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The Bushmen "went straight on to skinning and cutting up the animals with skill and dispatch" and "kept up a wonderful murmur of thanksgiving which swelled at moments in their emotion to break on a firm phrase of a song of sheer deliverance. How cold, inhuman, and barbarous a civilized butcher’s shop appeared in comparison!"

January 5, 1961

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The Heart of the Hunter

Facultative Carnivore
Hunter-Gatherer

They started at once unloading the game, and went straight on to skinning and cutting up the animals with skill and dispatch. I watched them, absorbed in the grace of their movements. They worked with extraordinary reverence for the carcasses at their feet. There was no waste to mock the dead or start a conscience over the kill. The meat was neatly sorted out for specific uses and placed in separate piles on the skin of each animal. All the time the women stood around and watched. They greeted the unloading of each arrival with an outburst of praise, the ostrich receiving the greatest of all, and kept up a wonderful murmur of thanksgiving which swelled at moments in their emotion to break on a firm phrase of a song of sheer deliverance. How cold, inhuman, and barbarous a civilized butcher’s shop appeared in comparison! 


The last red glow in the west died down behind the purple range of cloud, and it went utterly dark beyond our camp. Our own fires rose higher than ever, straining like a gothic spire towards the stars which were appearing in unusual numbers. Soon the stars were great and loud with light until the sky trembled like an electric bell, while every now and then from the horizon the lightning swept a long sort of lighthouse beam over us. At last the Bushmen stood up from their work with a deep sigh of satisfaction, scraped the blood from their arms with their knives and wiped their hands on stubbles of grass. The women and children came silently forward to help them carry away the meat piled on the skins. They vanished in the darkness beyond our fire, and only the soundof voices joined there in a common purpose revealed that they had not gone for good. Then the voices too faded out, and soon after the flames of their own fires began to go up one by one. As always their fires were more circumspect than our own. Ours was a cathedral of flame, theirs little more than slender candles burning in a night devout under stars.