Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” And that’s how it is – it’s all in the mind. You can only succeed if you believe in your own ­ability.
Issue date 1 June 2007

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Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” And that’s how it is – it’s all in the mind. You can only succeed if you believe in your own ­ability. That’s why I hate being called disabled. Disability is when you can’t do something because of your mindset, and many physically fit people suffer from this. If there’s something wrong with your body, you are at a disadvantage but it can be overcome if you think you can. All you need is the opportunity to discover that you can succeed. On 27 April I attended the Curamus fly-fishing competition in Belfast and witnessed the joy of some guys, many of whom had never handled a fly rod before, discover what they were capable of. It’s an annual event held by the Belfast Fly Fishing Association for disabled anglers. Some 45 anglers with varying degrees of disability and skill gathered from far and wide at one of the most beautiful and well-stocked dams in town to catch these sought-after fish. It was truly an assembly of the amakrokokroko! With the assistance of some helpful marshals, many of the participants were in for a pleasant surprise.

Of course not everybody is so considerate when it comes to disabilities. In many cases it’s out of ignorance, but unfortunately there are the few rare individuals who can only enjoy life when they succeed in making your uphill battle steeper. Such a person was one of my teachers and hostel house father at the special school for the disabled in Kimberley where I completed my last four years of school. The school and hostel was originally a camp for Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War. We lived in bungalows about 200m behind the mess hall, the internal walls of which were still decorated with the paintings of the Italians. This house father was a mean man. He always looked at you with squinted eyes, jaw to one side, cane under the arm, chewing a piece of straw. He had one unbreakable rule: any boy arriving after him at the mess hall was late and would forfeit his meal. Each morning three bells would ring: at the first you would get up, at the second, 45 minutes later, be ready for inspection until the third when you could leave for breakfast in the mess hall. But Mr House Father seldom did inspections as he always slept late and would only emerge from his house, next to the hostel, after the third bell. Then he’d jump in his little black ­Morris Minor parked next to his house and in a cloud of dust roar past the slower guys on crutches or wheelchairs. They lost their breakfast and he would confiscate their fruit, and take it home. If you were slow you couldn’t win this game, and we grew tired of it.

One moonless winter night the more able-bodied boys stalked his car, their hands filled with bricks. Quietly they lifted the little car upon the bricks so that its wheels were just off the ground. Next morning nobody left at the third bell. Everybody stood riveted to the windows of their bungalows, watching the car. One minute after the bell their victim came streaking from the house, still tucking in his shirt. He jumped into the car, fired the engine, engaged the gear but nothing happened. He tried another gear and really stepped on the gas. The engine screamed, the exhaust spewed smoke but the car didn’t move. Suddenly there was a loud bang, smoke poured out from under the bonnet and a black pool of oil formed under the car. The ice-cold engine had blown up! In the distance a mixture of hop-along, wheel-along and swing-along guys were leisurely making their way towards the mess hall, while they all whistled the recently released tune Bridge on the River Kwai. Everyone was going to have breakfast that morning.

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Everything at the Curamus fly-fishing competition was well arranged. Among the 32 beautiful trout caught, were some remarkable catches . None was more special than that by 11-year-old Boeta Roux from Nelspruit. It was the first time he had gone fishing. He suffers from Down’s syndrome and when I asked him where he lives, all he could say was that it was “very far”. With a little help from the marshals with the casting of the fly line, he succeeded in landing three lovely trout, totalling 2,9kg, of which two were tagged and qualified for a prize of R5 000.
The heaviest trout, caught by Martin Buys of Pretoria, weighed 1,8kg and was a new competition record. Johan Crouse of Pretoria had the heaviest bag of three fish, weighing 3,2kg and caught a tagged fish that got him R5 000. The prize for the most improved angler went to Elias Mhontho of Nelspruit. I demonstrated a double-handed fly rod that is offered by the importer Optimax at a R600 discount to disabled anglers, which enables a person in a wheelchair to cast very far. This event, the most successful of its kind to date, was sponsored by Nedbank and the Curamus Organisation who must be commended for giving these ‘krokos an opportunity to discover themselves. – Abré J Steyn

Contact Abré J Steyn on 083 235 4822. |fw