South Africa is the queen mother of all brothels.
When you talk to a man with soft hands who claims to have killed an elephant, you have to wonder what reason a man with soft hands has for doing such a thing. Unlike Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes, elephants are not high on the 1st world list of threats to humanity.
My job was to portray the gentlemanly sport of big game hunting as genteel and aristocratic, which is not at all like it really is. What it is, is paying for pussy. I mean how else does a man with soft hands end up with an elephant head on his wall?
My employer wanted me to make him look important and distinguished. He wanted to make sure the world knew of his international exploits, so long as they met the first two criteria. My photographs of him have been published in prestigious hunting magazines that are read by tricks everywhere. I guess that makes me famous.
I did my job perfectly. He knew I would and this is why I got the gig, but I wasn’t happy.
My employer, who usually looked to me for council, had become deaf in both ears and was making an international ass of himself. An adolescent boy with a rifle; spending big money to kill big animals, running his mouth like a fool and fucking his mistress who was a carbon copy of his wife. I would have let all this slide, had he been nice to me, but seeing as how that was evidently not part of the plan I decided to show him what big game hunting looked like to me.
I shot his photos, the ones he wanted, and then I shot my photos, the ones I wanted him to see. For every one magazine ready portrait, I shot hundreds of gruesome images: tongues lolling from bleeding mouths, heads with lifeless eyes hanging from the back of flat bed trailers, pools of blood in the sand, ripped skin.
I was commissioned to photograph an ego maniac’s big game hunt in South Africa. It seemed like a bad idea, but it also seemed like a free trip to Africa.
What kind of idiot fool would say no to a free trip to Africa?! On the other hand, what kind of idiot fool would say yes?
It took 27 hours to reach our destination on the dark continent and, even though our crew rolled in at 4:00 in the morning, we were greeted at the lodge by a cheerful welcome committee. They presented us with snacks and tall glasses of a fruity potion that tasted like air freshener. I sipped at my Glade Hawaiian Breeze and thought of motel rooms with pineapple bed spreads and torn curtains.
Other workers gathered our luggage and toted it to our cabins. “Be careful walking on the lighted paths at night”, they warned us, “The light attracts insects and the insects attract frogs and the frogs attract Black Mambas, so watch where you put your feet.”
There were some other things our hosts failed to mention, like what to do about the palm sized spider poised directly over the bed. It was working a crossword puzzle and knitting a sweater while waiting for the perfect moment to repel from the ceiling. Spiders have lots of eyes so they are good at multitasking. Arachnid motives, however, are difficult to discern. This one wanted to turn my face into a cocoon, or maybe not.
“Cocoon” – a 6 letter word for Smothering Silk.
Too tired to care, I fell asleep and was not bothered by the twinkle of round lemur eyes peering through the window.
The dark hills of South Africa are filled with baboons. They hide in trees, scanning the landscape with human eyes, barking monkey messages to their monkey brethren and smiling broadly so the sun glints off their razor sharp lion teeth. To hunt a baboon is both murderous and futile. While a human predator camps out in the bush, waiting for an unsuspecting beast to wander in front of his gun, the baboons are stripping his truck and using the parts to build a spaceship.
Troops of baboons crowd the shoulders of the highway; making obscene hand gestures and waiting for food scraps, live chickens or unwanted children to be thrown from the VW Buses rattling non-stop up and down the wrong side of the road. You never, ever see a dead baboon in the road. They don’t get hit by cars. The same cannot be said of dogs or boa constrictors but baboons understand traffic laws. A baboon always knows who has the right of way.
While it is not uncommon to see unemployable men camped in front of the general store; cooking fowl meat with a butane lighter and pissing in a Coke bottle, this is not a fate that would befall a baboon. They don’t smoke dope, grow delirious from malaria, or live in shanty towns. A baboon does not call plywood and a tarp with a house number a house, nor is it a master of exploitation. A baboon knows it’s place in the scheme of things.
A successful predator in any environment, this intelligent, albeit ugly, lion-monkey is a marvel of nature. If I were you, I wouldn’t fuck with the baboons. They know where you live.