(9) The pick-up truck that was towed and “things” went awfully wrong.
As I mentioned in a previous story, the farms were more suited to beef cattle than to agriculture. As the years went by, conditions for beef production became more and more difficult, the beef animals were being stolen more and more. We even experienced an animal being killed and just one steak cut out of it and the rest left in the veldt to rot.
As my wife and I had a large family to look after we were obliged to produce income (For some years they were seven old people plus ourselves and our own children).
Where the following happened was on the lower portion of the farm. From the two houses where our parents and family; and we and children lived (on a patch of reasonably level ground). It was very steep, with some precipices, to the valley below where it became fairly level again with some fertile soil.
Father’s brother was an engineer, and had worked for many years in the then Northern Rhodesia (When he was younger he also had a pilots’ license). One day it came into his mind to peg out a road down into the valley. I immediately saw potential in that and with some men, to make a road, which twisted somewhat and for a stretch went on two ledges between some precipices above and below. There was a gulley between those; causing them to lie at about a 40 degree angle to each other. This made the road take a sharp bend over a small bridge (over the gulley’s center) connecting the two ledges. We then planted tomatoes down in the valley where there was enough water as well as good soil. Tomatoes use a lot of water (drip irrigation did not yet exist in SA). They were then also a highly perishable crop (before the long-life tomatoes which we have today, and which are not as tasty). They needed to be harvested early in the morning and if possible taken to market the same day.
I can’t remember whether it was slippery on the way down to the tomatoes or whether it rained while I was down there because on the way up again the wheels just spun; it was so slippery.
I then sent for the IH 523 tractor, driven by the same (praying) driver who, in a previous story drove the IH eight tonner truck; also asking him to bring a long rope. The reason for that was so that the tractor is past the most slippery places by the time the pickup reaches them.
The tractor was a model with large rear wheels; which helped for traction but could also move quite fast. The driver arrived and we fastened the end of the rope firmly to the pickup’s front axle. In doing that I made a potential deadly mistake, I failed to figure out that the rope would take a short cut at the bend (which was the gulley with a small bridge). The ledges were at an angle (the road was at a steep incline; except for a few meters on either side of the bridge. Our fairly aged but faithful and praying driver also did something unusual: The tractor had multi gear ratios and he put it into the highest he considered possible, thinking that would give him the best chance to get through; as it takes effort to pull a one tonner up such a steep hill when it is slippery.
The first stretch went beautifully, only a bit fast for my liking. As we approached the bend it suddenly dawned on me what lay ahead. The rope; because it was so long; would take a short-cut across the bridge and the bend; and wrench the truck off the road. There seemed no way to avoid disaster. Quickly I tried every conceivably way of getting the driver’s attention to stop him and sort the (long rope) matter out but he was looking straight ahead, also concentrating on the road ahead. At the speed he was pulling me, it needed his concentration.
Even to my own ears the pickup’s hooter sounded as not much more than the chirping of a little bird. The brakes made it seem as if it only moved easier when the wheels were skidding. Then it happened; the sturdy rope did take short-cut and wrenched the one-tonner off the road. For one moment the front end of the pick-up truck became like airborne. The terrain off the road was steep for just a few meters and then there were cliffs and it was still steeper; disaster seemed unavoidable. I could vision myself in the mangled and rolled wreck far down in the valley; time seemed to stand still. Those moments are like photographed into my memory. Then with a bang and a tremendous jerk we stood still. The back wheels were only just on the road; and the front wheels down on the few meters steep terrain; where there happened to be one flat, and even level, stone (on those few meters of steep before the cliffs and boulders). The front axle had landed foursquare on that flat stone (with the wheels just off the ground on either side of it) cutting off the rope.
Beyond the bridge was the steepest section of the road and as I sat in the pickup; just looking; I saw the tractor, with belching exhaust, moving rapidly up the steepest stretch; then round a bend and out of sight; the rope following; soon also out of sight. It then seemed to dawn on me that miraculously I was still alive. I can’t remember exactly, but I probably got carefully out of the truck to get back onto the road myself. The driver went round two bends and onto a fairly level stretch; then he stopped and looked back; there was only a long rope, with nothing at the end. In “no time” he came running back to see where I was.
What else than the loving saving Hand could have arranged that unusual flat topped stone just at the correct place. Most likely it would have wrenched the tractor into disaster also.
Years later something similar happened; we were looking after my parents and his siblings in their old age. They sometimes needed to be taken to town (which was 52 km away) to see a Dr or other professional.
One day I was taking my father. It had rained, so I used the 4×4 one tonner which we then had. We had made it up the hill and were on fairly level ground. In the first 12 km the road had some nasty bends because it was built in an age when the smaller roads did not cut across a farm but followed the farm boundaries. Ahead of us was one of such bends, which was not all that sharp, as corners had been removed over time; yet all told it meant changing direction by almost a right-angle. The bend did however have another problem; the area next to the road had trees on the left side, making it a blind corner and large stones on the outside which had been bulldozed there when the bend was improved. I was not really idling along; yet in normal circumstances, could have stopped in time. As mentioned it had rained and there were some slippery stretches. As we were in the middle of the bend I suddenly saw a herd of cattle, being driven in the same direction we were going; by a farmer’s employees. They had neglected to have someone go before and someone after the herd, carrying a red flag (which was required by law).
I footed the brakes immediately and the vehicle just skidded on towards the herd. The normal thing to happen would have been that we skid straight ahead, because of momentum, and into the stones on the outside of the bend. In this instance we skidded broadside with the front facing the inside of the bend. A few meters on we got onto some firmer ground and the wheels suddenly gripped again and the pickup shot forward at a tangent; then suddenly it spun almost 180 degrees round facing towards the road again. The invisible Hand had prepared a semi submerged stone with a flat top, about a meter off the road and the diff of the front axle swiveled on that (breaking its momentum) while the back wheels slid/skidded right round and we were facing almost directly onto the road again. This saved the man walking behind the cattle; the cattle; the vehicle and the two of us, the passengers.
Again, two similar miraculous incidences happening to one person; even though some years apart; can hardly be a co-incidence.
The lesson again: Be in faith always and pray before every new move. If you get into a car, you are, as it were, getting into a potential coffin (in some countries more so than in others).
SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD” (John 3 v 3).
Would you, the reader, allow me at this stage to tell you how I became a farmer; then a missionary