Colin Dunbar

"With passion, patience, and persistence, anything is possible."

Africa Wild (short story)

By Colin Dunbar

Ray Travers sat back at the large oak desk, and gazed around his plush office. He was tired.

Ray's gaze stopped at a painting on the wall. It was a gift he was given by an old friend, Bull, as a farewell gift when he left his home town. He recalled the life spent in that small country town; pleasant times. The many hours he spent talking to his good friend, and the tales he was told about hunting in the Africa of old.

Memories flowed back more than ten years; he remembered how he enjoyed hearing about the wonderful hunting escapades. And how he wished he could have shared those times.

Ray opened his desk drawer and brought out a well crafted wooden box; highly polished and attractive. He opened the lid and exposed a work of art, by any standards; a hand-made hunting knife. The highly polished steel blade and warm tambootie handle reflected dedication and patience.

This was a gift from Bull, given to Ray more than 20 years ago. It was one of the first knives Bull had made, and Ray had called it "Zambezi"; the river where Bull Theron had been so many times. The knife was a prize possession that Ray cherished.

He closed the box and sat upright at his desk; he was driving himself hard, and deserved a break. Things were going well with the business, everything running smoothly. He could afford a week off!

Go back home.

A week in the home town would be like going back in history.

"Man, its going to be good," Ray said aloud, as he turned onto the highway and watched the city lights fast disappearing, as he looked in the rearview mirror.

It was well into the night when Ray pulled into an all-night gas station. He climbed out of the car, stretched and inhaled deeply.

He walked around the gas station and the memories started...

"You know, the one time when a friend and me," Bull said, "we were hunting duck. On the Pafu Dambo."

"The two of us were in this tub, called the Pafu Queen. Loaned from the postmaster. I tell you a person put your life at risk in this thing."

"Anyway, the idea was to shoot in opposite directions, so that the old tub wouldn't topple over. The fool knew which way I was going to shoot."

"So the duck fly out of the reeds, and bam! We both shoot in the same direction. And the tub moves back from the recoil. Of course, we both thrust forward to counteract."

"But the Queen makes a nosedive, and we get dunked in the water. Up to our necks. There were crocks in there man, so we start swimming for the side. After quite a way I was tired and stopped, tramping water."

"And guess what... we were only waist high in the water. The boat had nosedived over a water hole."

Ray smiled broadly as he walked across the concrete driveway of the gas station. He stood there peering into the darkness of the night.

He was back on the road, the powerful car thrusting its way through the night, headlights piercing the darkness. Memories danced through the man's mind. Memories of good times, when he knew what it was to relax; to talk, and to REALLY visit.

Bull was like a second father, after Ray lost his own father. He worked with the man, and socialized with him, spending many evenings and week-ends at his house; listening to tales of Africa, when it was still wild and free.

Sitting around the camp fire at night, the sound of wild Africa surrounding them. Talking of the day's hunt, of the one that got away. And boasting about the successful shoot.

This was a time now gone forever. Progress moved in, and politics. The closest we could get to the Africa of old were visits to the game parks, and nature reserves.

Ray wasn't happy, although he had the one thing he always longed for: money. But what's money worth, when a person isn't happy? Why couldn't he trade the city life, and go back home? Was he too involved in the rat race?

Ray hit the steering wheel hard. Dam!

He really had no cause to get upset because he was deeply involved in the wheeling and dealing, and the chasing of money. But he had an extremely satisfying feeling now, now that he was going home...

It was sad to see tears come to the eyes of the old man when he spoke of the days when man and beast were free. And there was no telescopic sights either. Ray remembered how excited Bull became when he spoke of the 'modern day' hunters, with their powerful telescopic sights.

Ray's car roared through the darkness; nearer to the place where he grew up. Memories now flowed freely. The cassette player was turned off, and he was in a world from the past; man and his memories.

He remebered how his old friend told him of rising at daybreak, seeing an African sunrise, and the smell of real clean air. Ray would take in every detail, like the dry desert earth absorbing water. And he would always ask questions. He felt as though he had lived that life every memory so real to him now.

He turned on the cassette player and sang along with the song: "Take me home country roads, to the place where I belong."

A broad smile came to his face as he thought of meeting Bull again, after so many years. They'll sit and reminice, with hot black coffee. Man, he was looking forward to being back home again.

A new day was breaking on the horizon as Ray stopped at the roadside. Bull had met so many new days out in the wilderness - in wild Africa. Ray stood beside his car and looked across the countryside...

He recalled Bull's words: "Waking in the bush was magic man. There was something about it I can't explain. Only when you've smelt that early bush morning, have you REALLY lived. I tell you, no book can give you that."

And how Ray had wished he could have had that experience, first hand.

Ray stretched and breathed deeply; it wasn't Africa wild, but it was a lot better than the city smog. He leaned inside the car and turned up the volume on the cassette player... "I was raised on country sunshine." Ray took in a view of the country side in a wide swoop and slowly climbed into his car.

How could he have given up this tranquil life for the hurried, cut-throat lifestyle he now had in the city.

"Man you must be crazy," Ray said aloud.

As he reached the outskirts of the small town, the thought came up in his mind to sell the business he had in the city, and set up a small shop in his home town.

Slowly entering town he looked around - it was as though nothing had changed - as if he left only a week ago. Ray stopped outside the hotel; the local get-together years ago, and by the look of the cars and pick-ups outside, that was still the same.

Ray sat in his car, looking at the old building, smiling. He had had some good times here.

Inside it was almost as though it was the same people as 15 years ago. Same faces, aged a little. Same voices. Ray really felt like he was home. He joked and laughed with old friends; beer going round freely.

And Bull, he wanted to know how his old friend was.

It was as though someone had cut the movie; the news was shattering to Ray. Bull had had a stroke, and was only a shadow of the man he used to be.

Ray stood outside, and tears came to his eyes.

His mind was made up - he was going to sell up in the city and move back home. He would take care of his old friend until the hour of darkness came.

~ ~ ~

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