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The Short Shorts

A Campfire Tale about a young guide, a walking tour and some very short shorts.

The Short Shorts

There is something very unique about the guides in Southern Africa. It’s not their local knowledge, or the unique animals found there. It’s also not their approach to guiding.

It’s the short shorts they wear.

You won’t find it in East Africa, where trousers seem to be the norm. If shorts are worn, they are usually baggy. No, short shorts are a largely Southern Africa thing. They are found in guides trained in old-school methods, amongst whom trousers are viewed suspiciously. And how short? Let’s put it this way: There is more leg on display than a flock of flamingos. There are more calves seen than during the migration birthing season. Zippers really aren’t necessary here, for any guide wanting to do a bush wee can simply lunge and he’d be able to pee without spilling a drop. You get the idea.

One particular guide in Botswana, who shall remain nameless, was a big fan of the short shorts. He was a young man, fit and strong and good-looking. The shorts added to his appeal as a ‘man of the wild’, and to be fair, they looked good on him. He was a popular guide with the female guests, and many were easily convinced to go on walking safaris, despite previously showing no interest. The rifle and knife he carried added to his dangerous persona, and he’d be lying if he said he didn’t love every minute of it.

One particular day he was asked to take a mother and her daughter out for a walk in the bush, from the fancy lodge he was working in. The daughter was young, about 8 years of age. The mother, meanwhile, was a beautiful woman with a natural appeal. Heading out on safari, the guide was keen to show off his skills and knowledge of the area. He was sure showing off his legs wouldn’t hurt either.

He took them on a walking tour of the area, stopping occasionally to show them footprints of animals that had passed by. They gazing at animals in the distance. He told them stories of bush medicine and of natural seasonal changes. They were worried at first about walking in the wild, as is common, but he assured them that they were safe walking with him. There wasn’t an animal he was afraid of, and he was in sync with nature.

It was a lie, although he may not have realised it. There was one animal he was afraid of. It’s an animal most guides are afraid of. It’s also an animal that most other African animals are afraid of, including lions and leopards. That animal is to be feared because it fears no other animal.And so, it was on the return journey home when our guide heard a ferocious growl from a nearby bush. Bounding out, murder in its eyes, was that fearsome animal.

It was a honey badger.

For those of you who may not know the honey badger, prepare yourself. Despite being only 25cm high at their shoulder, and weighing in around 12kgs, honey badgers have the self-confidence of an elephant. Pound for pound a honey badger is one of the most ferocious animals in Africa. It will attack any animal it sees as a threat, including much larger animals. One of the reasons they are so dangerous to these larger animals is their attack behaviour. Instead of backing down and running, the honey badger likes to focus on weak spots. In other words, the honey badger is a known fan of attacking genitals. It has been known to have seriously injured, even killed, predators like lions, after it has castrated them with its sharp claws.

Back in the bush, the honey badger looked at the guide and his abundance of thigh. The guide looked at the honey badger, and quickly slipped the rifle off his shoulder.

The mother and the young girl, aware of the sudden change of the guide, stopped dead in their tracks behind him. Was it a massive male lion, intent on dinner? Perhaps an angry buffalo, blocking their path? Peeking past the guide, his gun at the ready, sweat on his brow, was a tiny little creature. Cute even. Completely unaware of the fearsome reputation, it looked as though this little cat thing was terrifying the guide.

The guide realised his plans for a family were in danger, but he faced a conundrum. What was he to do if it attacked? He couldn’t shoot the tiny animal, especially with the guests behind him. What would they think if it appeared he panicked and killed what looked like an angry skunk? And yet, as much as he valued his reputation, he also valued having testicles. He wasn’t prepared to donate them in order to avoid embarrassment.

The badger hissed and waggled. The guide stood there, legs quivering, trying to figure out his next move. The little girl and the mother stood behind him in horror, more at the guide aiming his gun at the cute little animal.

In the end, the badger decided for him. Perhaps sensing his preferred target shrinking with fear in front of him, he turned and trotted off into the bush. The guide breathed out a massive sigh of relief and turned to face his guests. Their look of disapproval was clear. He tried to explain how it was a dangerous and vicious animal, but his tales didn’t match their memory of the cute fluff ball they had seen. Realising he was digging a hole for himself, he took them back to the lodge, his ego thankfully the only thing damaged.

The guide told us this story last year, whilst recounting close calls. In fact, the day after he told this story, he caught and relocated a deadly black mamba from the staff quarters of a lodge. He is still a great guide, and still a brave guy. Not much has changed since that encounter, except for one thing.

He now wears shorts that go down to the knee.

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