Here I am again, after all these years, 25 or 30 of them, taking pen in hand to tell you of what it was like when I was young and lived in Africa. Although it has been so long, I can still see myself there, still close my eyes and see the way that it was: the wind whipping across the plain, the rows of hunters going in front of me to comb the brush, the stars twinkling in that darkest of skies that is Africa’s.
All of these things are there for me when I shut my eyes.
When I was a child, I spent my days with the Kakewpie, hunting naked in the bush or in the rain forests of the Galstosee. We would hunt all day, and then I would return home and my mother would make me a big bowl of Campbell’s Country Vegetable Soup.
When I was a child, I hunted all the time. At first I had a hard time hunting the swift capped langur and the cunning red-capped mangabey, but my friends among the Kakewpie were very kind and patient with me. I remember the first day I went hunting with them. Nobody had told me that we were all going to be naked, and I showed up in absolutely the worst thing: a midnight rose silk T-shirt, cotton/polyester Lycra spandex shorts and some Reeboks. I looked around at everybody else and I could have died. But the Kakewpie, all naked and smiling, didn’t even laugh at me. They were too kind, those Kakewpie, if that’s possible.
“Why do you dress like that?” one Kakewpie asked. “Your head is filled with dawn-fog today, is that it?”
Maybe my head was filled with dawn-fog that day, but I was young and I soon learned. Lycra spandex was for holy days, not hunting days.
There were so many things to hunt: muntjac, chousingha, ibex, dik-dik, gayal, bushback, ree-ja-mo, klipspringer, cerothere, bharal, chevrotain, oryx, blesbok, eland, geese, ducks, cows. There were so many things to hunt. There were even some big furry-looking things, but I don’t know what they were.
And there was Thompson’s gazelle. And sometimes Thompson, but usually only on weekends.
And, after a long day of hunting all of these things, Dad would drive me home in the wagon with all of the bumper stickers. And I’d try to get a rock-format station on the radio.
When Dad picked me up, I’d wave goodby and call out to my Kakewpie friends out the window.
I’d wave like crazy.
And they’d call back.
“Goodby, Dawn-fog head!”
“Goodby, Skill-ball head!”
After a day like that, I’d always fall sleep in front of the TV, no matter what was on.
There was a place called Mustachandbeard, and I used to ride to it on horseback or sometimes Dad would let me take the Plymouth Horizon. And there was an old man there whom I got very close to on several occasions. He would tell me about the Gogowiplash and the Mojomen, and the great leaders of the past and the great priests and magicians that had once lived there. He would tell me about Mount Moonyou and the mountain of beasts, Lizardlandthemepark.
I would sit for hours listening to the old man and his stories of how things had been before they put up the mall. And later, when I returned to my home and family, I would find myself sitting quietly and thinking while I watched a couple of videos of what the old man had said.
One day the old man and I were out at Mustachandbeard watching some cape buffalo rut. The old man turned to me, and I guess I’ll always remember what he said.
“Cape Buffalo are better than most men. They rut better, for instance.”
He was a very wise old man.
Finally, I remember leaving Africa. I got out of the taxi at the airport, and the wise old man, who was riding with me, helped me with my luggage. I looked around me. To the west I saw the Notmysister Hills, their majestic peaks seeming to support the very sky. To the east I saw the awesome sight of Mount Liquidpaper. It was so far away that I couldn’t remember how big it really was. It was like a still, blue cloud, or something. Like my memories of Africa.
Then I thought, (expletive deleted), I forgot my hair dryer.
From “Vanna Karenina"(Viking: $15.95).