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Bowhunting Namibia with people you don't like

The orange Namibian sun sank over the horizon to find us making a large camel thorn fire.

There were four of us on the hunt this time: three very good friends and an arrogant, irritating, red-haired government employee by the unfortunate name of Cyril van Hoogard.

Cyril is one of those civil servants who has few qualifications and little character. But there was one thing that made Cyril’s life worth living: he had the power to sign cheques , delay (or expedite) payments and make life hell for independent contractors who only wanted a good day’s pay for a job well done.

Danes is an independent contractor, and he has brought Cyril here in the hope that life would be a little easier for him after this trip.

We realized our mistake on the very first evening.

Instead of three friends talking around the fire of things that only the best of friends share, there was the constant arrogant loud mouthing by Cyril.

It got worse around the time he finished his ninth double Klipdrift and coke. He burped loudly and moved his tongue around to get the taste of it. His piggy eyes sized us up and he started his nonsense.

He knew that he was not there because of friendship but because of his position of power over Danes. He talked down on everyone, secure in the knowledge that none of us would dare say anything that would upset him and so damage our friends’ business.

He boasted of his bow, his extramarital affairs and his superior hunting and survival knowledge. He argued that his bow is the best, that his camo works better than ours and that he is the best bowhunter in Namibia.

“You people do not know about bowhunting man. It is because you shoot those Hoyt bows of yours. You should get a decent bow – then you would get something bigger than a little Springbuck.” He smiled contentedly at the depth of his own wisdom and licked his fat lips.

Cyril was not a handsome man. He was overweight and his camo pants were so tight around the belly they seemed on the verge of exploding. His red hair was thinning and he combed it carefully over the top of his head to cover his pink pate. He has small, pale eyes and almost no neck.

As he spoke, I looked at him. The thick sausages of his fingers clutched his drink. They had curly red hair on them. I noticed that Cyril did not go overboard on personal hygiene and his fingernails carried the dirt of weeks.

Like all arrogant people, he was completely unaware of his own stupidity and the company he was in. He did not know is that Danes and I started bowhunting in Namibia more than 20 years ago – and it was still illegal in those days. Danes has shot more animals with his old Hoyt than he can remember – from giraffe to warthog, eland, kudu and gemsbuck. Kobus is a medical doctor.

I looked at Danes on the other side of the campfire. He stared quietly at his feet, saying nothing. I wondered how much more of this he would take.

On and on Cyril went. Our annual hunting trip was headed for disaster.

Cyril let off a loud fart, laughed and headed for the bush toilet with his drink in his hand.

“Danes, I’m going to smack this idiot. I can’t take any more of his crap” Kobus was over six feet tall and skinny as a bullwhip. I knew he was serious. We all saved for a year to come and hunt and now our trip was wasted.

But I knew it was just talk. Danes’ business was in danger, and if this red fool left the hunt unhappy it would be closed down. We both looked up at Danes, expecting him to ask us to please bear with Cyril for these few days.

“One more of his wisecracks about his wife and I’m going to pop him myself. She is a decent woman.” He shook his head and frowned. Then he leaned forward, and, to our astonishment, said: “Let’s get him.”

Just then Cyril’s unlovely voice reached us from the bush toilet. “You guys don’t know pain until you have had piles. Mine are the size of oranges and they bleed like you slaughtered a pig!”

We all stared into the fire, secretly enjoying the thought of Cyril’s suffering. He stumbled back to the fire and quickly dispatched the rest of the brandy.

One bottle down, one to go. But Cyril never finished the second bottle. Some time during the depressed silence around our campfire Cyril uttered a gentle sigh, dropped his glass, sank even lower into his chair and started snoring loudly. He was out like a light.

We looked at each other.

“He’s your client, Danes”. Kobus had said his piece and considered the expanse of the Namibian night sky. I remembered that my knife needs sharpening.

Danes tried, but it turned out Cyril proved too much for him. It was like trying to carry a bag of sand -very heavy and no place to hold on to. This bag was smelly and noisy, too. We relented, grabbed an arm each and with Danes at the boots we got Cyril onto his bed.

“You going to undress him and put on his little nighties?” I gave Kobus a conspiratory elbow in the ribs. Danes whipped his head around and fixed me with his hunter’s stare.

“Like hell. He can freeze for all I care.”

“Hold it. I have a plan.” Kobus disappeared with speed, leaving Danes and me staring at the unlovely and open-mouthed Cyril. A shiny sliver of drool was already creeping down to the pillow. It blew a little bubble with every snore.

Kobus returned, smiling that almost-nasty smile of his. He had in his hand a 18-inch length of Springbuck intestine taken from the buck we shot earlier.

“Watch this.”

With difficulty he turned Cyril on his side. He loosened Cyril’s pants. Danes shot me a nervous look, but I pulled up my shoulders and shook my head.

He pulled the underpants away from the pudgy buttocks. Using a stick he pushed the Springbuck intestine deep down between the plump, milky white buttocks. I could not help but notice they were covered with frizzy red hair and shuddered.

“Now let Mr. Piles sleep”, he said.

The rest of the evening was spent sharing hunting stories, talking about politics and our families under the coldtall, open sky – in peace, this time. When it grew silent and only a lone jackal called in the distance, the cold crept in and we went to bed.

I heard it in the silent half-dark of the freezing pre-dawn. The sound cut through my half-asleep state and shocked me wide awake.

It was the low, desperate moan of a wild animal in the deepest agony. The eerie sound grew softer and ended in several soft, deep sobs before it started again. I ran outside to see Danes and Kobus as they stumbled bewildered out of their tents. The strange animal wail was coming from Cyril’s tent.

Superstitious dread gripped us and we stared wide-eyed at each other. He was Danes’ client and without him the business was going to go under. In a tight, safe group - knives in hand - we approached the tent and opened the flap to face the unknown.

Cyril was lying on his back in a birthing position. His face was wet with terrified tears. The veins in his forehead stood out as if ready to burst. A petrified grimace twisted his fat face and his eyes pleaded with us for urgent help.

The loud and arrogant misfit had turned into a frightened and crying little schoolboy.

Mitch Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of several books on African wildlife and survival

It seems that in the early dawn the still half-drunk Cyril woke to find the cold intestines in his pants. He must have concluded that his piles were taking a serious turn for the worse.

We were just in time to see Cyril push the last of the cold and slippery Springbuck intestine back into himself.

Freely adapted from a story told by the late Tolla van der Merwe. Only the facts were changed.

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