By Jim Morando
We all have things we collect that we value disproportionally to their sticker price. Mine was a Banana Jack floppy hat I bought for my first safari for less than 10 bucks.
My PH was straight out of central casting. Rob previously worked for Ron Thompson in Rhodesia Parks and had done a fair amount of Problem Animal Control (PAC) work before the Bush War. During the war, he was part of a three-person tracking team that supported Rhodesia’s Special Forces. After the war, he went back to Parks.
One afternoon he was assigned to a remote village that was being terrorized by an antisocial hyena who bit the faces off her sleeping victims. His solution to catch the offender was simple. He set up a cot in the middle of the huts and offered himself up as bait. Strapped to his hip was an old .455 Webley revolver as he thought this encounter would be one of feet and not yards. When the hyena showed up, he had dozed off, and in his rush to draw his Webley, discharged it before it cleared the holster. He shot himself in the leg. The bullet entered the outside of his thigh, shattered his knee and came out the inside of his shin.
He was rushed to the nearest hospital where they managed to save both him and his leg. The only problem was his injured leg was now locked in the extended position and he was having a terrible time getting in and out of his Land Rover. After six months of this, he decided to remedy the issue and had his leg amputated at the knee. He was fitted with a very primitive, heavy wood prosthesis and never looked back.
Fast forward 15 years. I am his first client of the season. On the morning of our first day we covered a lot of ground. Rob was able to jump and climb steep banks without limitation. I had no idea he was even wearing a prosthesis until he took it off after lunch and I saw the huge blisters that had formed and in some cases, already broken. His knee stump was an angry and bloody mess. He said he went through this every year and it just needed to get seasoned. I think I needed some seasoning too as the sight of this almost triggered my stomach to expel its contents.
Sometimes a solution comes to your head. On rare occasions, like this one, it was on mine. I offered Rob my floppy hat and he initially refused. He only took it after I lied to him and said I had an extra. The hat was not as soft as the sock he failed to put on when he came barreling out of his tent that morning after one of the trucks would not start, but it was better than nothing. He grudgingly accepted it, doused it with disinfectant and strapped it in place. After a few tentative steps, he was walking at a normal pace.
Once we got back to camp Rob told me he would have my hat washed and return it in the morning. When I saw it on the way to the laundry, it looked like a short, bloody, cloth bucket. Over dinner, I offered to go to the Shona stone sculpture market the following day, rather than torture him by going hunting again. In keeping with the character of a man who chose amputation for the advantages in mobility, Rob said, “Absolutely not,” and we proceeded to hunt as planned for the duration of the week. I went home a very satisfied client.
Ultimately, movers lost the hat and a few other items during our next move. They cut us a check for the missing bowling ball and the Christmas ornaments but I never claimed the hat. I couldn’t bring myself to submit the claim for $9.99 and I don’t think they would honor a priceless valuation. To this day, that hat remains my best African trophy.
*Editor’s note for the ladies: The author of this story, Jim Morando, is the proprietor of African Sporting Creations. If you ladies blew it during Christmas and didn’t take our advice when we told you to head to ASC and buy your man something he’ll totally love, you can now make up for your sin with a proper Valentine’s Day gift. Get him something amazing like a pair of Courteney Selous Boots, a zebra chair, or an antique African spear – unless you don’t really love him.