True African Lion Hunters Tale
Remember Mungo Park?
No, not in London or New York, but here in Africa. Well, sort of. His name was in fact, Mungo Park and he was an early, Scottish-born, British adventurer. As an explorer for the British African Association from 1794, he had two major explorations of West Africa until his death, in Africa at the age of 35 in 1806, while looking for Timbuktu. As Mungo tells it and I recount, the story about some West African lion hunters goes something like this.
Many years ago… somewhere in Africa… in Park’s time, there were a people on the Gambia (river) who were troubled by a huge marauding, male lion with the power to kill fully grown large cattle and as a result, did a lot of damage in the district. So much so, that a posy of local lion hunters were put together to hunt down and kill the monster. After searching for some time, they found the beast lurking in a thicket. Having guns in those days, they were much braver than the earlier posies of long ago and promptly shot it. Well, that was to be the end, right? No! In fact, it became the beginning of a strange, tragic and somewhat amusing incident of what happened to these brave, but not too clever, lion hunters.
The lion was naturally upset for being shot and more so for being wounded and sprang furiously out of the brush at its assailants. Not being quite aware of the severity of its wound, it fell short of the mark and lay there on the ground, stunned. The happy-go-lucky hunters made a hasty retreat and looking back, found no chase in the lion, so they stopped… running that is. Behind them, the lion lay crouched, exploding with sounds of great anger. The lion hunters, with time to think, arrived upon an idea to capture this now disabled monster instead. The reason for this clever plan – rather than shooting it – was to sell it to some European traders at the coast for a fortune. Agreeing among themselves, they simply had to hatch a plan to capture him. Simple right?
While the intrepid hunters were creating plans one after another, an old man among them had a scheme which seemed to strike a note with many of his compatriots. His idea, simply remove the thatch from one of their domed thatch buildings whilst keeping the frame intact. This contraption the group would carry on their shoulders toward the lion and drop it over him. But should the lion revive and attack them, they would apply the safety of the frame to defend themselves by dropping it over themselves. Then, with all safely inside, shooting the lion would be their only option and in the doing, lose their live trophy.
Springing to work and stripping off the thatch of the designated hut was quickly dispensed with, then securing any loose laths. Before leaving, the hunters rehearsed their plan which involved dropping the hut-cage over the now wounded lion, thereby trapping it securely inside for transport to the coast. But if attacked by the lion, their procedure would be to drop to the ground with all safely inside the cage, taking action against the lion, shooting through the sturdy laths from inside the hut-cage in perfect safety. All agreed, they knew their plan. The first part completed, the second part of the plan sprang into action with the gun-toting hunters, carrying the make-shift, all-in-one, hut-cage on their shoulders, headed for the wounded lion.
The approach towards the lion was slow and cautious with the lion laying perfectly still and hopes were running high. A short distance from their prey, their plan proved over-ambitious, when suddenly, the once-stunned lion, now revived, came careening straight for them. The men with one accord, dropped the hut-cage on top of the lion with all of them still inside, making a ready meal for the lion. All those watching, were mortified by what happened, because the men of that district were known for their superior stature and bravery. It appears planning was not one of their strong suits.
It so happens that no traveler in his right mind will repeat this story in that district ever again.
The moral of the story you say? Be happy with what you have, unless you can think big with proven assets.
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