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Cure for the secondhand life

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Whether we realize it or not, Americans are often engaged in a life that is characterized by "secondhand" experiences. In a culture dominated by the media, fewer individuals experience life first hand – most seem to gain their insights and beliefs systems through the media and/or lives of people in the media. In a nation where spouses spend very little time talking, we are fascinated by reality television programs about marriage and relationships. Popular magazines and related television fare keep us updated on the latest divorce in Hollywood. In a nation where the majority of Americans are overweight and out of shape, we fixate on watching our sports teams on television – but not playing sports ourselves. Basically, many if not most of us live our lives vicariously – we watch it as spectators instead of participating in life directly.

What does this have to do with hunting? From a negative aspect, we will continue to maintain our right to hunt in a culture where most have not hunted, but have been fed unsubstantiated information about hunting through the media. All of us have met individuals who believe there are only three zebra left in all of Africa and that elk and deer are on the verge of extinction. Several years ago I was on the telephone with a South African Airways representative about an upcoming flight to South Africa. During the conversation, I mentioned that I was going on a hunting trip. The airline employee (an American based in the New York office) sarcastically stated that she thought hunters had already killed off all the animals in Africa. When I responded that there were still large populations of game, she angrily retorted "But will there be any left for my children to enjoy?" I doubt if this lady has been to Africa but she was absolutely adamant in her beliefs, no doubt based on an article or television program that she had been exposed to.

What I would like to concentrate upon, however, is a much more positive approach to how a secondhand life pertains to hunting. I propose that hunting offers one of the few remaining experiences in today’s world that allows us, however briefly, to experience life and issues first hand. Hunting, when done ethically and in a fair chase environment, potentially gives us a chance to reconnect with the basic issues of real life. The hunting experience can help ground us, not only while we are hunting, but when we return to our professional and personal lives. Hunting can help remind us of what is real and what is fake - what is important and what is frivolous. Hunting has the potential to allow us to glimpse a time in the past where life was first hand and often difficult, but certainly not plastic.

The salesperson was talking to the potential customer about the new widescreen plasma television that stood before him. I could hear him elaborating about special features, color quality, and surround sound capabilities. I could see from the customer’s entranced look the he was close to pulling out his credit card and making a purchase that cost more than my first new car.

We were returning late from a long day of hunting in Mozambique. Shortly before dark, I had taken a nice old water buck bull and we were driving to camp in pitch dark blackness. As we rounded the bend near the camp, I was stunned by the sight of hundreds of thousands of fireflies in the swamp next to our dining area. The display of twinkling lights stretched for what seemed a mile and far exceeded anything that a department store has ever put together for the Christmas season. I would sit by the fire until bedtime, facing nature’s "light show" and listening to the animal and insect sounds of an African night.

The young man on the other end of the telephone was telling me that the salary connected with the job offer he had just received was too low for his experience and skills. He was seemingly offended that the company did not appreciate his credentials or qualifications and was going to decline their offer. Though recently unemployed, and with two small children and "stay at home" wife, he felt he should wait until someone offered him what he was worth.

Isaac, my professional hunter, and I were sitting around a mopane wood fire in the cold Tanzanian night when the man literally stepped out of the darkness. He was a young Masaai warrior or "morani", wrapped in his traditional red blanket and carrying his long spear. He spoke in his language to the PH, who relayed that the young man wanted to know if I would like him to provide him with some Masaii "souvenirs". After making a request for two blankets and one of their short swords or "simis", the order came to less than twenty dollars. I then noticed the morani appeared embarrassed and he whispered something to the PH. Isaac grinned and told me that the young man was asking if I would be willing to give him five dollars for "fetching" the articles. I quickly replied that I would be happy to and he smiled, nodded, and disappeared into the night.

Several days later we returned to the main camp after hunting buffalo from a fly camp on top of the mountain and were again relaxing around the campfire. As he had done before, our entrepreneur appeared from nowhere and handed me my merchandise. I paid him for the items and then handed him a five dollar bill and his smile showed his genuine appreciation for this small "service charge" he had received. On an impulse, I reached into my pack and retrieved a disposable light stick. When I activated the light for him, I thought his smile would crack open his face as he saw this wonderful magic.

