D.W.K. Macpherson
The Author
Birds
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An Appreciation

 

  Excerpts

1. August 6th, 1928 - "I am starting this with the intention of keeping a more or less daily account of any wanderings I may make in Africa. I have always seemed to have been in a hurry for one reason or another and have only been able to snatch a few odd fortnights always pressed for time. Even taking the ammunition convoy from half way to Kilossa, with an extra fortnight's leave thrown in, was a matter of fixed marches mostly on the main road, and a rush from beginning to end; and it is only now when I am no longer in the army and at a loose end, that I think I see my way to be able to afford six months or so seeing a bit of Africa."

"My battery, then, consists of the 8 mm Mauser, 9 mm Mauser rifles, .450 Rigby, 12-bore shot-gun by Crockart, and a B.S.A. airgun for collecting birds, so I am well set up. I shall not take the 250/280 rook rifle; it is pretty inaccurate now and the occasions are few when one would want it. My only regret is that I have not a bow to add to my battery; but there is no time now to think about that. I have a trolling rod and reel, but have not yet succeeded in getting any tackle. The rod is the one I bought from Mallock for Mahseer, when I went to India and is the very thing for tiger fish."

2. September 29th, 1928 - "Today I have come a very long and tiring march right over the range of hills and down to the foothills on the other side to the Lingove. The first part was a very stiff climb, but the beauty of the places we passed and the grandeur of the views made it worth while. We stopped once at a little burn reminiscent of the upper reaches of the Blackwater. It certainly should have been full of trout but alas, such was not the case; but that loss was almost atoned for by the countless hundreds of beautiful tropical butterflies flying all round us in the dappled shade of the trees whose greenness was almost comparable to that of an English spring. I don't often rapturise about scenery, but this place has entirely won my heart and I should not complain if I were to spend the rest of my life here."

3. July 23rd, 1929 - "I seized the heavy rifle and went forward accompanied by Sabunete, whom I had drilled in unloading and reloading it and handing me my light rifle when I needed it. We were in pretty heavy country but so cut about by elephant tracks that one generally had a good field of view, isolated clumps of bush with their trails winding round them. I saw him — one only as the other two were feeding apart — just as I rounded one of those corners and he looked evil and malign and black. He had those half curved tusks, too, which are so disconcerting.”

4. MY FIRST ELEPHANT

Page 237 - "The elephant had been moving slowly through the night, feeding as he went, as many a broken-down tree attested. After an hour's going the droppings showed signs of becoming more recent, and on coming to a particularly large pile of dung, Hassani called a halt.

"Nitambunga, bwana" said he.
A literal translation of this word is, "I will close him".

Elephant hunting is bound up very closely with witchcraft among the more outlying tribes of the interior of Africa, and Hassani would not think of following elephant without the all-protecting virtues of this art. Every elephant fundi, as he is called, has his own medicine in which he puts implicit faith. A ram's horn filled with some weird concoction may serve him as an amulet or general talisman of success, while the rites that he performs at different stages of the hunt are many and various.

In this case Hassani's idea was to cast a spell over the elephant so as to prevent him going too far. We three underlings sat down with our backs turned while Hassani busied himself with the dung. What he did I do not know. I would never dare to encounter his displeasure by trying to see what he was doing, and we had to wait patiently until the rites were finished."

Page 241 - "So he died, that mountain of flesh, who but for me might have roamed the forest for many decades to come. And even with this my first elephant a feeling of remorse for my action, which I was to know so well thereafter, stole over me. So it was with mixed feelings that I went up to take stock of my prize."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 2005, Isabel Macpherson. All rights reserved.