This is the cape buffalo (in swahili, "nyati mbogo") that my father killed. It took five bullets and a lot of help to end this animal's life.
We had followed a herd of buffalo all day, having tracked them from where we first spotted them the evening before. Our trackers Anton and Alan did an incredible job, following invisible hoofprints and patient intuition through miles and miles of forests and bush. It was late afternoon by the time we finally found the herd, crossing the river at the other end of a large valley. Whether or not the mbogo knew they were entering an area we legally couldn't hunt didn't matter: there were no bulls in the group.
Resting under a thorn bush in the valley, we drank the rest of the water we had packed and prepared to call Lema on the walkie-talkie to pick us up in the truck. It was getting close to sunset and we had had a long day. But then a smaller herd of buffalo emerged from our side of the vally, half-a-mile away.
As Anton, Paul, and my father left the shade to get a closer look at the unexpected herd, I waited with Alan and Tollo, expecting there to be no bulls, as per usual.
Just then a shot rang out in the valley. I felt like I could see the sound bounce back and forth between the ridge of the hill and the distant forest for the three or four seconds it took to completely decay. It had been three days since any of us had heard a sound that size, to such contrast that it seemed like there had only been silence in between. We all sprang to our feet. Another shot cracked the air and we started to run. Then another shot. And another. What was going on? We were too far away to see anything, and for some reason I assumed that the wounded buffalo had charged my father and he was frantically trying to defend his life.
Of course that wasn't the case, it just takes a lot of bullets to kill something the size of a European car. By the time I finally reached the buffalo, I was completely winded from having sprinted half a mile. In exhausted awe, I watched the buffalo take it's final breaths.
Since our location was inaccessible to the truck, we skinned the buffalo there, working as quickly as possible as to beat the oncoming darkness. Alan cut down a small tree over which the animal's head was hung so two men could carry it out of the valley. We climbed the final hill in twilight, Alan and Tollo struggling to find their footing while carrying a 200-pound trophy, me following behind, my mind completey blown away by everything that had just happened as I held a severed leg in each hand, and my father walking behind us all, holding his head high.
When we got to the truck we didn't leave right away. We sat under the stars and drank carbonated things. It was too dark to see each other's smiling faces. We told jokes in different languages. My father and I reminisced about the days when we lived together and he would put on Graceland and I would fall in love.