THE GAMBIA 1968 ADVENTURES CONTINUED
We returned to the village and the shopkeeper, Mr. Silla, made coffee for us. He was so sweet that Bernie and I got into better moods. We took one gun and walked down the road past the Bansang Hospital (built by the British in 1938). Bernie shot a few birds, which I tied together with stringy tree bark so I wouldn't have to touch their warm little feet.
A young man, carrying a roll of linoleum on his head, joined us. He and I walked a distance behind Bernie and talked about jujus (fetish charms) and witchcraft.
During the hot part of the day, nobody moves. They rest. In the evening, Mr. Silla invited us to his house for African chop (food). Everything was clean and neatly prepared.
Next morning at 5 a.m. we were ready to go hunting with a professional African guide who would lead us to where we would find wild boar. We waited for him until 6 a.m. but he didn't show up. Gambians don't have watches or clocks, so they get up when they wake up.
Bernie and I crossed the Gambia River without the guide. We tramped all morning looking for boar but didn't see any. So we started shooting edible game birds- bush fowl, sand grouse, guinea fowl, rock pigeons and palm birds - all 'good chop' - meaning good to eat.
If a bird I shot didn't fall dead, Bernie would quickly snuff out its life with his fingers.
We separated and went in different directions. But we knew where the other was by the sound of the shots. When the gunshots sounded muffled, I knew he was far away.
I shot a rock pigeon and it fell to the ground, wounded. I pressed my fingers on the bird as I had seen Bernie do, but the bird didn't die. Frantically I pressed harder. Nothing happened.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I cried to the bird.
I put the bird down and sat next to it. It was shivering in pain.
Again I tried to put it out of its misery. I broke its neck, but still it wouldn't die. It cocked one bloody eye at me, then looked me straight in the eye with its good eye and made some sounds. I couldn't bear it. I cried and cried. I walked away so I wouldn't have to look at the bird, but I couldn't forget it.
Finally Bernie came to me and told me to pick up my birds. I couldn't touch that pigeon.
"You are acting silly. We will leave it, then," he said.
So we did. But he walked back for it and tied it to his own bundle.
We crossed the river and went back for lunch and a siesta and gave the birds we had shot to Mr. Silla. The birds Bernie shot the day before were given to the son of the Alcalde.
Late in the afternoon, we crossed the river with a boy who had a gun. We shot some more birds - after I learned how to quickly put a bird out of its misery by strangling it when it didn't fall dead.
About 7 p.m. we sat under a tree near an animal path to drink water and rest. Suddenly, four big ferocious wild boar came down the animal trail. They stopped about thirty feet away from us. We surprised them as much as they had surprised us. Our guns were still loaded with No. 6 birdshot. As we quickly reloaded, the pigs tore away at high speed. We didn't pursue them.
We attached flashlights to our rifles with masking tape and prepared for the night, selecting the trees we would climb to wait in for the pigs' return. We were on the edge of the marsh, which was their watering hole.
I climbed a tree directly above the animal path, thinking or hoping that more boar would pass that way - possibly even hyenas. My tree was full of big ants, but strangely they didn't bite me. I heard mosquitoes humming but they didn't bite me either. I had a fairly comfortable tree - as trees go.
At first I sat in my tree very tense, straining my eyes to see in the rapidly falling dusk, and straining my ears to hear any slight rustle on the ground. Suddenly, a bat flew in my face, and I nearly fell out of the tree. That happened several times until I got used to them. A squirrel was sharing my tree. He was very curious about me and would poke his little head over a limb to get a better look at me. Birds perched around me, and the squirrel bravely came closer. I was silent and still.
It was a beautiful night. I gave up expecting to see wild boar coming down the trail, and relaxed and enjoyed a feeling of oneness with nature. The only discomfort was my very sore bottom from sitting on the hard tree.
Suddenly I saw a light and heard a shot that echoed a dozen times. The boy had shot and wounded a boar. He called to Bernie to come. But Bernie wasn't about to leave his tree and face a pack of vicious wild boar on the ground. Wild boar charge. Especially at night, man is at a disadvantage.