This afternoon, I had the rare pleasure of sitting down to read portions of my grandfather’s book, The Empty Hourglass, which chronicled his life. No, it cannot be found on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, nor should it be found. Some things are best kept within the small circle of family. Every family ought to have a legacy. The tragedy, it seems, is that few families now understand what it means to carry on a legacy. I would consider myself to be an ignorant victim within this group; choosing to blindly ignore the notion of family legacy, until being provoked to read this wonderful book, penned in 1994. Were I to have read the book upon its conception, the relationship I had with both my father and grandfather would have changed. Perhaps it would have been enough to change the final regret shared by Opa (my grandfather), of not developing a strong family bond. Regret, it seems, is everywhere.
Growing up in Indonesia, Opa truly lived a life of adventure. Reading stories of his encounters with dangerous animals, reptiles, and native tribes, I cannot help but wonder what happened to the blood that flowed through his veins. Mixed with adrenaline, his blood knew the true taste of living a life of adventure. Reading these true-life stories, my personal identity begins to stir, as a dangerous animal that has laid dormant for many years. Who is Aaron Plaat?
It seems the apple does not fall fall from the tree. Opa’s father was a very wealthy plantation owner in Indonesia, while also being known as a famous big game hunter. He writes of the many encounters he had glancing through the glass at his fathers rifle collection. Each rifle, lovingly polished in shiny oil, reflected tales of adventure and raw spirit. Each had a tale behind it of the many great beasts that had been brought down. From elephant guns to bird rifles, his collection spoke of his character. “Aaron, always use the right tool for the right job” echos in my mind, recalling the advice my father would lovingly give me as I perused his workbench.
One such tale involves an expedition where Opa’s father went hunting with his father. This would be my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, off on a hunting party. They had been commissioned to kill a great King Tiger that had recently killed several men. Man versus man-killer. An epic tale. How’s that for father-son bonding? As they walked through the jungle, my great-great-grandfather stopped to relieve himself in the bushes, sensing their encounter with the tiger was soon to happen. It was at this moment that my great-grandfather encountered the great beast, standing no more than 20 feet away from him….
“Ears low, whipping tail and soft guttural growl, all unmistakable signs of his intentions. Facing each other now, they were separated by a scant twenty feet. Not much distance to be separated from a man-killer tiger……
The menacing growl in the mean time was also heard by Opa Leendert, with his pants down and separated from his rifle, he was desperately whispering warnings to his son. Unknown to Opa Leendert, however, my father was engaged in a staring contest with the man-killer. What’s the matter with Cor? Is he Deaf? Didn’t he hear me or the tiger? These and other questions raced through Opa Leendert’s mind, as he found himself in a terrible predicament. Should he make some noise at the risk of provoking the tiger? Or should he take his chances with his son and remain quiet?
Well, he didn’t have to deliberate much longer, because the tiger had by now decided for all of them. Crawling ever so slowly toward my father, he tried to capture him into a hypnotic trance with his slowly whipping tail. And with a steady beat on the tiger, my father was also thinking to let the tiger come just a little bit closer. The dense underbrush was preventing the tiger’s most vulnerable part from exposure. No. Not yet…..not in that crouching position; patience, he reminded himself. If Opa Leendert would just shut up…..
Here is matched, beast against his most formidable adversary – man – both ready foreach other. And not far, somwhere in the underbrush, was another man desperately wanting to be heard. “Cor – Cor, what’s the matter?” Opa Leendert could be heard whispering….
Then, as if by mutual agreement, beast and adversary went into action. Almost simultaneously, as the big cat made his move – a powerful leap – the mighty Weatherby spoke with a deafening authority. Caught in mid-air, the big cat’s full momentum met with the .470’s ballistic impact. Taking it in the chest area, the ensuing roar made Opa Leendert decide to come out of his hiding place and go after his rifle. Without pants, of course. Cor had missed, was his first thought.
To Opa Leendert’s big surprise, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, what he saw was indeed an eye opener. The big cat came down so close to where my father stood, one lunge of his mighty paws could have ended another man’s life. But the big cat stayed on the ground, now glassy eyed with warm foul-smelling breath emanating from its heaving open mouth. As Opa Leendert – sans pants – hugged his son, he wondered why it had taken him so long? You could’ve gotten him much earlier, couldn’t you, before he jumped? Look how close you’ve let him come. God, the suspense of not knowing what’s going on…..
“Gosh Dad, with only one bullet I had to make sure….” whereupon my father showed him the one spent bullet casing.”
You see, my great-great-grandfather was known for only hunting with one bullet. It was his belief that almost all animals could be taken with a single shot, with the exception being large buffalo and elephants, and that this tactic helped to make the odds more fair. His saying, “Cor, my boy, if you feel scared to the point where your stomach is playing tricks on you, you’ve just begin to even the odds” impacted me, as I now think of the many times in this life that I’ve been afraid to step out; taking on the future and all that it holds.
I understand this is a very long blog entry, so I will cut this short. I would not want my words to dilute the value to be gained from the words of my grandfather and great-grandfather.
A blog will follow this.