South of Botswana, Africa, near the Limpopo River is the Eland ranch, an expansive game reserve on a plateau high above the city of Johannesburg. The land here is covered in Acacia trees, bush veldt, and thorny waitabit bushes. Sophomore Marshall Gobba is stalking a herd of blue wildebeests.
The wind has changed several times throughout the day and spooked the herd. Jule, the group’s Zimbabwean tracker, finally found a spot downwind of the animals.
Throughout the safari, Gobba learned to recognize the musky smell emitted by the wildebeests as they rubbed their snouts on the Acaia trees.
His guide and ranch owner, Alex, peers through a dense swath of scrub brush.
“That’s a big bull,” Alex says in a thick Afrikaans accent. “Take that one.”
Gobba lies prone to the dirt and searches for a clear shot. Through 80 yards of heavy bush, the student takes aim.
He can only see a quarter of the animal: the neck. He aims and fires his .375 Holland & Holland. The shot rips through the animal’s throat, breaking its spine, before continuing upward through the right lung, the aorta, and finally lodges in her spine above the liver. The animal drops onto the dusty ground.
“That’s not a bull,” Alex yells as the group descends on the dead carcass. It was a small but beautiful young cow.
“Never mind,” the guide announces. “They’re best for making pies.”
The meat will be given to one of the 45 families who work and live on the ranch.
Many workers had come from Zimbabwe. A job in South Africa meant they would be able to feed their families. The Afrikaners prefer to hire industrious Zimbabweans over South Africans.
Andy, Gobba’s friend from Sacramento, has never seen African poverty before.
He is shocked to see families heat water by lighting a fire in an oil can. South Africans call this invention a “geezer.”
After a long day tracking wildebeest, blesbuck, warthog, kudu, and duikers, the hunting party arrives back at the lodge for dinner: brined ostrich meat, delicious wine, and brandy.
Once they have their fill, they go back into the bush. The guides scare up Guinea fowl and spring hares with spotlights.
As another long day closes, Jule builds a campfire and they drink beer and South African brandy. They trade stories late into the night. Jule stays up with the Americans, and Gobba prods him for tracking and hunting knowledge.
Jule only speaks when spoken to. In South Africa, men like Jule know not to overstep.
Jule lives on the ranch, and he is treated well by the ranch’s owner and his family. His home is just a shack, a hovel.
During his stay at the ranch, Gobba notices Jule has very few possessions, yet is very happy and content to spend his days tracking, hunting, and skinning animals.
Like Jule, Gobba is happy as well. He enjoys the simplicity of life in the bush. Telling stories by night and hunting by day.