Aidan Hartley Aidan Hartley

Wild life | 4 June 2011

Aidan Hartley's Wild life

Aidan Hartley’s Wild life

Laikipia

I had enjoyed a boozy lunch and afternoon in the Men’s Bar of the Muthaiga. I rarely get time off and I was, like the hue of my adored club’s walls, in the pink — and looking forward to a convivial evening out among fascinating people. The call came in just after sundowners. ‘Sorry to interrupt,’ the voice on the line said, ‘but bandits have stolen all your cattle.’ Still in my city clothes, I raced home through the night, keeping myself awake by loudly blaspheming all the way until I reached the farm two hours before dawn.

I cursed my fate. I resolved to give up farming all together. At first light a lion was roaring in the valley and my heart lifted. Our guys had used torches to pick up the tracks. The sun rose. I saw from the prints that these were the same five rustlers who had made off with a neighbour’s 50 steers last month. That day we had pursued them and after many adventures all except one beast had come back. This time, after firing off an AK-47 at the boma, the bandits had stolen a dozen of my best breeding cows — thankfully, a fraction of the herd I thought they had lifted — splitting them from calves that were not more than eight weeks old. I almost wept to think of the babies crying for their mothers, and of our cows, bellowing from the pain of swollen udders.

I could see that one bandit had huge feet. He wore ‘thousand miler’ sandals made from cut-up car tyres. I angrily imagined the showdown I would have with this oversized oaf. And then I imagined him looking back at me, perhaps through his gun sight.

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