THE GAMBIA 1968 ADVENTURES CONTINUED
When the pigs' grunts became more distant, Bernie and the boy came to my tree. The boar were scared off so the hunt was finished for the night. We would return at 5 a.m. the next morning to get the wounded pig before the vultures did.
Going back to the river we became completely lost. We crossed fields of hard, dry clumpy mud with potholes where the pigs had been rooting during the rainy season. We walked through dry grass taller then a man, through thick palm trees that looked like a Hollywood movie set, and through bush that scratched and tore at our clothes.
I was still feeling one with nature and enjoying every minute of it. I let Bernie and the boy argue about directions to the way back. I just followed. Finally we came to the river.
Next morning we were out at dawn to look for the wounded pig. Some small boys went with us to look for it. No sign of vultures anywhere, so it must not have died. In the marsh, Bernie shot a jima - a huge bird, the size of three big turkeys. Edible chop but not a Gambian favorite because of its oily taste.
Bernie and I separated and the boys accompanied me into the wilderness. They carried my water bottle and extra bullets, and would point out anything from oily water fowl "That good chop!" to small animals.
As soon as I shot something edible, they retrieved my kill and skinned or defeathered it and tied it with a strip of palm leaf. A boy would place it on his head and make a beeline back to the village.
I left Bernie in the bush alone. The boys came back with me to Bansang, carrying the rest of the birds. By the time we crossed the river to the Bansang side, it seemed as though the entire village was walking alongside me.
I had an early afternoon appointment with the Imam, the Muslim leader in Bansang. He was making a juju for me - a piece of paper on which the Imam writes passages from the Koran and injects it with his powers to give me protection. The paper is folded tightly and covered with leather and is worn on a string around the neck.
The Imam looked very impressive in his robes. He proudly told me that his books had been published in Mecca. Arab Muslims do not approve of jujus, but you cannot take Africa out of an African - even with a powerful religion.
In Bansang, I had my juju covered with leather. I filled the water bottles and bought some oranges in the market. Then I headed back to the river where 60 boys were waiting to go into the bush with me. I told them to elect six from the group.
Natural pecking order eliminated small boys immediately. I stood off to the side watching. Now and then a little tyke would shyly sidle up to me and try to charm me into giving him special permission to come along. I said the boys must decide among themselves. Finally the six were chosen and I learned their names.
I walked ahead so I could sneak up on the birds. When I looked back, I saw about twenty boys behind me. It was hopeless. They were so noisy, they scared birds 100 yards away.
I walked back to where I had left Bernie and let him take care of the situation. Bernie took half the boys with him and half went with me. They would draw lots for the birds we killed.
I was exhausted. I hadn't sat down for one minute since 5 a.m. and it now was going on 4 p.m. I had drunk gallons of water and sweated even more. I trudged around but couldn't get near a bird. Bernie shot two pigeons and a squirrel, which also is good chop. We sent the boys away with the kill.
The British influence was very marked in The Gambia. When I would stumble, youngsters, ranging in age from 11 to 14, would touch my elbow and say "I'm sorry," just as a well-bred Englishman would do - or a rare American.