Someone found a car tyre casing.
At the top of our side street which ended in a hill climb there was a flat area which had been carved out by a bulldozer some years before. It was put there so that one could turn ones car around in case you wanted to go down the same way that you had come up, again.
Here we played with our tricycles and bicycles and even later on, we played cricket and rugby and all the other silly games that we as country kids invented. There was always something to do. Nevertheless, we got bored from time to time and looked for things that would amuse us.
One sleepy afternoon was such an occasion arose when boredom took over again and the eldest of our group, Koekoe, a broad faced naughty kid with smiling eyes, suggested that we could roll that old tyre down the hill for fun.
“Which hill?”, someone ventured.
“The one right behind us!”, he said.
“How are we going to stop the tyre going further down the street?”
“Oh that’s easy. We will build a wall of rocks up above the playground and run the tyre against them. Then the tyre will lose momentum and fall over and settle down on to the playground”.
“Mmmmm…………do you really think it will work?”
“Of course!…….trust me”, said Koekoe
Those last words should have been ignored and we should have gone on to something else but the sense that adventure lay ahead was too great and we were all captivated in our mission to accomplish something.
As a child I lived in an area of South Africa known as the Great Karoo. The area was semi-desert with stunted shrub foliage and pointy knolls and flat topped mountains which were strewn with ironstone rocks and boulders. There is an old saying ‘ That when God made the Earth, he sent an angel to deliver and spread rocks around the world. The angel left Heaven with two huge bags of rocks and dutifully spread them across the globe. But the bags were overloaded and one bag broke over Israel and the other bag broke over the Great Karoo’. Rocks! We had plenty of them….from small sizes to some weighing tons, spread over hundreds of kilometres.
So we set about collecting rocks and piling them up against each other to form a retaining wall above our playground. As there were eight of us this did not take too long although we were distracted from time to time by what was living under those rocks. We found black spiders, centipedes, scorpions and more and had to be careful not to receive a nasty sting. Soon we were looking at our handiwork as Koekoe declared the project completed.
“If we go up this footpath we can roll the tyre down and see how it crashes against the rocks”, Koekoe said with some authority. We agreed and off we marched up the hill in single file for our first experiment.
Steadying the tyre and then giving it a gentle nudge Koekoe set the wheel in motion. We waited with bated breath. The tyre rolled down the hill gathering momentum and crashed into our makeshift wall, scattering rocks in all directions. The tyre bounced back from the impact and then dropped to our playground below where we retrieved it.
The experiment worked! This was exciting stuff. Let’s do it again!!! And we feverishly repacked the rock wall and set off up the hill with the tyre in hand. This time we went a bit further up the footpath and gently nudged the tyre down the hill. CRASH !!!! and the same thing happened. Gee, this was fun. LET’S DO IT AGAIN !!!
We laboriously set about our task and soon we were climbing the hill again. But here the crucial ‘ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN’ factor stepped in. Someone suggested taking the tyre even further up the hill.
When we got to our suggested point the question undoubtedly was….Will it work?
Ah well..yes….. but…..Oh what the hell!…..lets give it a go.
Koekoe steadied the tyre and it started down the footpath gathering momentum. Before it had reached the rock wall it was bouncing quite high from hitting smaller rocks and then suddenly it veered off the pathway, hit a larger rock and started bouncing with force. It bounced right over the retaining wall and on to our playground below and then carried on as straight as a dye down the road and headed for a retaining wall in the street below gathering speed beyond our comprehension!!!..
Mrs van Doorn was an elderly lady who lived in the house immediately below that street. My guess is that she would have been in her late seventies, making her a child of the previous century being born around eighteen hundred and eighty. Mrs van Doorn was a rather plumpish woman who always wore a long dress and an apron together with khaki coloured stockings and slippers. Her hair was normally tied up in a bun. Having brought up her children and having lost her husband some years before, she lived quietly in her cottage. Outside in her back yard there was a fruit orchard and right up against the road retaining wall was the PK, or little house, or shit house for the want of a better explanation. PK was the Xhosa language derivative for little house and it stood for Piccaninny Kaiah. The PK was still on the bucket system which was cleared on a weekly basis by a council employee who drove a night cart powered by two horses.
On this fateful day, in the mid afternoon, Mrs van Doorn had a call of nature and was contemplating life, the universe and everything whilst sitting in the PK. Unbeknownst to her and as far away from her thoughts as the next constellation, a group of youngish boys were defying the laws of gravity and physics with a car tyre and some rocks!!!.
The tyre sped down the incline and across the street at the bottom of the hill, hitting the road retaining wall with force. It now leapt in to the air and was catapulted with a forward spinning motion towards Mrs van Doorn’s house.
We watched in mild horror and anticipation of what was to come next. The whole world and the universe, for that matter, slowed down in time as the tyre floated through the still afternoon air. As the tyre started to drop from its pinnacle of flight, we realised that it was going to land somewhere near the PK. From our view on the hill, it seemed that a crash was inevitable.
The tyre came down right in the centre of the corrugated iron roof of the PK. An almighty crash emanated from the bottom of the street and the soundwaves echoed up the incline as we were making our way down the hill. The roof of the PK caved in and bricks and mortar dust went flying in all directions. As this noise was dying down a large human wail could be heard. Mrs van Doorn stumbled out of the front of the PK screaming at the top of her voice, covered in dust and desperately trying to pull up her white bloomers as she fell over in to a flower bed.
At this stage of the event we were descending the hill and saw Mrs van Doorn stumble from her predicament. Choices had to be made and with a loud oath emanating from someone, we fled the scene to individually go and hide in our favourite hidey-hole somewhere.
It did not take a mathematician to figure out just who was to blame for this event. We all got the strap. I thought that I got the most strap as my father was the Mayor of the town and I was supposed to be a goody-goody. Eight fathers had to contribute to a fund to rebuild the PK and to placate Mrs van Doorn my father organised for a whole side of lamb to be delivered to her for her suffering, and also to keep the matter out of the hands of the Police
I was grounded for a month and the others received similar punishment. The town was quiet during that time and the citizens were lulled in to a false sense of security.
There was more naughtiness to come!