Victoria Custer departed the compound early, accompanied by the Waziri warrior Udur, longtime friend of Lord Grainger, and acclaimed big game hunter, Lord Lawrence.
Victoria first planned to hunt alone. Her brother Barney, however, suffered considerable apprehension over what he perceived as reckless behavior.
Days after their arrival Victoria caused a stir not to mention a great worry for her brother when she ventured out alone, without notice. Just before noon, those at the ranch heard a single shot from the weapon Victoria carried. It was a Wesley Richards .577, a powerful rifle that weighed fifteen pounds unloaded. Barney wanted to investigate immediately but Lord Grainger reassured him that of course he should hear a shot. After all, Victoria obviously went hunting. She sauntered into the compound after lunch with a smile and with a full grown male leopard slung across her shoulders!
So, to soften the anxiety which beset her brother over her pursuit of dangerous encounters, she agreed to accompaniment. Udur went as gun bearer, Lord Lawrence was her experienced escort and consultant, and the three arose earlier than the rest of the household and were already a mile from the ranch when the sun first peeked over distant hills.
A fourth member of the hunting party walked on all fours. Within an hour of their arrival at the ranch, a great wolfhound called Terkoz took a strong fancy to Victoria, and was by her side whenever allowed. He evinced desire to participate in other hunts but Victoria thought his presence and scent might make it more difficult to stalk. However, this day he would go and before they departed she whispered to the animal, “If three people tramping along don’t frighten the game, you shouldn’t be a problem, Terkoz!”
An hour from the ranch house, Lord Lawrence halted and pointed ahead. Victoria saw it. They were at the edge of jungle, with hundreds of yards of open grassland ahead. Something was stirring up dust a quarter mile away beyond a small thicket. Lord Lawrence asked Victoria to wait with Udur while he investigated.
Victoria waited at the edge of the jungle just behind an enormous fallen tree. Udur was beside her and they watched Lord Lawrence stoop low and move quietly but quickly across the open.
Again, Victoria carried a Wesley Richards .577, an older single shot model. Barney argued for her to take a newer model with a dual barrel and single trigger. Victoria, however, preferred the older single shot, not in arrogance or to gain an extra thrill, but simply because it was enough. So, in the way of big game hunters for decades, Udur, as gun bearer, carried the same. If a hunter missed a shot or if a shot did not bring an animal down, the bearer would swiftly pass the second rifle to the hunter. It was not unheard of, especially with a lesser weapon, for a hunter to have several bearers or to load up one unfortunate bearer with several rifles. If the hunter was a poor marksman, the life of both hunter and bearer often hinged on how fast the bearer could pass weapons to the hunter.
As Lord Lawrence moved across the open to the distant trees, he skirted a patch of small bushes at a hollow where rain water collected. Just as he came even with the brush patch, a loud snort warned him of the danger lurking inside, but it was too late for him to act.
He swung his rifle around just as a huge bull buffalo came from the brambles and caught him between its horns and tossed him. Luckily the horns did not pierce the man but ribs were broken and he was stunned by the toss which put him twenty feet from where he was butted, and hurled his weapon ten feet farther.
Victoria knew well the buffalo might charge the helpless man again so even before Lord Lawrence hit the ground she jumped the giant log to stand in the open where she whooped and repeatedly flapped her arms to draw the buffalo’s attention. The bull looked toward her and snorted and shook his head, but looked at the man again so Victoria shouted more. The bull fixed his glare back on Vic and lowered his head. “He’s going to charge, Udur!” Victoria spoke evenly to her companion.
Terkoz at that point looked like he might attack the bull, but Victoria leaned and touched his head and said quietly, “Stay, Terkoz.”
The Waziri moved to stand beside Victoria with the second weapon. Instead of jumping the old tree, he stood upon it to step over. The log appeared solid but at his first step Udur’s foot broke through wood eaten out by termites and he pitched forward over the log. The rifle slipped from his hand and discharged harmlessly into the jungle.
Rather than scare the bull, the shot enraged it more and at full speed it bore down on them! Victoria saw Udur reach for ammo to reload. “There isn’t time to reload, Udur,” she said calmly and threw the rifle to her shoulder.
The buffalo is a dangerous animal and annually accounts for a great number of deaths. All the white hunters at the compound insisted that the buffalo was at least as dangerous as a lion. The animal charging Victoria that day weighed in at 1400 pounds and was five feet at the shoulder and over eight feet long. It charged at no less than twenty-five miles per hour and snorted in rage and kicked up dust as it came.
When Victoria said there was no time to reload, Udur did not retreat. He came to stand beside Victoria, for he was a proud Waziri warrior, and further, he was the son of a chief.
Barney was not able to sit still at the ranch house, so he and Lord Grainger set out to follow the trail of the earlier hunters. They were near when Victoria and Udur began to shout but could not yet see what was happening, so they walked faster. When they heard the discharge of the dropped rifle, they broke into a dead run. As they came to the edge of the jungle at that stretch of grassland, they saw Victoria, rifle at her shoulder.
Barney and Lord Grainger were both awed as they came upon that scene. The proud Waziri with arms folded across his chest and head high, stood to the left of Victoria. On her right, quiet and looking equally proud and calm, sat the wolfhound Terkoz. The massive, charging bull, head lowered, bore down on the three with the destructive fury of a runaway freight train, and was no more than fifty feet from the trio! Barney started to yell, but Lord Grainger put a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “Quiet, Barney. You mustn’t distract her.”
Victoria relaxed most of her body, faced the buffalo at an angle and bent slightly forward at the waist. The girl ignored the folding leaf sight - there wasn’t time, the animal was too near. She focused with the forward open iron sight, pulled the .577 tight into her shoulder, exhaled, and slowly, calmly squeezed the trigger.
The report of the rifle reverberated across the plain. The rifle’s recoil pulled the barrel up a full foot and Victoria took a step back from the force.
The .577 round exploded the heart of the buffalo, killing it instantly. Its forelegs folded and it went to its knees and showered dust on Victoria and Udur as it slid to a stop just eight feet away. “I don’t know why Barney is always so worried. I’m a decent shot,” she said as she handed the rifle to Udur.
“Victoria!” Barney called as he approached with Lord Grainger. “Are you OK?” Victoria was already rushing across the open and called back, “I’m fine but Lord Lawrence is injured!”
The nobleman suffered broken ribs and bruises but was otherwise alright. He thanked Victoria and they helped him over to the carcass, where Terkoz circled, sniffed and growled at the dead beast.
Victoria asked Barney to reach into her pack and get her camera. She posed alone, then with Lord Lawrence and Udur. Of course, the buffalo and Terkoz were in all the photos.
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