!Tung, she who died recently near the Valley of the Buried Wagon, will be remembered for many things. She knew the veld and its plants. She had a wonderful grasp on human psychology, and she understood the way and nature of the many animals that live in the Kalahari.
She could, for instance, foretell when the herd of springbuck would arrive, or steer her family away from the den of the ageing lion which started preying on sick and injured animals…and humans. She was quite uncanny in this – and could never explain how she knew – just knew – when the rains would come and where it’d fall.
But now, as !Ka follows the spoor of a duiker, he is acutely aware of her. !Ka, like all Bushmen, appreciates the relationship between nature and man. He respects the fine balance needed to ensure survival of both. Now, with his family starving and hunger gnawing away at his own stomach, it is time to hunt. The tubers and other plants have withered in the drought; he needs to take home meat. It’s easier these days without !Tung. In the past, there were eight mouths to feed…
The duiker knows he is there. Its a female; a timid and shy creature by nature, yet surviving through the aeons of time because they are nimble, skittish and extremely careful. She is fleeing, quietly, her little hooves seeking out the harder ground and rocks, to escape her hunter. She’s very clever about this. She’s had a lifetime of experience.
!Ka, on the other hand, follows her with the determination of a man driven by need. She’s the only animal – the only source of nourishment – he’s found in the last two days. If he doesn’t kill her, his family is doomed.
Duikers don’t run. Oh, they do, occasionally; but mostly they jump. That’s where their name comes from. Diver. The bound. They hop. They jump. And now, with the hunter almost too near, she picks up speed. A last desperate dash to get away.
And suddenly, almost (but not quite) unexpectantly, she runs into a small herd of springbuck.
Later, she hides behind a clump of rocks, waiting for !Ka to say his words over the old ram he’s slaughtered. And then, bounding away with joy; beauty in every happy jump; !Tung follows the scent of the rain. It’ll come, it’s on its way. She can smell it.
And !Ka, knowing the desert, its animals and old !Tung, buries a bit of hide and liver at the spot where he shot the antelope while thanking !Tung for her guidance.
Such is the way of the Kalahari.
!Ka knows better.
He knows how to count to seven. He doesn’t need more numbers than that. It’s the number of his extended family…that is, without !Tung these days. She looks after herself, now.