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Close encounters
Written by Frank Leslie Boswell   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:16
Article Index
Close encounters
Elephant encounters
My opinion
The second encounter
Snake encounter
Zebra encounters
The last curtain raiser
All Pages


This article alphabetically covers some more close encounters I had during my stay in Nkana, Francistown and Orapa.

My stay in Zambia was from March 1956 to March 1967 and in Botswana it was from April 1967 to June 1973.

In a previous article titled “Times to remember “I mentioned some close encounters I had experienced. They were:-

  • Episode 1. The collision with a horse and cart when cycling from school.
  • Episode 3. Accidentally jumping in a tar pit behind the Nkana Mine smelter.
  • Episode 4. Almost jumping from the Copperbelt Power Corporation’s building.
  • My canoe that capsized in the Kafue River
  • The allergy reaction after being stung by a Bee at Cheeseman’s Farm just outside Kitwe on the Ndola road.

Buffalo encounter

The first time I went out to hunt buffalo lady luck was with me. Pat Hepburn a professional hunter who had no clients at the time asked if he could accompany me. I had a license for two buffaloes. The second one was for the Botswana Government as they needed meat to celebrate their Independence Anniversary.

Hunters Africa gave me permission to hunt the buffalo in their concession at Bore Hole 2. Bore Hole 2 is close to the Kazuma Pan National Park in Rhodesia and Panda-ma-Tenga Botswana which was a Mission Station. Hunters Africa had two hunting concessions operating from Kasane. The second concession was in Savuti which was my favourite but the V.I.P. treatment at both these camps was superb. Best of all it was free of charge. On returning from a hunting trip a make shift shower with warm water was suspended from a tree. The camp personnel would organize it as soon as they heard your vehicle approaching. After your shower you were served with whatever drinks you wanted, which were left by previous professional hunters with plenty of ice. Professional hunters using the camp facilities had to supply their own liquor. Later the evening you were served dinner with the waiters and chef in full uniform. Before retiring for the evening after enjoying a nightcap or two you were asked what time you would like your coffee served the next morning. The game you shot was skinned and the biltong was made for you. Professional hunters wishing to hunt and stay in these concessions paid R500pp/ day. The R500 package did not include the license fees, ammunition, mounting and shipping of trophies, liquor etc. R500 might sound like nothing today but it must be realized that this was more than the average person earned in a month during the 1970’s. When I went back to South Africa in July 1973 my monthly salary was R337-50cents.

We had hardly left the camp the first morning when we came across a huge herd of buffaloes. On shooting the first buffalo some of the herd surrounded it while the remainder just stood looking in our direction as if nothing had happened. Looking at how peaceful they were I mistakenly regarded them as some form of domesticated cattle. The stories I had heard, of how experienced game ranchers respected and feared buffaloes, as their wicked horns and sturdy hooves are capable of flattening just about anything that stands in their way and that they are also capable of licking your flesh down to the bone in no time seemed so untrue. I decided to throw all caution overboard and started running towards them with the idea of scaring them away. The next thing I knew the professional hunter was on top of me. He gave me one hell of a lecture on how easily it is to under estimate buffaloes.

Once the herd left we first made sure that the shot buffalo was dead. We then decided to follow the herd that had entered an area with plenty of Mopani trees and long grass.

We had hardly entered the area in which the herd had gone, when the tracker fell to the ground, followed by the professional hunter. I followed suit. The tracker informed us that the Buffalo had led us into an ambush. With no sign of these huge animals the first thing that comes to mind is that they are just trying to scare you. The look on the trackers face however convinced me that he was genuinely scared. The tension was building up, as we knew they were within meters from us but we could see nothing. There was this deadly silence and your legs were pins and needles but you were too scared to move. How long we waited I don’t know before we saw a movement of the grass some 15 meters away. All I know is it felt like eternity.

