Racing a Warthog

Dr. Paige Patterson

After a plane ride that seemed to me to take just short of eternity, our Delta jet landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. No rest for the weary, we changed immediately to a slightly smaller aircraft for a little over an hour’s journey to Livingstone, Zambia. Livingstone is a fascinating town where a tourist can dine and sleep in a couple of the finest hotels available anywhere and take a flight over Victoria Falls, which was named by David Livingstone, the first Anglo missionary to the area. He was also an excellent cartographer, mapping the whole area. At night one can sit by the banks of the Zambezi River as the water flows over the falls and listen to the peculiar snort of the hippopotamus even as giraffes and zebras walk behind him. But we have no time for such now; we board our Cessna single-engine aircraft for a three-and-a-half hour journey to the north to the Zambian border with the Congo.

The hunt I shall describe here had so many high points that I cannot put them all into one article. What I can tell you, however, is that perhaps due to the advanced age of the author, probably the greatest success story on this journey was making that three-and-a-half hour flight without the proximity of restroom facilities! There was really no place to land and no facility to be found. Disembarking from the tomb of that Cessna, I stretched my legs only for a second when Pete Fisher, our outfitter, drove his Land Rover up to the plane and shouted, “Get in! On the way over, I think I saw your Roan.” Pete knew that I was interested in several things but above all else the Roan antelope. What a beautiful antelope it is, and I knew that there was a good chance I could take one in northern Zambia. As much as I wanted to go right then, I had to plead my case and say, “You don’t want me in the truck until I’ve made a short stop!”

And so, out behind an old barn, I took care of the most excruciatingly necessary business and headed back to the truck as quickly as I could. My wife along with everybody else but the photographers loaded into other vehicles and started toward the hunter’s house. But we made our way back along the same way he had come. We had not traveled 15 minutes before we saw a magnificent Roan antelope. I could not believe that I was going to get a shot at such a gorgeous animal. We had to travel a little way on foot, but we finally got in a position where I had a good shot and thankfully was able to bag this antelope with ears long enough to land and aircraft. At the end of forty-five minutes on the ground, on the border between Zambia and the Congo, we did our business and headed back to the house with this beautiful Roan antelope. What happened next, nobody had anticipated.

Suddenly, a warthog had awakened from his afternoon snooze and was about a hundred yards starboard and running about the same speed as we. Actually, the warthog was faster at that point and was intending to cut across the road, going where we did not know. Pete decided that a race was in order, so he floored the gas pedal. Had I been racing a cheetah, I would not have thought anything about it. Even a tsessebe, which I also had the privilege of taking on this trip, would have been more than a match for the truck on that dirt road. But I would never have believed that a warthog could run that fast. Needless to say, he was all out and stretched about as far as you can stretch an animal with a girth like that. However, he beat us to the crossing and made it across, and everybody had a great time watching that hilarious warthog run.

Supper and a night in bed, and we were out on the hunt again. This time we were looking for Cape Buffalo. One of our hunters worked harder than I have ever seen a man work to get a shot. He wore blisters on his feet and walked what seemed to me a hundred miles across a five-day period. As he would approach, the buffalo herd would see him and simply move on. On such enormous acreage they had no difficulty staying away from him. Finally, on the last day with only moments remaining in the hunt, he got his shot. It was a good one and down went the wounded buffalo. Unfortunately, the rest of the herd hung around and threatened to charge. Our professional hunter shouted, “Everybody to the termite mound!”

Now termite mounds are everywhere in Africa. They are built up very high, and they certainly are safe fortresses to escape the charge of angry buffalo. But it is not a situation in which one can afford to be very comfortable since they also are the favorite places for black mambas, the most aggressive of all the poisonous snakes in Africa, to find residence. So, you can imagine what a retreat to the termite mound meant for all who climbed up, watching at every move to see if a black mamba stuck its head out. A confrontation with a herd of buffalo would have been far preferable. Cape Buffalo in hand and headed back to the hunter’s house once again, we then came across an animal so unusual that I would have given anything to have taken it. A swamp dweller – the sitatunga – has the most peculiar feet of any antelope, making it possible for this animal to walk easily in the swamp. Its horns are interesting, and its abode is sufficiently deep in the swamp to insure that hunting is not with the epitome of ease. Not only that, but you seldom see one out as was this one. In addition, was sitatunga undoubtedly great enough that it would have made the African record book.

