Trader Horn and Me

I lapped up the famous Trader Horn books “The Ivory Coast in the Earlies” and “Harold the Webbed”. I was then even more enamoured of Tim Couzens’ book “Tramp Royal – The true story of Trader Horn”, as it validated the Trader Horn legend – Aloysius Smith was real and he HAD got around!!

Couzens died in October this year, tragically – he fell in his own home. I thought OH NO!! when I read it. He was a gem, almost a Trader Horn himself – what a waste! Too soon! He did the MOST amazing sleuth job of tracking down all Trader Horn’s jaunts n joints across the world and revealing that – despite the skepticism that had followed the incredible fame and Hollywood movie that had followed the success Trader Horn’s first book in 1930 – most of what the old tramp and adventurer had claimed to do he had, in fact, done!

One (small) reason I LOVED the trader Horn books was the number of places A. Aloysius Smith – Trader Horn or Zambesi Jack or Uncle Pat – had been to that I have also been to:

  • Joburg, his least favourite city in the world. He was in a doss house in Main Street in 1925, I was in Eloff Street in 1974. Parktown, where Ethelreda Lewis ‘discovered’ him was different – he came to love it, as did I. In Parktown he was in Loch Street, I was in Hillside Avenue;
  • Hwange in Zimbabwe, or Wankie in Rhodesia as it was then;
  • Harrismith, where he went with Kitchener’s Cattle Thieves to steal Boer cattle and horses in the scorched earth tactics of the wicked Brits. And where I was born and raised;
  • The west coast of Madagascar where our yachting trip to the island of Nose Iranja took us quite close to his ‘Chesterfield Islands’;
  • The east coast of Africa, although he spoke about Zanzibar and we visited Mombasa- which he probably visited too, as he sailed up and down the coast;
  • Oklahoma, where like me he befriended and was befriended by, the local Native Americans – his mostly Pawnees and Osages, mine mostly Apaches, Kiowas and Cherokees;
  • Georgia, where he behaved abominably and which I used as a base to go kayaking in Tennessee. He drank in a doctor’s house and I drank in a dentist’s house;
  • The Devonshire Hotel in Braamfontein, where both of us got raucously pickled;
  • Kent, where he died in 1931; I visited Paddock Wood on honeymoon in 1988.

trader-horn_3

Here’s a silent movie of the old rascal on a Joburg street corner soon after he’d been kitted out in new clothes when the first cheque for his book came in.

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