Friday, 16 August 2013

The chopper pilot and the outhouse.

Before the advent of Portapotties and before plastic pre-fab outhouses became the norm, the descriptive term ‘long-drop’ was the benchmark (pun intended) in Africa.

It was of very basic construction; a hole in the ground with a seat over it (with, of course, a corresponding hole), enclosed in a little corrugated iron building. Add a wooden door and toilet-roll dispenser (an optional extra) and Bob’s your uncle.

During extended operations in the far north of the Kruger Park, the game rangers, chopper pilot and other workers would pitch camp in the bush and sometimes stay there for weeks on end. Travelling back and forth on a daily basis from Skukuza was simply not feasible.

These men were tough outdoor guys and the camps were rather basic. There was invariably lots of banter, and a good time was had by all.

On one such a trip, someone had forgotten to bring the disinfectant powder for the long-drop. This is supposed to be strewn down the long-drop regularly, for obvious reasons.

By day three one of the rangers travelled to the nearest tourist camp which boasted a swimming pool, and returned with a container of pool chlorine.  Chemicals were chemicals, and this was potent stuff. Seemed to do the job.

Early the next morning everyone was getting ready for the day in the bush, when nature called Piet Otto, the chopper pilot. Armed with his book and his trusty pipe he headed for the long-drop. He was wearing his customary Parks Board uniform, long khaki trousers and all.

Piet made the mistake of dropping his match down between his legs, into the pit.  The chlorine had indeed interacted with the environment, apparently creating a heavy, combustible gas.

The loud explosion was followed by Piet exiting the long-drop at speed. No harm done, except for the fact that he had torn his trousers beyond repair in his attempt to lengthen his stride with his pants down his ankles. The hilarity knew no bounds.

The taunts came thick and fast over the next few days every time Piet could be seen skulking off into the bush, armed with a toilet roll and a shovel whenever nature called.

Until one night, when the call came after dark. This was lion country, and one didn’t go traipsing around in the bush with a torch. So Piet left the fire and once again headed for the long-drop, conspicuously leaving his pipe behind.

The moment Piet was ensconced in his little safe haven, Louis Olivier reached for a rock the size of a cricket ball, and the chatter around the camp fire was replaced with anticipatory sniggers.

The moment the boulder hit the long-drop with an explosive bang, Piet once again exited with two half-trousers around his ankles, taking the door off its hinges.

I suppose conditioned reflexes are part of the training for chopper pilots

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