Do families still make time to tell stories? I was very privileged to have had a father who often entertained us with his hunting stories. It was one of these stories that taught me how dangerous a wounded Gemsbuck can be. My father had learnt it from his father, (Oupa Andries) who had demonstrated it to him during a hunting trip. It was a very valuable lesson that has often reminded me - just in time - that one had to respect that any wild animal can hurt or kill you. He also told me of the time he and a friend went hunting in the Kalahari when they had to endure the extremely cold night temperatures in the dunes without the luxuries (a modern tent, sub-zero sleeping bags) that we enjoy on hunting trips today. His lesson to us was: respect nature and all its elements. You can get into serious trouble very quickly if you do not pay attention.
Although my wife and two daughters are not hunters, they love nature and accompany me on hunting trips. Even before they started school, they became hooked on nature after listening to all my campfire stories. Whenever we sat around the fire, they asked to hear more stories. Of course good stories were not unlimited, but with a bit of creativity an old story was often rehashed into a fresh one. It is during these occasions that I was often corrected when I dared to deviate from the original. Today, both daughters are married to men who also hunt, giving a new life to hunting stories. Hunters or anglers do not need an invitation to tell their stories. Mark and Chris (the two new hunters in the family) are no exception. The latest addition to the Nimrods in the family is my youngest daughter, Anita who successfully hunted her first Impala during the 2013 hunting season.
When we go hunting or camping, our most important rule is: television, radio or any other form of music, computers, tablets or mobile phone are all forbidden. These are all wonderful communication tools that allow access to information, but it does nothing to improve communication and the skill of conversation. It is important to make time for each other. Story-time contributes to quality family time, teaches us something about our past and our history, and gives us a sense of belonging. It also encourages young people to value story-time and participate.
Hunting stories have a much wider application and possible audience. About four years ago the Pretoria East branch of SAHGCA started the tradition of hunting stories at the April members’ meeting. We chose April on purpose as the hors d’oeuvre prior to the hunting season. With the first event in 2005, Ron Thomson (a retired game warden, big game hunter and professional hunter with vast experience) was invited to the meeting as our guest speaker and to share his big game hunting experiences with the members. We gathered at Rietvlei Nature Reserve outside Pretoria, which has a large lapa and braai facilities. It was a beautiful but very cold evening with clear skies and roaring campfire flames licking into the dark, cold air.
The lapa has a big fire-pit in the centre surrounded by concentric circles with smaller fireplaces where the audience gathered in smaller groups, feeding the fires with huge chunks of wood. These fires were meant for comfort only and hot food and drinks were served to ensure that no one’s attention strayed during story-time. And of course, something a bit stronger than coffee was brought along and enjoyed by some to help keep the cold at bay.
The event was widely advertised in the branch with the request to bring along spouses, children and visitors. Back then I was still involved with the management of the branch and we were pleasantly surprised when 300 people attended of whom 80 were visitors comprising women and children. At that time, we usually had 100 to 150 people attending our monthly members’ meetings. Ron focused on his Big 5 hunting experiences and for the next 2 ½ hours everyone was entertained on hunting stories that most of us can only dream about. When he finished a story on black rhino darting in the early days, he asked the audience what story they would like to listen to next. A guest requested a story on leopard hunting. The success of that evening caused this event to become a regular feature on the Pretoria East branch’s annual calendar.
Young and old, can all benefit hugely from story-time in more ways than one. Hunting stories are an even more powerful medium when used in the right context around a cosy campfire, with people of your choice and whatever you prefer by way of food and drink. However, a hunting story turning into a bragging session by the storyteller loses its appeal and audience very quickly. Many nations with hunting cultures, such as the Eskimo, San (Bushmen) and Voortrekkers transferred knowledge successfully from one generation to the next. This practice is still alive today in some communities.
Story-telling and practical demonstrations (show and tell), especially when done around a campfire are among the most popular and effective tools to educate others.