Friday, August 02, 2013

First Paragraph

It is nearly three o'clock in the sweltering morning of September 2, 1974. In four hot, still hours dawn will hemorrhage like a fresh wound in the sky over the eastern Muchingas, the great, towering walls that confine the upper reaches of the Luangwa River in Zambia's Eastern Province. In the anemic wash of a dying Central African moon, three canvas tents gleam bluely in a sparse grove of sausage trees near the water's edge. One of them, older and more weather worn, is pitched fifty yards from the others. Behind its bleached cloth and nettling walls, a slender white man sleeps fitfully, tossing in the humid spring silence as greasy sweat darkens the sheets of his camp bed. On the dirt floor beside the tent's walls, a watery moon beam glows on the scratched white stencil of a footlocker: Peter Hankin, Box 72, Chipata. Inside the travel-dented locker lie three flat five-packs of Kynoch 300-grain soft-point cartridges for the battered, silver-worn, old rifle, a Cogswell and Harrison, .375 Holland and Holland Magnum in caliber. But the rifle, as bush-scarred as the face of its owner, is not leaning in its usual place beside the bed. Operating in a photographic safari area, professional hunter Peter Hankin has had to leave it at his hunting camp, Chitangulu, forty miles downstream. His friends will later decide that even if he had the rifle now he would still have less than one minute to live.

- From Death in the Long Grass: A Big Game Hunter's Adventures in the African Bush by Peter Hathaway Capstick

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