After the foundation of the new settlement, for several years we were engaged in liberating the lands designated for pastures from wild animals. Literally everyone was involved in this work, including teenagers. Boys’ eternal pursuit of adventure found expression in hunting.
Now, of course, it’s impossible to remember how many animals – lions, buffaloes, rhinos, giraffes – got, because more than fifty years have passed since the last time I was on a big hunt. Yes, and forgotten the details and the details of these hunts. If I’m not mistaken, I got at least thirty to forty elephants and five rhinos.
As for the lions, there are at least five of them in my personal account. Why do I make such a reservation? The fact is that, going on a hunt, I always consistently followed two rules: never go alone and always have good horses. So, sometimes it was difficult to determine who exactly this or that trophy belongs to, but, strictly speaking, we didn’t really want to find out. When I went on a big hunt, I always took with me a couple of wagons in which the poor went. The meat of the hunted animals was given to them.
I was 14 years old when I got the first lion near the Renoster River. Leo got into the habit of attacking the animals in the pasture and killed several cows. Six hunters (I was the seventh in the team, but due to small age were not taken into account) decided to get even with the predator. The team was divided into two groups – three riders in each. I rode fourth along with my father, uncle and elder brother. As often happens on the hunt, the lion noticed us earlier than we did it, and roared terribly. The adults immediately dismounted and turned the horses so that they did not see the approaching lion. Everybody did this: if a horse sees a lion, it can be frightened and suffer.
I was armed with a rifle and charged to hold horses. The lion walked around us, and I saw him, crouching down and obviously ready to jump. It seemed to me then that he was preparing to jump on horses. And at that moment, when he was ready to take off in a jump from the ground, I shot. I was lucky: a bullet to him in a slaughter place, and already a dead lion, falling, almost crushed me under him. Having heard the shot, the hunters rushed to help me, but their help was not needed – the lion was already dead.
One of the hunters named Hugo, struck by the size of the lion’s canines, decided to measure them. Having nothing bad in my thoughts, I jumped on a fallen lion. And at that very second there came a chilling roar that scared Hugo so badly that he fell back and plopped down on his back.
The hunters were just shaking with laughter. After all, everyone knows that a certain amount of air remains in the lungs of a dead lion, and if you jump on his chest sharply, the air rushes out and the lion roars briefly, as if alive.
Hugo, of course, all this was known, but the lion’s growl sounded very unexpectedly, which was the cause of fright. He was so angry that he was going to ask me a good bashing, but other hunters tried to reassure him, convincing me that I had acted not by malicious intent, but solely by thoughtlessness.
I got the second lion in the valley of the Hex River at the foot of the Magalisberg mountain. That day, my uncle Teunis Kruger and I hunted antelope and chased a large herd. My horse was exhausted, lagging behind, and I was alone. After some time, I did not notice how I found myself in the middle of a resting pride. I understood all the hopelessness of trying to ride away from a full power of lions on a weakened horse.
One lion rose and rushed in my direction. After waiting for him to approach twenty steps, I raised my rifle and shot at him. The bullet hit the lion in the head, he fell, but quickly jumped up and rushed back to the pride. Not having reached several steps, he fell down dead. Encouraged by such success, I reloaded the rifle and began shooting at other lions, but, alas, to no avail: they rushed to run and after a moment disappeared into the thickets at the foot of the mountain.
A few years later I was hunting in these parts and at the same place I saw the Lion Pride again. I managed to get two lions, the others, like last time, found salvation in dense thickets.
At the Elephant River I happened to hunt for lions with a dog, which later became my faithful companion on various hunts. The dog followed the trail of a lion in the thickets and, when it discovered a lion, stopped and began to bark loudly, thus forcing the lion to begin to growl at her. When I approached, the dog ran off to the side. At the sight of a man, an enraged lion was ready to rush. And rushed. But at the time of the jump, the dog grabbed him from behind, and the bullet fired at close range exactly in place did its job.
The first hunt for rhinos did not leave vivid impressions. But the second one, in which my brother-in-law Nicolas Teunissen took part, will forever remain in the memory. However, this hunt could even be the last in my life. I’ll start the story about this by finding out that my rifle is out of order in the morning, so I was forced to take a double-barreled blaster gun. One barrel of the gun was damaged, so his fight was much weaker. In addition, I was aware that a shot on a rhino can only be effective when it comes to killer places where the skin is thinner.
We noticed three rhinos – a male and two females. They were white rhinos, the most dangerous, insidious and evil creatures. I told Nicholas to pursue two females, I myself wanted to first get a male, and then join Nicholas to help him finish the hunt faster. Overtaking the rhino, I jumped off the horse. The choice of location was not accidental. I expected that the rhino would run about ten paces away from me, which would give me the opportunity to fire a shot at the slaughterhouse. So it happened: the rhino was purely a bit the first shot.
I jumped on the horse and rushed at a gallop to where the shots were coming from. When I jumped, Nicholas shot the female rhino a second time. The wounded female tried to hide in dense thickets, I rushed after her. Nicholas shouted after me so that I would not dismount in any way, because otherwise I would not have the slightest chance of salvation if the rhino suddenly rushes at me.
