Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jim Corbett

I once saw a news item about a game preserve in India founded by a big-game hunter named James Corbett. Indeed, it was named for him. When I first read that, I thought, “Dang, that guy really got around!” The James Corbett I knew was an American boxer who was heavyweight champion from 1892 to 1897. I learned there was an English Jim Corbett who was in the English Army and was an avid conservationist and, perhaps, the best big game hunter who ever lived. For readers who disdain big-game hunting, Colonel Jim Corbett was one of a kind. He specialized in killing maneaters who were usually ld and decrepit. Of the 19 tigers and 14 leopards Corbett killed, almost all of them had attacked and killed people. Corbett’s opponents, virtually all of them maneaters, had taken down approximately 1200 people. Corbett, therefore, performed a public service. I also learned that Corbett did not use beaters, as some rich dilettantes did. He went after them with nothing but his rifle and his dog and his ONE dog, named Robin. (How appropriate that a great hero would have a sidekick named robin.) Colonel Corbett lived to be 80 and was escorting then-Princess Elizabeth when she was notified her father had died and she was now queen. Colonel Corbett died the year I was born. Had I ever met him, I suspect I would have liked to ask him what duct tape he used to keep his gargantuan brass cojones from clanking together and giving away his position. Readers can decide for themselves who is more macho: a heavyweight champion or a hunter who specializes in tracking down maneaters.

As long as I’m on the subject of hunters, I’ll mention someone at the opposite end of the scale from Corbett, for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fancied himself a big-game hunter and enjoyed shooting bears at one of his national parks. The game keepers set up feeding stations for the bears located close by a shooting blind where Ceausescu demonstrated his prowess as a marksman. Upon reading about this, I thought that for all the skill he showed, he might as well have gone out to a local cow pasture and blazed away at a herd of Holsteins. I thought President Ceausescu was a thoroughly evil man who deserved being executed along with his equally evil spouse at the time of the Romanian Revolution. While he was shot, personally, I thought it would have been poetic justice if he had been fed to the bears.

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