In The Golis: This is chapter 19 of the book “Two Dianas in Somaliland: The Record of a Shooting Trip”, which is a narrative of a daring and victorious shooting expedition undertaken by two cousins, Agnes and Cecily, who carry the spirit of true sportswomen and the right attitude for this adventure.
A native Somaliland escort accompanies them during this expedition. British writer and big game hunter Agnes Herbert keep the reader hooked with her refreshing writing style throughout the novel. She wonderfully describes the beauty and austerity of the jungle and desert in the passages as the two ladies travel through the country.
The chapters of this book are started with one or more quotations from Shakespeare, thus revealing the author as a high-class Englishwoman of culture. The discussions in the book show that the author is highly skilled with guns.
This work beautifully and with great success presents a new perspective of a female British imperialist hunter bagging big game in the isolated jungle of Somaliland and Ethiopia, which is deserving of the reader’s interest and attention.
The Record of a Shooting Trip
By Agnes Herbert
With Twenty-Five Illustrations Reproduced from Photographs
London: John Lane
TWO DIANAS IN SOMALILAND
In The Golis
There was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache
Much Ado About Nothing
To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.
The next matter of interest lay in the return of the camel men. They came into camp unexpectedly, and Ralph, who was lunching with us, called out to me in my tent that a civilized-looking “oont-wallah” (camel-man) wanted to speak to me. There indeed stood one of the men who had gone off to Berbera by the shortest possible route for supplies. He was to have met us farther on, but we had delayed our departure so much longer than had been planned; we were not, of course, to be found at the arranged rendezvous. So, very sensibly, the small caravan came on to find us. The man gave me particulars of his stewardship and handed me a bundle of letters, and some ancient Daily Wails and other newspapers. The whole lot seemed out of place. Letters and papers are for those who live in the humming world of men. We considered ourselves dead and buried to it, We wished we had been in very truth after opening some of the communications. “Another little bill,” Cecily said, handing me a quarter-yard-long sheet.
There were letters from our old shikari uncle, full of advice, kindly doubts, and a few sharp digs. But his rapiers always had great big buttons on, so did not hurt us as he lunged. Sooner, I know, would he have broken his weapon across his knee.
All Suburbia was announcing, through the columns of the Morning Post, that marriages had been arranged for them. Who does all this “arranging”? Nobody ever “arranges” a marriage for me. I often look hopefully to see. I suppose if you come on it “arranged,” however unpleasant it may be to you, there is nothing to be done but see the thing through. A quaint business! Really quite on the lines of the Stone Age, when a furry suitor would arrange with the furry father to exchange the furry daughter for a couple of rabbits.
Cecily says if someone doesn’t arrange a marriage for her soon she’ll be left on the shelf, but one can see a lot from a shelf, provided it is high enough. Of course, she’d be unpopular. Old maids always are. And this is just because a man sees in every unmarried woman a walking statistic against his irresistibility.
The Opposition kept us going in meat these days, but at last I prevailed on Cecily to leave me and do a stalk on her own. But Ralph joined her, and I wonder how much stalking they did. Anyway, they were bound for the Toyo to look for hartebeest, and all they came back with was the tail, very much the worse for wear and time, of an aoul. Ralph said he grabbed it as the animal dashed past him, and it came off in his hand! I told him he reminded me of the Book of Chronicles—Unveracious Chronicles! After all, it was no taller story than many one hears, and a good deal funnier than some. We know Eve told the first lie, but I am confident that if Adam ever went big game shooting, he came in a very good second at the winning post.
The leader had a brilliant inspiration just then. We would have a day at pig-sticking. He was great after pig in India, and of course, where we were was quite the right sort of country. I won’t say we had the right sort of mounts. They did not understand the chase of a pig, did not yearn to, and certainly never fathomed the secret.
First, we were explained to about the rules of the game. Then Clarence and some hunters were told off to beat, and we saw to the spears, tipping them, choosing the most likely from the collected ones belonging to our men. I was allowed to wield a light one, being still a semi-invalid. We all rode out towards the Toyo Plain, the men walking behind. I think I have forgotten to mention the fact that Cecily and I rode astride. That torturing, awkward, and most uncomfortable position which is at home considered the correct way to sit a horse, would have been impossible in Somaliland, not to say dangerous, living under our present conditions.
The men beat every bush and blade of grass most conscientiously, but at first, nothing resulted. On nearing the Toyo, however, we joyfully discovered that a bit of thick thorn cover concealed a small sounder of wart-hog. They scattered as we rode into them.
Cecily smartly detached one of them, which immediately charged away back into the fastnesses of the waving grass of the “bun.” A grand hiding-place, and I feared we had lost the treasure. The leader and Ralph dashed like lightning after the pig, and rounded it up in style. Back it came like a whirlwind, and made for the open again. I rode at him, thinking I was doing quite the right thing, and wild to draw first blood, when Ralph signaled “Sow.” I was going far too quickly to draw up, my stirrup leather broke, and the consequence was the pig and my steed cannoned violently, and bang over I went. I called to the others not on any account to stop but to pursue the vanished sounder before it was too late. This they did, and disappeared in a moment.
After I had sorted myself from out the pony, and with Clarence’s help picked sundry bits of the landscape off my clothes, I mounted again, and following the trail of the others, and led by their shouts, I arrived on the scene of action just as one spear—Ralph’s—was taken. I tried to join the exciting chase that ensued, but my pony would not see the thing through, and disgraced me and itself every “jink.” The leader’s spear now flashed about so very quickly I could hardly follow each phase of the game, intent as I was on forcing my pony to take a hand in it. The boar charged several times most ferociously, but the nimble warrior parried each onslaught successfully. The boar was indeed a game one, and nothing could hold him. Ralph and his pony went down like ninepins before him, but the effort was the gallant hog’s last. The leader pinned him down, and that spear was the coup-de-grâce.
They said Cecily and I did very well for complete novices at the sport, but I can’t see that we did anything but get in the way. It was all very exciting, and we were no end done up by the time we made camp again. Cecily’s pony had a nasty gash as a reminder of the fray. Ralph stitched it up most scientifically. We were promised the tushes of the boar, set up in some way, as a souvenir of the great adventure.
One late afternoon, Cecily went off with Ralph and Clarence for a final attempt on the life of a hartebeest, while the leader and I peacefully collected butterflies, or tried to, and paid a visit to the opposition camp to see their trophies. All the skulls and skins were inspected. They had a couple of Grevy’s zebra, having been to the Bun Feroli (Zebra Plain), after we left them in the Ogaden, and a magnificent hippo from near the Webbi. I felt very envious, but one can’t go everywhere. The zebra skins were most exquisite, shining and silky, marked in great lines of white and brown. The stripes varied very much in the two skins, one having much narrower lines than the other. Birds of many varieties the leader had collected, snakes too, and all the lizards. Being full of infinite variety he loved the Coleoptera as much as the flaunting glories of the Lepidoptera, and it took us a long time to go through it, for each treasure was safely put away in its own box. We made for my camp to find Ralph in the seventh heaven of delight because he had brought down a hartebeest that Cecily had missed—missed on purpose, she said, to give him the pleasure of bagging it. Anyway, there lay the trophy, a present, Ralph said, for me. I thanked him profusely, because our collection was not overdone with this variety.
I do not really admire this antelope very much, or perhaps I should say I admire it less than any other, since every antelope has some points of undoubted beauty. Their faces are what baulk me. They are so silly looking, like a particularly inane cow—a cow’s face, and yet not a cow’s face, and though very massive and magnificent in the fore they pan out to nothing in the hind quarters. The horns, set in sockets, are hardly ever the same, curving this way and that way,’ as cow’s do. Hartebeest are the quickest goers in all the antelope world. They are never spoken of by the natives by any other name than “sig.” And this is odd, because in other varieties I frequently heard the correct designation.