I did not pay any attention to his warning, because I knew that he was prone to being too careful. Seeing a rhino a few meters away from me, I jumped off my horse. As soon as I was on the ground, a wounded female rhino rushed at me. Letting her in three or four meters, I aimed and pulled the trigger, but no shot followed. Misfire! The rhino was already too close to try reloading the gun. I turned and rushed to run for urine, but I tripped on the root and fell. The fall saved me from imminent death: at that instant that I was falling, the rhinoceros was trying to pry me with its horn. The horn only slid over the clothes without causing me any harm.
I lay prone, and the rhino crushed my face to the ground, clearly intending to trample. For a moment, the terrible force that pressed me slightly decreased, and I managed to roll over onto my back and shoot from the second trunk directly into the heart of the rhinoceros hanging over me. The rhino drew back, but after a few seconds it fell dead. I owed my miraculous salvation to not letting my gun out of my hands during the fall.
Nicholas, who saw the tragedy played out and hurried to help me, was extremely surprised to learn that I had come out of such a scrape, though well-crumpled, but alive, did not fail to reproach me once again with recklessness and rashness. By the way, for all the years spent on the hunt, it was the first and the last time when he had the right and reason to scold me for reckless behavior.
I remember a buffalo hunt that took place near the Birskraalspruit farm. We went on a hunt with six of us. Thick undergrowth about one and a half meters high served as a reliable shelter for herds of buffaloes. I was wading through the undergrowth, trying to see a buffalo and come up to it for a shot, but the undergrowth was so thick that I passed by a herd of buffalo without even noticing them. After some time, I literally stumbled upon another herd of buffaloes. Old bull threateningly went at me. Fortunately, his horns were so large that all the time they clung to the branches and trunks. This not only prevented him from attacking me, but, in turn, allowed me to wisely retreat and hide in the midst of a bush.
Backing back, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a herd of buffaloes, which I had gone unnoticed. Moreover, I almost stepped on a bull resting on the ground. The infuriated bull rushed at me, but on that day fortune was favorable to me, and I, though fairly frightened, got off only with torn clothes.
I remember another buffalo hunt. We were hunting with Nicolas Theunissen, already known to you, near Flashkraal. I shot at the buffalo, the girl was hiding in the thick underbrush. Chasing him on horseback was impossible. I dismounted and followed the trail, wanting to quickly get the wounded animal. Something made me look away from the trail. I saw a buffalo standing literally two steps away and preparing to attack. I prepared to shoot, but the gun misfired, so only flight could be my only salvation. In an instant, we changed places with a buffalo: the pursued became a pursuer.
Behind me was a swamp filled with water after the recent rains. I have not found anything better than to jump into it. The buffalo chasing me without hesitation followed me and flopped into the swamp.
Furious buffalo shook his head from side to side, trying to get me horns. Suddenly, one horn stuck in a tree hidden under a layer of mud and mud, and the buffalo froze with its head tilted to one side. Fate gave me a single chance, I thought then, and that I had the strength to grab my hands on the horn sticking out of the water, trying to lower the buffalo’s head into the water so that it choked. And I managed it! I felt that the resistance of the buffalo was weakening, and I decided to finish the job with a hunting knife hanging on my belt. When I let go of one hand in order to reach the knife, the buffalo with a sharp movement freed his head and pulled it out of the water. He was choking, his eyes were covered with mud, at that moment he could not see anything. I decided to take advantage of the situation, jumped out of the swamp and hid in the bushes. Buffalo, coming to himself, also jumped out of the swamp.
In 1845, we went hunting in the north of Transvaal, to the place where the Stenport River receives the waters of the River Specbe. We camped near the mouth of the river, and I went to the veld to hunt. About an hour later, I noticed the rhinos, dismounted, began to conceal them, and going up to the distance of the slaughter shot, I fired from the first barrel. The girl ran for me. I aimed, pulled the trigger, and then instead of a shot, there was an explosion. The lock, ramrod and left thumb lay on the ground in front of me, and the barrels of an explosion threw me behind my back. The left hand was literally torn to shreds, the flesh hanging in pieces. I was bleeding like a calf in a slaughterhouse. In order to somehow stop the bleeding, I wrapped a handkerchief around my arm.
When I finally got to the camp, I demanded that all the turpentine, which was in the camp, be brought to me. Any Boer knows that this is a reliable means of stopping bleeding. I sent my younger brother to the nearest farm, so he brought more turpentine. The doctor who came with him insisted on amputation. I refused.
The bleeding was stopped, it was necessary to do something with the rest of the bone protruding from the base of the left thumb which was torn off by an explosion. I took the knife and performed the operation myself. Since I did not have any painkillers, during the operation I told myself that I was performing a surgical operation on another person.
The women covered the wounds with powdered sugar; I occasionally removed the dead flesh with a pocket knife. Despite all the measures taken, the wounds healed very slowly. Worse, gangrene began to develop. Different methods of treatment did not give any result. Black spots began to rise to the shoulder.
Then it was decided to try another tool. They killed the goat, removed the stomach and cut it. I thrust my hand into the still warm stomach and held it there for some time. And surprisingly, this treatment has brought relief. By the time of the second such procedure, the state of the hand, according to the doctors, has noticeably improved. It took a long six months before the hand finally healed, but I did not wait for a full recovery and soon began to go hunting.