The Reawakening : Scientific Exploration 225
try to get to the north and start in a fortnight; we have got no distance as yet as I had first to buy the oxen and then which is no joke to break them in. Fancy having two heavy wagons on the one band and fifty wild oxen on the other that toss and kick and roll and are as vicious as young "thorobreds" it took time before we could make them pull kindly.
The plan is to drive the oxen together all in a heap, and then one man, who must understand the work takes a long cord with a loop at one end and this he holds twisted round a stick and two or three others hold the loose end, then he creeps up behind the ox that he wants and as the ox is shuffling about he slips the noose round his leg, and then such a confusion ! The ox pulls frantically, runs at the men who have hold of the rope and they hold on all the same, at last they pull him down and catch tight hold (3 or 4 of them) of his tail and turn him on his back and then they tie all four legs together and leave him, so they treat as many as they want, then they yoke them its they lie and let them loose. My horses and most of my mules are dead so we hack oxen; my hunting saddle fits an ox's back excellently, but it is not a sporting beast to put it on. I don't like the horns, an ox is a difficult beast to have a firm seat on as their skin is so loose, they also kick and jump very short so that a rider's seat is severely tried; if you fall the horns are much in the way, especially as they usually butt at you as you fall, and kick afterwards. The country here is in the wildest disorder, murdering and cattle robbing are of every day occurrence; I picked up a poor wretch with his neck cut down behind to the backbone, and did what I could but he died. A set of lawless ruffians many of whose leaders were born in the Cape Colony do all this; they destroyed a missionary station 9 miles from here a few days since. I have been making all use I could of the instructions Sir Harry Smith gave me to stop this, but with no avail. Immediately after I wrote to these men (the Namaquas) they set out, attacked twenty-five different villages took very many of the women and children as slaves and all the cattle, which last can hardly be reckoned at less than 18 thousand in number. The scoundrels too cut off the hands and feet of any of them that they catch in order to get off the iron bracelets that they wear and which otherwise would take them 4 minutes to do. I have seen two wretched women who crawled here for refuge thus mutilated, they told me that they stopped the blood by poking the limb in the sand. All the natives here believe every white face to be their enemy, and very naturally too, I shall have to force my way through them in a fortnight as I best can. We should make a fair resistance to a very large body of natives and to a good-sized force of Namaquas ; so that if they don't steal our cattle and leave us a wreck on the plain we shall do. 14 days journey North will carry us through all this and to a much better country bordering on the Portuguese where the blacks garden and have kings; here the chiefs have no power, there is no union among the people, but each does what he likes. You can kill any man you like (not a chief) if you pay 6 oxen to- his heirs and poor men are much cheaper. Is it not horrible? My men I had much trouble with at first, they did not like hard work and a hot sun; they thieved and were almost mutinous. At last two cases occurred that called for strong measures, open theft and an attempt to stab, the men were flogged about as severely as they could be and with the very best effect. I think one and all of them would now go with me almost
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