The best thing for me about the citizen roadblocks during July’s looting was how the townies and farmers connected around the braziers in the wee hours. As is normal for men, the talk soon came down to measurements.
First it was weapons. Clyde swore by his shotgun, but Andile pointed out that a paintball gun wouldn’t earn you a murder charge. Big Ahmed, never one for many words, just grunted and patted his Glock.
Devon, who works at the local trailer rental and looks like Gandhi, only not as wellmuscled, scoffed at them all. “I want to get personal, and nothing does personal better than a baseball bat.”
A long silence followed as we all tried to picture the skinny nerd going berserk with his bat. By the frowns I could see this was not computing. So as veteran master of ceremonies, I changed the topic.
“Talking of frozen balls, can one of you young guns fetch us some more wood off the trailer?”
Vibrating with too many energy drinks, Devon was gone and back in a flash. “Whose trailer is that?” he asked, dumping an armload of wood.
I confessed the old Ventertjie was mine.
“You need to check your wheel bearings, Uncle. The hubs are both rusted. Do you know seized wheel bearings are the second biggest cause of trailer failure?”
We all stared into the flames and shook our heads. “What’s the first?” asked Andile.
“A combination of overloading and old or underinflated tyres. That combo causes almost half of all trailer crashes. I saw this for myself at Trac N4’s Machadodorp Plaza.”
“What were you doing there?” asked Clyde.
“They collect all the broken trailers discarded by the taxis along the N4 corridor. When they put these up for auction, we go there to bid on a few to fix and sell.”
“What about trailer sway?” asked Clyde, standing back a bit as Devon industrially stirred the coals.
“Not a problem for the taxi drivers,” said Devon. “Their trailers are always smaller than their vans. It’s only when your trailer is about as heavy as the towing vehicle and you go too fast, that you need to worry about sway.”
“You only get about four swings before the trailer wipes out. Been there, done that,” I said.
“Aah, that explains why you drive so slowly when pulling that big cattle trailer of yours,” said Clyde.
“Sonny,” I said. “I got this old by learning fast. And the lesson I got from that day is that the Venturi air pockets between passing vehicles can also start trailer sway. And let me tell you, all those who say you must then just gently accelerate to pull the trailer straight live in a dream world of perfectly smooth, straight roads with powerful bakkies. There is no way to come back from such a sway. Especially not by steering. The only fix is not to go over 80km/h.”
“You just need a stronger bakkie,” said Devon. “My cousin can chip and tune yours. Then you can upgrade that little two-ton trailer to the 3,5 tons your bakkie is allowed. He’ll do you a good deal.”
“Two tons are plenty,” I said. “A 3,5-ton trailer is pushing the limits of any bakkie in South Africa, except those converted RAM bakkies from Richards Bay. Besides, the more you put on the hook, the less you can carry on the bakkie. All the bakkies with bull bars and roof racks and winches will be pulled over at a weigh bridge for exceeding their gross combination mass limit. And pulling such a load at over 80km/h is simply suicidal. No, if you must tow 3,5 tons, get one of those big Yank bakkies.”
“The bottom line is that a heavy trailer needs a heavier towing vehicle.”
““Jaa,” said Ahmed.
“I rest my case,” I said.