The Land of the Lion
The Land of the Lion – OF BOOKS on African sport and travel truly there is no end. What excuse then, can I make for adding another to their number ? Frankly, my first reason was the pleasure the writing of these notes afforded me.
My memory has never been a good one, and after years
of somewhat hard work, I find, alas! it is less and less
serviceable. If I wish to retain vivid impressions myself of what seems worth remembering, or if I wish to convey the result of my impressions to others, I find it necessary to make copious notes at the time.
In this way I fell into the habit of writing down as I went along, some accounts of what I saw, and sometimes of what I heard.
Then you cannot travel every day and all day, in Africa. There are long hot afternoons to be passed, and occasionally long wet days to be wiled away, and since it is not always easy to carry many books, writing of some sort seems the natural thing to do.
I fear the results of such a method of writing will be only too apparent in these notes of mine. For notes they were in the first instance, made on horseback (more accurately, mule back) as my faithful burden bearer walked soberly along, or jotted down on my knee, as I called my gun boys to a halt under the shade of some rock or tree, while I did my best to put into hasty form, some word sketch of the strange or beautiful things before me.
When I sat down more at my leisure, to reduce to orderly form what I had written, I did not find it always possible to do so.
I can only, then, plead for the indulgence of my reader, and add, by way of excuse, that what is here put down any claim at least the merit, such as it is, of being the result of an effort to state accurately what I saw, and at the time I saw it.
As to the stories told, I have made place for none except such as I heard from men who were themselves actors in them, or else were present when the things they tell occurred.
‘The Railroad Lion” stories are, of course, an exception, and they have been told before. But, then, few Americans have heard them. They are very well authenticated, and, I think, deserve re-telling.
Then, again, I have another reason, and one of some weight. If an Englishman wants to go to any part of Africa, he can probably find someone in the next parish who has been there for years; an American cannot so easily get reliable information.
I have found it very difficult to obtain the sort of information I require. The literature on the subject is voluminous. Africa always was supremely interesting to me, and for years I have read what I could lay my hands on, as I always hoped, someday, to take the journeys I have made within it. But read as I might, and question many sportsmen and travelers as I did, I found myself, once I was in Africa, and had started on sefari life very poorly informed indeed.
One man says, “Go by all means in the wet season,” another, “As you value your health, don’t go in the wet season go in the dry.” When is the wet season? Says one: “It begins in March and is over in June.” Says another: “It begins in June and goes on till September.”
Africa is a hard country to find the truth about before you come; and to sift out the truth from all abounding exaggeration and inaccuracy, when you are there.
Want of accurate information wrecked my first expedition. I had a pleasant time, it is true, and saw a great deal of game; but failed to go where I wanted to go, or get what I most wanted to get.
Now, after a year’s constant travel, during which I have ridden and walked more than five thousand miles, I really think I have some knowledge that is not without its value about the country the best place to go for certain sorts of game; the most beautiful and healthy parts of it; the sort of sefari to gather round you, and how to control and manage it, so that your men are contented and happy, and the days passed with your black folk are a pleasure to both yourself and them, and not what, unfortunately, they too often are when ignorant or thoughtless sportsmen hurry their men from point to point, misunderstanding and dislike increasing as they go.
I have learned, too, a good deal about African hunting; how it should be done to-day, and that, I can assure my reader, even if he has hunted as I have, in a great many different places, takes care and time African big game hunting is quite unlike any other.
These things that I have learned and seen, I have not been able, as I say, to find in any book, or gain from any sportsman. That may have been my fault or my misfortune, but the fact remains.
I have therefore resolved to publish the record of them, being confident that there are others who may wish to visit this beautiful country, and who need to gain all the information they can before doing so. Much time and expense are saved to the man who knows what he wants to do, and has at least some idea of how he intends to do it.
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