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Peter Forbes

Story ID:5387
Written by:John Ward (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Biography
Location:Mbabane Swaziland
Year:1970
Person:Peter Forbes
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I met him when I was a boy living in Africa. Peter Forbes was an amazing man. He stood about five feet nine inches and was about sixty years old when I knew him. He was as tough as nails and strong as an ox. His hair was steel gray and he wore a goatee that would often become a full beard through neglect. He looked a lot like the Reverend Forrester, an Anglican minister who lived near Malkerns in the highlands of Swaziland. Forrester was a man of peace and good works, doing his best to spread the gospel and live a good life. Although taller than Peter Forbes, the Reverend Forrester sported a gray goatee and had silver gray hair.

Anyone who came to Swaziland to hunt would be directed first to Peter Forbes. If anyone knew anything about Big Game Hunting, it was Peter. On one occasion a top executive in General Motors came to hunt elephant. Unfortunately his skills were less than would be required to hit the side of a barn with a 12 gauge shotgun at ten feet. During the hunt he wounded an elephant which is exactly what one must never do. He reloaded and fired again, letting the elephant know precisely where he was hiding and as the elephant charged over to express his irritation at being shot, Peter stepped in and dropped him with a single shot to the head. Later he found a bullet above the elephant’s ear and one in his knee. He cut them out and handed them to the thrilled executive.

Peter was a man who understood Africa and Africans. The Swazi people are highly superstitious, so much so that you can kill a man by the power of suggestion. People have had witch-doctors hex a neighbor and in about two weeks the neighbor dies of indeterminate causes.

Peter’s farm required a lot of expensive equipment to maintain, so on the day that an expensive electrical saw went missing, Peter gathered his workers together and said: “My belt saw has been stolen. I want you each to select a six-inch nail from that bag and then I want you all to hammer your nail into this two by four.” When that was done Peter screwed the plank to two posts which had been hammered into the ground outside and said: “As time passes the nail of the thief will rust, wither and break and so will the man who stole my saw. He will die a terrible death. If the saw is returned, I shall take out all the nails and none will rust.” The next day his saw was back.

One evening Peter was drinking at the bar in the Tavern Hotel. He decided to go to the mens room and as he stood at the urinal relieving himself, two Swazi men walked in and started to relieve themselves too. Not realizing that Peter Forbes spoke perfect Siswati, one of the men said to the other in his native tongue, “Look at this ugly old gray-haired baboon with his hand on his hip!” The other laughed confident of their confidentiality. “Perhaps that is the only thing his penis is good for” he laughed. Peter finished and began to walk back past the Swazi men to the bar and as he got along side the speaker he hit him a crack and knocked him unconscious. The other man was so startled he wet his pants and Peter said to him in perfect Siswati: “When he wakes up, tell him the Reverend Forrester did that.”

On yet another occasion Peter was called to take care of a crocodile which had moved into a watering hole near a village in the bush. It was said to be taking goats and sheep and that children played in that body of water. When he shot it and cut it open he found two wedding rings and the decomposed remains of a human. The decomposition was so advanced that they could not take finger prints, the head was nowhere to be found and would have been impossible to locate. Peter knew why. He hated crocodiles with good reason. Once, bathing in the Black Umbuluzi he was grabbed by a crocodile. The beast twirled and whirled trying to break Peter’s leg off, but for some reason it did not succeed. Peter was knocked unconscious by a submerged rock and when he awoke he was inside the lair of the crocodile.

Many crocodiles build caves that are inside the river banks, out of the water but with the entrance submerged in the river.

“The stench was horrible” said Peter to a group of us at dinner, “It was dark and I put my hand down into something mushy and rotten.” All of us put our forks down in unison. “I wanted to vomit from the smell of putrefaction, but I knew where I was and that put me ahead of the game. I dared not touch my head” he said pointing to a four inch jagged scar where the rock had cut him “in case of infection, so I lay there trying to recover with the congealed blood from my head wound in and around my eyes.” He continued: “I was afraid to crawl in either direction in case the beast was in there with me, so I waited. I was lucky to be knocked cold by that rock because I believe the croc thought I was dead and had left me in his lair to ripen, like you would hang a pheasant until it’s slightly high.”

“How on earth did you get out?” we all wanted to know. “Patience!” he roared. “Sorry,” we all chimed in. “No, patience is how I got out.” We all breathed a collective sigh of relief. “I waited until at last there came a wild splashing and the croc entered rapidly landing with a thump on the smelly earth. By this time my eyes were accustomed to the dark and I could make him out. He lay perfectly still, an ugly monster with his prehistoric cross-bite, teeth gleaming in the dark and those reptilian eyes checking me for signs of life. I didn’t dare breathe. I lay there like a lump of carrion. Slowly he approached me in the dark. I let him examine me like a butcher checking his larder. I willed myself not to breathe although my heart seemed to be beating louder than an African drum. How the beast didn’t hear it I can’t say, but he seemed satisfied that I was well on the way to marinating in that putrid slime. The cave was narrow, but the croc managed to turn around and with a rapid flick of his enormous tail he plunged out of the cave’s watery mouth. I lay there for another sixty seconds counting them down and then I started easing towards the opposite end of the cave.” At this point Peter got a far-away look in his eyes and seemed to forget we were listening.

“Peter, don’t leave us like this…” a guest finally ventured. Peter Forbes came back to us slowly. “I crawled and crawled until the darkness turned from black to dark gray. The air got fresher and then I saw a hole above me in the cave. I stood and saw a thin ray of sunlight. I started clawing at the dirt and rock and in about ten minutes I had a hole big enough to put my fist through. I didn’t know how much time I had before the monster returned to find me missing and followed my scent to this part of the cave, so I scrabbled at the soil and rock in desperation. In about an hour of clawing, scratching and digging I managed to climb out of the hole and escape.” The diners were enthralled. “What happened to the croc?” someone asked. “Oh, I let him live, after all he didn’t kill me.”