Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/314

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about, bellowing and moaning. It is enough to discourage the stoutest heart.

When arriving at a place where we supposed water was to be found, the plan usually adopted, in order to guard against the cattle destroying our work, was to send them away to pasture. In the mean time, every available man went speedily to work with such implements as were procurable: spades, wooden troughs, pieces of wood or of bark, were indifferently put in requisition; and even our hands were used with great effect, though not without sustaining injury. Having worked the aperture of sufficient depth and width, it was fenced in by thorn-bushes, leaving only a single entrance. The oxen were then sent for, and allowed to approach singly or in greater number, according to the extent of the water. Sometimes, however, if the nature of the ground did not permit the cattle to have access to the water, a hollow was scooped in the earth near the edge of the pit, into which (or into a piece of sail-cloth, if at hand) the water was poured by means of small wooden pails, usually denominated "bamboos."

Owing to this tedious process, coupled with the slowness with which water filters through sand, and the immense quantity (usually five or six bucketsful) that a thirsty ox will drink, and the quarrelsome disposition of the animals themselves, watering four hundred head of cattle will often occupy a whole day or night; and, since a person is in a great degree dependent on his cattle, whether for food, draft, &c., he himself must never think of refreshment or rest until their wants have been provided for.

The scarcity of water, and the uncertainty of finding it in these parched regions is so great, that when, after a long day's journey, the anxiously-looked-for pool is found to be dry, it is almost enough to drive a man mad, especially if he be a stranger to the country, and unaccustomed to traversing the African wilds. One's cogitations at such times are apt