Meg tapped me to continue this meme.
- I am adopted.
I don’t know much about my original parents. Apparently I was a late arrival and as there were several siblings my parents could not afford the cost of an additional mouth to feed. I was put up for adoption and was adopted by the only parents I’ve known. I have never had any desire to meet my birth parents or siblings.
- I once single-handedly invaded Botswana.
During my military service I was stationed for a time at Omega in the Caprivi Strip, a narrow finger of Namibia (then South West Africa) that juts out above Botswana. I was a Casspir driver and one day found myself alone in my vehicle, driving along the track beside the border. We had been warned when arriving at Omega that under no cicumstances should we enter Botswana as they were a neutral country and their defence forces would arrest any South African soldiers that were caught across the border. But when I reached the huge baobab tree that grew beside the border, just inside Botswana, I could not resist the temptation to drive over the border, around the tree, and back again. I probably went no more than 50 meters across the border and was never spotted by any of the Botswanan patrols we were warned about. And that is the story of my invasion of Botswana.
- My most embarrasing moment.
When I was a young child, perhaps seven or eight years old, we lived in a small community where it was quite safe for young children to roam about. My father had been expecting a registered letter and when the collection slip arrived one day, my mother gave me the task of cycling to the post office to collect the letter. All went well until I was about half-way home and developed a desperate need to pee. Rather than simply going behind a bush as I should have, this being a rural area, I went a little way off the path to a toilet I knew to be in the bush. It was just a hut with a wooden box seat over a long-drop and on entering I had a dilemma; there was no way for me to hold the letter while I relieved myself. The toilet seat, being somewhat wider than the hole, provided a shelf that appeared to offer a solution, so I carefully put the letter down on it. I was in the process of relieving myself when a breeze blew through a crack in the wall, whisked the letter up and carried it through the hole, into the pit. I had to go home and report this sad state of affaris to my mother and father, who by then had returned from work. I was mortified but fortunately my parents saw the funny side and were not too angry with me. I do however recall my father using choice language when he had to use a pair of long sticks to mount a rather smelly operation to retrieve the letter. Due to the fact that the toilet was largely unused, the letter had not become saturated with the contents of the pit and could be salvaged.
- I celebrated my 21st birthday in the Angolan bush.
I was in the army when I turned twenty-one, one Thursday in 1983, and was on patrol in Angola at the time with a reaction force from 201 Battalion. My birthday passed without much ado, but it turned out that the following Saturday was the birthday of the lieutenant commanding the patrol. As we usually did while not actively tracking insurgents, we lay up in the shade for most of each day to avoid the heat, moving from dawn until mid-morning and from late-afternoon until sometime after dusk. On this particular Saturday our commander decided that we should have a braai (barbecue) to celebrate our birthdays. We found a nice shady area to set up a temporary position and he sent out a small patrol of bushmen to find a cow. They returned with a small herd from a local village and a selected animal was slaughtered and the rest given their freedom. We collected wood for fires and detached the engine grilles from our Buffels to use as braai grids, something they were perfectly suited to. It happened to be the day of the Currie Cup final back home and our signaller set up one of the military radios to receive the radio commentary. We spent the afternoon listening to the rugby, relaxing and eating grilled meat, a welcome alternative to the ration packs we had been living on for the preceding weeks. As birthday gifts I received a warm can of Lion Lager from one friend’s backpack and a pack of Chesterfield from another buddy.
- I was once shot by a friend.
When I was ten or eleven I was spending the weekend at a friend’s smallholding and we were out with our pellet guns (air rifles) late on the Friday afternoon. He had a mishap with his loaded rifle, which went off and I was hit in the throat from fairly close range. There was little pain or blood and for some insane reason his parents decided that they would not take me home or even allow me to phone my parents to come and collect me. I spent an uncomfortable and rather sleepless night and the next morning they took me to a doctor that I thought to be our family doctor, although I found out later that my parents had switched doctors because this one was rather useless. The doctor had x-rays done and after seeing the pellet in my neck, he concluded that that there was no need to remove it and it could remain where it was. He prescribed some mild painkillers and said I would be fine. I spent another sleepless night as by then I had started to develop infection and was running a fever. My friend’s parents finally decided to take me home on the Sunday morning and my parents were, as you can imagine, not pleased that they had not been contacted immediately. It being Sunday morning there was little that could be done but first thing on Monday an appointment was arranged with a surgeon, who saw me, had his own set of x-rays done and admitted me to hospital right away. I was put on antibiotics immediately and the pellet was surgically removed the next morning. It seems that I was very lucky to be alive and still walking around, the pellet having passed between my jugular vein and windpipe, and coming to rest only 1cm from my spine.