Chapter IV. Getting
Good Sport—Life in the Wild
From Baden-Powell, What Scouts Can Do: More Yarns, 1921
Part Two: On the
March — Camping — Hunting — Fire-Lighting — Initiation of Boys —
Discipline — Chivalry — Salutation of Friendship — Totem — Signalling
—The Rally — Elephant Hunter and Scout — Two Narrow Escapes — The Boy
Hunter —The End of a Great Career.
ON THE MARCH
Zulus on the march form always a fine
sight, and I shall never forget as long as I live the first time I saw a Zulu impi (army)
on the move.
Well, as a matter of fact, I heard it
before I saw it. For the moment I thought that a church organ was playing, when the
wonderful sound of their singing came to my ears from a neighbouring valley.
Then three or four long lines of brown
warriors appeared moving in single file behind their indunas (chiefs), all with their
black and white plumes tossing, kilts swaying, assegais flashing in the sun, and their
great piebald ox-hide shields swinging in time together.
The Ingonyama chorus played on the organ
would give you a good idea of their music as it swelled out from four thousand lusty
throats. At a given moment every man would bang his shield with his knobkerry (club)
and it gave out a noise like a thunderclap.
At times they would all prance like
horses, or give a big bound in the air exactly together. It was a wonderful sight, and
their drill was perfect.
Behind the army came a second army of umfaans
(boys), carrying on their heads the rolled-up grass sleeping-mats, wooden pillows, and
water-gourds of the men.
These boys, by going on the march and
looking on at battles, giving first aid to the wounded, and cooking the men’s food, were
all learning how to become good warriors later on.
They were the Boy Scouts of their nation.
On reaching the spot for camp the men
built their scherns (lean-to shelters of brushwood made in a wide horseshoe form so
that a company of men could lie with their heads under the shelter and their feet towards
The men would then sally out to hunt game
for food. Some would track a deer, and clothing themselves in grass would creep up to
within distance for throwing an assegai at it, and then, rushing in, would dispatch it
with the broad-bladed stabbing spear, uttering at the same time their fierce stabbing cry
Others would set traps with a noose made
of twine attached to a sapling which was bent over to form the spring.
Also, a usual method was for a number of
men to go out in a wide circle and gradually close in, driving the game before them in to
the centre and then spearing the buck as they tried to escape.
The umfaans meantime collected
wood and water and lit fires by using fire-drills worked between the palms of their hands.
The cooking was of a very simple kind. Mealies, that is, Indian corn, was boiled in a
round pot and made into porridge, while the meat of the animals secured in the hunt was
cut into slabs like beef steaks and skewered on an assegai until the weapon was crowded up
with meat. It was then stuck with its point in the ground alongside the fire, and as the
meat got warmed it was supposed to be sufficiently cooked for eating purposes.
INITIATION OF BOYS
The induna, with some of the older
ringkops, that is, warriors who by their prowess earned the right to become married
men with property and wore a black ring of rank on their heads received the boys of the
tribe who were old enough to become warriors and gave them a lot of advice as to how they
were to behave in action, how to use their weapons, how to tackle wild animals, and warned
them that they must never retreat.
If they came back from an expedition
defeated, they would have to surrender their arms and have their necks broken by the women
of their tribe, and their motto was:
"If we go forward we die,
If we come back we die;
Best to go forward and die."
The discipline of the Zulus is very
strict, and death is the punishment for almost any offence against the laws of the tribe.
Thus, when two warriors quarrelled over
their food and one of them stabbed the other slightly, the attacker was brought before the
induna for trial.
The induna pointed out that by injuring a
fellow warrior he was acting as an enemy to the tribe and could not therefore be permitted
to live. He would be taken away and handed over to the women, one of whom would take his
chin and the back of his head between her two hands as she stood behind him and break his
In another case the young warrior was
wearing a lion’s mane as his head-dress, which showed that he had single-handed fought and
killed a lion with his assegai.
In consequence of this the induna said
that in his case since he had proved himself exceptionally brave in the face of danger, he
would probably do so again in action against an enemy, and he would be of value to the
tribe. His valour therefore outweighed his want of discipline, and he was pardoned.
During the trial the warriors all sat
round in a ring on the ground grunting together in unison about once every two seconds as
a sign that they were interested and agreed with what the induna was saying. The
moment he gave his verdict of acquittal they all sprang to their feet and raised the right
hand, shouting the word inkosi (chief), meaning approval.
SALUTATION OF FRENDSHIP
The pardoned man then knelt before the induna
and kissed the palms of both his hands, which he had held out to him, and then sprang
to his feet in his turn and shouted, " Inkosi."
The totem standard was then brought
forward, and the pardoned man, having assumed his shield and assegai, saluted the totem
and promised good behaviour and duty to the tribe in the future.
