Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 19)( Page 5 ) Jocks Mistake

I have the impression--as one sees oneself in a nightmare--of a person throwing up his arms and calling the name of his child as a train passed over it. Jock lay limp and motionless, with the blood oozing from mouth, nose, and eyes.  I recollect feeling for his heart-beat and breath, and shaking him roughly and calling him by name; then, remembering the pool near by, I left him in the shade of a tree, filled my hat with water, ran back again and poured it over him and into his mouth, shaking him again to rouse him, and several times pressing his sides--bellows fashion--in a ridiculous effort to restore breathing. The old hat was leaky and I had to grip the rough-cut ventilations to make it hold any water at all, and I was returning with a second supply when with a great big heart-jump, I saw Jock heel over from his side and with his fore legs flat on the ground raise himself to a resting position, his head wagging groggily and his eyes blinking in a very dazed way. He took no notice when I called his name, but at the touch of my hand his ears moved up and the stumpy tail scraped feebly in the dead leaves. He was stone deaf; but I did not know it then.  He lapped a little of the water, sneezed the blood away and licked his chops; and then, with evident effort, stood up. But this is the picture which it is impossible to forget.  The dog was still so dazed and shaken that he reeled slightly, steadying himself by spreading his legs well apart, and there followed a few seconds' pause in which he stood thus; and then he began to walk forward with the uncertain staggery walk of a toddling child.  His jaws were set close; his eyes were beady black, and he looked `fight' all over.  He took no notice of me; and I, never dreaming that he was after the koodoo, watched the walk quicken to a laboured trot before I moved or called; but he paid no heed to the call.  For the first time in his life there was rank open defiance of orders, and he trotted slowly along with his nose to the ground.  Then I understood; and, thinking he was maddened by the kick and not quite responsible for himself, and--more than that-- admiring his pluck far too much to be angry, I ran to bring him back; but at a turn in his course he saw me coming, and this time he obeyed the call and signal instantly, and with a limp air of disappointment followed quietly back to the tree.

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick (Chapter 19)( Page 4 ) Jocks Mistake

No two days were quite alike; yet many were alike in the sense that they were successful without hitch and without interest to any but the hunters; many others were marked by chases in which Jock's part--most essential to success--too closely resembled that of other days to be worth repeating.  On that day he had, as usual, been the one to see the wildebeeste and had `given the word' in time; the rest was only one straight shot.  That was fair partnership in which both were happy; but there was nothing to talk about. There was very little wanton shooting with us, for when we had more fresh meat than was required, as often happened, it was dried as `bultong' for the days of shortage which were sure to come. I started off early next morning with the boys to bring in the meat, and went on foot, giving Snowball a rest, more or less deserved.  By nine o'clock the boys were on their way back, and leaving them to take the direct route I struck away eastwards along the line of the pools, not expecting much and least of all dreaming that fate had one of the worst days in store for us: "From cloudless heavens her lightnings glance" did not occur to my mind as we moved silently along in the bright sunshine. We passed the second pool, loitering a few minutes in the cool shade of the evergreens to watch the green pigeons feeding on the wild figs and peering down curiously at us; then moved briskly into more open ground. It is not wise to step too suddenly out of the dark shade into strong glare, and it may have been that act of carelessness that enabled the koodoo to get off before I saw them.  They cantered away in a string with the cows in the rear, between me and two full-grown bulls.  It was a running sho --end on--and the last of the troop, a big cow, gave a stumble; but catching herself up again she cantered off slowly.  Her body was all bunched up and she was pitching greatly, and her hind legs kept flying out in irregular kicks, much as you may see a horse kick out when a blind fly is biting him. There was no time for a second shot and we started off in hot pursuit; and fifty yards further on where there was a clear view I saw that the koodoo was going no faster than an easy canter, and Jock was close behind. Whether he was misled by the curious action, and believed there was a broken leg to grip, or was simply over bold, it is impossible to know. Whatever the reason, he jumped for one of the hind legs, and at the same moment the koodoo lashed out viciously.  One foot struck him under the jaw close to the throat, `whipped' his head and neck back like a bent switch, and hurled him somersaulting backwards.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick ( Chapter 19 )( Page 3 ) Jock's Mistake

