Rhino Wars – Disillusionment

rose

A short story about two ex SADF men and rhino poaching.

A very long time ago I met the now notorious Nick van Deventer. Back then, you know the one guy that you, literally, have to carry though Basics? Well that was Nick. Somehow, the army with all of its wisdom,  gave Nick a stripe making him a Lance-corporal, straight after Basics.

One not so fine day, we did our final Vysbyt March, from Lataba Ranch to the 7 SAI Camp. Nick rode back in the ambulance; he hurt his leg, less than 3 km out. The deal with our CO was that the first 12 guys back would get 5lt of ice-cream and be off for the rest of that day and the next. The rest would have to clean and pack all the equipment we had used at Lataba. I like ice-cream and made damn sure I was one of those 12 men, carrying the 81mm mortar pipe and all. Some call me stubborn, I like to think of myself as focused or at worst, just a …. little bit, tenacious.

So there I was, lying on my bed with my ice-cream, and no, I had no plan to share! Nick, or rather now, Corporal van Deventer as he insisted we call him, came and told me, ordered me, I was to fetch his kit on the parade ground. I told him in no uncertain terms what he could go and do with himself, he was a stupid Lance-jack and a Captain had told me I was off. The discussion got heated and ended up with him telling me, in crude Afrikaans, that my mother was drunk, lying in the gutter, a dog came along and impregnated her and that is where I came from.  Well, that would not do, so I got up and hit him, once. Big shit! For one thing he had rank and second, his nose was so squashed the blood was not flowing out, but going back, he started drowning!  I was arrested, my ice-cream I never saw again, and he was rushed first to our medical centre and then airlifted to 1 Mil in Pretoria.

In DB, army jail, I did not have a fun time, I got a bit beaten and next morning the MP made me first clean the toilet and then brush my teeth, with the same toothbrush.  Later that day I went under Orders in front of the Battalion CO. I was young, stupid and pissed off, so I told the Colonel if he said that about my mother, I would Bliksem him too. Well, with the Boere, I am not sure what order they fall in, but God, rugby and your mother are the most revered things in the world. This being the case, I was sent back to my bungalow, not too worse for wear and when Nick arrived back, two weeks later from 1 Mil, he was no longer a Corporal.

I spent 9 months with him on the Border doing base protection and we became friends.

 

Jump 30 odd years. Having hooked up with Nick on Facebook, he saw that I was leaving the APU at Mabula ( Another story for another time, but me and “rank” do not get on well when they are stupid.)Nick offered me a job in Badplaas with his company. Gypsy that I am, knowing nothing about mechanics, I said “OK!”, and he collected me on my last day of work. In Badplaas I set up the admin and marketing side of his mechanical workshop. Soon I saw the lies, one was about our past, totally different story about why I broke his nose to his wife and friends. Then a few tall tales about what we were supposed to have done on the Border, uncomfortable to call him a liar so I let them pass. We were Brothers, right?  Mostly claiming a bad memory I dodged that issue quite nicely, thank you very much. I hate personal conflict, strange as that sounds, even verbal arguments, and USED to go to great lengths to avoid them. The long and short of it was: The workshop was not his, the bakkie he drove was not his, all actually belonged to his wife. I stayed for a while but eventually his wife kicked him out, and since part payment for being his office Johnny was a room at the workshop, I had to move too.

During my time there he spoke about how terrible the rhino poaching was and told me he had some big money coming and we could start our own APU. Fortunately, by nature and by training I am a pretty secretive person about important things that are no-one else’s business. So he got no information about how the APU’s up in Mabula or the Waterburg worked. I say this because, two years after I left Badplaas I saw a photo of Nick, handcuffed and arrested for procession of a fresh rhino horn.

Mainly I am pissed off with myself, I found out that he had been arrested and released once before on the same charges, years before he collected me at Mabula. So he lied to me the whole time.  Seems all those years ago I should have rather held a grudge and remained his enemy. I am not usually so easily conned and had to rethink about treating all ex SADF men as my Brothers and my absolute avoidance of personal conflict. Sometimes one just has to speak up and even fight.

 

Nosce te ipsum

View the Mexican Horse Thief’s Page

Short Story

THE MEXICAN HORSE THIEF I – ANGOLA

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