The best of friends must part, and we were no exception to the rule. However, we buoyed ourselves up with the notion that it was not to be for long. For the second time the opposition shoot watched our departure, but this time we all had an interest in the affair—very different to the almost animosity that actuated us at the start. Souvent femme varie, and man too.
Our caravan got on the move once more. The harns were not well filled because we had used up all the water, whoever it belonged to, and this made it necessary for us to march as swiftly as might be. We took on three of the most terrific treks, for length and weariness unsurpassed. The track was fortunately good, but the dust was absolutely blinding, blowing before the wind in clouds, and once or twice during the march I had the tent pitched that we might rest awhile in a slightly clearer atmosphere. Our small quantity of water was used almost at once, and the last march on the Haud was a forced one indeed. We lumbered on long after darkness had fallen, and reached some wells, apparently free, about eleven o’clock. The men formed a rough zareba, but we were all too tired to trouble much, and after watering the animals by the light of the watch fires we had supper and turned in.
The Haud now was safely over, and before us lay the great ascent of the Golis range. The gradual rise began to be felt after the second day’s march. We saw numerous Speke’s gazelle, and Cecily bagged a fine male, after a prolonged chase, that took her some miles from camp. I was nearly out of my senses with toothache, a grievous pain indeed, and one so impossible almost, under the circumstances, to cure. Dentistry was beyond us.
For two days I trekked in a state of semi-delirium. I got no peace at night nor by day, until at last I hit on a glorious panacea. We had finished a huge day, and on turning in for another sleepless night I decided to drink enough whisky to paralyze me and the tooth. A very little spirit overcomes me. I mixed half a tumbler full of whisky with precious little water—drank it—and knew no more till morning!
The thing worked like a charm. The tooth had given over aching, and bar a dark brown taste in my mouth I was none the worse for my carouse.
We saw a couple of oryx out early, and dashed off after them. Ponies were of no use now, and had to be left behind. I crawled along such stony ground I wore down to my bare knees in no time, and then only got within range as the oryx sped away again. They sailed so gracefully over the rough ground, and no obstacle barred their way. Cecily was posted on a small rise beneath which the oryx passed, and got in a telling shot, running down to see the result. We were exceedingly foolish in what we did, after all the experience we had too. Seeing the oryx was hard hit we ran towards him, and he who looked at first like dying as suddenly rose to his feet and ran towards us head down for the charge, his whole weight set for the blow. Perdition catch our stupidity! Did we not know the strength and power of those rapier horns? Cecily was taken back with the onslaught for a moment and then dashed precipitately behind a clump of aloes. I dropped on one knee to try and get a surer shot, to rise next moment to dodge and flee. My very ignominious flight was my cousin’s opportunity. The buck followed me, she followed him, and getting in a close raking shot, finished what looked like the commencement of an ugly affair. This was our last oryx of the trip, and a very fair specimen. The skin of his neck was quite half an inch in thickness, a veritable armor-plate. I did not know until later that the best and most desired shields are got from the neck skin, the shoulder providing the second quality only.
Higher and higher we climbed each trek, the going much slower now. The camels took their time over the so far simple ascent. We sighted gerenük many times, both when riding alone and with the caravan. Many times we pursued them, and as many times returned discouraged. Stalking was a very difficult business here, the bushes all grew aslant, and the buck had a perfection of balance unknown to us. One try of Cecily’s very much amused us. She got a chance at a gerenük, after a stiff pursuit over hill and down dale, fired, and the kick from her rifle overbalanced her as she clung with uncertain feet to the hillside, and she slid like an animated toboggan downwards. Goodness knows where the gerenük or the bullet went to.
We camped on a beautiful range one night, where a small plateau seemed to invite us to rest awhile. The sun was just setting, and the mighty mountains around were bathed in a roseate glow. It was a most perfect scene. The camp that night was like a biblical picture—the sleeping camels, the recumbent forms of their drivers, and overall a sky of such wondrous blue dotted with stars innumerable.
