Natchez native Walter Harrison lives by motto for life

Published 12:05 am Sunday, September 27, 2009

NATCHEZ — For Natchez resident Walter Harrison, life is an adventure to be enjoyed, not a problem to be solved.

That’s a motto he and his South African friend Rabie Bekker have adopted after spending five summers together on vacations in Africa.

“In May 2003, a friend of mine in the water treatment field was called to do work on sugar refineries in South Africa,” Harrison said.

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“He invited me along, and I met Rabie while I was over there. We immediately hit it off.”

Harrison and Bekker’s love for hunting and exploring the outdoors is what allowed them to get along so well. Thanks to that friendship, Harrison spent six weeks in South Africa this past summer for the fifth year in a row.

“This was more of a vacation than a hunting trip,” Harrison said. “My wife, Donna, came with me, and she met Rabie’s wife Ferma. Both of them immediately bonded.”

Most of the wives’ time was spent in South African beach cities like Cape Town and Port Elizabeth while Harrison’s wife was with him.

While the women enjoyed the beaches, Harrison and Bekker spent their time at a lodge in the Karoo, a semi-desert region in South Africa.

“There’s 100 acres within game fencing (where we stayed),” Harrison said. “You see thousands, not hundreds, of animals.”

Bekker and Harrison also explored their way through Lesotho, South Africa, a mountainous travel kingdom, and stayed in a hunting lodge near Middelburg.

When Harrison’s wife came back to Natchez after a couple of weeks, he and Bekker made their way north through Zimbabwe. They spent the night in the city of Harare, and then went into the northern portion of Mozambique.

Despite the many hunting opportunities along his tour up to that point, Harrison said his participation remained limited.

“I (had) hardly hunted at all (by that time),” Harrison said. “The trophies I wanted personally, I didn’t see there.”

That would change, however, when the two met up with a man named Chris Van Schalkwyk near the Cahora Bassa lake.

Schalkwyk told about a rogue, one-tusked elephant that was raiding crops of local Mozambique villages.

After visiting one of those villages, tradition stated that the party had to get permission from the village witch doctor to hunt in the area. The three did so, and it wasn’t long before they ran across the elephant that was causing so much trouble.

Schalkwyk had been given special permission by the Mozambique government to hunt the elephant.

“It was evidently an old bull which had been ejected from the herd,” Harrison said. “Its teeth had gotten worn down, and because it was ravaging the crops of local villages, the government wanted it removed. (Schalkwyk) had been given a special certificate to hunt that elephant.”

The elephant wouldn’t go down without a fight, however.

“When he got wind of us, he charged immediately,” Harrison said. “Rabie and Chris fired repeatedly, and wounded him.”

The elephant escaped, forcing the party to track him down. When they did, the elephant charged again, but Schalkwyk and Harrison let off more shots, finally causing him to expire.

Harrison said he was impressed with how quickly the locals arrived to strip down the elephant’s corpse in order to gather resources.

“Within eight hours, he was picked dry,” Harrison said. “We had a good dinner that night.”

Africa is not the only part of the world where Harrison has explored. He’s been to Alaska twice, and has hunted doves in Argentina.

“I also plan to go to New York in the near future, as well as tour Italy and Rome.”