The professional hunter and I decided that at the count of three we would both shoot at the spot where we saw the movement. As we shot the earth started to tremble as the Buffaloes got up and started to run in all directions. Trees we had considered climbing if things went wrong never even entered our minds. We were like frozen statues. If any of the buffaloes had come in our direction we would not have known about it due to the dust created by the stampeding buffaloes. I hate to think of outcome had the Buffaloes decided to charge us, instead of running away. Where we had aimed we found a dead Buffalo with two bullet holes. The head mount was later sold to the Orapa Mine Recreational Club for R150

Elephant encounters

Elephant behaviour

Firstly I would like to share some of the behavioral patterns of elephants that I experienced and why the Bushmen have such a great respect for the elephant.

With my first visit to Kasane I often encountered trees lying across the 400km.dirt track between Nata and Kasane. In some cases the tree had to be chopped up and removed from the track as there was no chance of making a detour around the fallen tree. The 400km stretch could take days to cover, as the track would zigzag between obstacles. Where the track became impassable you made your own detour. Punctures and being bogged down in either soft sand or wet turf formed part of the package. (On page 8 in my article “Pioneering in Botswana” is more information on this stretch). My labourers showed me the proof that the fallen trees was the work of the elephants. They were convinced that they do it to prevent humans from encroaching into their territory. I in turn, believed that they pushed the trees towards the track as there was nothing hindering the tree when it fell.

When I started with the construction of the open wire routes in Kasane, I soon realized that my labourers were correct. With the surveying I also observed a strange behaviour of the baboons which indicated that they too were not happy with our presence. They would appear from nowhere and would either swing on the survey rods until it was on the ground or they would pull it out of the ground and run a distance with it before releasing it. To overcome this I had to survey shorter distances and use additional labour as the labourers felt unsafe if they were on their own.

Once we started planting the poles the elephants came to the party. We would arrive at the site in the morning to find that most of the poles planted, were pushed over. I thought by straightening them each day they would give up but I was fighting a losing battle. With advice from the department Fauna and Flora in South Africa we dug the soil over around the pole so that the elephant had to tread on the loose soil before reaching the pole. The outer perimeter of the loosened soil had to be marked with rocks or something similar. The elephants were scared that the soil could collapse under their weight. Elephants are the only animals that can’t jump. We were informed that the elephants even dug up newly laid cables.

Little did I know there was another surprise waiting for me. When we started running the wires the elephants would push huge trees across the wires. The weight of the trees snapped the wires. Some trees were so big that it was hard to believe that elephants were capable of pushing it over. To remove some of the huge trees pushed over by the elephants, we first had to cut them up before the tractor could pull them out of the way. To overcome this intrusion it meant that any tree close to the open wires had to be cut down. Fortunately I had the loan of two chain saws from the forestry department.

The Bushman’s opinion of an elephant

They display a great respect for elephants and virtually place them on an equal footing with man. Here are some of their beliefs I experienced:-

Many are reluctant to eat the meat of an elephant as they claim it resembles that of a human being.

They pointed out that the breasts of the female are between its front legs whereas with other animals it is between the rear legs.

The shape of the front and rear feet differs like that of our hands and feet.

On one of my hunting trips I noticed that before they opened up the stomach of the elephant they would first cover the eye which was above the ground with grass and then cut a piece of its trunk off. This was done to prevent the elephant’s spirit when departing from the opened stomach identifying them. They firmly believe that the elephant’s spirit on leaving the earth goes to join their ancestors in the spiritual world. Once it enters the spiritual world and it knows who is responsible for its death it will hunt down their ancestors and kill them.

My opinion

With the second elephant I shot, something I noticed convinced me that the locals were on the right track. A large teardrop was lying on the cheek of the elephant. The impact this had on me was bigger than I ever could visualize. My guilt feeling increased with each animal I shot after seeing that tear drop. To me that tear drop was a clear indication that animals have feelings just like us. Today if I hear countries requesting permission to start trading in ivory again I know what my decision would be if it was up to me.

