Uncle Gert

[Also in Afrikaans @]

By PG Jonker

Uncle Gert Smit used to drive the lorry at Suid-Oranje Fisheries at St Helena Bay on the Cape West Coast.  Nice and slowly, patiently, seldom in a hurry.   The job was cut out for him.

In 1970 about the factory acquired a new MAN lorry – a horse and trailer.  The truck became Uncle Gert’s baby.  He was the designated driver, and him alone.  For decades.  He cared for the truck like a baby, never driving faster than 80km/h, and the truck was always kept in tip-top condition.  Uncle Gert looked after his stuff nicely.

One day Uncle Gert had to do a trip to Luderitz, Namibia.  It is a long way to Luderitz, some 1500 km’s.  So Uncle Gert was instructed to take a co-driver along to assist with the driving on the long road.  Uncle Gert was not too keen on taking someone along,  he could manage, but he duly obliged.  The designated assistant driver was quite happy to go along.  It was a good excuse to get away from the factory, and at last an opportunity to drive the MAN truck.

They departed very early one morning from St. Helena Bay.  Uncle Gert was behind the wheel, and off they went at 80km/h.  Now, at 80km/h it takes a while to get anywhere.  More in particular, it takes a while and a bit to travel some 1500km’s at that speed. 

But Uncle Gert was in no hurry.  Also, he did not stop too often.  The truck had huge diesel tanks, so only bladder capacity, and maybe hunger, might have caused Uncle Gert into a brief stop.  Uncle Gert also did not get tired of driving.  So by the time they reached Luderitz, the co-driver was tired of waiting for his turn, but it was not happening.  Uncle Gert drove the full distance.

The co-driver found some consolation in the fact that Luderitz offers nice views, and at least they will be sleeping in a nice guest house there.   

Well, not so.  With the cargo unloaded an hour later, Uncle Gert got in the truck.  “I’m in a hurry, let’s go.”

“How does uncle mean now?”

“We’re not sleeping over, we’re going home.”

And off the truck went, all the way back to St Helena Bay.  Once again with Uncle Gert behind the wheel all the way, at 80km/h.

Uncle Gert later reached retirement age, but he only retired some years later.  After his wife passed away Uncle Gert stayed on in their house, on his own.  That was until one fateful night in August 2010 when burglars came to relieve Uncle Gert of some of his modest earthly possessions.  Uncle Gert did not survive the attack.  He was 88 years old. 

Rest in peace, Uncle Gert.  Our hearts are sore that you had to go like this.



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