To begin with, my determination to hunt an elephant with a bow did not stem from any wish to profit from the wager possibilities inherent in such an affair. The wager came up late in the game, in the course of an evening in the Yacht Club bar at Cat Cay in the Bahamas last June, and it merely served to underscore the strong division of opinion which has heretofore existed as to the efficiency of modern archery equipment. William K. Carpenter, with whom I made the bet, and I had killed elephants with a rifle, and we agreed that under normal hunting conditions and with modern, heavy caliber rifles, shooting an elephant is not too difficult a job. I went on to add that during the last two years I had done a fair amount of hunting in south Texas with bow and arrow, and that someday I would like to go back to Africa and hunt elephants with a bow.
There were a number of other people present, and we had all been drinking Martinis while waiting for dinner, so this talk of mine precipitated a moment of quiet appraisal, and then a variety of reactions, from polite disbelief that I was talking seriously to more forthright protests that such a feat was quite impossible.
After an hour or so of this kind of varied discussion, Bill Carpenter finally lifted the matter out of the strictly idle-chatter category when he announced with mixed amusement and impatience, "Well, Bill, I will bet you any amount you like, say $10,000 to $1,000, that you can't kill an elephant with a bow and arrow. And certainly not with the gear you have just been describing." I asked for a little time to make arrangements for such a test, and then we went on to other things. I think the others were all somewhat bored with our talk by now and welcomed a change.
Some months passed before I got in touch with Bill Carpenter again. I had to complete plans for my trip to Africa on behalf of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, on whose advisory board I serve as director of natural history. My purpose was to collect specimens for a new Africa Hall addition. I also had to find a place in Africa where hunting elephants with bow and arrow was permitted, which wasn't easy. These things were all arranged by October of 1956, but I was not entirely sure that Carpenter would still consider my acceptance of his wager offer. I wrote to Bill on October 15, recalling our talk and offering to accept the wager. On November 12, Bill wrote he still felt the same way. So the bet was on, and he accepted my nomination of Tony Hulman of Terre Haute, Indiana to be referee and stakeholder. Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Speedway and a fisherman of considerable note, accepted the task of judge, and both of us posted checks with him even before I left New York for the Congo on February 10 of this year. It was our thought that this early posting might avoid estate tax problems in the event of an unhappy accident.
The Belgian Congo had been selected as the hunting area; Eric Rundgren of Mombasa, who had killed close to a thousand elephants as a control hunter for the Kenya government, had been contracted for as white hunter; and the $10,000 wager money was at least a remote possibility for the museum. The only question requiring further study was that of what equipment to use on the bow hunt and how to train for it. Though I searched every book and article, I could find nothing of technical assistance that dealt with hunting anything heavier than deer, moose or American buffalo—this material all stopped short of where I felt I would have to begin.
I have right here in San Antonio an archery shop as good as any in the country, run by Arch Gassman, who has taught me all that I know about balancing equipment, i.e., selecting arrows that will shoot consistently well in any given bow. I told Arch of my desire to someday hunt an elephant with a bow, and at the same time borrowed a 65-pound bow so as to begin to train up to as high as 80 pounds of pull at least. This proved to be a painful process—an old tennis injury to my right shoulder was aggravated to the point of requiring a direct injection of cortisone into the joint each time I advanced to a heavier bow weight. But I managed, and in succession and at intervals of 60 days or so, I secured from the Bear Archery Company of Grayling, Michigan a 73-pound bow, a 78, a 90, and, finally, after long telephone conversations with Fred Bear, a 96- and a 102-pounder. The latter was thoughtfully inscribed: "To Bill Negley—made especially to kill an elephant—Fred Bear, 1956."
Finally came the day in February when the last injection of cortisone had been rammed home, and in my workshop I had hand-filed the edges on the last arrowheads. I had already shipped ahead two bows and three dozen arrows, and Arch and I packed my 102-pound bow, plus two dozen extra-heavy and extra-stiff arrows that Fred Bear sent me at the last minute. A few injections for cholera, yellow fever, etc., malaria pills, last words of caution and warning from wife and family, a will, several broad powers of attorney for my business associates, a few odd proxy signings, and then I headed for New York, Nairobi and the Belgian Congo armed with mixed expectations and a very grand letter of introduction from former Governor Allan Shivers of Texas.
A letter to Jim
On any hunting or fishing trip, I have followed a practice of reporting home by means of letters to the children, in order of their ages. On February 22, I wrote to 12-year-old Jim, enclosing a polaroid snapshot, as follows:
February 22, 1957
Kasenyi, on Lake Albert