The first elephant I shot

In 1970 the elephants in Kasane became a threat to the locals. The locals could no longer protect their crops and their lives were often threatened by the elephants. Barricades erected were simply flattened. The District Commissioner Kingsley Sibele, after investigating numerous complaints decided that some action was necessary. He requested Mike Slowgrove the local Game Warden to issue eight hunting permits in Kasane. I was one of the eight. The elephant that I hunted had actually broken into the enclosure of a local resident no more than a kilometer from the Chobe Safari Lodge. With me was Pat Carr-Hartley and the first thing he told me was that you must never show an animal that you are scared. Running away was not an option as all animals will outrun you.

In my defense I must also mention that no part of the elephants I ever shot was wasted. A Chief just outside Kasane always knew where and when I was going to hunt an elephant. Hours after shooting an elephant some of his tribe members would arrive on the scene. Some would arrive on foot, others on a bicycle which they must have pushed most of the way and then there were those on donkeys. Knowing that these people have come some 40 kilometers and spent the night under the stars just hoping that the next day they will hear a gun shot that will bring them something to eat made me feel that in a way I have done some good. They would enter the elephant’s stomach while standing ankle deep in its faeces just to get some of the stomach fat. You had a battle to keep them away from the elephant until they had recovered parts of the skin, the feet, tail hairs and tusks for yourself.

I could only pity them as I watched them disappear into the bush not knowing how they could possibly make it back as some seemed to buckle under the weight of the meat.

The first encounter

My first close encounter with elephants was while game watching in the Kasane National Park. We came across this large herd of elephants and Pauline wanted to film them close up. . With us were some of my labourers and a driver. Pauline and I joined the labourers on the back of the truck. I noticed that the elephants were getting restless but Pauline wanted to continue filming. Suddenly all hell broke loose and the elephants started with their mock charges. After several mock charges there was so much dust that our visibility was limited. Panic started to set in. One of labourer’s put a spade over his head and told us that he didn’t want to see how he would die. To crown it all the driver joined us on the back of the truck. It was then that I remembered the words of Pat Carr-Hartley and I quote. “Don’t ever show an animal that you are afraid”. With this I immediately got behind the wheel and started moving forward. At intervals I would depress the clutch and rev the engine as I was told never to blow the hooter at charging elephants. The elephants kept on with their charging but at least I was making some progress. It seemed endless and my courage was fading when I spotted an opening. Without hesitation I went for it and once I was far enough away I stopped. I opened the door, determined not to show how scared I really was and had every intention of teasing both the driver and the guy with the spade over his head. The tables were soon turned. As I put my foot on the running board a pheasant lying in the grass next to the vehicle flew up. I got such a fright and before you could say Jack Robinson I was trying to climb out the passenger side window and so was Dozen Chawalani the passenger. We were all in such a state of shock that for hours after the incident, we would for no reason burst out laughing.

The second encounter

This was at Bore Hole 2. Dave Ward the manager of the Chobe Safari Lodge wanted to accompany us as he intended applying for a license and this would give him the opportunity to know what to expect. I gave Dave the .375(9.5mm) rifle to cover me only in case something went wrong. The reason being, if he also shot at the elephant he could be found guilty of hunting without a license. We came across three large bulls. The one with the large tusks kept turning his head away from me as if he knew what my intentions were. I sensed that it was only a matter of time before he ran off. With the elephant about twenty-five metres away the only line of site I had was its heart. Once I shot the elephant I soon realized I was in trouble. The elephant just shook his head a couple of times and then came charging. I tried reloading the .458(11,6mm) but without any success. Then what sounded like music in my ears I heard the bullets flying pass me as Dave started shooting. I am convinced that had the elephant come one step closer before veering off to the right it would of have been the end of me. Having an elephant charge at full speed and actually feeling the ground trembling under your feet as it gets closer, is something one cannot describe. I often ask myself “Was it the bullets that changed the direction of the elephant or was it because I stood motionless?” Once the elephant passed me the adrenalin flow kicked in and I immediately realized that in my haste I had not ejected the empty shell far enough. I started running after the elephant but my tracker grabbed me by the arm and headed in a completely different direction to that which the wounded elephant had taken. Some 50 metres away I could finally end the hunt. On questioning the tracker on how he knew where we would again encounter the elephant I realized how little I know of wild life. All he did before following the wounded elephant was to check in which direction the other two elephants had run and he knew that the wounded elephant would return to them.

