Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/85

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77
TRAINING OXEN FOR THE YOKE.

about assumed the dignity of primeval nature, fresh from the hand of the Creator; and the solemn and stern night-silence only hushed me into sounder sleep. These feelings and this trusting repose mainly originated in the kind ministrations and unaffected welcome of sincere friends.

After a day or two's rest we began the difficult and laborious task of breaking-in the oxen; but it proved a much more difficult one than I had anticipated. While herded together these animals looked tame and docile enough, but the instant they felt the lasso round their legs or horns their character changed completely.

The spirit of Damara cattle is fiery and wild in the extreme, and I have known many an ox which ten strong men were unable to manage. The only remedy in such a case is to lasso the beast by his legs and horns, and, after having thrown him down, to affix to his neck a heavy iron chain, of sufficient length to trail along the ground. The effect on the animal of this incumbrance is in some instances very remarkable; for, instead of a wild, stubborn, and unbending brute, in a short time he is all docility. Indeed, it not unfrequently happens that he becomes too lazy to be of any use.

While at Scheppmansdorf, and whenever I could snatch a moment from my busy life, I never failed to shoulder my gun with a view of obtaining specimens of natural history or a "re-enforcement for the larder," and an hour's walk not unfrequently procured me a tolerable share of both. Ducks and geese, though somewhat shy, were by no means uncommon. Quadrupeds of every description, however, were scarce, yet I managed occasionally to bag a steinbok or a hare.

Almost every morn we were visited by a splendid flock of pelicans, who kept soaring above the place for hours together; now in wide, graceful circles, the next instant in a compact body, sometimes rising into the sky till they became nearly invisible, then suddenly sinking till they almost touched the earth; when abruptly, as if recollecting that the land