Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/159

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151
METHOD OF CURING MEAT.

immediately appropriated by the Damaras ultimately found its way to them through the medium of our native servants. In Damara-land the carcasses of all animals, whether wild or domesticated, are considered public property; therefore, unless the natives should share their allowances with every stranger that might choose to intrude himself into their company, a withering "curse" was supposed to befall them. I have seen the flesh of four zebras, that had been shot by our party, brought to the camp in a single day, and the next morning we could not obtain a steak for our breakfast.

The Damaras are the most voracious and improvident creatures in the world. When they have flesh they gorge upon it night and day, and in the most disgusting manner, until not a particle is left; and, as a consequence, they not unfrequently starve for several days together; but they are so accustomed to this mode of living that it has no injurious effect on them.

In this hot climate, unless preventives of some kind were adopted, flesh would, of course, soon become tainted; and as salt, from the difficulty of conveyance, is exceedingly scarce in Damara-land, the following expedient is adopted. As soon as the animal is killed, lumps are indiscriminately cut from the carcass; a knife is plunged into an edge of one of these lumps, and passed round in a spiral manner, till it arrives at the middle, when a string of meat, often ten to twenty feet long, is produced, which is then suspended like festoons to the branches of the surrounding trees. By cutting the flesh very thin it soon dries, and may in that state be carried about any length of time. There is considerable waste in this process, as fully one third of the meat thus jerked is lost. On such occasions, the natives take care not to forget their own stomachs. Besides large pots filled with the most delicate morsels, immense coils may be seen frizzling on the coals in every direction. When half roasted, they seize one end with their hands, and, applying it to their