They came under the cover of darkness: four grey shapes, barely visible in the night. The soft rain muffling the sound of their footsteps on the wet, red soil. He had been there before. When he was growing up his mother would take him on a long walk every year to find the juicy fruit that they would not find anywhere else. Her gentle touch guiding him as they walked in the moonlight.
The memory of how the tangy yet sweet fruit tasted still brought him back. Even long after he had left the herd. In his wake now were three youngsters. They followed him wherever he went. He didn’t mind their presence. It was nice to have a bit of company. And the way they jostled for position was entertaining to watch. He was more than 15 years their senior and he had established dominance a long time ago.
They were getting close now. He could hear the river not too far away. And he could clearly smell the ripe fruit.
When he was about the youngster’s age, the Two-Leggeds had put up some sort of metal wire structure around his two favorite trees. For the past few seasons, there had always been an opening in the wire. And usually, there was barely any sign of the two-legged that lived there. So he and his Askaries could come and go as they pleased.
But this season he could find no opening in the wire. That did not deter him. His mother had shown him how to push his head against a specific part and it would give way; opening up a path to the two trees that carried the most fruit of all the trees in the area. He could hear the voices of the Two-Leggeds and their calves close by. But the temptation of the fruit was too much to bear…
Exactly as his mother had taught him, he put his head against the wire and pushed. The structure made a loud noise but eventually opened. The youngsters behind him could barely contain their excitement. He carefully took a step inside…
I was playing a board game at the dinner table with Steven’s two older children when I heard metal scrape at our front gate. During dinner, I had told them about the elephants that pushed the gate open earlier in the week. “Elephants!” the three of us said in unison.
I jumped up, grabbed my torch and switched the outside light on. There was nothing to see. I opened the front door and switched on my torch. The rain was coming down steady, giving the bush a much-needed soak, but I could not hear much over the sound of the water. The faint beam of light a disappointing reminder that I had forgotten to change its batteries after our braai last weekend.
I took a few careful steps outside and cautioned the kids to stay inside no matter what. I had no idea if the elephants were already in the yard and I did not feel like bumping into one. Elephants are extremely hard to see at night. They blend in perfectly in the dark. I kept swinging my torch back and forth, trying to pick up the glint of an eye or a shape. Something.
My heart almost jumped out of my chest when I finally saw them. Four elephant bulls were at the front gate! Their grey hides, wet from the rain, were glistening in my torchlight. The biggest one had pushed the left-hand side of the gate ajar and was standing half inside, half outside.
“Oh no! We are nót doing this!!” I shouted at them and I ran inside to look for a ‘weapon’, almost slipping in the mud. I gave Aiden the torch and told him to keep shining the flimsy light on the elephants, but to stay inside. His sister was watching the show from the dining room window.
I quickly scanned the kitchen frantically looking for something to chase the elephants away. Remembering some of the comments on one of my previous blog posts about banging cast iron lids together, I grabbed a dirty pot and wooden spoon from the stove.
“Joh daai olifante is stout nè, tannie Linda?” Aiden said to me as I brushed past him on my way outside. “Baie stout my lieffie, maar ek gaan nou vir hulle jaag!”
As soon as I got outside I started hammering the wooden spoon on the back of my dirty pot. The remnants of that night’s dinner were flying everywhere, but I did not care. I had enough of elephant invasions. I cannot even remember what I yelled at the elephants while I was banging on the pot. It did not matter. The noise did the trick and the big bull backed out of the open gate. His movement triggered the motion sensor light on our fence and briefly, I could see him clearly before he and his three buddies disappeared into the darkness.
Closing the gate behind them must have been one of the scariest things I have done in a while. Not knowing how far the elephants were and not being able to hear or see them definitely got my blood flowing.
I walked back into the house feeling quite proud of myself. And then I saw the wooden spoon in my left hand. It had split right down the middle. Haha, I guess I felt really strongly about not having elephants in the yard again. I will have to look for a bit of a sturdier ‘weapon’ and keep it by the front door for the next time they come.
Which I am sure they will…