1950s Archive

South American Journey


continued (page 3 of 4)

Rollo said to me, “We will go hunting the wild boar tomorrow, you and I. I will get permits. I would like to use a Zulu spear, but we'll use guns. Then I will have the hotel chef cook the boar, African style.”

“I suppose so, Rollo. I don't want to be around when Uncle Willie gets one of his moods.”

It is always cold in the morning this high up. The green-yellow day is the color of ice, and the air is sharp and biting. I got up at dawn and got into rough clothes, and let Rollo put a hunting rifle in my hand. Two dark Indian boatbuilders were to be our guides. They had taken the day off from chopping out a boat from a solid tree trunk, and they had four small, mean-looking dogs who looked ready to bite anyone without notice. Rollo was in hunting brown, a long knife in his belt. We climbed up. We climbed down. We walked over rocks, went past spuming waterfalls that fell like feathers on ladies' hats. Unlike Uncle Willie, I enjoyed it all, and as the day grew brighter I felt one with the universe, the mountains,the steady roar of icy water, the slow pace of the guides, and even the surly dogs. In life there come a few moments when everything is just right, and all turmoil fades out. That is how it was the day I went after boar.

A guide made a hand motion, the dogs lowered their growls. Rollo, very erect, nodded, his big black body at ease and poised. There was a rattle of stones, the snap of a twig, and then out of some fruit-green bushes came a shaggy snout, two sharp, curved tusks stained with yellow, and the meanest-looking little eyes I'd seen since my last motion picture producer. Rollo held his hand up, the dogs ran forward, yipping, and I saw there were two of the wild pigs; I could smell them now, the gamy odor of living, four-legged animals.

The large boar came right at me, slashing a dog aside, and I knelt down to fire and got the blurred head right in the sights. I was calm, too calm, and reality was far away. At five yards I fired, the gun butt hit my shoulder, I ejected the empty shell and fired again. The boar coughed, leaped, turned to one side as if ashamed to show me his mean death. In a flash the dogs were all over him.

There was more firing. Rollo was running fast, for a fat man, a small boar slashing at his booced heels. The two Indians were laughing, but I was worried about other wild pigs. Rollo went up a tree, then pulled out a long hunting knife. He was shouting something that could only have been a Zulu war cry. He leaped down on the boar's back. The knife went high once, twice, and the pig ended in a whistling struggle for breath he never got. Rollo stood up and smiled. The Indians beat off the dogs and began to slit open the boars. One of the dogs didn't move.

Rollo said, “It was a grand fine hunt.”

I said, “I never saw anybody kill a boar by jumping on him.”

Rollo looked sadly at me and turned away as if I had mocked his tribal fetish. We came back to the hotel with the guides grunting under long poles bearing the two boars' bodies. We paid for the dead dog and the hunt.

Uncle Willie and Mollie came out, cocktail glasses in hand, and Uncle Willie kicked at the big boar and said, “That head looks like my colonel in the Life Guards when I was in the British Army. Old Horatio Waugh-Finnley, a proper old swine he was too selling the troops' rum ration and sending them boxes of prayer books instead of the cigarettes. Well, how shall we eat him?”

Rollo said,“I will direct the hotel chef to serve him Zulu style.”

Uncle Willie looked at Rollo, who was scratched and torn. “I hope not.”

I could see Uncle Willie was still in a bad mood as he went back into the bar.

Actually the way Rollo had the big boar baked was very satisfactory. He had a huge hole dug in the ground and lined it with stones, then put in glowing charcoal embers. The boar's liver was ground up and mixed with yams, milk, bread, chestnuts, and walnuts, then stuffed into the boar. Rollo sewed him up with a surgeon's skill. He larded the pig with olive oil, garlic, and ground ginger and wound him in large sheets of oiled paper. Banana leaves would have been better, but up here there are no banana leaves. Finally Rollo coated the pig with thick, wet red day. This big clay ball was let down into the live coals in the pit, more clay was put on top of it, and then dirt was shoveled over the pit. At noon the next day the pit was opened. Steam of savory roast boar floated in the air, mouths watered, and for the first time in the past three days, Uncle Willie showed some interest in life.

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