SA JAGTER/HUNTER | May 2021 | By MATTHEW RUDD
The first tribes of Africa spoke of a legendary beast – an animal so powerful, it overcame death itself. Legend has it that the tribe was starving, a drought like they had never experienced before had hit them. The grass was yellow as the sun and the red sands of the Kalahari were hotter than the core of the earth.
Hunting parties had failed time and again to return with meat. It was after the seventh failed hunt that the chief took up his spear. For three days, he wandered the wilds, further and further from his tribe. On the fourth day he picked up the trail of a herd of wildebeest. He ran in the direction of the tracks, unrelentingly he ran. He ran until he could feel his heart beating in every muscle.
It was nightfall when he encountered the herd. The full moon gave him the light he needed to find his target. It was clear that the drought had affected the animals too, as their ribs were showing beneath the loose skin. The chief rubbed his hand on his chest, feeling his own ribs.
My people need to eat. The chief’s heart continued to throb as he surveyed the group of wildebeest; he worried that they would hear him and soon run. Each animal looked thinner than the last, until he saw him...
At the front of the herd was the largest wildebeest the chief had ever seen. The drought had had no effect on the magnificent creature. The moonlight revealed the muscles on the animal, creating shadows on its flesh. This animal would feed the chief’s tribe for a week, and then the rains would come, he prayed.
The chief crept closer to the herd, each step deliberate. He could not afford to make a sound and risk losing the kill. He knew that he had one chance, his body would not allow more. He had reached the perfect spot, right behind a shrub, well hidden from the herd’s view, downwind. He shifted the grip of the spear in his right hand. This was it! The chief lunged from behind the shrub, took aim and threw.
THUD! The spear hit its mark! The chief watched as the tip of his razor-sharp spear plunged into the beast’s body and continued straight into its heart. Death throw. It would be a matter of seconds before the beast would fall and he could begin preparing the meat for his trip home.
The wildebeest stood still for a few seconds, staring at his attacker. With one snort, he began running and his herd followed him. The chief could not believe what he was seeing. Surely the animal would fall. It didn’t.
The chief watched as the wildebeest ran, blood now pouring from the wound on its chest and mouth. The chief mustered his last bit of strength and took off after the herd. He couldn’t lose them. The moonlight helped him track the beast, its blood darkening the sand in front of him. It’s not possible, the beast must be dead.
He saw the herd make its way over a small dune in the distance. He felt hopeful; the wildebeest would lose too much blood as it climbed and would surely lie dead in the gulley beyond the top of the dune. He ran on, his heart now burning. No sweat ran into his eyes; his body had long since lost its last bit of water.
He slowed down as he climbed the dune, the soft sand making each step harder than the last. He finally reached the peak of the dune. He looked down in the gulley, expecting to see the creature lying dead. He saw nothing but sand and shrubs. He looked left and right, down the expanse of the gulley but saw nothing. He drew his eyes upward, along the ascent of the dune ahead. Atop, he saw the wildebeest. The beast’s fur matted with its blood, the handle of the spear broken off, leaving only a remnant of it behind. The wildebeest seemed to know that the chief was looking at him. It turned to face him, snorting a red vapour. The chief felt his heart explode in his chest. As he fell to the ground, the wildebeest turned away and rejoined his herd.
It would be days before scouts found the chief’s body. After his burial, the tribe’s hunters tracked the animal that killed their leader. It was not a hard trail to follow. The beast’s blood clearly stained the sand next to its tracks. They, too, searched for days, one by one succumbing to their exhaustion. The last hunter’s body was found with writing scrawled into the Kalahari sand, which, to this day, is the name that belongs to this mythical beast: Running Dead.
But that’s just a story…