Tales From The Dark Continent: The Zebra

Zebra_bw

When visiting the Dark Continent, you can order up animals to kill from a menu, like a do it yourself restaurant. When you think of it that way, it’s difficult to imagine going to a steak house and paying $14,000 to go hunt your own steer, even if you do get to keep it’s head, but whatever.

He killed a zebra. That’s right, my employer paid $14,000 to kill a zebra. A zebra. While technically not a horse, it’s pretty much a horse. John Wayne and The Lone Ranger rode horses. The horse is how the west was won. You know, Hi-yo Silver!, and all that shit. Girls love horses. I’ve seen The NeverEnding Story at least 100 times and still cry when Artax sinks into the Swamp Of Sadness. This zebra hunting business didn’t sit well with me. It seemed no different than hunting a dairy goat or a Saint Bernard. Horses, even if they are wild and striped, are a friend of man. Where’s the sport in that?

I wanted to tell him that zebra hunting was un-American but his mistress’s tongue was in his ear so he couldn’t hear me. After he shot the zebra, I heard him saying to the trackers, “Look how it’s fur glistens in the sun!” I looked down and saw I was standing in a little puddle of zebra blood. The clean up crew did their work; they wiped up all the mess and positioned the body like it was just taking a little nap, sunbathing in the African bush. I shot the photos, the ones that are now in magazines and on websites. When we were finished, some Africans were employed to scoot the stripey carcass on to a flatbed trailer. The trailer was 10 feet long so I don’t know why the zebra’s head didn’t fit, but they left it hanging off the end. While the good ole boys stood around congratulating themselves, I noticed that blood had begun to flow from the zebra’s nose and the soft skin around it’s mouth hung loosely, leaving the teeth naked and despondent. Drip drip drip drip drip. The boys were still pissing pretty pictures, one of them broke out a cigar.

We never ate any zebra steaks but a month or so later, back at the office, we ate some ham sandwiches. We sat around the glass table: my employer; myself; a girl who dropped out of homeschool because her parents, stating that girls shouldn’t put wood in their mouths, would not permit her to play the saxophone; and his mistress, who had come all the way from the Dark Continent and still didn’t realize she was the other woman. We sat there chewing on our sandwiches and it was during this meal that the International Hunter said the funniest thing ever. He said “You know what’s wrong with America? They don’t teach family values in school anymore.” I swallowed my food and said “You’re god damned right!”

He gave me a dirty look and I slurped on my juice box. It’s true what they say: knowledge is power.

2 thoughts on “Tales From The Dark Continent: The Zebra”

  1. I generally don’t mind hunting animals – if it’s actually hunting for food, and we are not talking about animals on the brink of extinction. This hunt sounds like a sad story, though, only to boost one guy’s self-esteem. Not good. The ending of your story – his final remark – is pretty telling.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Sorry for the delay in responding but I wanted to give you a real response. So here goes…

    It’s a totally different world out there in South Africa. For one thing, there is NO public land. Every inch of the whole place is privately owned. In addition to that, the population consists of about 80% blacks and 20% whites. The distribution of wealth, however, is exactly the opposite. Unemployment is officially at 23%, though I suspect it to be much higher than that. In 2009, there were 5.6 million people living with HIV, which was the highest reported number of any country. You can be driving through Johannesburg and go through a “nice” neighborhood in which every single house is surrounded by 8 foot electric fences topped with razor wire, and then right next door will be a five acre plot of “houses” that consist of plywood, tarps and stacks of old tires. These dilapidated structures will actually have house numbers on them. With regard to wildlife management, most of it is done by private land owners who own and operate game farms. This is far from an ideal situation but, it is what it is. On the plus side, the outfitters depend on the strength and health of their animals because they are raising big, beautiful specimens that they will sell to hunters for an outrageous price. While that may sound barbaric, there is always two sides to the coin. On the other side, outfitters will never over hunt their own populations. When you buy a tag for an animal, it is for one specific animal and god forbid you accidentally shoot the wrong one. The outfitters actually play an important role in wildlife conservation, primarily in that they maintain many species that would other wise be hunted to extinction by poachers. The other thing is that each game farm provides desperately needed jobs to people in their area. Most of the meat actually is eaten by someone, either served to the guests or consumed by the employees and their families. The hunters are ALL trophy hunters, which is something I take issue with but, as you can see, some good does come of it. It’s a sea of moral ambiguity to be sure. The reason I say all this is to try to illustrate the complexity of the big picture.

    The Dark Continent stories are about the distorted sense of ego and accomplishment that American hunters tend to develop while on safari. It’s the big boy’s playground and they do an impressive job of over-congratulating themselves for their triumphs when, in fact, it is the trackers, game wardens and professional hunters (known as the PH) who actually do all the work. Had my employer been left to his own devices on these hunts, I can guarantee that he would have come home with a prairie chicken and a hand full of squirrels, but he certainly didn’t let that stop him from being a totally pompous jackass in an attempt to look tough and important in front of the woman he was banging. Of course, everyone there EXCEPT the mistress knew he was married. She found out eventually – after she moved to the U.S. to be with him- but that’s a different story.

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