Stellenbosch Update #12: Mrs. de la Bat
I spent some time talking with Mrs. de la Bat this morning and she told me wonderful stories of living on the game reserve on the Etosha Pan. The pan or plain is full of amazing animals, and she is full of amazing stories!
First, let’s get the story behind the elephant feet. Her husband was the head game warden at Etosha. When an elephant bull becomes bested by another bull, he is put out of the herd. This bull may wander out of the reserve and then often becomes a nuisance to the farmers adjacent to the reserve. There is an attempt to drive the bull elephant away (usually on horseback), but sometimes they are unable to drive the elephant away. When this happens, the game warden is called in and if he cannot get the bull to go back to the reserve (elephants have a mind to themselves!) he has to take the bull and shoot it. This does not happen often. So, this was the only elephant that Mr. de la Bat had to shoot in this way. They took the feet and cut them off, sliced the back of the foot, took out the meat, stitched the foot back up, and then cured them with salt. The rear foot is larger than the front one. They are immense, so the elephant must have been enormous.
Mrs. de la Bat talks about the animals as if she were narrating a Discovery Channel or National Geographic documentary. She has raised babies that her husband brought home from mothers who had died. She said if you get the baby young enough, you can tame it (if it is alone and not with even a sibling). Two baby cheetahs were the only ones she could not tame, because they had each other. The problem, she said, is when the animals get big. So, she doesn’t think it is ever a good idea to try to tame the animals, just that they did it when the babies were abandoned. They had permission to kill one springbok every two weeks for their food. The way you are supposed to hunt the springbok is to take the nearest animal (not the largest and not the babies). One time, the nearest animal that he shot happened to be a very pregnant doe and he cut the baby out and it was alive, so he brought it home to Connie to raise. The little buck was fine until it got large enough to start butting people!
The Etosha area is a pan or a plain and is flat and dry for much of the year, but does get rain during part of the year and there are large watering holes then. She loaned to me some books with photographs and maps. I will try to take some photos of them. She described for me how cute baby elephants are when they are born (they are pink she says). And how powerful a lion’s paw is. That it can break the back of a jackal with one swipe. She told me how a lion and lioness would hunt as a team. The lioness would wait and be downwind so that her scent would be made known (on purpose) to the approaching animals. Then the animals would turn away from her and run right into the area where the male lion was waiting to ambush them. She talks about these things with such familiarity.
Connie, and her husband, lived in Namibia on the Etosha Pan for all of their married life and she raised two sons there. Most of the time they lived in a place called Okaukuejo, which is on the southwest edge of the pan. For long times they lived in the bush without any kind of regular appliances, cooking over a coal stove.
Tonight we will go out to dinner and I am looking forward to hearing many more stories!
I had lunch with Andrea and then we went to the Theological Seminary. I registered my student card there so that I can gain entrance (you always have to swipe your card to get in). I took a little time to look around the library and noted that they have 3 of Dr. Poythress’ books (and his dissertation original) and 12 of Tremper Longman’s books (they even have two of the Intro to the OT), but none of Pete Enns’ books. I should have brought one to donate. There is an exhibit hall with cases of various tribal items (weapons, clothing, musical instruments, baskets, etc) but as the descriptions are all in Afrikaans I have no idea to what era or what people they belong! Still, it is wonderful to have so many unique items on display in the hallways.
I have to mention one place that you can get burgers. It’s called Wimpy. Oh, and I saw an authentic Adirondack chair outside a guesthouse on our street!