The third encounter

This also took place at Bore Hole 2. I so wanted to hunt an elephant whose tusks were the same size. The reason being, that I wanted it for a trophy I intended making. This meant hunting a female as the males often have broken tusks. After tracking a large herd for sometime I eventually saw a female with the perfect tusks. As we got closer to the herd the tracker warned me that the herd had got wind of us. On shooting the elephant I wanted, the rest of the herd ran away. I always find it amazing to see how quick these big animals can disappear in the bush. Before getting too close to the elephant I threw a handful of sand in its eye. This was a standard practice as a blinking eye told you to exercise caution. After ensuring that everything was fine I decided to sit on the elephant until Ken Mompson arrived with the transport. Suddenly the silence was broken with the herd charging in our direction. Once again I heard the words of Pat Car-Hartley “Don’t run away”. In no time I was standing on the elephant. Once I had released the safety catch I started shouting and waving my arms. I knew that with the .458(11.6mm) rifle I would at least stop an elephant. Had I known that the tracker had done the disappearing trick with the .375(9.5mm) I might not have displayed such confidence. Apparently when he saw me challenging the herd he decided it was a good time to run. I expected Ken to arrive soon but after so many repeated charging and retreating of the herd I realized that I was further from him than I had anticipated. When I eventually heard a vehicle approaching it was like music in my ears. To my surprise it was the Game Warden Mike Slowgrove who happened to be patrolling the area. I could hardly talk to him as my throat was sore from the dust and all the shouting. I am convinced that I had a Guardian Angel with me that day?


While in Orapa the mines offered me residence in house D41 which was fully furnished with air conditioning. The only hassle was that the stove and hot water cylinder worked on gas which then did not meet the safety standards of today.

In the early hours of the morning things went horribly wrong. The permanent flame below the hot water cylinder went out for some unknown reason. Since there were no safety measures in situ, the gas supply was not cut off. The bedrooms were soon filled with gas as they were isolated from the rest of the house to ensure that the air conditioner worked efficiently. We can consider ourselves lucky that we woke up in time as we just managed to find our way out of the house. After turning off the main gas supply we had to spend a considerable time outside before we could just venture back inside the house to open all the windows and doors. After that we still had to stay outside for quite awhile. It was just as well that no one was around as two groggy people in their pyjamas would certainly have passer-bys thinking. The mine management on hearing of the incident immediately started replacing the existing hot water cylinders for something that was more reliable.

Lion encounter.

This encounter took place at the time I was assisting the United Nations with the marking out of suitable sites for future microwave and VHF towers between Kasane and Nata. A detailed version of the survey is covered in my article titled “Pioneering in Botswana” We had camped near Nata. It was in the middle of winter and to compensate for the cold nights, we used the vehicles to haul down huge dead Mopani trees. Preparing and enjoying a nice meal around a huge camp fire was always a wonderful way in ending the day. Track suits served as pajamas. The labourers would only use blankets to sleep under. They felt that a sleeping bag restricted their chances of a quick get away in cases of emergency.

In the early hours of the next morning I awoke on hearing a sound coming from the fire. Thinking it was one of the labourers I decided to join him, as I too had a penny to spend. I grabbed the torch and hurriedly made my way towards the fire. To my surprise there was no labourer but a lion lying close to the smouldering fire meters from me. As I turned around with the intention of making a dash for the tent I saw a second lion coming in my direction. Without thinking I again turned around and headed straight for the fire. The lion that was still lying next to the fire probably got the biggest fright of his life seeing a man running towards him. As the lion jumped up it sent sparks flying in all directions. Without thinking I once more turned around and started running towards the tent again but only to see the second lion still coming in my direction. Fortunately my reflexes were not as good as that of the lion. Before I could react the lion made a 90degree turn sending a spray of sand in my direction. If the Springbok rugby coach saw the dive I made on entering the tent I would no doubt be a firm candidate for selection. Nobody would believe me until the lions started roaring nearby. Only once two of the labourers and I got the Colman lamps burning and the fire blazing away did everyone venture out of the tents. The labourers collected any empty container they could find in case there was another call from Mother Nature.

The next morning on seeing the imprints left by the lions and myself I realized how lucky I was to still be alive. I can only think of two reasons why I was not attacked by the lions. Firstly I do believe the lions ran off as they got the impression that I in fact was charging at them. Secondly it could be that they were not hungry.

When out in the bush we normally slept under the stars but the UN officials after their first visit insisted that the Botswana Government supplied them with tents in the future. They complained that although I had a rifle it meant nothing as I snored right through the night. After this incident they would only sleep where they felt safe. This slowed down the surveying a lot as we spent a lot of time traveling backwards and forwards. At the time there was only one Lodge between Kasane and Maun.


Between 1968 and 1969 Francistown had an outbreak of rabies. After the results of the first two dogs I shot on my property tested positive I was given carte blanche to shoot any stray dog on my premises. I lost count on how many rabid dogs I shot. The dogs had to be burnt and buried. Once the labourers lit the fire they would run away as fast as possible as they were convinced that they could get rabies if they inhaled the smoke. The Government set up an anti rabies campaign. Every dog they vaccinated against rabies was marked with a large paint brush. After a cut off date the police went out and any dog found in the street without the painted mark was shot.

The tame Guinea fowls I had, some of which were crossed with the white Leghorn fowls acted as my warning alarm. I could tell by the sound they made if something was amiss.

We had a rather scary experience with one of the rabid dogs. Coming home one evening after attending a cinema show at the Francistown Recreational Club we found a rabid dog chewing at the fence I had erected to protect our dog Oubaas (old boss). With the outbreak of rabies whenever we went out we would tie Oubaas up in this temporary enclosure. To our surprise Oubaas remained in his kennel as if he sensed something was wrong. We remained in the car until the rabid dog went into the centre of the mealie plantation. I ran in the house and collected the .22(5.6mm) rifle which I used for the other dogs. I soon realized I would have felt better had I taken the shot gun. With Pauline behind me holding the torch we started our search between the rows of mealies towering well above us. We felt at ease as we were going in the direction the dog had taken until Pauline heard a rustle behind her. As we turned we realized that with Pauline now in front there was no way I would be able to shoot the dog. I also realized that it was frightening not being able to see what is behind you. We worked out a plan of action but not having the shot gun it became risky. We also decided it would be best if we made our way back down another row. Suddenly the end of the mealies seemed miles away. We were reacting to the slightest bit of sound. We had gone some 30metres when we spotted the dog in front of us. After shooting the dog and looking at the fence covered with blood and saliva we were so pump up that we found it hard to fall asleep.

Single engine aircraft

Mervin Spence my engineer with the Botswana Government first had a single engine aircraft and later he bought a twin engine. We were flying back from Kasane on our way to Francistown following the boundary fence between Botswana and Rhodesia. All went well until we were somewhere in the middle of the Wanke (Hwange) game reserve. Suddenly there was a deadly silence and the propeller came to a halt. The aircraft dipped its nose and headed downward with the wind whistling by. The situation did not sink in immediately. At first I was trying to stop the items in the rear that came tumbling down towards us. It was only when I saw mother earth getting too close for comfort that the reality of the situation sunk in. Mervin however was calmly going about his business. With the ground getting too close for my comfort I started to think that it was time to start praying. Then to my relief I heard the motor start and we were once more airborne.

Mervin explained that he was flying on the reserve tank and unfortunately when empty it can’t automatically go over to the main tank. He apologized for not first adjusting the aircraft so that the descent would be much slower before changing over to the main tank.