“Take the shot,” said Pete.

I said, “That one costs more money than I have powder.” And to my regret, I had to pass up the sitatunga. What an unusual animal!

Arriving back at the house, we sat down for supper. We decided that in the morning my son Armour and my son-in-law Mark Howell would have their chance. Now, there are two kinds of hunters in the world. There are selfish hunters, and there are hunters who get just as excited about somebody else taking an animal as they do taking one themselves. I certainly hope I am one of those who gets just as excited about anybody taking one; but for sure I know that I am thrilled when my sons have that opportunity. Sure enough, the day was not far along when my son-in-law got this beautiful puku antelope. Then before many more hours had passed, he also picked up a beautiful reedbuck, both of which have made the record book. What a joy to see my son-in-law with two such beautiful animals. Armour, on the other hand, did not take anything immediately. As a matter of fact, it was almost nightfall when Pete and Armour both caught a glimpse of a beautiful eland. Now the Livingstone eland is next to the largest of all the African antelope, exceeded only by the Lord Derby eland, which is found primarily in the Central African Republic. This eland was a big one. But as quickly as I saw him, he vanished into the heavy forest. Armour followed and with remarkable eyes was able still to see him in the darkness of the forest.

I said, “Son, can you see what you are shooting?”

“Yes, Dad, I see him.”

All of a sudden, the sound of the discharge of the barrel, one shot, and down went this beautiful eland. We were able to light him up enough with a series of lights to take a really good picture, as you can see. So, with that we returned to the hunter’s house. There Pete Fisher began to explain several important factors.
“Have you noticed,” asked Pete, “that there are numerous animals in these several thousand acres that I have access to?”

“Yes,” we all replied, “we have been amazed!”

And we were because Zambia’s animal population has suffered monumentally over the last few years. There are several problems associated with it, but poachers – both ivory poachers and meat poachers – cause much of the difficulty with these animals.

“How do you do it?” asked one of our crew.

“Well,” said Pete, “the animals belong to the people. As far as I’m concerned, the people cannot take the animals because they don’t have the fire arms to do so. But when we take the animals, we eat just enough to serve our party, but all the rest of the animal’s meat goes to the people and especially to the orphanages. Then we ask the people to be our resident police and keep the poachers away, and the people do a far more efficient policing of the animals and driving away of poachers than the army and police units are able to do.
“So, we have made a deal with the people that greatly benefits them. In addition to that, I also provide a fair amount of money for schooling, scholarships, developing of land, and a number of other things so that they know that the hunting business is a good business for them also.”

“Tomorrow,” he said, “we will show you. We will take one of the sables that we shot today to the orphanage. It will be an experience you will never forget.”

Now on that point Pete Fisher was never more right in his life. When we drove into the orphanage with the carcass of that sable in the truck, we were greeted by literally hundreds of children. Some of them were school children, but others were from the orphanage there. They would have very little, if any, meat to eat if Pete did not provide this from his hunts. So you can imagine how excited the children were when we brought out the sable. A sufficient number of them were there to eat the whole animal that night!
The faces and the smiles of these precious children were worth more than a hundred hunts. I would have given anything to have just stayed there among them and worked for days.

But let me tell you what made me the most grateful of all. More than anything else, I was grateful that my two sons were there to experience the marriage of a good time on a hunt with caring for people whose needs might not have been met any other way. Watching my children work with these orphans was worth the price of the journey – even the part on the Cessna. One little boy, whose name was Enoch, was about three years of age. He did not come around us like the others did. He sat to himself in a corner and looked down at the ground. My son Armour inquired about him and was told that he had seen his parents die the day before. Now he was a resident of the orphanage. I watched as my boy, though now forty years of age, went over and took that little boy into his lap. As he sat on the ground with the little boy, it was apparent that the child was drawn to Armour. He soon had his arms around him and did not part from him the rest of the time we were there. The two were inseparable. How I wish Armour could have brought that little boy home to be his own, but adoption is difficult both in Zambia and – thanks to greed – here in America, also.

This experience reminds me to ask every hunter to be very sensitive to the peoples among whom he does his hunting. Do everything within your power to meet their needs and pray that our own country will come to the point where adoption of children with no parents is less expensive and more possible. And whatever you do, be sure to take your children to race a warthog!

Dr. Paige Patterson, President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas