WHERE IT ALL STARTED
My dad was on his way home when a bee changed the course of his life, our family and our farm.
Most people do not know that the side mirrors of the Toyota Hilux bakkie are designed to deflect insects onto the driver.1 My dad knew that, but the risk-benefit ratio was in favour of an open window on a hot December day as most farmers’ tan lines will testify in the days before air-conditioning was available in bakkies.
Said bee struck the window at terminal velocity and struck my dad with its stinger straight to the heart. This turned out to be near-fatal even though dad never had any allergic reactions to bee stings before this. The reflective aftermath of the near-death experience made him focus on his dreams. Chief among them was to own a proper timepiece to remind him of how little time we have and to learn how to fly. Yes, he also took the carpe diem thing to life as a whole, but it doesn’t fit in this story. Ask him yourself one day …
Dad is, of course, a ‘we can do it’ type of person. So, he bought an old 172 Cessna at Riversdal that needed some love, clipped its wings and brought it back to Diemerskraal through the Huguenot Tunnel on the back of a trailer. Under the watchful eye of aeroplane whisperer Oom Eddie Renton the old lady was restored to her former glory. And his first solo flight followed soon thereafter.2
“Let’s get one thing straight. There’s a big difference between a pilot and an aviator. One is a technician; the other is an artist in love with flight.”3
His fledgeling flying career and love for aviation and people culminated in the Diemerskraal Airfield being frequented by like-minded souls, diversifying the farm’s business and aiding the agriculture side that is very vulnerable to the weather.
“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”4
1 Toyota does not mention the wind tunnel work on any of its information pieces.
2 Dad’s take off to landing ratio in aircraft is not the desired 1:1. The fact that he was a Parabat has got something to do with it.
3 Elrey B. Jeppesen, founder of the Jeppesen air navigation firm.
4 Leonardo DaVinci.