Timoti, Torch Batteries and the Lioness

I became an officer in the Rhodesian bush war and along with my team of stalwarts built a training camp on the Sebakwe river to train volunteers in the art of bush craft and tracking etc.  We needed a camp attendant /come cook and to achieve this we were allocated a tall Matabele who had been security-cleared to be in a military establishment.

His name was Timoti Mlalazi. This wonderful guy who could cook steak and eggs to perfection and his own maize meal grits and that was all, suited us just fine. The words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem Gunga Din are brought to my mind when he wrote ‘Of all the black-faced crew the finest man I knew was our regimental Bhisti Gunga Din’. Those words fit precisely the man that Timoti was.  He was a very strong fellow and if he tightened something by hand you could not open it without a wrench. He spoke no English, only Ndebele, his native language and a smattering of the universal Kitchen Dutch, understood and spoken by all the people of Southern Africa.

When the hostilities ended and Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, Timoti, now un-employed, joined my crew and ultimately became our family and safari cook and quickly became my wife Di’s favorite employee. One day we were camped on the shores of Lake Kariba with hunting clients from Florida. I had gone to Kariba village to restock the larder and on my return in the late afternoon, some few hundred yards on the track running into camp, drove by a beautiful lioness strolling toward the camp.

I joined the party which included Duff Gifford and Alan Lowe who were helping to guide the hunt and while cracking a bottle of beverage I mentioned the lioness.  Hardly had I spoken when she walked into the edge of the camp and came to stop right near the 7 ton truck which was our skinning shed. She had picked up the scent of the groceries nicely salted and curing on the bed of the truck. I had a big flash light on the table which I grabbed to put light onto the cat as it was all but dark by now. The batteries were flat and so I called softly to Timoti to smartly get the 458 and some batteries by my bed.

All the while the cat stood dead still with her tail making wide swishes in the air – not a good sign. I got the rifle from Timoti. Now, remember I told you he was very strong… He was standing next to me and soon had my attention, I could see his eyes staring at the cat, mesmerised with fear and he was literally banging me in the ribs with the flash light batteries. That beautiful cat then gave a really wide sweep of her tail and I expected her to come at us but with the last swish she turned and strolled back into the night.

For a long time after I was reminded of the incident when I felt the bruises on my left side!!   

2021-03-17T14:39:26-04:00March 16th, 2021|News, Stories|

Duff and the Hippo

Did you know Duff Gifford? He came with me on a number of hunting trips. On this occasion he was assisting Alan Lowe and I on a hunting trip in the Nyakasanga area of the Zambezi Valley. We had three American hunters on that trip, Joe Colvin, George Bezeckny and Doug Parker. Believe me it was never dull when these guys were in Africa.

We hunted buffalo for bait as both George and Doug were hunting Lion. As the Lions were not being co-operative we had time to do some plains game hunting. One morning we were all sitting on a high bank overlooking the Zambezi floodplain just above an ox bow mud pool left by the annual flood of the Zambezi. We were about 200 yards from where we had set a Lion bait for George. We noticed that there appeared to be a dead Hippo in the pool which was covered in dense water lilies. The carcass was apparently being fed on by fish or something because it had some bobbing movement every now and then. The head was hidden by the lilies but for sure it was dead. What a find, with George’s Lion bait only 200 yards away, all we needed to do was get a rope on the carcass and drag it with a Land Rover to the bait tree and we would have what Duff referred to as a ‘Grenulch’ which is in effect a pile of meat in various stages of decomposition. Duff, being the junior member of the guide team was tasked with carcass retrieval. We left Duff with Mahlambe, my faithful right hand man, tracker, skinner, terrorist, mechanic, driver, part-time cook and the most amoral black man east of the Atlantic. The rest of us left to go hunting.

Duff, being one of those devil may care types, simply discarded his pants and waded out to the carcass with the plan being to cut a slit in the hide, attach the rope and he would have the carcass out in a jiffy. So with Mahlambe holding one end of the rope, Duff waded out into that murky stuff to the hippo carcass bobbing about obviously being fed on from below by fish or heaven forbid a crocodile. Reaching the rear end of the hippo carcass he took a good hold on his Puma knife and with all his weight behind it, gave it a full blow to penetrate the hippo hide which is very thick. The blade went in all the way and the Hippo erupted – full of life! It had only been sleeping!

Duff said later that as far as he knew there were only two people in history who walked on water and he was one of them! Mahlambe wisely abandoned the rope and took off and to add insult to injury when Duff arrived at the Land Rover, covered in mud and grime with his eyes out on stalks, Mahlambe laughed so hard that he wet himself. When I got back to camp I walked past Duff’s tent where I was told he was taking a nap and when I asked in passing how the carcass project had gone, he grunted from inside the tent some malevolent very explicit expletives that indicated to me that things had not gone exactly according to plan…

2020-07-27T22:49:23-04:00July 27th, 2020|News, Stories|

Far from town

We had a Muslim cook in our house in Zimbabwe and one year we decided to take him into the safari area to assist Timoti, the tall and very much liked Matabele camp cook. The camp was on the banks of the Zambezi in the north of the Chewore Safari Area across from Zambia on the north bank. The house cooks name was Frank. The journey into the proposed camping site was crazy far from Harare and the track was a nightmare. When we did get there with the Landcruiser, hunting cars and the 7 ton Isuzu loaded with supplies and everything to build the camp everyone fell out of the truck and we rolled out the sleeping mats and stretcher beds and without further ado the whole team greeted the night by being fast asleep very quickly. The next morning everyone was famished as we had slept without supper the night before, we needed to have more than a few canned beans and corn meal to eat so I went out onto the flood plain and in short order collected an Impala for the pot.

