SOME EARLY DAYS IN SABI GAME RESERVE
James realised that he really knew very little about the area of which he was appointed Warden. He often went on long expeditionery trips, often lasting up to three months. Him being a confirmed batchelor up to late in his life, was therefore relieved of being concerned about what was happening at home while being away.
Three months today seems a long time, but considering the large area he had to cover, 20 000 sq km, and his favailable resources : no 4 X 4 as we have today, only horses, donkeys, mules, wagons, carts, no roads, his routine was : plan - pack - pitch camp - strike camp - maintain - repair - control staff - administer - make notes . . . . and . . . . . and . . . . . . , one will then realise that he was quite busy.
He loved the Tsokwane area and spent much of his time there, away from his Headquarters - originally at Crocodile Bridge and later Sabi Bridge.
James often wondered whether he had made the right decision - resigning from the Army and giving up a Genlemans life in Britain, for what he was doing. During a visit to Britain during 1910 he visited his old RHQ and many of his younger days' haunts and came to the conclusion - he was doing what he realy wanted to : being the Warden of the Sabi Game Reserve far away, in his beloved AFRICA.
Although living away from it all, James never lost contact with the outside, he often while on leave visited other parts of AFRICA. He subscribed to many magazines of his interest, he also corresponded with many other sharing his interest. He lived the live of a Colonial/Country Gentleman, often he invited a few friends and their families over for a meal served on a well set table, covered in white starched linen with the well polished silver cutlery, shining where placed outside the white orcelain crockery. Afterwards a smoke and a glass of port or whiskey was enloyed in his growing study.
James was a keen writer, he used to keep a diary and also many journals were written by lamp light in his study, smelling of books, a bit of cigar smoke and AFRICA. He wrote quite a few papers that were presented at Natural or Geographical Society Congresses.
James was a keen artist and he enjoyed doing water colours of his surroundings, preserving old AFRICA for posterity. He also was a keen and able amateur photographer, many of his photographs are in the library, named after him in the Kruger Park Main Camp. Many of his writings may be viewed, now on ageing yellowing paper, ones mind goes back into history and you start visualizing and dreaming old AFRICA and his little CINDERELLA of which he reared and nurtured and protected over a period of 44 years ( June 1902 to retirement April 1946 ) .
Many photos depict this remarkable man short, stockey, wearing a wide brimmed hat, shaven, neatly ironed shirt, often wearing a tie, neat riding breaches tied by a well polished and shined belt. He believed that one should never lower your standards not even while on your own while others were not watching.
James was a keen horseman ( ex Cavalry ) , he enjoyed fishing in the rivers and during a leisure period also just sitting in the shade of a tree listening to the birds and the insects, watching the clouds come and go and also sometimes a dainty Steenbok family with a newly borne fawn . . . . . . .
James also spent many a leisure hour on one of his very special places Shirimantanga Koppie where he could look over this wonderful wilderness which had been entrusted to him, here he dreamed, planned and envisaged about what had to be done to build and preserve it for those stil to come to see and enjoy it as it was still hardly touched by man.
James was extremely well disciplined, he not only made and enforced rules - he also obeyed them - one of the reasons for his success.
During one of the visits by Sir Godfrey Lagden and a few high ranking officials, Ali the Swahili cook dressed in a fez and the appropriate long white robe, announced : " SUKUZA, the meal is ready to be served ". Lagden enquired " Skukuza - what does it mean ", the Warden replied " that is what the call me ", Lagden " yes but what does it mean ", the Warden with a smile " he who turns everything around ". They went to the well laid table and were served the normal rations issued. Lagden expected something more lavish than what was served and remarked that maybe an Impala cut would be enjoyable. Later James took his rifle and went to shoot an Impala, he returned empty handed and reported that there were no Impala. This was hard to believe, so he offered to take a few out on a hunt. They walked many miles through scrub and bush, crawled through thorn thickets, climbed over rocks up hills and down dales.
Eventually the hunters sighted a few Impala, in silence they crept nearer, when close enough James enquired from the group whether anyone would like to complete the hunt, an eager volunteer came forward James handed him the loaded rifle. The sports man took aim, squeezed the trigger, the rifle fired and . . . . missed. The quarry disappeared. James decided that they were out to get an Impala so off they went and repeated the process af the stalk. Eventually more Impala were sighted, again the sports man took slow careful aim making very sure about his shot placement, pulled the trigger, the rifle fired . . . . . and missed., again the Impala disappeared. By now it was late and the party decided to return to base. Again the walked and krept and walked and sweated and climbed untill the sweaty, dusty, scratched, thirsty, tired worn out arrived where an eager crowd enquired about the results of the two shots they had heared. The blushing sportsman explained about the difficuilties they had experienced and that despite all their efforts both shots were misses. James was standing close by listening to all of this and did not think it necessary to add that rifle sights were set at maximum range.
James had to often attend meetings in Pretoria where he met many high ranking Government officials as well as Cabinet Ministers and even the Prime Minister General Smuts, he also met many other influential business people, these associations and friendships in later years, assisted greatly in transformation and the nurturing of little CINDERELLA.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
Last edited by gmlsmit on Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.