I gave over control, to Wendy the Thompson’s Tour guide for their trip into the Drakenburg mountains out of Durban South Africa. As we tooled up and around lush green mountains dotted with cattle and tourist lodges, I looked up San Cave Paintings on my iPad. One of the paintings portrayed stick-figure Bushmen-hunters attacking a cow-sized antelope—an Eland. It reminded me of football—the Xs and Os of primitive man’s playbook for winning the big game.
My wife, snuggled into the tea shop, I trailed Wendy scampering over tangled tree roots and across bridges before hop-scotching over rock-filled rills along the increasingly primitive path. I pushed myself, breathing faster and harder until we finally crested a rise in front of the cave to find a locked gate and no guide.
“Wasted effort,” I rasped.
We moved more slowly and carefully on the way down, shaking legs making it difficult to negotiate precarious footholds in the gloom of the sheltered trail. When Wendy stopped for a slug of water, I took the lead and scooted past a huge boulder into the sudden glare of a sun-strobed meadow and the shock of a wild animal watching me.
I stopped dead. Thirty yards ahead a female Eland, belly-deep in grasses, stopped grazing to return my stare. This was what the cave painters would have hunted to sustain their lives. If I were a Bushman, this is when I would have nocked my poison arrow and let fly. And if I remembered the documentary I once saw, that’s when the Bushman would have tracked the beast until it died and then would have apologized for killing it and would have expressed his gratitude for the sustenance it gave to his family. Beautiful animal. Such exquisite lines. So eminently paintable on a cave wall.
Back at the café, I locked eyes with my wife trying to recreate my experience for her. “I was in that animal.” Pleading for understanding I went on. “She was just there…in the now. And, don’t you see, that’s what eternity would be…now…always. The San saw it. They tried to grab it with paint and pictures. But I got the original.”
“Wendy, get us back to our hotel,” my wife demanded. “We got to get this guy out of the sun.”
Retired trainer, and writing instructor, Joe Novara and his wife live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writings include novels, short stories, a memoir and various poems, plays, anthologies and articles. Read more at https://freefloatingstories.wordpress.com/