The crew were delighted when I pulled in with the Impala and set about skinning and butchering the animal right away. The crew had the pot going with the meat along with their vegetables and corn meal which is like grits, their staple diet, when along comes Frank to say to me that he cannot eat the meat because he did not cut the animals throat and intone the Muslim prayer. Well I had a big box with earth worms for fishing which was always part of our equipment especially when our two kids were with us, they love to fish and so I gave Frank a little tin can with some worms in it and a piece of fishing line and a hook and told him he can fish for his food but not in my time and left it at that. About an hour later I was driving out in the Landcruiser to hunt another Impala as the first one was not going to last long and as I drove past where the crew were eating and there was Frank stuffing himself with Impala stew. I stopped and asked him what the hell he was doing eating this non-halal meat, he grinned at me with his mouth full of Impala stew and said “God will not see me this far from town.” African reasoning – can you beat that!

2020-07-27T22:49:39-04:00April 15th, 2020|News, Stories|

Wrapping up 2018 at Bronze Africa

Had a really lovely comment from Barbara and Steve about Closing in the Long Grass. Went something like this:

I wanted to let you know that the bronze ‘Closing in the Long Grass’ arrived safely on Friday. My husband and I are so pleased with it. We really love the sculpture. Thank you both for what you have done for us.

John, I received a book recently from the Painted Wolf Foundation in the United Kingdom. Maybe you are familiar with it. The title is ‘Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life’, by Nicholas Dyer and Peter Blinston. It is a beautiful book with a moving story about these incredible animals.

Di, I laughed when I read your description of camping in Namibia in the winter time. I know exactly what you mean. I’m sure you and John have many fascinating stories you could tell about your years spent in Africa.

Barbara & Steve

Thanks for the kind words Barbara.

And as you will see, Di and I show no signs of slowing down if you look at the year we had in 2018. March in France, April and May in Africa to visit my sisters and many of our old friends and in November we headed for Australia to visit our son Riley, his wife Laura, Emmett going on 4 and Stella going on 2.

And in between some 7 new pieces. Still waiting for the latest buffalo piece to arrive from the foundry but here are 6 new pieces for you to peruse.

Black Powder – a very dynamic new sculpture of a black rhino

Fighting Talk – a bugling elk and my first sculpture of this magnificent American giant

Heading for Water – a male and female southern nyala

Little Big Buck – a male bushbuck

The Scent of Silence – a new elephant piece to add to the collection

Bait Ball Ballet – and something right out of left field – a sculpture of a yellow fin tuna

Not sure what is store for 2019 but for now, another Christmas, the festive table to consume with gay abandon, vast quantities of vittles prepared by our wonderful women folk who are singular in their frantic need to sink us into glutinous mounds of quivering Christmas overindulgence. Wonderful! The Kiddies open their presents from Santa, break some, fight over others and hide the rest!

Wishing you all a fabulous festive season. Thank you for your continued support in 2018 and very best wishes for 2019.

2019-08-28T16:25:29-04:00December 24th, 2018|Antelope, Elephant, News, Rhino|

Bronzes rising from the ashes

This is a tale of woe that fortunately had a good ending for 3 of my original pieces. I suspect there are a good number of you out there that have never even seen these 3 pieces.

The Kilimanjaro Bull is three feet high and was the very first Elephant I sculpted but I don’t display it anymore. It is too heavy to haul around as are the wall mount and the giraffe. Time has marched on and Di and I don’t have the strength to handle these at the shows.

So herewith the tale. One of the foundries I have used for years burned down this year. Cal Paulson’s Billings Bronze was nearly burned to the ground. Thankfully no one was hurt and few losses of art occurred but there was really not much left.

The patina room was destroyed and much of the equipment was also burned. Sometime ago, Cal cast two Kilimanjaro Study wall mounts, one Kilimanjaro Bull as well as Rain Dancer, a four foot tall giraffe and they were just there when the fire went through.

Mercifully, the flames were not hot enough to melt or damage the bronze. On my way back from the Bozeman foundry last month I stopped by to collect the two heads and the Giraffe. The Kilimanjaro Bull however, will be on its way to be displayed and perhaps sold at the African Oasis in Dillion, Montana in the next few weeks or so.

Back from the dead

Cal had to patina the heads with rudimentary bits and pieces and used a fork lift to raise the pieces so we could get it done. We managed to find a little bottle of silver nitrate which is the foundation chemical he has always used to patina the Elephant. The darker colors were the usual ferric oxides he uses which is easy to make by putting a kilo of nails in a gallon of sulphuric acid and let the nails dissolve so we had plenty of that. Cal had his pump pot with the potash mixture so we had no problem with that either. The sequence is to put potash on the raw bronze and to highlight the high bits with a blue pad which is like a nylon pot scourer and then heat the whole thing with the blow torch which he had because it survived the fire but the bottle of course had exploded so he had another one or two brought in. We worked in a room across the street from the original Foundry. It was very hot work in that summer heat so naturally a few beers assisted in the improvisations we had to make.

Kilimanjaro Bull
Elephant head wall mount

I was glad to have the chance to work with Cal on these original pieces. A lot of water under the bridge for the two of us and it felt like we had gone full circle. Cal, the foundry and I go right back to when I very first arrived in the USA to become a full-time sculptor.

And there we shall leave this tale…

If you might be interested in the sculptures, do get in touch. Otherwise be on the lookout for some new work before we go to Australia in late October to visit our grandchildren and, of course, their parents.

And don’t forget that we are going to be at the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson, TX on October 6th and 7th. A new show for us which we are very much looking forward to attending so if you’re in the area don’t forget to come over and say hello.

Until next time, JT

2019-11-18T17:46:18-04:00September 12th, 2018|Elephant, Large, News|
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