Snowball was villainously slow and bad to lead.  He knew that whilst being led neither whip nor spur could touch him, and when loaded up with meat he dragged along at a miserable walk: one had to haul him.  Once-- but only once--I had tried driving him before me, trusting to about 400 pounds weight of koodoo meat to keep him steady; but no sooner had I stepped behind with a switch than he went off with a cumbrous plunge and bucked like a frantic mule until he rid himself of his load, saddle and all.  The fact is one person could not manage him on foot, it needed one at each end of him, and he knew it: thus it worked out at a compromise: he carried my load, and I went his pace! We were labouring along in this fashion when we came on the wildebeeste again.  A white man on foot seems to be recognised as an enemy; but if accompanied by animals, either on horseback, driving in a vehicle, leading a horse, or walking among cattle, he may pass unnoticed for a long while: attention seems to be fixed on the animals rather than the man, and frank curiosity instead of alarm is quite evidently the feeling aroused. The wildebeeste had allowed me to get close up, and I picked out the big bull and took the shot kneeling, with my toe hooked in the reins to secure Snowball, taking chance of being jerked off my aim rather than let him go; but he behaved like an angel, and once more that day a single shot was enough. It was a long and tedious job skinning the big fellow, cutting him up, hauling the heavy limbs and the rest of the meat up into a suitable tree, and making all safe against the robbers of the earth and the air; and most troublesome of all was packing the head and skin on Snowball, who showed the profoundest mistrust of this dark ferocious-looking monster. Snowball and I had had enough of it when we reached camp, well after dark; but Jock I am not so sure of: his invincible keenness seemed at times to have something in it of mute reproach--the tinge of disappointment in those they love which great hearts feel, and strive to hide!  I never outstayed Jock, and never once knew him `own up' that he had had enough.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jock Of The Bushveld by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick ( Chapter 19 )( Page 1 ) Jock's Mistake

Half-way between the Crocodile and Komati Rivers, a few miles south of the old road, there are half a dozen or more small kopjes between which lie broad richly grassed depressions, too wide and flat to be; called valleys.  The fall of the country is slight, yet the rich loamy soil has been washed out in places into dongas of considerable depth.  There is no running water there in winter, but there are a few big pools--long narrow irregularly shaped bits of water--with shady trees around them. I came upon the place by accident one day, and thereafter we kept it dark as our own preserve; for it was full of game, and a most delightful
spot.  It was there that Snarleyow twice cleaned out the hunter's pot.
Apart from the discovery of this preserve, the day was memorable for the reason that it was my first experience of a big mixed herd; and I learned that day how difficult the work may be when several kinds of game run together.  After a dry and warm morning the sight of the big
pool had prompted an off-saddle; Snowball was tethered in a patch of good grass, and Jock and I were lying in the shade.
When he began to sniff and walk up wind I took the rifle and followed, and only a little way off we came into dry vlei ground where there were few trees and the grass stood about waist high.  Some two hundred yards away where the ground rose slightly and the bush became thicker there was a fair-sized troop of impala, perhaps a hundred or more, and just behind, and mostly to one side of them, were between twenty and thirty tsessebe.  We saw them clearly and in time to avoid exposing ourselves: they were neither feeding nor resting, but simply standing about, and individual animals were moving unconcernedly from time to time with an air of idle loitering.  I tried to pick out a good tsessebe ram, but the impala were in the way, and it was necessary to crawl for some distance to reach certain cover away on the right. Crawling is hard work and very rough on both hands and knees in the Bushveld, frequent rests being necessary; and in one of the pauses I heard a curious sound of soft padded feet jumping behind me, and looking quickly about caught Jock in the act of taking his observations.  The grass was too high for him to see over, even when he stood up on his hind legs, and he was giving jumps of slowly increasing strength to get the height which would enable him to see what was on.  I shall never forget that first view of Jock's ballooning observations; it became a regular practice afterwards and I grew accustomed to seeing him stand on his hind legs or jump when his view was shut out--indeed sometimes when we were having a slow time I used to draw him by pretending to stalk something; but it is that first view that remains a picture of him.  I turned at the instant when he was at the top of his jump; his legs were all bunched up, his eyes staring eagerly and his ears had flapped out, giving him a look of comic astonishment.  It was a most surprisingly unreal sight: he looked like a caricature of Jock shot into the air by a galvanic shock.  A sign with my hand brought him flat on the ground, looking distinctly guilty, and we moved along again; but I was shaking with silent laughter.