This account was told to me many, many years ago by my favourite Uncle (and "partner in crime" Lol!).
Way back in the 1940's, before our double highways were built, the way to the Cape lay down narrow, winding roads. Often, the roads were badly sign posted, so it was very easy to get lost.
During this time, my uncle Norm and his friend took a trip to Cape Town to visit his aunt (my Gran's sister.) The journey from Kimberley to Cape Town was a long one. Usually, this trip was made over two days. So, they planned to sleep over at Beaufort West, Laingsburg or any other "dorpie" (small town) that they found themselves in when they grew tired.
Somewhere, in the Great Karoo they took a wrong turn. Dusk found them travelling down a very narrow dirt road. To their consternation, the car engine suddenly cut out and they rolled to a dusty halt. Percy tried a few times to restart the car, but to no avail. Norm got out the crank (in those days, the cars had a special slot in the front grill where you could insert a longish piece of metal with a handle) to start the car... All in vain.
Darkness was closing in fast. As they stood in the sandy road, wondering what to do, they spied a light twinkling off to their left. Thinking that there must be a farmhouse with the lanterns lit, Percy decided to go for help, while Norm stayed with the car.
Percy started his trek across the veldt (field), and was soon lost to view in the gathering gloom. Norm settled down to doze on the long back seat of the car while he waited. Norm was rudely awakened about half an hour later, by a very grimy, muddy and shaken Percy. Percy was trembling so much that he could hardly speak. Norm, of course, asked him what on earth was wrong? Did he bring help? All Percy could do was shake his head. When he had calmed down a bit, he told Norm his tale of woe!
When Percy thought he was about halfway to the farmhouse, he suddenly stepped into a meerkat (ground squirrel) hole, and measured his length on the ground. As he picked himself up, he caught the sound of horses' hooves, thundering towards him. He looked up to see a man, clad in a dark cloak, mounted on a large dark horse, galloping towards him.
Percy, at once, thought it was the farmer coming to his rescue. His joy instantly turned to icy fear as he realised that he could actually see through this dark figure. He admitted to a paralysing moment when he wet himself. He scrambled to right himself, running wildly away from the sound of the ever closer sound of the hooves.
The sound of galloping was right behind Percy, and he was terrified of what the horseman might do to him. He looked back, over his left shoulder, to see the rider, with raised hand right behind him. He felt a mighty slap, to the side of his face, and went down to flounder in an unseen stream.
Suddenly, the silence was overwhelming. As he lay cowering in the stream, he wondered what was to come next. He lay still for a few minutes, then realised that he could not hear any sound, beyond that of the crickets that were starting to chirp. As he raised his head, he saw no trace of the horse, or rider. He scrambled to his feet, got his bearings, and ran helter-skelter over the rough terrain, back to the car.
Norm was a bit skeptical about this tale, to say the least. There was no doubt, however, about Percy's nervous state, or his grimy appearance. They decided to sleep in the car, as by this time it was totally dark. (Night falls very quickly in the Karoo, as any South African will tell you.)
Next morning, to Norm's surprise, he noted a red hand-mark on the side of Percy's face. Percy looked in the rear-view mirror and ruefully confirmed this, saying that was where he had been "slapped across the chops" by the apparition.
As the pair was sitting, wondering what they should do next, Percy idly stabbed at the starter. The motor suddenly roared into life! To the great relief of the young men, they were able to continue with their arduous journey.
Norm never said how long it took them to find the right road. But he swore that the hand-print on Percy's face never faded!
Thank you for reading Norm's story. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.