SAFARI: MENTAL REACTIONS
The lady has written a masterpiece. I refer to the article This Was My Africa (SI, March 10).
Ever since my boyhood hero Theodore Roosevelt hunted in Africa in 1909, I have been reading hunting stories about that continent, especially those pertaining to elephants.
It was not until last year that I was able to hunt there myself. I covered the same ground as Virginia Kraft portrayed in her story, and I shot an elephant in the same area along the Tana River. As she says, "I don't really understand why I wanted so much to shoot an elephant." Neither could I understand why I wanted to hunt them except that some compelling urge steered me on until I finally had the tusker at my feet. Then...the most peculiar emotion overcame me which I could never describe. I have experienced emotional reaction with other big game, but nothing to match that of downing my elephant.
Probably it is the letdown from intense anticipation and concentration similar to the climax of an important horse race. Anyway, Virginia has been able to capture that mental reaction and put it on paper. The story is fascinating and factual. It made me homesick for Africa and the elephant country.
GEORGE H. LESSER
What manner of people are these, who kill animals, not for the meat, nor for the hides, nor even for defense against marauders who threaten livestock, but solely for the sake of killing? I can understand bullfighters killing (and they do it with a sword, not a small cannon), because it is their livelihood and also because the carcass of the dead bull is not left to carrion birds.
I realize that this letter will not change anything in the least, but I write it in the hope that my protest against wanton slaughter of animals will be read. Incidentally, I am not a "bleeding heart," as hunters like to brand people who feel as I do. I have enjoyed and participated in sports all my life. However, the so-called "blood sports" I can do without.
•The editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED have over the years received many hundreds of letters on big-game hunting. From these it is plain that the communications gap between those who are drawn to trophy hunting and those who have an instinctive aversion to the killing of animals is well-nigh unbridgeable, as the letters from Messrs. Lesser and Yanez, which are typical, indicate. This is not surprising, because historically and emotionally there exists a great schism in the world of sport. On the one side are athletics or games; on the other, blood sports. Few sportsmen can make a real commitment to both.
Games, such as track and field and the team sports, owe their origin directly or indirectly to festivities related in ancient times to religious ceremonies or tribal celebrations—for example, the Greek Olympics or the endurance tests at one time common to many American Indian tribes. These festivities were spirited demonstrations of man's physical endowments, stamina, speed, skill and grace. The victor's reward was of symbolic value only, a wreath of laurel or a bit of ribbon. This esthetic concept of sports today finds its highest expression in a superbly conditioned runner's competing not against his fellow men, but against the abstraction of time, i.e., the four-minute mile.
Blood sports, on the other hand, were born of grim necessity: survival in war and peace. Ancient man hunted animals for food even before the discovery of fire, and the skills necessary to taking an animal by stealth and cunning were as useful in warfare. What differentiates blood sports from games is that their goal is the acquisition of a trophy without which in the final analysis the sport loses its meaning. It is not true, however, to say that the kill is the beginning and the end of blood sports such as big-game hunting. Some 40 millennia ago Cro-Magnon man translated the pleasures and beauty of the hunt into exquisite cave drawings. And, speaking of big-game hunting, Theodore Roosevelt, one of the few men who understood both blood sports and athletics, could find no words to express "the hidden spirit of the wilderness—its mystery, its melancholy, its charm...the awful glory of sunrise and sunset in the wide, waste spaces of earth, unworn of man."—ED.
ROAD RACING: SAFE FOR WHOM?
I would like to call attention to the fact that the auto race held at Monza, Italy was boycotted by the group of race drivers who were also the principal participants in the recent disastrous race in Havana, Cuba (SI, March 10).