Two Old Dagga Boys

Two Old Dagga Boys
While surfing the cable channels a few days ago, I stumbled onto the Outdoor Channel. I watched with intrigue as the hunters on a safari in Lower Zambezi stalked a huge Dagga Boy. Yes, a Dagga Boy - A South African name given to large, old male Cape buffalos living in the region.

The name, coined by a hunting outfitter and professional hunter, was used by the native guides and trackers in this episode.

I watched and listened with interest as to how the hunters and guides chose the right animal to be taken or plucked from the herd - in other words, how they selected the right Dagga Boy to shoot.

With diligence they attempted to take only an old male that was basically worthless to the herd. I discovered that these old grumpy bulls often left the main stream population and retired to a solitary life. On occasion they roamed with one or two other Dagga Boys.

The younger males not only bred with the cows, but easily defended the herd against predators, so their presence was vital to the group. The Dagga Boys were basically useless and the old bulls seemed to know it. And the hunters were bent on taking only an old bull.

With ease the hunters and guides were able to distinguish between dominant males, and over-the-hill Dagga Boys.

The Dagga Boys possessed wide bodies with large girths. Their huge horns were worn out in spots, as was the fur on the head between the armaments. Their once muscular bodies were now nothing more than huge, wide carcasses with rounded shoulders, covered with layers of skin and fat. They resembled a barge. Even without binoculars, the hunters could see that the midriffs of old males were out of proportion compared to the rest of their bodies. The legs appeared to be thin and spindly and caused speculation as to whether or not they might still be able to support the massive body above.

When these bulls were hit with a bullet, they sometimes lunged forward. What was once thought of as a "charge" toward the hunter is now theorized to be something much different. They now felt that the Dagga Boy's legs could not withstand the force of the impact, and the animal most likely collapsed forward, rather than charged forward.

After identifying the correct male, the party stalked their quarry for hours. When the bull's tracks crisscrossed with those of other buffalos, it was easy to stay on the Dagga Boy's prints. They were large and they spread out laterally, compared to the hoof prints of younger members of the species.

When the hunting party finally got close enough (at 60 yards) for a shot, they passed it up. Why? The specimen was too old and feeble. They realized it would not make an adequate mount or trophy. They joked that the animal had to be a hundred years old.

The old bull just stared at them, turned and ambled away. He was in no hurry and seemed to care less if the hunters would have taken their shot. His face and eyes indicated that he almost understood that he was totally valueless, even to human hunters.

I couldn't help it, but I pitied that old Dagga Boy. I felt sorry for him because I can identify with that old fellow.

In the last few years, I noticed that my head is wearing on top too. My shoulders are more rounded now, and are a far cry from the almost block-like display they once exhibited. Skin all over my body seems to be sagging a little, and to be blunt, I'm carrying too much fat. When I put on a T-shirt that fits too snuggly around my midriff, I resemble a large barge. My girth continues to expand, just like the old Cape buffalo's.

And my legs appear to be thin compared to my upper torso. Although they are the same size they once were; because of the size of my upper-body, they give the illusion to be too spindly to support my weight. Since I'm having more difficulty negotiating stairs lately, they are no doubt starting to lose their effectiveness.

My footprint, when I get out of a pool, reveals a fallen arch and a wider pattern with each passing summer.

You see, I too am a Dagga Boy. I don't live in Africa and I don't think I could saunter casually away from someone if they pointed a rifle at me. But otherwise, I do understand the old bull's disposition.

I don't feel totally worthless just yet, and hope I don't feel that way for quite some time. I pray my family doesn't decide to let me go off alone to retire and die. But I do realize that my day too, will come, and my demeanor will gradually resemble the Dagga Boy's with each passing year.

In the meantime, I thank God that I was not born a cape buffalo. And if I was born into the herd, I would hope that safari hunters would pass me up too – allow me to nonchalantly walk away and to live another day.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA