Thursday, November 29, 2012

"The Most Dangerous Cow" by Anonymous

The Most Dangerous Cow
Anonymous/Unknown

This was Ronaldson's first hunting trip to East Africa. That was obvious. Sitting there in his finely-tailored Broad Street tropicals he was the very personification of all "white hunters" who flocked to The Dark Continent in search of sport. As we sat around the table—Ronaldson, Jacobs and I—sipping our gin and tonic, I smiled to myself. Wait until the sun gets at those razor-edged creases in his elegant trousers, I thought. But Ronaldson was young, he would learn. My thoughts were interrupted by Ronaldson's grating voice.

"I just can't see where there's anything to this hunting!" he said, easing back in his chair. "Seems all cut-and-dried to me. Too modern—too scientific. A special hunting car, all sorts of modern equipment and high-powered rifles that are almost small cannons. Too scientific!"

Jacobs flicked the ash off his cigar. "Son, when you hunt big-game you never have too much of a jump on any wild beast. Don't forget, you're in his back yard. Sometimes they come easy, sometimes, well, you'll find out tomorrow."

The following morning was bright and clear, and N'lombu, our native gun-bearer, had the car fully loaded and ready to roll. Although Jacobs and I had started many a hunting safari in the past twenty years, we both trembled with excitement. For the thrill is always there. We were all keyed-up. But not Ronaldson. He leaned back comfortably in the rear seat, and ran his fingers along the barrel of his rifle. A wide grin told his story: Why be afraid? We're using machines to aid us in this most primitive sport. I wondered whether he would still be smiling when the day was over.

At last we were off, driving across the plains of Tanganyika. We traveled for about an hour, when suddenly: "Look, Simba, Simba!" yelled N'lombu.

We looked up and there, about a football field's length away, stood three lions—a huge male and two females.

We jumped out of the car and with our rifles shoulder high we advanced toward the big cats. They surveyed us calmly, and then slowly turned and ran into the high grass behind them.

"They're gone for good," called out Ronaldson.

"No, hold your ground! They'll come out again. Cats are a curious lot!" snapped Jacobs.

Jacobs was right. A few moments later the grass parted and Simba stepped out into the clearing. He was a wonderful speciment, one of the finest I had ever seen. Slowly, majestically, he strode toward us. We all raised our rifles...

There was a thunderous roar at my side as Ronaldson's Model 70 Winchester sent a charge hurtling into the lion's brain. A perfect shot! The huge, black-maned beast fell in his tracks. The prize every hunter seeks, and rarely finds, was Ronaldson's.

"Just as I told you fellows! Easy—too easy! This poor beast never had a chance."

"How much chance do you think you would have had if your shot had only wounded him?" Jacobs said as he looked down at the huge cat.

That evening around the campfire, Jacobs suggested that we try for a Cape buffalo on the following day.

"Buffalo? What kind of guides are you? Maybe I should have brought my bow and arrow!" sneered Ronaldson.

Jacobs lit his cigar and leaned over. "You don't know the Cape buffalo, Ronaldson," he said. "There's nothing on earth as vicious. He never gives up. Any other animal will lose interest and wander off if he can't get you. But not the buffalo. If he trees you, he'll die of thirst waiting for you. If he tramples you he comes back again and again until there's nothing left. And there's no animal in all the world harder to kill. He's smart, crafty, mean. Now let's get some shut-eye. He only goes out to feed at dawn, and retires to the bush when the sun is up."

It didn't take us long to spot our target the following morning. Instead of one we found four. Ronaldson picked up his glasses and studied the beasts. At a distance they don't look very formidable. But up close they are huge, black brutes with shining ebony horns that are wide-spread and sweep in a curve that ends in needle-sharp tips. These horns spread more than three feet and can rip a man in two.

Ronaldson lowered his glasses. "Cows, just plain cows."

Jacobs was more appreciative. "They're all good heads, I'd say. There's one in particular that's a beauty. I'll bet his spread goes over forty inches." A horn spread of forty or over is considered a great prize.

"Let's circle 'til we're down-wind," I said. "Then we'll see if we can get them to separate. I don't want to tangle with any more than one at a time."

Patiently, slowly, silently, we circled down-wind. The herd of bulls had moved out of sight. They had made no noise. In all probability they had not scented us. But now we couldn't see them, and yet we knew that we were close to them. My tropicals were drenched with perspiration. Where were they? When would they strike? Who was doing the stalking now? Had the hunter become the hunted?

Silence was now imperative.

Suddenly Ronaldson stood up from his crouching position. "What kind of a hunt do you call this? I came here for game not cows!"

As if in answer to this sudden defiance of the jungle code, the brush in front of us parted with the violence of a hurricane whipping through a forest. Crashing out of the thicket, head down, charging with the speed and violence of a locomotive, was the big bull we were seeking. Time stood still. I was frozen with horror by the glint of the sun on those hideous ebony horns. Off to my left I could see Ronaldson frozen with fear; his rifle at his feet.

There was little time to waste. I found my rifle butt snuggled against my cheek, my eye sighting the brute through the scope. I tried to center the crosshairs on his chest. BLAM!

It was Jacobs' gun exploding, over to my right. Five-hundred grains of steel-jacketed lead smashed into the buffalo—right in the center of the horn base, the only spot where it could possibly do NO DAMAGE. This high-powered slug which could smash through a stout tree at that distance, didn't even slow the bull down. Jacobs might have fired a .22 caliber rabbit gun for all the damage it did. Now the charging animal swerved to the left—directly toward Ronaldson—Ronaldson turned to run. Then suddenly, he tripped over his rifle, and fell to the ground. The bull lowered his head and charged. I moved between Ronaldson and the beast, fixed my sights once again, low behind the shoulder, and... VROOM! A stream of blood spurted out of the hole like a geyser, AND STILL HE CHARGED! He didn't even swerve.

VROOM! I fired again, aiming at the spine. Again a hit and still he kept his feet. Only this time he wheeled about, blind with pain and rage as his life's blood ebbed. BLAM! Jacobs' piece dealt the knockout blow, and the bull staggered off into the brush where he crashed to his knees. I, too, fell to my knees, exhausted and weak. But the job had to be finished, and Jacobs cautiously followed the bull into the brush. A loud report echoed throughout the jungle. The killer had met his match.

It was not until then, in his post-battle silence that we noticed Ronaldson. He was sitting on the ground, his tropicals soiled with sweat and mud, and was weeping softly. Ronaldson need not have been ashamed of those tears.

I thought back twenty years to my first safari in these same regions. Hadn't I felt much the same as this youngster? It was not until I had learned to fear and respect the African plains and jungles that I had become a professional hunter. Ronaldson smiled as Jacobs and I lifted him to his feet, and reassuringly clapped him on the back. And with that smile I knew that Ronaldson would be back again and again... he had learned to fear and respect Africa.

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