, will realise that grass is a fairly rare commodity. Rugby is a game where tackling is required, so the boys who play rugby learn from an early age to tackle with determination, because if you tackle hard, you push your opponent over and land on him thereby avoiding serious scrapes on the bare ground. Boys growing up in those days, created their own entertainment by going up “koppies” (Afrikaans word for large hills), and rolling boulders down. Those times were difficult for the farmers due to the terrible droughts that were suffered in South Africa, Spuddy was tremendously popular with the farmers because he went to the post office for them after office hours to collect their mail. One of my favourite episodes was about the two of them riding ponies when visiting Uncle Johnny’s farm. Eric was two years older than my Dad, who was not so certain while riding his pony, named Rocket. Eric would gradually go a little slower, unnoticed by his battling sibling, and slip behind. Then he slapped my Dad’s pony and give a loud bellow. Rocket would leap into a gallop and Eric would race against Rocket. Rocket hated another horse to pass him so he would continue to increase his speed, all the time my Dad would be cursing his brother, “you bleddy fool” as he struggled to stay on top of his steed. We as young children would love this as the story will be told with actions and the “racy language” which included a swearword. The family were Anglicans and staunch in their faith. The vicar took an interest in the local boys and enlisted them in his choir. On one occasion, Eric put an inchworm on the bench and got all the boys laughing at the movements of the worm. The minister was furious and demanded that they all should follow the example of Eric, and be just as reverent. Of course Eric was able to keep a straight face and looked like an angel. In those days, the church organ was powered by “bellows” for lack of a description, two boys had to stand on either side of a pump lever and by both pumping vigorously, they were to keep a small ball in a vertical vacuum tube above a certain line, in order to maintain the correct pressure for the organ to play. Eric and my dad were given the responsibility to keep sufficient air in the organ. The pump was located in a separate room as its operation was too noisy to maintain a “reverent atmosphere where the organ was located. When the vicar started to play, Eric stopped pumping and left the task to his brother. It was too much for the one boy to keep at the required level and when the vicar reached the intended crescendo, all that emerged was a squeak. The the irate minister rushed to the back, only to find Eric pumping vigorously while his exhausted brother was rebuked for loafing off, “why aren’t you following the example of your brother, Clem? Look at Eric!” ![pipe-organ-anglican-chirst-church.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmNqXoGLgz92rUryiaJx3FKiRHSeaQff8xKUxxjMtBSqgW/pipe-organ-anglican-chirst-church.jpg) [An example of a small organ in England] (https://www.google.co.za/search?biw=1600&bih=769&tbs=sur%3Afc&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=pipe+organ+&oq=pipe+organ+&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l4.68457.68457.0.689184.108.40.206.0.0.0.257.257.2-1.1.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.1.256....0.Mzxk8S20KAw#imgrc=PjMWcXMHZgc8QM:) Another story told to us was when the local gang of boys would go rob the fruit orchids at night. Again my dad was the victim, while my dad was loading his khaki shirt with peaches, the other boys quietly sneaked away. Then Eric bellowed “Oom, iemand steel jou perskes!” (Uncle, someone is stealing your peaches!). The backdoor of the farm house crashed open and a huge burly man came out, holding his shotgun, (hopefully just loaded with salt). Eric and the other boys ran off laughing, while the farmer, muttering threats of the direst kind, searched the trees for any intruders. My Dad just remained in the one tree, shivering in fear. Eventually the farmer went back inside the house. My Dad who was so paralysed with fear, was not able to descend the tree normally and fell down the tree and landed on his chest. All the contraband peaches were squashed against his skin. The fur of the peaches and the acid from the juice of the fruit combined to create the most agonising rash. Schooling was endured without much enthusiasm. Spuddy used to test the boys with their arithmetic while he held “the” wooden spoon. Eric was dreadful with his multiplication tables, there was one simple sum he could never guess correctly. “Seven times four?”, uuhm, “twenty seven?”, again the question, “Seven times four?”, uuhm, “twenty nine?”, now Spuddy who was a remarkably intelligent man and could not tolerate stupidity, was seething with anger. Eric was cowed and panicky. He didn’t know what to say, so he continued with random stabs in the dark, until the old man exploded and broke the wooden spoon on Eric’s head, who then fled the scene howling, while mother came in to calm Spuddy down. ![Kopystka.jpg](https://steemitimages.com/DQmXFu5hYY1sKJHUGXFq2PXRdh9hkuRungAiE5mZF2NGQVH/Kopystka.jpg) [an instrument of danger for the lazy student] When Eric went off to war (WW2), his brother in law, Derek Zulch, taught him maths. After the war, Eric was able to do well and forged a career as a draughtsman. My Dad also was intimidated by his father’s caustic wit and sharp tongue; even as a young man, he was not able to walk across a room filled with adults. Later he did the Dale Carnegie correspondence course “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, it had a profound influence and helped him to develop confidence, comfortable in meeting strangers and conversing with them. Yet when I knew Grandpa Spuddy, my Dad was his dearest friend and always visited him at every opportunity. Spuddy would make handcrafted wooden toys and many meals for the grandkids to take along when we went travelling. Spuddy died in 1972, and that was the only time I saw my father weep. The image of him bowed in grief sitting on his bed while my mother had her arm around him to comfort him remains an image in my memory. Those early days of South Africa in the 1920’s and the great depression in the 1930’s, has faded into history. So many interesting tales of ordinary people are forever gone. How very sad.