Then came the call to the tribe by smoke
signals, drumming, and sounds on the koodoo’s horn, and the men at once prepared for
The impi, on moving off, did so in
a very peculiar way. The young, light-footed warriors ran off in a single file in a
crouching position, all hissing through their teeth, to take up their position for the
charge, while the older men, the ringkops, formed what was called the " chest
" of the army, that was the central solid part of it which pressed forward to put
superior weight into the fight when necessary.
Thus, with the chest advancing slowly in
the centre and the two "horns," as they were called, of active runners coming in
from both sides, the charge was made in a horseshoe form, every man yelling at the top of
his voice as they rushed to the central point as we do in our rallies.
ELEPHANT HUNTER AND SCOUT. TWO
It was at Capetown, very many years ago,
that I first met the great elephant hunter, Selous. He was a small man, who would not
strike you at first sight as being anything out of the common. But what I noticed at once
about him was his wonderfully keen, clear eye and his big, deep chest. He had then only
just got back to civilisation after his tremendous feat of escaping alone from a hostile
tribe north of the Zambesi.
It was chiefly thanks to that keen eye
and his quick sight, and to the strong heart and lungs within that mighty chest that he
was enabled to get safely away.
I have already told you the story of that
amazing adventure in Scouting for Boys.
The next time that I saw him was up in
Rhodesia, when he had just had another escape, this time accompanied by his wife.
They were at that time living on their
farm some thirty miles from Buluwayo. On their land was a kraal, or village, of native
huts inhabited by Matabele natives. One day, when he was away from home, some of the men
came up from the village and asked Mrs. Selous if she could lend them a few axes. She did
so, and they grinned their thinks with particularly meaning grins, and went back to their
huts. She little thought that they were borrowing the axes for the purpose of disarming
her and her husband, and of murdering them both with them later on!
Presently Selous came galloping home. He
urged his wife at once to saddle her horse and to mount—the natives were
"up" in rebellion all over the country. In a few minutes, like a good
frontierswoman, she was ready and mounted, and they rode off from their home towards the
Before they had gone many yards they
heard a tumult behind them, and ere they were out of sight of their home they saw dense
clouds of smoke arising from it as the natives, baulked of their prey , set the whole place
THE BOY HUNTER
Selous had first gone out to South Africa
directly after he left school, when he was nineteen years old, filled with the one idea of
becoming a big-game hunter. Rhodesia was at that time called Matabeleland, and was owned
by the fierce native chief Lobengula and his far-famed Matabele warriors. There was plenty
of big game in the country, but Lobengula would not give white men leave to hunt it, But
when this mere boy came along and asked permission, the chief laughed and said that he was
such a child he might have his wish.
The old chief was very much surprised to
find that, in a short time, Selous proved himself not only a very brave and clever hunter,
but that he was far better than any of the best warriors and hunters that the tribe could
Selous had marvellous endurance. He could
run mile after mile following up elephants; he was a wonderful tracker, and a nailing good
shot with the rifle. He could always manage with very little food; by being always in fit
condition, and never having drunk anything stronger than water, he needed no drink; he
could get what he wanted to eat by shooting and cooking a bird or animal. He always wore
shorts, as giving him freedom for his legs. He never smoked cigarettes or any kind of
tobacco, so he kept his wind, and could easily outrun even the quick-footed natives (and
they can run forty miles in a day!).
He was the truest type of Scout that you
could find anywhere. No man has shot so many elephants, or so many lions, as he has done.
And when at last he gave up his wild life
and returned to England he found he could never stay at home for long. Almost every year
saw him somewhere or other shooting big game. One year it might be the Rocky Mountains,
the next it was East Africa, then Alaska or the Soudan.
Once, when he was in my room, he saw
there a pair of horns of a kind of antelope which he had not got in his collection. He at
once noted down the name of the place where I had got them—it was somewhere in
South-East Africa—and off he went, and was not satisfied till he had got a pair
That was the kind of man he
was—always ready to go off on an adventure. And yet he was, like a Scout, very quiet
and modest about what he had done; he never boasted or talked about the-feats he had
When he could not go big game shooting he
would go in for watching birds and noting their habits, collecting their eggs, and so on.
He had a charming home at Worplesdon, in Surrey, where he had built a museum to hold the
specimens of all the different kinds of animals he had hunted—and many a Boy Scout
has spent a happy day looking on the wonderful great beasts of the jungle there collected.
THE END OF A GREAT CAREER
But when war came Selous could not stay
idly at home although he was sixty-three years of age he "joined up," and was
soon at the front in East Africa. Here, serving as an officer in the Royal Fusiliers, when
all the officers with him were down with fever and sickness this hardened veteran was as
fit as a fiddle and doing grand work. In September he was awarded the Distinguished
Service Order "for conspicuous gallantry, resource, and endurance."
On January 8th this splendid Scout
fell—killed in action, fighting for his country.
A fitting end to an adventurous life, and
one that he would have wished for!
He was the finest Scout of our time.
Baden-Powell, What Scouts Can
Do: More Yarns, 1921
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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1997
Last Modified: 11:20 AM on September 7, 1997