From Boatsheds to Battlefields 41 Going Hunting

End of 40th Entry: Mr. Tracey after a month called the lad into his office.

Quite kindly, he held a post-mortem on the past month as regarded Mick’s share – told him he was a likable lad, abounding with energy and with a fair amount of ability at handling stock and implements.

However he had engaged Mick as an assistant manager on a big business proposition – Mick knew absolutely nothing of bookkeeping or clerical work, had no control over native labour, had shown no initiative and was far too young.

He was sorry but he did not want a pupil, had no position as a farm foreman and his only requirement was that of a fully qualified farm manager.

In accordance with their agreement, he would pay Mick three month’s salary and thought if convenient Mick might leave the day after next when he would be going into town and could give him a lift in.

Mick stumbled out his eyes misty and his heart like lead. He had revelled in the life – plenty of riding, chasing cattle and ostriches, the perfect scenery in which it was a neverending delight to work – friendly charming people and the best of meals and comfort.

In his bedroom the lad throwing himself on his bed mournfully reviewed the position – in a couple of weeks there was going to be a big springbok hunt – hours of wild excitement with galloping like blazes over the soft springy turf after a herd of bounding flying buck – shooting from the saddle, pulling up to leap off for an opportunity to pick off some of the herd driven down by a line of racing horsemen.

Then there were a couple of Bushbuck drives coming with plenty of risk from a savage devil of a wounded ram and chances of seeing a bush pig and perhaps even a herd of Kudu.

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Apart from the hunting, he loved the work especially the luncheon hour which he generally spent at the lands miles from the homestead – here along the river fringed with massive trees half buried in monkey ropes, wild mistletoe and ivy one often saw the Springbok gazing in the luscious river grass or spotted a duiker or steenbuck daintily nibbling at some choice titbit.

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Then the wind crags, the sea of bush stretching down to the Fish River – the native kraals perched on the steep hillside – he simply couldn’t leave it all.

Early next morning Mr. Tracey with kindly thoughtfulness told Mick to take a rifle and get into the bush to see if he could find a buck.

Armed with a double-barrelled combination gun – one barrel fired, the other smoothed bored, Mick plentifully supplied with ammunition went forth. At Carnarvon, he had done some shooting but hares and Namaqua partridges had been the only game on the farm whereas now he was venturing into the heavy bush which was known to contain leopards, Cynx, kudu, bushbuck and a score of other species of game – even buffalo had been seen now and again.

Taking off boots and socks Mick stole from tree to tree thinking every Red Indian tale he had ever heard. Sometimes he lay for what seemed hours on the fringe of a tiny glade – other times he crouched long in the shadow of a tree – again and again, an opportunity presented itself – a tiny blue buck, smallest of all the antelopes, a troop of guinea fowl, bush partridges, innumerable pheasants even red steenbok and grey stealthy duiker.

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But Mick scorned the small fry. He was going to get a leopard, kudu or bushbuck or perhaps a buffalo – nothing less would content him and his heart’s desire came to him – all of a sudden he found himself almost in the act of treading on a sleeping bushbuck ram.

It speaks volumes for the lad’s scouting ability that he was ever able to get as close – but to actually catch the shyest of all game and the most sensitive of forest creatures asleep was an almost unparalleled feast.

Mick saw the bushbuck at the same time that the bushbuck saw him – up went the gun and as the cartridge exploded one hundred and sixty pounds of pure undiluted devil armed with two curved pointed horns charged in one desperate leap – Bang! spoke the other barrel and with a heavy bullet and a charge of buckshot at a range of perhaps three yards the beautiful black bodied, white-bellied antelope driven out of his course by the heavy impact crashed head down a few yards from Mick.

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Mad with excitement the foolish lad dropped his gun and drawing a heavy sheath knife flung himself on the animal – fortunately it was stone dead or Mick’s career would have ended there and then.

Filled with joy and pride, full content to once more place himself in Fate’s hands Mick returned to the homestead no longer worrying about anything.

Next day a precious pair of beautiful horns safely packed Mick said goodbye and two days later laughing with happiness climbed the gangway of a Union-Castle Line in Port Elizabeth saying to himself, “Anyway I’ve seen the Eastern Province, shot a big bushbuck ram and have a good sea trip in front – I’ve bags of clothes, a damn fine riding kit, and five quid over.”

“I guess I know a bit about the world now so I’m going to Rhodesia and I don’t care a hang what anyone thinks.”