Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/79

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71
RIDING ON OX-BACK.

lot without a moment's hesitation, and thus we had overcome a difficulty which had long given us some uneasiness.

Hans had in his employ an English lad named John Allen, who had also been a sailor, and who, like his master, had left his ship in Walfisch Bay. In the absence of his employer, John had been accustomed to take charge of the cattle and the house; and, being an excellent and well-behaved youth, he also was admitted into Mr. Galton's service.

After a few day's rest, it was determined that Hans and myself, together with most of the people, should return to Scheppmansdorf for the purpose of breaking-in the oxen, and bringing up the wagons and the stores.

Hans presented me with an ox called "Spring," which I afterward rode upward of two thousand miles. On the day of our departure he mounted us all on oxen, and a curious sight it was to see some of the men take their seats who had never before ridden on ox-back. It is impossible to guide an ox as one would guide a horse, for in the attempt to do so you would instantly jerk the stick out of his nose, which at once deprives you of every control over the beast; but by pulling both sides of the bridle at the same time, and toward the side you wish him to take, he is easily managed. Your seat is not less awkward and difficult; for the skin of the ox, unlike that of the horse, is loose, and, notwithstanding your saddle may be tightly girthed, you keep rocking to and fro like a child in a cradle. A few days, however, enables a person to acquire a certain steadiness, and long habit will do the rest.

Ox-traveling, when once a man is accustomed to it, is not so disagreeable as might be expected, particularly if one succeeds in obtaining a tractable animal. On emergences, an ox can be made to proceed at a tolerably quick pace; for, though his walk is only about three miles an hour at an average, he may be made to perform double that distance in the same time. Mr. Galton once accomplished twenty-four miles in four hours, and that, too, through heavy sand!