As the Masaii walked back into the night towards his village, the PH shook his head and said that the young man had certainly earned his $5 and his light stick. When I asked him in what way, Isac informed me that the trading post where the morani had traveled to purchase the items was 35 miles away. He had basically traveled through the desert for 70 miles to earn five dollars.

I had just finished providing a training program for law enforcement managers at a conference in a Texas city that was located on the Mexican border. As the hotel shuttle driver drove me back to the airport, we passed several large commercial buses traveling towards the Mexican checkpoint. Noticing my stare, the shuttle driver explained that the buses contained wealthy and elderly American women. He added that they were going into Mexico for their monthly injections of a solution derived from gold. These injections, illegal in the United States, each cost over $1,000 and were purported to make the recipients regain their youthful beauty.

I was riding in the back of the Land Cruiser in desert like conditions in Northern Tanzania, hunting for impala. The PH leaned over the cab of the Toyota and spoke to the driver, who stopped the vehicle and began to back up the dusty road. When we stopped I noticed an old Masaii warrior lying under the sparse shade of a small thorn bush next to the road. After the PH spoke to him, the old man with obvious weariness replied and pointed down the road. Isac looked at me and said, "I know we are trying to find an impala, but this old man has a bad case of malaria and is trying to make it to the village near the highway to get to a hospital in Arusha. Do you mind if we give him a ride? He has no strength left." I heartily agreed with his suggestion and the trackers help load the gray haired and emaciated man into the back of the truck.

As our new passenger sat on the hard metal of the truck bed, I asked the PH if malaria was widespread among the Masaii. He replied that it killed many of them, as they could not afford the medicine that would prevent or minimize the effects of the disease. As we drove many kilometers to the next village, I stared at the weary old man and thought of rich old ladies in the air conditioned buses paying $1000 a month to reduce wrinkles on their faces. I grabbed a bottled water from the ice chest and offered it to the sick man lying at my feet. He gave me a toothless grin and let one of the trackers open it and help him take a drink.

He was about twelve; my cousin’s youngest son and I watched him as played a "point and shoot" video game. The goal of the game was to rescue a captured astronaut held prisoner on an alien spaceship. After getting the astronaut out of his cell, I watched as he expertly shot attacking aliens as he moved through the ship. I asked him how often he was successful in winning the game. Without looking up or stopping playing, he replied that he never lost a game. I asked him how that was possible. He stated that if the game was not going well he would simply push the reset button and start over.

In the early morning light, we had spotted the herd of Cape buffalo feeding back into the forest, where it would be impossible to hunt them safely. We quickly moved towards the herd, using terrain and foliage to keep out of their sight. By the time we had closed the distance, the last few cows were entering the forest. The PH had spotted the bull at the back of the herd, but he was now hidden behind a small knoll directly in front of us. As he would be moving into view in just a few moments, I sat down and placed my rifle against the shooting sticks. I could not help but notice that there were no trees for us to climb in case I botched the shot and wounded one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.

As I was watching one of the cows stare at us, I heard the PH whisper "There is the bull, shoot him before he bolts!" There, 50 yards away, was the bull staring at us over the grassy hill, testing the air with his upraised nose and trying to get our scent. Since he was facing us and not completely on top of the knoll, the only shot I had was his neck. I placed the crosshairs of the scope at the center of his neck and pulled the trigger. At the shot, he dropped as if hit by lightning. I scrambled to my feet, chambered another round, and we skirted the hill to come up from behind him. We found him dead where he had fallen; the 375 H&H bullet had broken his neck. The trackers whooped and hollered and slapped me on the back.

Jack Enter is a law enforcement trainer who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He has hunted Africa on seven different occasions

I glanced at the PH and watched him visibly breathe a sigh of relief. As he shook his head, he looked at me and said, "You are a very lucky man."

I could not agree more.

Jack Enter

• Hunting Elephant in Mopani •
• African Pride •
• Third time's the Charm •
• 4 Paces from Death •
• Hunting with the San •
• Terminal Medicine •
• Cure for the secondhand life •
• The Journeyman •
• When things go right •
• When things go right Part 2 •
• The hunt is over - but the memories remain •
• Silent assasins •

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