february 2nd 2020

The Matador (as published in Man Magnum Magazine - March 2017)

"Mr Troskie, Mr Troskie!" I heard Sammy's voice calling. Then Again: "Mr Troskie!!!" I looked around and at first could not see him. "MR TROSKIE!!!" (This time there was more urgency in his voice). Then I finally saw him - about two metres up in a knob thorn tree… "You are a matador now?" "Sammy, what on earth are you talking about? I can see you are high in a tree - but are you high on drugs now also? Get out of that tree!" "A matador Mr Troskie, like in the Spanish bullfights!"

"Sammy, I have no idea what you are talking about. Get out of that doggone tree - NOW!" Sammy gingerly started making his way down the tree… a task that was hampered by the multitude of little hooked knob thorns in his palms. I waited for him to get down on level ground... "Boohaah, boohaah, boohaah", came the death bellows from the Buffalo at my feet...

"Sammy, what’s this about a matador?" I finally asked as I helped him down... He flashed that bright white smile of his and shook his head. "Auntie Bina told me about the Spanish bullfights and showed it to me on TV. I saw how the matador uses his sword for the final kill and you looked just like that." "This buffalo wanted to kill you today, but you held your rifle like a sword…" He demonstrated his version of a swordsman's pose… "See; you didn’t even have the rifle on your shoulder - you were holding it up into the air like a sword!" Then I understood as I reflected on the events leading up to the present situation...

A Spanish bullfight (known as a "corrida") is divided into three stages: Tercio de Varas (part of the lances) Tercio de Banderillas (part of Banderillas) and; Tercio de Muerte (part of death) A bullfight is usually conducted in a bullfight arena and is attended by thousands of spectators. It usually lasts 20 minutes from start to finish. (Mostly the bullfighters win...) This particular fight would last more than 6 hours... But then, this was no ordinary fight... In this instance our "arena" was the African bushveld and there were no spectators to witness the two toreros and their matador during this particular fight.

The game was on right from the very beginning... Six hours earlier my client wounded the buffalo bull that was now laying dead down below us. The lung blood that we found at the original scene - several miles away - soon turned into tiny and scattered droplets as we pursued the wounded buffalo through some really nasty stuff in the Limpopo Bushveld. Sammy is my loyal and trusted tracker of the last several years - one of (if not THE) best trackers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with and had it not been for his extraordinary skills we would not have been here right now. In spite of the blood trail drying up, Sammy managed to stay on the track of the wounded bull and it was he who had led us up the point when the buffalo stood up a mere 25 yards in front of us just a minute ago...

Upon seeing us, the bull started running from our left to right and our shots rang out almost simultaneously. We were pretty much aiming at a shadow as the bull was already in the woods by the time we fired. We both started running parallel to the bull. My client was now in front of me and was the first to get another shot off at the bull. That shot changed the bull's mind about fleeing. It appeared he had figured out where the pain was coming from and he now had my client in his sights... I came out into the clearing as the Buffalo commenced its charge and sent a .500gr Barness solid his way. My shot appeared to have little effect on the Buffalo - other than making him aware of the fact that there were two enemies as opposed to one - me being the closest of the two.

He turned and 2,000 Pounds of furious beast was now incoming from 20 yards at 25 miles an hour. I'd have loved to tell you how at this point I shot him right between the eyes and how he came skidding to a halt in front of my feet. Alas; this was not the case. I aimed for the centre of his chest and squeezed the trigger. The buffalo stumbled but continued coming. He was now almost on top of me and the side-step I performed would have made my high school rugby coach very, very proud... I spun into a tree behind me and almost tripped but managed to chamber another round right as the buffalo came to a standstill a couple of feet from me.

As if in slow motion, I saw how the buffalo dropped his right horn for the hook. It was now or never... There was no time to shoulder my rifle so I literally held it like a Spanish Matador would hold his sword for the Estocada (final kill) and squeezed the trigger of my .458 Lott one last time... A bright red dot appeared right in the middle of the buffalo's neck and everything went quiet as he dropped.

Fortunately; other than the buffalo, the only one who sustained "injuries" that day was Sammy - with two palms full of knob thorns - as he scaled the tree when the buffalo charged. Can't say I blame him for doing that... He must have felt pretty vulnerable - being the only one without a rifle in that situation! During the "autopsy" it was revealed that my frontal shot at the charging bull had entered the centre of his chest, travelled throughout the length of his body and exited through his left buttock. Yes, that Barness flat-nosed solid shot length-wise through that buffalo, blew his heart and lungs to pieces and he was still coming! However; by the time he reached me he was tired enough for me to apply the coup de grace and end something that could have gone horribly wrong.

Hats off to my client who stood his ground and continued shooting until the end.