African Tales – Feeding the Multitude

July 21 – One year at the Rusangu Mission there was a famine, caused by a drought that killed off most of the local crops. The mission was responsible for providing food for the students, for it had been paid for by the parents when they paid the school fees for the year. Rather than send the students home, it was decided to provide food that probably wouldn’t be provided in these times.


[ Bag of locusts ]

Buyers went around to the villages in the area and offered to buy any bags of dried locusts that were available. Villagers had collected these when the last locust swarm came through. If the locusts eat your food, you then eat the locusts in return! The students ate these at home, and they are biblically clean to eat, so locusts were a main feature of meals for quite a while.

But this was not nutritionally sufficient, so the missionary men took their rifles and the mission vehicle and some male students, and went out hunting for Cape buffalo. The Cape buffalo is one of Africa’s most dangerous animals when wounded. A wounded one will hide in the underbrush and just wait for the hunter to come searching for it. Then it will charge out and pulverize the hunter with hoof and horn. Cape buffalo have great horns with heavy bosses that protect the brain, and can be hard to kill.


[ Drying the biltong ]

The men eventually found a herd of buffalo and began shooting, and killed several, but one old bull kept charging and got closer and closer and was only a few yards away when it finally went down. The buffalo were loaded onto the truck and taken back to Rusangu, and what was not eaten in a brief period of time was cut up into strips called biltong (jerky here in the States), and hung out to dry and would last for long periods of time. The unpleasant thing about biltong is that swarms of flies will settle on it, and of course leave swarms of germs on it. But the students are mostly immune to such things, from long exposure as children, and nobody became ill from eating this biltong.

Cape buffalo are not always threatening. I remember once when we were visiting Wankie Game Reserve in Southern Rhodesia, it was getting late in the afternoon when the road was blocked by a herd of buffalo. We needed to get back to the visitor area before too late or guards would come out looking for us. So I got out of the car and went forth shouting and waving, and away fled the buffalo and left the road clear!

After hearing all this exciting stuff, I suppose some of you adventurous people may consider heading off to Africa some day. Things are a lot less dangerous these days, so don’t expect too many life-threatening events. But do keep us posted! – DALE



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