Next the sublime is always the ridiculous. Another camel man fell sick here, but his case was not really genuine, I verily believe. Cecily and I feigned to have found among our things a medicine of most marvelous properties, warranted to cure in one dose all the ills that flesh is heir to. Quinine was its name really, and Clarence dosed the Somali with it, and the curative effect was at once apparent.
Jackals were here very plentiful, too much so for our peace and quiet. They came prowling round the camp in ones and twos seeking for what they might devour. I shot one at night on hearing a crunching sound nearby. I rushed out of the tent in terror lest the half-dry rhino was furnishing a succulent meal. We had no thorn zareba in these days, and the watch must have belied his name. The stealthy prowler passed behind our tent, and I got a clear shot between his gleaming eyes. Far too near! I blew the jackal’s head to smithereens, and damaged its beautiful coat considerably also. The whole camp awakened then and buzzed with excitement, until the men knew the nature of the animal that had come in on us. When it was discovered that the intruder was a mere jackal matters quieted down considerably. It was no credit to them that it wasn’t a leopard. I lectured the parody of a watch severely next day, and as we were getting to an end of the trip our lightest words had immediate effect. It was quite odd.
The thickness of the aloe jungle here was immense, and to penetrate it was impossible, though constantly we longed to do so, as we heard mysterious rustles n the density.
Our mileage was next to nothing these days, and our marches desperate slow. But a camel won’t be hurried.
We had a day in the ravines, picking up the caravan at a given place, taking Clarence and the second hunt with us. We ventured down a perfect abyss clothed at the bottom in aloe jungle. It was most difficult to keep upright at all, and we took some glorious tosses. The worst thing to contend with was the hunter’s habit of carrying Cecily’s rifle pointing straight at the person who happened to be struggling along in front. It gave me the creeps to watch him. However improbable an accident may be, we know they do happen in the best-regulated families. At last, as repeated telling him did no good, we relieved him of his load. He may have had some method in his madness.
We heard a crackle of the aloes, and two koodoo passed in view, going fairly hard. We hadn’t a look in, for they vanished before we realized they were there. We crossed from ravine to ravine, and came on any amount of koodoo spoor, and leopard, the latter some two days old. At last, as we were giving up dispirited, sitting down to recover our breath, a small koodoo bull passed below us, at a distance of some two hundred and thirty yards. It was ridiculous to wait for a slightly improved position, there wouldn’t be one, and as meat was very scarce with us these days, I had a try for him. I really aimed in front of the bull, averaging the pace at which he was traveling, and pressed the trigger. It was written in my Kismet book that I might not do freak shots of this kind with success. The koodoo saved his venison, and a sort of groan went up from the greedy hunters. Two hundred yards is really the limit of a sporting shot or chance, and at that distance, you cannot make out the animal’s ear clearly—my invariable test. A downhill shot is the one most likely to fail, because it is so difficult to judge distance horizontally, not vertically.
We had a huge climb for it back to our camp, which we saw perched high above us, our tent looking a mere white speck on the skyline. Once as we skirted a thick bunch of foliage and undergrowth we heard a leopard “cough.” We pulled up, and listened awhile, but could hear no more of him. Firing the place was no use. The smoke might hang about, there was little air in these ravines, and it might be impossible for us to see clearly. We were really tired, and very unenthusiastic, so let the matter go.
Chapter XX will follow
- The UNIQUE Case For The International Recognition Of Somaliland
- The World Can Learn From How Somaliland Overcame Militias
- Somaliland: The Little Country That Could By David Shinn
- Somaliland Declaration On The Origin Of African Borders
- Masuuliyiinta Xidh-Xidhan Iyo Dareemada Dhagarta Xambaarsan Ee Laga Soo Werinayo Dhinaca Madaxtooyada
- Somaliland Is A Beacon Of Democracy In An Unstable Region