Pachydermicide, the Perennial Sport of Kings

I have always considered myself a sportsman, old boy. Not such a striking thing to admit, I’ll allow—but in the current age of crass exhibitionism and crude violence, the simple sportsmanship of big-game hunting does seem to still carry a certain cachet with the public imagination. As it should—and has, for many years, thanks to great men of the past—but of course, when I mention the word “hunting,” the unfortunate modern connotation is of half-wit archer-apes with cat scratch fever running around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. However, those damn fools will have a long row to hoe before they do true damage to the hunting ideal, eh what? Quite.

Anyway, it’s a barry tradition, hunting—but lately it hasn’t packed the same wallop for me and my fellow sportsmen. While my mates at the lodge are not exactly sure why, I think it may be the dwindling number of big-game targets out there; for men like us—pachyderm-hunters—the world is no longer a target-rich environment. Nefarious poachers have had their way with the once-mighty herds, and the ever-profitable ivory trade has seen a massive increase in demand from the East—particularly from the Chinamen, who also undoubtedly yearn to harness the same unbridled power and strength that chaps like Alexander and Hannibal exercised on their own Great Treks across the savannahs of old.

“Crikey,” I can hear you say, “what a silly piece of nonsense that is! Of course there are elephants out there to kill!” Aye, my lad, elephants aplenty—Indian elephants and African elephants alike—if you like your quarry as docile and caged as a broken specimen from the local zoo. There’s a reason Dumbo is such a cuddly wee thing, you know. Even beasts from a bog-standard Wild Animal Park may suffice in a pinch, for some. For my money, however, the unseemly way in which those animals panic at the least provocation is very, very unsportsmanlike indeed. The blighters are either extremely stupid, offering no sport at all—or they know exactly what’s going on, and are therefore inches away from complete panic and dangerous stampedes. Fish in a barrel, you might say. Not remotely worth the effort.

No, men like me demand satisfaction in the truest sense, and no domesticated beast will ever bring the same zip to a grand old safari the way a crazed, wild bull elephant does. Men like me are used to the wilderness, you see. It’s where we feel at home, and we miss it when it’s gone. It’s all we know, and we’ve never acclimated ourselves well to the alternative. We chafe and sweat and get nervous indoors. We become incredibly silly sods, actually—we much prefer strapping on a blunderbuss and traipsing around the veldt in search of our noble foes, the proud pachyderms of yore. Venerated at the time, of course, but long-since useless as anything more than trophies decorating gentlemen’s clubs across the land, mute testaments to the glory of campaigns past.

And really, it’s quite healthy to distance oneself from the circus anymore, old boy. Bit yumpy, them. Yes, get away from those domesticated, trick-turning pets of today’s big-top Forums and cloak-roomed carnivals, and light out for the wild parts of the world. Do battle with your equals, young man. Live a full life. Breathe that invigorating open air. Cracking good times will be had by all, I can assure you, and they’re there for the taking—from Dakar to Dar es Salaam, from Darfur to Durban.

My god man, the sheer excitement of it all! Indeed, I could go for a quick pip-pip and tally-ho adventure right now, just thinking of it. Why, it puts me in mind of the last truly excellent outing I had the privilege of joining—many moons ago now, but vivid as yesterday, you might say. It was a damned difficult and dangerous one, of course—I lost some good manservants and dear, dear friends—but in the end we brought our quarry to ground fair and square, so to speak.

It happened like this: my friend Gibby (with whom I’d fought both the Zulus and the Boers) and I were whooping it up at an exclusive Rake’s Club in Zanzibar when word came in that a battle-scarred old bull pachyderm was on the loose outside Nairobi, and the local authorities were helpless to contain him. He’d exhibited all sorts of bizarre behavior—donning an old mastodon skin, roping in a fertile cow elephant half his age—and the hastily-organized militias sent out to smash the creature had proven spectacularly inept at the most elementary manoeuvers. Well, Gibby and I tipped the coolie barmaid, so to speak, clinked our pints, and were about to storm into battle—when suddenly a resonant voice rumbled through the building, stopping us dead in our tracks.

“I will slay the beast!” it roared. We whirled around to face its source, and were surprised to see a Negro—no, a mulatto…no, a negro—declaiming passionately his desire to face down the threat to his homeland. “Woe to the foul fiend that trespasses against the land of my fathers, and of my fathers’ fathers, and of my fathers’ fathers’ fathers! Let us give him what for! Who’s with me?”

“Hooray!!!” roared the room, and we all queued up at the armory next door for supplies. It was some quality gear, to be sure, and when our man even complimented us on our accoutrements, we couldn’t help but beam with pride, don’t you know—but we ended up needing every last stitch of clothing and grain of gunpowder, for it was a devilishly nasty fight. We spent four nights in Nairobi, gathering a formidable force, and then struck out into the bush. It was another thirty-six hours before we discerned the great pachyderm’s trail, but once we did it was impossible to miss—a wide swath of wanton destruction and horrible rapine so awful that our Negro leader wept with anger, shaking his fists to the heavens. “By all that is holy,” he boomed, “I shall have my revenge upon this monster!”

And so he did, with the rest of us chaps only too happy to help. Our troop tracked the creature for ten miles before espying its wrinkly ears flapping in the dry air, and once we saw the thing our entire posse crowed with anticipation, letting loose a great volley of powder and shot in the beast’s general vicinity. However, we had forgotten about the female—who then charged out from behind a stout baobab tree and soundly thrashed our entire right wing. She stomped her way through toward the Negro, but Gibby alerted our trusty senior lieutenant just in time, who resolved to deal with her. The white-haired gent had a fight on his hands for a minute there, what with her tusks piercing his trousers and all that, but he soon brought her down cleanly. We knew she was finished when the daft cow began winking like a Manchester hoor, and a cheer went up from the ranks as she met her doom.

Her old man began to panic at that point, trumpeting and stomping in fear as our gallant Negro bore down on him. The ancient elephant’s sunken eyes looked dead inside already, and his gnarled ivory tusks had been splintered in some long-ago conflict. In the end it was nearly a mercy-killing—a sad coda to what could have been a graceful exit to Barnum-and-Bailey-land, like his fossilized forbears, but The Fates declared otherwise, and within minutes the vultures descended to pick his bones. An ugly sight, but on the whole it was a proper hunt, my boys—a glorious endeavor, a true sport of kings—not like those silly corporate-sponsored, televised wanks the kids all succumb to lately. Ah, me. Those were the days indeed, gents. We’ll not see the like ay them for a long while yet.