Imagine Africa in 1898. Two lions are eating your men. True story
|Kings did it. It was there job. They hired guys like Hercules the lion killer and ST George, the Dragon slayer. These folks are etched in our hearts and minds. What about the very beasts themselves what raised such fear, admiration and heroism, all at the same time? I was about to find out.
There I was in British East Africa (now Kenya) in 1898. We had brought over chaps from India to build a bridge over the Tsavo River. Now twenty-eight had died and maybe up to 135 Africans, but we really didn’t count them.
I went out to search for these two monstrous and mane less males. They were huge averaging over 500 lbs. They had gotten the names of Ghost and Darkness. They ruled the night.
The Africans thought them to be body-snatching demons. They would tell their compatriots,” Brother beware, the Devil is coming.” Silence meant they were beginning to stalk. Everyone was so spooked that even non –African people believed in the demon lion.
I stalked them for nine months. No one was safe during that time. Not much work got done. One person thought he was safe behind a 12-foot tall fence made of thorns. He was mistaken. We sent a letter out that same week. They were safer in a secure tent. Lions hate enclosed spaces. One telegraph operator was attacked in his telegraph shed. The Lion busily tried to tear up the metal roof and we presume him too. “Help. Lion attacking,” he telegraphed. People came to his rescue and the Lion escaped into the jungle.
One Lion was killed in a trap of a previously mauled animal that was supposed to be one of its victims. We scared him off but we still had the carcass. Forty percent of the prey comes from previously killed animals. I was perched in a tree on a plank held u p by 4 poles. If he had jumped up or knocked down any of the poles, I was a goner. My shot was true and down he went. He was 9’8’’ long and 47 and ½ inches at the shoulder.
For the other, I set a trap of four goats tied up just outside a railroad inspectors shop. The lion quickly dispatched a goat. I fired. Another goat went down. He carried off his kill, along with all the other goats and a 250 lbs rail into the jungle. Needless to say, he was easy to track. My second shot was right in his chest. It bowled him over, but he got up again and resumed his attack. The third shot was without effect.
I hurriedly motioned to my porter for my other gun. I found he had taken off and was up in a tree. I’d thought I’d join him, as I had no other possibilities. I never would have made it, if it weren’t for the fact that one of my shots had broken his shoulder.
I fired from the tree. He went down. He looked dead. I got down to examine. He charged at me one last time. I shot him in the chest and head at close range.
They say that a mane isn’t needed in such a rough land with few prey and scraggly brush. There are no large prides here. Lions grow big here to attack their number one prey, water buffalo. When the lions get hurt or frail, they choose easier prey, like man. Some would say that these lions were genetically different.
They’re different all right. Body-snatching demons they were. Silence means they are beginning to stalk. Listen… What do you hear? Zip up your tent. It will be a long night tonight