Snake encounter

I’ve had many encounters with snakes. As mentioned in my article “Times to remember”in episode 1 it can be seen that it started at an early age when I got a hiding at school for placing a poisonous snake in a girl’s desk. Strange as it may sound, it was only about two months ago that I found a fully grown Puff Adder a meter from my back door in Villiersdorp. We suspect it came from a section they recently cleared for a new housing development. The funniest was near Garneton Zambia when I had to build an open wire route to supply Garneton with telephones in the beginning of 1959. We were burning the long grass to start the surveying when out popped a Gaboon Viper. After the labourers had killed the snake I picked it up and started chasing them with the snake. I was thoroughly enjoying myself as they had scattered in all directions. For some reason the Africans are dead scared of a snake even if dead. The last laugh was however on me as the snake suddenly started moving in my hand. All I remember was throwing the snake as far as possible and running in the opposite direction with my labourers in fits of laughter.

While staying in 11 Washington Avenue in Nkana we had three encounters with tree snakes. The closest encounter I had with a snake was during one of these encounters. It all started when Morgan the house boy came running in the kitchen shouting “Nogga, Nogga”. He had come in close contact with a tree snake in front of the garage. According to him the snake had gone into the garage. On investigating his story I saw the snake lying between a large wooden toolbox and the wall. Once I had the car out of the garage I gave Morgan a garden hoe. I told Morgan that as soon as I pull the toolbox away he must pin the snake down with the hoe which fortunately was not very sharp. Morgan would only participate in the exercise if the tasks were reversed. As he pulled the toolbox away I pinned the snake down. The next thing I knew the snake’s head with its mouth wide open was within inches from my lower hand which was holding the shaft of the hoe. The reason being that I had pinned it down near its tail end, which is something I never thought of. I went ice cold as I realized that there were quite a few possibilities which could count in the favour of the snake. Firstly I had to move my feet away from the hoe making it impossible for the snake to reach them. In the process I had to ensure that I did not release or increase the pressure exerted on the snake. What really scared me was the thought that it was only a matter of time before the hoe cut through the snake. Fortunately the snake gave up the battle before this happened and made an attempt to slide under a nearby a washing machine. Naturally I immediately removed the hoe allowing it to slither into the machine. I switched the machine on and it wasn’t long before I heard the clatter as it got caught between the drive belt and the pulleys.

It’s amazing to think what goes through a person’s mind and the reactions that take place in possibly less than 30 seconds in times of a crisis.

Unlawful encounter

When I was in Orapa a local Chief in the area gave me a tribal license. It cost me R2. With this license I could hunt 6 Wildebeest, 6 Impala, 6 Springbok, 6 Duiker and then there were 2 Warthogs and a Steenbuck. To make use of this license meant that I had to illegally smuggle one of my rifles into the mine complex. Whenever I went hunting a sergeant in the police went with me, as he too had a tribal license. Being a policeman he was legally allowed to have a firearm on the mine premises. After one of our hunting trips we as usual would share the meat with friends.

A mine security official after not getting any meat from the sergeant went and reported us to Jock Moncur the Chief Security Official. Jock arrived at my house not as Chief of Security but as an Honorary Game Warden. He commanded me to hand over my firearm. He charged me for illegally hunting because as far as he was concerned I was not entitled to a tribal license. Arriving at the police station as luck would have it the sergeant was on duty. Here Jock made a big mistake when he tried to lay a charge against the sergeant as well. The next thing there was one big argument and the sergeant’s vocabulary included the four letter word. I started to break out in cold sweat as I was now convinced that I would as a result of their argument certainly spend the night in jail. With all their shouting the Station Commander came out of his office and summoned us into his office. When the Station Commander demanded that the Sergeant give him a good reason for swearing at Jock my heart missed a couple of beats. Little did I know that he had heard that Jock was on the war path and started doing the necessary homework. He asked to be excused and soon returned with the Government Gazette. He wanted to know if Jock was an Honorary Game Warden why his name did not appear with the five recently appointed Honorary Game Wardens. I still remember two of the names as they were friends of mine. They were Jack Bowsfield who I supplied with Lucerne for the Ostridges he exported and Bodo Muchi, a German taxidermist. The Station Commander then asked Jock to leave his office before he decided to charge him for impersonating an Honorary Game Warden. He also stated that it was the prerogative of the Chief to whom he issues a tribal license. Jock got up and told me that I can come and collect my rifle when I leave Orapa. Two days later Jock was at my house for a haircut as there were no ill feelings amongst us. The only time we really had a go at each other was the night we played in a final for the singles Badminton championship. We were evenly matched but I did however end up victorious. The haircutting trade I learnt during my stay in Zambia

