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Thu, Dec. 05

Williams: From South Africa to our Southwest
One Man’s Rant

Terry and his wife, Christina, immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa, in 2005. I spoke with him recently to ask why. Terry’s early years were spent in Johannesburg and Christina grew up in Zimbabwe. They met some 27 years ago while working for Chloride (automotive batteries) in South Africa.

Terry says the decision to leave his country of birth began forming many years before they actually came to the U.S. He confirmed that “criminality” was the motivating factor. Increasing instances of burglary and the challenge of protecting their lives and their property became a way of life. Entering his home required unlocking five padlocks and the property was surrounded by a six-foot wall topped by razor wire.

Terry and Christina were typically armed when away from home. His company maintained a wall of individual gun safes where employees secured their weapons during the work day.

Terry remembers as early as the mid-1970s confronting a man in the street outside his home who was attempting to rape a woman, both of whom were black. Wielding a handgun, Terry demanded that the man stop. The assailant turned his attention on Terry approaching him with a knife, and ran only after Terry fired a shot into the ground near him.

Despite the extensive security Terry employed to protect their home, he says one night in 2004, thieves scaled his outer perimeter wall and stole the electric motor and gear box off the driveway gate. There was a vibrant black market for anything of value that could be looted. About that time, thugs highjacked a neighbor’s car at gunpoint.

Much of the daily crime results from pervasive racial discrimination that fueled tensions between white and black populations for decades. Apartheid was codified into law in 1948 imposing segregation and denying blacks basic civil rights. Apartheid was repealed in 1994, but unrest between the races continued.

Terry and Christina realized that the continuing social upheaval would prevent any sense of normalcy in their lives, so an active search for a new national home began.

Years earlier, Terry had spent a month traveling the American East Coast on business. He liked it most importantly since it seemed a safe, orderly society. Also, transitioning into the American lifestyle would be easier since the food was similar, the cars were the same, and he liked the weather here in the Southwest. Although they briefly considered other English-speaking countries, Terry and Christina said goodbye to South Africa and headed west to our shores.

They came to Phoenix where a son lives. It took only three months to learn that Phoenix turns a bit toasty in the summer months. That’s why the two traveled up Interstate 17 to Prescott, then to Chino Valley.

The first time my wife and I visited Terry and Christina in their home, I was surprised to see a family-room wall filled with artifacts of the American Southwest, instead of collectibles from Africa. I saw hand-tooled leather gun belts and holsters (filled with nickel-plated operating six guns) and an authentically reproduced Navajo hunting bow and tomahawk — all crafted by Terry, himself. A dominating presence holds court in the living room — a sizable bear skin rug, complete with head, fangs and claws. I didn’t ask if Terry out-drew the bear at 40 paces.

I next discovered that his skills also extended to rebuilding classic cars when I saw the various sports cars he’d rehabilitated.

Terry and Christina both can speak Afrikaans when provoked, which is described as a marinade of South Holland Dutch, Malay, Portuguese, Bantu and the Khoisan language, among others. Try as I might, I can’t tell if they speak it with a Southwestern drawl. Yet.

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