Thursday, 18 December 2014


Recently, on a Monday morning just before 8 o’clock I received a call from my son Kevin. His words were “Cassie is dead”!  My heart sank, as I knew this was not good news.  Who is Cassie, you may ask.  Cassie is an Isuzu double cab 250D and has lived a long valuable life in the Webster family.

Cassie in her earlier days on top of Duncraggen

Way back in March of the year 2000 a brand new 2.5 diesel Isuzu double cab was bought to replace a rather tired 2.5 diesel Isuzu single cab that had done good mileage carting the children in the district back and forth to school in Queenstown.  At that stage I was teaching in Queenstown and more and more of the neighbourhood children were becoming passengers on the morning run to school.  Kevin christened her Cassie as a school friend of his’ mom had a very fancy small sports car called Cassie and this Isuzu was a far cry from this, so she could just pretend to be so fast and smart too!!!!


Helen with some food for an injured vulture loaded on Cassie

Not only was Cassie the local ‘school taxi’ but she spent many hours fetching injured and sick vultures and eagles from various localities in the Eastern Cape.

a group of oxpeckers transported by Cassie
She was instrumental in transporting the first group of Red-billed Oxpeckers that had been flown in from Thabazimbi by Sam Hobson, to our farm Rookwood. She also went to meet the late Eugene Marais (Operation Oxpecker manager) as he flew in with another group of translocated oxpeckers at Fort Beaufort.  Four years later she once again waited patiently at the Queenstown aerodrome to collect another group of oxpeckers to be transported to Rookwood.  Probably the only Isuzu manufactured to have ever done this!!!


Cassie with the young Websters taking a 'dip' at one of the many stream crossings in Baviaanskloof!

As the years progressed, the more gravel roads were travelled with Cassie in search of all the electrocuted, maimed vultures under the Eskom power lines on many farm roads.  When photographs and reports were sent through for mitigations Cassie faithfully took me to many ‘new’ and ‘unknown’ parts of the magnificent Eastern Cape. Cassie had also taken us to destinations like Witsand in the Northern Cape and Baviaanskloof south of Port Elizabeth.

One of the many roads she travelled in Baviaanskloof


one of the many views of the Baviaanskloof area


In her latter years of being a school taxi she started doing Monday early mornings or Friday afternoon runs, with the children attending school in East London.  She was now part of that lift club.  Although she was not the fastest vehicle around she safely transported many children backwards and forwards to East London.  Her slow run was on the up hills from East London and often a large long haul truck would pass her at the top of Fort Cunningham on the layby as she chugged along with a bakkie full of embarrassed school boys (no big truck should pass a double cab!!!).  

Cassie 3rd from the right in the Izuzu family

In April 2008 Cassie was replaced with a newer Isuzu Dtecq 2.5 diesel double cab, which Kevin christened Momster.  However, we did not sell Cassie as she had done huge mileage already (more than 250 000km on the clock) and nobody effectively really wanted her. Yet this was a blessing, as just after Momster took over the role from Cassie, Meagan had an accident with her varsity vehicle in Stellenbosch and needed transport. So Cassie headed for the Cape and became a Stellenbosch student bakkie for a while.  Cassie knew the road trip to the Cape and back very well and proved herself many times with her fuel efficiency on those runs.  This was indeed valuable at that stage, especially for a student, as the oil price was well over $145 dollars a barrel and we were paying dearly for this. At the end of that year Cassie was part of a student road trip up the coast from Hermanus to Port Alfred.

Cassie under her favourite tree!
Meagan finished at Stellenbosch and Cassie was duly loaded with all the furniture and goods collected over the years and driven home to Queenstown in a convoy with Momster. Meagan then went off to work as a construction geologist at Kusile coal power construction site for 3 months and Cassie would travel the road from Bronkhorstspruit daily and ride around on site with her little red flag flying high attached to the back of her bumper. Cassie did go into Johannesburg a couple of times during her stay up north.  Meagan, however, did not feel confident to drive Cassie down as she her mileage was high, so at the end of the year, she bought a plane ticket and flew her mechanically-minded brother, Kevin, to Johannesburg to be her co-driver to bring Cassie back home again.

Cassie as back up vehicle for a bike ride in the Hogsback area

Cassie’s days of not being a student bakkie was short lived, when Kevin, who was then studying in Port Elizabeth, woke up one morning to discover that his student bakkie (the original single cab I drove pre 2000!) had been stolen. So Cassie became a PE bakkie and got to know the city of Port Elizabeth for a while.  

Cassie's new home.
Then Kevin came home with Cassie and we decided he could keep her as his vehicle on the farm – partly as a backup and also if he wanted to travel anywhere. Kevin is very particular about Cassie and kept her running and servicing whatever and whenever it was needed. She would on occasion be used for a run to visit his friends in Port Elizabeth and last year went to Johannesburg (yet again!) with a group of friends for a major music concert. That trip did not go too smoothly with one of her brakes being faulty and somehow being ‘fixed’ temporarily by the ‘on board’ mechanic.

By the end of last year Cassie’s mileage had clocked more than 360 000km but sadly her speedometer had stopped working, so valuable miles could not be counted.  Early this year in February, Cassie once again ended up being used for a different role.  She was lent to a family member who had lost their vehicle in a flash flood.  Her task now was to do a run from East London up north into the Transkei region, where they were working on installing air conditioners.  This she did for two months before she was returned.

Cassie just before she left for her 'last' trip to Johannesburg.

So when Kevin once more, wanted to head to Johannesburg to visit his sister, Meagan as well as go to a concert, Cassie was used to transport him and some friends up north. The trip went well and they coped with the Johannesburg traffic on Friday afternoon and all piled into her on Saturday evening to go to the concert. Monday morning Cassie with all her passengers set off just after 6 o’clock heading back for home once more.  So when I received a very heart sore call telling me that Cassie was dead, I too felt devastated.  

After many phone calls, it was decided that she could not be left just to be sold and the only option was to tow her all the way back home!!!  However, Cassie had not had her last say. Kevin had thought he had seized the engine as she had run out of water, but miraculously she had stopped running before she seized her engine. After 45 minutes Kevin started her and found life in her engine still. So armed with bottles filled with water from reservoirs and various garages along the N1 highway, Cassie started her long slow journey back home to the Eastern Cape. We drove up with Momster to meet them at Bloemfontein as a backup vehicle should she not manage the whole way home.

As we descended the Penhoek pass in the mist that evening, I marvelled at how Cassie just seems to keep going and fully understood why Kevin shed a tear for her earlier that morning just this side of the Vaal plaza. 


Cassie buried under a heavy snowfall in 2012
Cassie buried even more!

Her mileage? Well guess what, her speedometer broke yet again en route down so who knows how many miles she has really travelled!

Meagan says that Cassie definitely needs to retire from long distance! 

Cassie in her earlier days up at Duncraggen in the snow.

1 comment:

  1. Good to see that there are others out there who name their cars. My current vehicle Koos has already gained a high level of notoriety, with his constant trips to the mechanic, coupled with our many adventures with him.

    Sounds like Cassie still has some tome to go before she retires.