Zebra encounters


Pat Carr-Hartley gave me permission to hunt a Zebra and Impala at their camp in Savuti. This to me was the best camp one could ask for, as it was situated next to a river in the middle of nowhere. A young professional hunter and a friend of his wanted to accompany me. They were prepared to use their Land Rover.

A Zebra has a more powerful bite than most realize. To indicate how powerful the jaws of a Zebra is Pat-Carr-Hartley told me that when he was still in Kenya he saw a Zebra run off with the rim of 7ton lorry in its jaws.

The first encounter

We spent sometime looking for a big stallion. It was around lunch time when we spotted this huge stallion which was grazing some distance from us. I got out of the Land Rover and started stalking the Zebra. I was still some distance from the Zebra when it became aware of me. As it started to run I released a shot which hit him just behind the right shoulder. The Zebra did a 180-degree turn and started to run in the opposite direction. I immediately shot at it a second time. I missed but it did however stop the Zebra. The third shot hit him behind the left shoulder but instead of dropping it started to run towards me. I was under the impression that it was just confused but I soon changed my mind. As I moved to my left and then to my right I noticed that the Zebra was following my movements. I then decided to stand my ground and looked down the barrel of the rifle at the Zebra as it was quickly closing in. I decided not to shoot until it was near impossible to miss. When I eventually shot the Zebra it ended up within touching distance from me. My two companions just wanted to get back to the camp to get something to soothe their nerves.

At the time I thought I had taken it rather calmly but when we came across a herd of Impala I could not shoot one. It was only then that I realized how badly I was shaking. To crown it all the professional hunter broke his toe that night. It happened when a mouse appeared on the scene and we tried to catch it. As the mouse was going under the fridge he attempted to kick it away with his barefoot. His judgement however was not as good as he moved the fridge instead of the mouse. The poor guy was in pain and instead of offering him our sympathy we saw the funny side and there was no stopping us from laughing at his expense.

The second encounter

On our return we came across a large herd of Zebra. We soon noticed that they wanted to cross over the track. Knowing their habits and to have some fun we kept the leaders from crossing as we knew those behind would not cross the track until their leader had crossed. This was not easy as the sand track with its umpteen bends made it difficult. We later came across a second herd and they then joined in with the first lot. Our excitement reached its peak when saw a third herd in front of us. Our excitement however was short lived when some heavy sand and a few nasty twists in the track reduced our speed. The Zebras in front grabbed the opportunity and started to cross the road with the rest following blindly. We were forced to stop as we knew that there was no stopping the rest of the Zebras from crossing the track. In no time the front of the bonnet was no longer visible and breathing became difficult with the ever increasing dust. I thought it was only a matter of time before the Land Rover would capsize with the impact of the Zebras that were forced against it. Every now and then you would see a Zebra trying to climb over the bonnet. Added to this my Bull Terrier Oubaas (Old Boss) was going berserk and his barking created sheer pandemonium.

Fortunately the Land Rover only had a few extra scratches and minor dents added to the existing scratches and dents. It must be said that we all felt that the barking of Oubaas probably saved the day.


Enjoying your retirement years can cost you nothing

Today at the age of 78yrs I have retired in Villiersdorp. It is also known as the Pearl of the Overberg. It is a tranquil town graced by Oak trees and surrounded by fruit and wine orchids. Its geographical coordinates are 35 59’ 0” South, 19 17’0”East. Here the air is still sweet and smog free.

