It was June, hunting season, I was 15 years old ... deeply in love and heartbroken at the same time. The beginning of that same year I left for boarding school, 900km's away and my girlfriend left forever - back to South Africa.
My stepfather, a black tracker and myself were hunting in the south of the Kavango - the first day of the hunting season. The Land Rover cutting slowly through the thick Kavango sand ... eyes scanning the bush for game and terrorists. This was the time of the infamous Bush War ... a war I grew up in, as if it was part of me ... a war I'll join 3 years later.
My head scrambled ... heart broken ... scanning for game ... always scanning for SWAPO (terrorists) ... my mind jumping from branch to branch like a excited monkey - my hand steady on the rifle. Suddenly I saw movement in the thick bush ... "Eland!!!" I shouted. The moment the Land Rover stopped I was ready ... aiming for a clearing in the bush, where I know they must break through. I shot ................. my stepfather, a man of short temper, immediately on my case ... shouting in anger that I shot to fast and missed an opportunity. Verbal abuse followed my tracks from the Land Rover into the bush. Angrily I broke from the other two and followed my heart.
After a bit of tracking I found the Eland ... a young girl - I shot her through the heart. I approached her as the Bushmen do ... walking backwards. There is a reason for this ... the Eland is sacred to the Bushmen and also the only animal that will cry tears when wounded. They approach the Eland without looking at the tears, then kick sand in the Eland's face to cover the tears. I did this all, because I could feel the thick silence in the bush ... the death of something great.
I sat with her and took the saliva from her mouth and covered my joints ... a deep sadness washed over me. Months of sadness poured out of me ... a mix of tears in the sand.
The Eland is a sacred animal to the Bushmen, one of a few animals with lots of fat. Fat is associated with girls in puberty and the Eland deeply linked to menstruation and also the first kill ... boy change to man.
When the Eland mate, the couple don't stay with the herd ... they break away for a short honeymoon. I killed that ... I killed love ... I shot a heart in love to pieces ... I killed a young girl in love. The 'magic' of the moment suffocated me ... killing anything will never be the same. I never hunted Eland again ...