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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Trevor Lane for leading me astray in the first place, to “Chunkie” Beukes for taking me “north,” to “Bloodnut” Curtis for leading me further astray, to that legion of “cruel-heads” of Rhodesian ancestry who have filled my life with laughter and excitement, to the trackers and scouts who always stayed the course without whom this way of life would not have been possible.

Thanks to Lotti van der Byl for the quietude and the beautiful surrounds of Fairfield Farm where I managed to get most of this down.

Introduction

There is little doubt that, if the countries once known as the Rhodesias did nothing else, they produced men of character. When Cecil John Rhodes was assembling a band of men to send north into the unknown, in a sense he set the pace. Political correctness was not required. He was looking for resourceful and resilient types who were not faint of heart—confident, competent individuals who could work as a team and who possessed the skills required to build a nation.

This penchant for elitism set a precedent and proved highly effective. The country, against all odds, developed faster than any other in recorded history; it was wrenched from barbarism to First World civility in less than thirty years. Sadly, all the fruits of that enterprise and fortitude were later sacrificed at the altar of African nationalism, but that is another, more tragic story.

While lawyers, accountants, doctors, and administrators all played a vital part, the new country was vast and untamed. Bringing it under control required the services of intrepid men who could survive on their own in an unusual and sometimes hostile environment, and who could work with, rather than against, the indigenous African. That requirement bred a peculiar type of individualism and attitude toward race, but the Rhodesians showed a remarkable acumen for survival.

Somehow, out of that adversity, appeared a unique brand of humor that has lingered to this day. It is all about being able to laugh at oneself and at one’s real or imagined failings, no matter how dire the situation. And no member of this fraternity is allowed to believe that he can rise above it, no matter the extent of his wealth or position. It is a humbling ethos but also a bonding one, which has served as an important means of retaining a strong sense of camaraderie for an often besieged group of people through good times and bad. It has played an important role in keeping this dying breed together.

I am a product of this culture, and it is in this spirit that I have penned these stories. I hope I do not appear to be callous in my regard for my friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those about whom I write, are, or were, dear friends to whom I am forever indebted for bringing so much color, laughter, and excitement to my life. I consider myself very lucky to have lived so much of my time as part of their unusual brotherhood.

To some I fear these tales may appear to have a racist overtone. Again, I make no apologies. These stories are my attempt to re-create the actual scene, but they need to be seen in the correct context and understood in the spirit in which they are told. The relationship between the white hunter, farmer, or soldier and his African staff has always been a symbiotic one, with a great deal more symmetry than is obvious to the outsider. But it is not based on the conventional sense of what constitutes equality and so may indeed trigger outrage in the minds of some with a different perception of the awkward problems of ethnicity and race. The relationships I recount were generally happy, comfortable, and productive for all involved.

It seems to me that our present obsession with integration may sometimes be counterproductive. It has been my experience that people of different ethnic and racial groups do not always want to be forced into the same mix, where divergent cultures, values, and languages often make social interaction complicated and difficult.

What I can also affirm is that beneath the surface brashness, which sometimes may take on an abusive complexion, there is very often a well hidden but meaningful empathy that becomes obvious only in times of crisis. African hunting is replete with stories of members of the one racial group springing, almost instinctively, to the assistance of the other in the gravest of predicaments. That kind of selflessness is something one cannot be forced or paid to display. It grows as a result of mutual respect and admiration.

While these stories focus on specific events with, in many cases, the emphasis on the humorous, it must be said that all of those about whom I write, both black and white, have made significant contributions, sometimes at great physical risk to themselves, to save the Africa that we who appreciate the outdoors love so much.

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