In the Summer I enjoy my breakfast outside under the grape vine pergola. Here I have a front row seat to best performers free of charge. It is a full program with live music, unrehearsed spectacular acts and entertainment.

My garden is a bird’s paradise with approximately 20 different varieties. The sounds of loud music can originate from the haunting cries of the Hadedas or the screeching of the Guinea Fowl and of course the Weavers. The softer sounds needless to say come from the Turtle Dove species.

The entertainment comes from the Olive Thrush, the Cape Robin and the Fiscal Flycatcher as they go about finding their worms. Then there are the different Sunbirds that simulate the helicopter with its controlled backward and stationary flight beating their wings at eighty strokes per second while their long beaks suck out the nectar.

At times there are the side shows where I can look up into the grape vine and watch how the Doves rear their young or at the Squirrels that perform some amazing acts as they leap from branch to the branch in the Oak tree. During the breeding season of the Weavers you can watch these Do-it-yourself artists, which are rarely surpassed as they go about building and designing their nests. Their patience, ingenuity and skills are remarkable. To think that the survival of the animal life is based purely on instinct, one can’t help but envy them.

When having lunch outside we always have the company of a Cape Robin who collects his share from the table. When digging in the garden you are never alone. The Cape Robin, Olive thrush and Fiscal Fly catcher are always present knowing that they will get a worm or two.

Sadly to say there are times when you are faced with live drama performances, which fortunately only takes place for a few days in the year. When the chicks of the Weavers are hatched the Gymnogene Hawk will make its appearance. The Hawk although a beautiful specimen, normally only spells drama when it’s around. It will remove the Weaver chicks from their nest and perch close by where you can only sadly watch as it tears the young live chicks apart as it devours them.

We have our share of Garter Snakes, which to us, is a huge benefit as they eat the snails and slugs. To watch them go into the shell with their mouth open as they slowly swallow the snail is unbelievable. At times you get the impression that the snake has become wedged in the shell and it must surely die of suffocation but somehow it survives They do such a good job in keeping the snails at bay that they are a pleasure to have in your garden.

Have you ever asked yourself why birdsongs are a delight to the human ear and yet they are often a repeat of the same phrase.

For those who disagree as they find the crowing of a cock or the screaming of owls unpleasant don’t despair as nature will provide you with some other entertainment that you will find entertaining.

The happiest people do not necessary have the best of all. They simply appreciate what they find on their way.

The last curtain raiser

From my past experience I know that some of the readers will condemn me for my actions and brand me as a ruthless character. Yet today I can safely say that I appreciate and respect nature more than most of my critics.

You spend a quiet afternoon in the shade of a tree, some thirty kilometers away from the nearest civilization. All you hear at intervals is the call of the Go Away Bird and the Sun Beatles. Suddenly your instinct tells you that you are not alone and you start looking around. As you look up you see a snake sliding ever so slowly closer and closer to a bird. It is obvious that the bird is aware of the snake but it makes no attempt to fly away. In a flash the snake strikes and it falls to the ground with the bird within meters from you. You sit quietly as you watch how the snake goes about swallowing his lunch. You become so engrossed that you are not aware of anything going on around you.

Anyone who has spent sometime in the African bush with the stars above serving as the roof over your head will agree with me that there is no equal. You lie next to a smouldering fire which glows bright red with every breeze. Every now and then you are comforted by the nocturnal sounds of the bush. There is the manic cackle of hyenas, the cry of jackals, the calls of various Antelope and Zebras, or the moan of Lions to the thoughtful chomping of Elephants. It’s almost as if they are letting you know how far they are away, just to put your mind at rest. You lie and listen how a herd of elephants come closer and closer to your camp and as soon as they become aware of you they continue their grazing in another direction. As their sounds fade away you wish they would return.

The teardrop of the elephant, which few will ever experience, certainly made me realize that we are not the only creatures on earth that would like to live out our stay on earth.

While looking at the stars you suddenly see the lights of an aircraft passing way overhead. It is not a welcome sight as you are reminded that there is a rat race out there that you cannot escape.

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