In the Valley $1.99

buy In the Valley 20,000 words - Short Srories

Luangwa River

Luangwa River

Sunday, August 21, 2005


One of the probable origins of the myth of the Unicorn, it seems to me, might be the fact that eland in the extreme South of Africa sometimes are born with a single horn. These animals were and are believed to have very strong spiritual connections, especially among the San ( Bushmen ). The word for Eland and the word for Dance are the same in several languages, which is significant since Dance is what is used to connect with the spirit world, shamans will dance into a trance to find medicines, to banish evil, or draw strength. In rock art eland are often depicted ,far more often than other animals, and quite often these images show one horn. Eland fat was the preferred type of animal fat used to mix with pigments when making paints for this art, and when making medicinal potions and ointments.
Early sea-going visitors to the Cape very probably picked up on the spiritual connections made by the San, and possibly saw one horned specimens too. When Telling the Tale back home of course, fact became a little inflated and over time changed to myth. Early Dutch records refer to the yearly migration of eland herds, and to the occasional presence of single-horned individuals among them. In the McLeod Clan chief's castle in Scotland, there is a Unicorn Horn which has been identified by biologists as an eland horn.
Mature eland are large, and defend themselves and others in their herd against lions, unlike most other African antelope, which prefer flight over fight when facing lions. Since lions were extremely difficult to defend against with small poisoned arrows, an animal which could beat lions would have been worthy of special notice. A single- horned eland, an old hand-reared camp-ground frequenter in a Swaziland Game Reserve, killed a lion a few years ago. He was then shot by the young Swazi King, (who considered this an insult to his namesake beast,the lion ) thus epitomising the ancient conflict.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

lions on the prairies

Just read a news story about a conference on Ted Turner's ranch in New Mexico. Somebody proposed putting large African animals in preserves on the prairies, which would replace large animals in the Great Plains ecosystem such as the sabre-tooth, mastodon and dire-wolf, and others which haven't been there for some time now, with lions, elephant and so on. Sounds like too much of a good thing to me, why not start by allowing ordinary prairie species, such as bison, wolves and bears, to repopulate deserted farmland? There would be enough problems in human/animal interaction without going further than that. At some point these proposed free-range zoos would abut on farmland or towns, and present problems with bears and wolves would multiply. So why not keep it at that level, after all wolves, bison and bears roamed the plains in the recent past? If you have space for exotic large animals, why not for indigenous species first ? The argument that people would pay to see them is a little weak, and would directly counteract efforts in Africa to preserve these species in their native habitats, and to earn tourism income by people in the third world.
If the objective is partly to maintain the plains as grassland by introducing elephants to destroy trees, there are two answers; first off , bison grazing do a pretty good job of preserving grassland as such and secondly people do a fine job when it comes to getting rid of trees. Allowing bison and antelope to multiply on deserted farmland would soon show economic benefits , as they can use the available fodder far more efficiently than cattle, with less care and cost.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Been busy again, did a fair bit of writing , then quite a lot of overtime at work, which continues this week. The money is hard to refuse,so time is eaten up in extra shifts on what should be time for other things. Also have been putting down a floor in one room, that click laminate stuff, looks good , not quite as good as real wood but way better than carpet. Less allergins, dust mites and plain old dust.Quite easy to lay, the fiddly bits around cupboard doors are the hardest. Some joints showing in one corner where things werent quite lined up right, and attempts to fix it resulted in chipping of the top layer, visible. Guess where the dresser is going to be ? Work again tomorrow, just an eight hour shift, then I hopĂȘ to remove the old furnace from the house in town and bring it here. With minor alterations, it will burn propane instead of Gas and keep this place warm whenever I am away for more than a few hours. Last winter the pipes and waterpump froze and split when I was away during really cold weather and the wood stove had time to cool down to useless. Will have to build some kind of shelter for the furnace, don't want it in the living room or wherever and there is no basement here.