Name ID 1599
Mercer, Graham Tarangire
Page Number: b
Extract Date: 1928
There were other interesting settlers around Babati. The Earl of Lovelace owned estates managed by two Estonians, Karl Nurk and Evald Marks, deserters from the French Foreign Legion who had subsequently crossed the Sahara on foot, after their camels had died.
Hunting was popular among Babati's European settlers. One, a Dutchman called Mello Versluys had killed a huge elephant known as "Jaho the Invincible", with tusks weighing 290 pounds. "Cockie" Blixen knew Mello as "The Little Ray of Sunshine" as he always looked down in the dumps and revelled in reporting bad news. But Mello was generous (and rich); he let the Blixens use his silver Rolls Royce to tour Europe on their honeymoon.
The District Commissioner in Babati, a gentleman called de Coursey-Ireland, was killed by elephants in 1931.
Read, David Beating about the Bush
Page Number: 027
Extract Date: 1938 Easter
We had been given permission to use an old rest camp on Lord Lovelaces farm [near Babati] for the first three nights and when we arrived, we were relieved to find a large stack of firewood cut and ready, but there was no water. The river was some way distant and so, when we had unloaded the car, Jeff and I set off to fetch water in a couple of clean debes. A debe is one of the greatest inventions of our time and very useful in everyday East African life. It was made of tin and designed to hold four gallons of petrol or paraffin, but had a hundred different uses, including grilling steaks over four sheets of the East African Standard newspaper, baking bread, or as the Africans most often did, cutting and flattening out the tins to make efficient roofing tiles. We approached the river through an area teeming with game, some of it dangerous, and were entirely dependent on the car headlights. The crossing was too shallow to fill the debes and so we walked a short distance further along a footpath through thick elephant grass. Jeff went a little way and then would go no further from the security of the car lights and turned back, but I was so used to mixing with game both in daylight and at night that it did not worry me at all, so naturally I started to show off.
After bringing back the first debe I went far further than I needed to fill the second can when suddenly, to my horror, a rhino charged, presumably having caught my scent or heard the clang of the debe against a stone. Of course anything like this always seems much more frightening when it occurs in the dark; one cannot see the cause of the commotion or where to run. I just stood petrified until I heard the animal breaking through bush on the far side of the river. Jeff shouted to me in panic from the car but I did not answer until I got near enough to be seen but he thought I had been killed by the rhino, and so lost his temper with me for not replying earlier. He had realised he could not start the car alone as it required two people, one to swing the starting handle and the other to press the accelerator and had worried for his own safety too. Although rather shaken myself, I managed to calm him down and we drove back to the camp in silence.
Neither Dickie Forehead nor David How-Brown believed our story, as Jeff, the youngest in the party embellished the incident with such vivid detail that it sounded far more dramatic than it had really been. Although most of the boys in the school lived in areas populated by game and had a fair knowledge of it, few if any had been as closely connected with wild animals as I had. At first I was presumed to be showing off, then thought to be fanciful, but, towards the end of the trip, their attitude changed and I found I was being consulted about matters concerning the bush. When it came to discussions on other subjects however, such as world affairs or the infinity of space, it was either explained to me in slow simple English or I was just left out of the conversation altogether.