On my hike down memory lane, I stumbled across this gem……….


My folks were not well off, but they had something more magical than money, they had love and laughter. They had all the side dishes of love as well, companionship, support and loyalty. No-one could break into their tight circle of unconditional unity. Even when one of them, usually my mom, may not have been strictly speaking, in the right Dad would still defend his fiery little wife to death.

 There came the day when circumstances almost brought about that very possibility. It all had to do with the demon Tobacco and his evil offspring, the slim, the seductive, the irresistible, the Cigarette!

Anyone who has smoked will know that craving. It becomes all-consuming. The search for even the tiniest stump of last night’s smoke becomes of all importance. And the mood is ever darkening. Never get on the wrong side of anyone whose tongue is cleaving to the roof of their mouth, and whose withdrawal rage is at simmering point.

Living on a farm made this predicament a matter of extreme urgency. It was too far from town to make a trip just for cigarettes, so Mom suggested they borrow a packet from the neighbours, who lived a couple of miles away. They had often helped out each other over the years. 

Neighbours usually did.

So piling the family into the car Mom and 

Dad set out for the Cumberlands on the next-door farm, never imagining the events that would unfold. 

My mother had a wicked sense of humour, and a clever, if biting tongue. Her neighbour and friend, Mrs Cumberland, had a severe case of buck-teeth, as well as an unfortunate set of long, ugly, protruding toenails. She became eternally known as’ Old Teeth and Toenails’ to our family, thanks to Mom.

Whenever our parents visited anyone, we kids played outside, never paying attention to what the grownups were discussing. Still, when we heard raised voices from inside, we pricked our ears and crept closer to listen to what was going on.

My Dad always said Mars dust was around when we children were quarrelsome. It seemed there was a great deal of it sprinkling down that day, with everyone being a bit on edge and having the’ irrits’ with one another.

 Now, if Mars was close that day, his pal, the Moon, was in her full glory. My mother firmly believed people lost their marbles at the full Moon. She was probably right, as lunacy comes from the word’ luna’. 

On this day the dark, brooding mood of our parents rode with us to the Cumberland’s, even elbowed it’s way uninvited to the party. After the usual polite greetings and inane comments on the weather and how the crops were doing, Dad ventured forth on the actual quest and reason for the visit.

” I say, Cumberland, Old man,” 

he began, and smoothed his moustache uncomfortably,

 ” What are the chances of your lending us a box of smokes until tomorrow when we go shopping?”

There was a sudden pause in the room, filled with hostility. To be honest, the entire conversation had been a bit strained that day, with differing political views being tossed around, and frequent arguments breaking out.

Now, Cumberland got up with just the slightest wobble, the brandy having worked it’s demon deed and reached for a carton of thirty Springbok.

” There we go,” he said, and handed Dad a box, but then delivered a shot across the bows,

“Bit of a dope artist, your wife, huh?” 

“I beg your pardon, Sir?”

 Said my Dad, heckles raised. 

No-one insulted his wife, and he immediately sprang to her defence,

 ” Care to explain that remark?”

Tension hung in the air like a fog of poison gas.

We kids always knew when we had pushed our father too far. His lips would narrow and grow white, and that was when we stopped any nonsense we had been enjoying and scattered. 

Now, his lips whitened and tightened, a sign Cumberland, in his ignorance chose to ignore.

“Take off your glasses and put up your dukes.”

Cumberland jeered,

“Yeah, you would like that Griff, wouldn’t you? Seeing me, half-blind? How about you take off your leg, you know, to even things up?”

” No problem,”

My Dad dropped his trousers and unbuckled the belt of his artificial limb. Having removed the leg, he knelt his stump on a chair, 

” How’s that?” 

He asked. 

” OK?”

Then with one quick jab, socked Cumberland in the eye, smashing his glasses, and knocking him out for the count.

Mom was horrified, not only at the sudden violence but more at seeing her husband standing there in his under-rods, especially in front of Mrs Cumberland. The latter who was at that moment crawling under the table, grabbing at Dad’s other leg, trying to pull it from under him. 

In the insanity of the night, Mars and La Luna danced together in a crazy polka of drunkenness. Cornie Boots, one of the guests, seeing her head emerge from under the table, took a swing at it, missed, and instead slammed his fist down on the table’s edge. 

His howl of pain brought the booze-filled shenanigans to an immediate halt. The wooden table was a lot harder than his intended target, and his wrist snapped on impact.

The saying’ All’s well that ends well’ played out the next day when everyone met up at the Mazabuka Hotel for drinks and jokes about the previous night. Cumberland was sporting a black eye and broken glasses, Cornie Boots with his arm in a sling, and Dad with not a mark on him.

The argie-bargie remained the talk of the town for weeks, with my Dad becoming quite the folk hero.

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