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This Land of Ours - Paul Meyers

The setting of course, has no parallels and is unique to our continent, beneath our dark African skies, a velvet canopy almost recklessly sprinkled with diamond bright stars, intermittent flashes each more radiant than the last. The animals take this time to display a night long repertoire of calls, the most vocal being the dominant lions of the area, the male's arrogance clearly evident to all as he roars in mid stride with his mane swaying whilst the subservient females and younger males trail in the moonlight, wreaths in the shadowed night, grunting warning to all of their readiness to unleash their awesome strength. Far off the demented call of the hyena. We can imagine its maniacally leering grimace and hunched posture as it trails the pride of lion at a safe distance for it has learnt first hand who holds the rank of seniority. The seemingly anguished calls of the timid little jackal also carries far into the night, a wary opportunist who slinks on the periphery of danger seeking the reward of a meagre morsel of meat. The haunting cry of the fiery-necked nightjar and the purring chirruping trill of the Scops owl add a softening cadence to this grand assembly of African vocalists. Together with the softly glowing coals of the low fire and the fatigue of a long day, one is slowly induced into a state of total relaxation and as you finally lie down to sleep, one’s final recollection is of being serenaded once more by the calls of the night.

I have walked the shores of Kariba in the footsteps of the mighty elephant, and stood as witness to the most beautiful sunsets that I could never hope to describe or portray adequately. The most gentle shades of golden red, blended with myriad textures of pinks and amber, a delicate back-drop to the most brilliant clouds of white, shuffled and manoeuvred by gentle breezes into layers to construct an alluring stairway to heaven. The owners of the land abound wherever one might be, but I consider myself to be blessed more than others in that I see much that others may overlook, whether this may be the confident passage of an African Jacana across a bridge of water lilies, or the way a Red-billed ox-pecker may hang inverted to wrestle that last parasite from the ear of a partially submerged hippo. We hunters are, I suppose a contradiction in the eyes of some, we love the land and the animals that it hosts more than the casual visitor and yet we hunt, crop, kill - call it what you will, but I hope that one understands that there are more feelings involved at the culmination of a successful hunt. When one has faced a mighty quarry, such as the buffalo, stalked him for hours so that your respect for him grows apace to your exhaustion, until at last you are able to watch him, assess his strength for you will find that his weaknesses are few until at last you may take your stand, knowing that if you fail the outcome of this challenge may end in your own death. With this in mind one should face the quarry with honour, and should you take his life, remember him with respect, do not scorn him as an adversary that has fallen before you. The memory of the taking of his life shall be with you for the duration of your own lifetime, the details etched in your mind indelibly fixed, and there will be times that they will intensify in your mind so that you feel as though you are re-living the experience, a re-enactment of some pre-ordained dream which enables you to relive the honour and to feel the glory once more. You will again in your mind see the valleys and the mountains that he lived in, taste the cool waters of the springs from which he drank and to feel a certain kinship, a sense of belonging to that era which has now drawn to a close.

I have seen men that have stood over a buffalo that they have shot, honoured him with those few moments of silence, admired him for what he was, and in those moments of regret shed a tear for their fallen quarry. I moved away for I feel that the hunter needs those quiet moments to come to terms with the taking of this very special animal, and those few tears made that hunter taller, more of a man in my estimation, for in his victory he appreciated the great sacrifice, acknowledged the passing of a great animal. That is not to say that I do not love to hunt buffalo, it is after all one of my greatest passions in life, but each time I kill one of the animals, I feel a strengthening of a bond to the land and its animals, an affinity that is always shadowed with regret. Were a man to feel nothing, experience no tinge of remorse, no hint of sorrow at the taking of this life, I would accuse this person of being unfeeling, being fettered by the chains of callousness and a soul that is as barren as a desert waste land, and having a heart that is tarnished by effrontery. For whilst the Book tells us in Acts 10: verses 12 and 13, “All manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air”, and then goes to say, “And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat”. I will concede that many do not share my convictions but I believe that we have a responsibility, a moral obligation to infuse some of these values to others, so that one day when our time here is past and we stand aside for the following generations as those before have done for us, the love for our land will flourish and be nurtured.

All these things have come to be a part of me, or rather I, a part of them. I do not see myself as an emissary of death, but rather as a product of this land, one that will cherish all that nature has to offer and to contribute all that I am able to in return so that others may also value this heritage. I know also that many may scoff at these views, hold my opinion in scorn, but no two people can walk the same road in life and cast the same shadow, but we all differ as it was meant to be, but as long as we can achieve the goal of preserving our land and all that it may hold, we may stand before our conscience and know that we have succeeded.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.5 October 1999
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