Max the Man, The Daughter of the One Million Hectare Landowner, Me and 25 Yards
January 8, 2013
Max is a real man. A whole and complete man. That’s how they all turn out when the land has had her fill of a man. Thereafter this man is different. He even smells different. Sees the world differently from those around him and is probably so different from anyone else you or I will ever know. That if you didn’t know is what the land can do to a man – it can change a man and make him a very different man.
And Max is a very different man from all other men.
Men who turn the wheel of life from the good earth all have this quality of seasoned leather about them – a certain sheen that comes from regular use -a certain manly beauty like a well crafted tool, precise, clear and purposeful - they all have a faint air of superiority that comes from having seen a difficult thing through right to the very end - you can see it in the quiet confident manner these men carry themselves. The way they talk. The manner in which they choose their words. Express themselves and even put their point across. The way they look searchingly at you like a hunter. They’re just different – as they have all been touched and changed by the land.
Max is such a man – his entire being is permeated with the spirit of the land. Such a man cannot be an ordinary man. Not at all, he’s different – he sees, thinks and makes sense of the world differently. That is what makes men like Max so terribly dangerous. They will do things that other men only read about or see in the movies – Max is a real and complete man.
As these days one seldom comes across real men like Max. All one really sees are half and quart men. Men who wear that all familiar vacant searching look – as if,they are all searching for something - wondering from time to time, whether perhaps they have been placed on this planet in this timeline to search in vain – search for a soulmate, search for love, search for a better job, search for a car park, search for a better tomorrow – they’re always searching and it shows only too clearly in their faces. They’re there, but always somewhere else – giving off every moment of their existence to either the distant past or the blue yonder of the starry eyed future - that sort of listlesness doesn’t exist in the features of a real man like Max – a true planter - a that is exactly who Max is – someone who doesn’t need to search – as he knows what he wants and even knows what he needs to do to get it. A dangerous man. I tell myself this again and again – as I never want to underestimate my enemy.
Me and Max we are both cut from the same cloth. We both see the world clearly. He knows, he’s finished. The free fall in the price of palm oil will break him in two, if it continues for any longer - he expanded too fast during the boom years. Buying large swathes of land at premium prices. Now that the market has bottomed out suddenly - he can’t even cut his losses without slithing his own throat. He’s finished and he knows it.
That’s the only reason why he feels the need to fight this duel – Max has nothing to lose and everything to gain – if he finishes me off, he can take my entire holdings – that’s how duelling laws are structured – that’s the only way he can save himself from certain financial doom. That and probably fulfilling the wishes of the daughter of the one million hectare landowner who will always be thankful to anyone who can always be entrusted to carry out her designs.
I understand completely….I do. If it was me. I would probably do the same thing as Max. I don’t blame him. I understand…I understand completely.
I scan through the scenery where we will face off again. There’s a slim tree that runs straight up three quarters to the far right. That will be my plumb line. A reference point where I can judge distance and elevation to level the smooth bore flintlock during the twilight of dawn – it stands out clearly enough. I tell myself, if I can spot it so can Max. I choose a spot on the low ground that’s hides my silohuette – I compensate for the twilight of dawn and the lack of contrast by trying to calculate how the shadows will fall to find the sweet spot- I winch, again I tell myself again, if I can spot this so can Max again. I make rapid calculations, 75 grams of gunpowder, 5 grams of cotton wad, 200 grams of shot weight – lenght of barrel 7 inches, bore diameter, 9.5mm – I see the slow flash as the flint strikes the pan, it burst into flames ignites the gunpowder. There’s a momentary pause before the ball is exploded out of the barrel – a 0.36 second pause using coiled Birmingham coiled steel which was common in the manufactory of that period. Then the ball would thunder through 18th century steel followed by a cloud and an ear shattering bang! I replayed the scene in my head. This time standing on the sweet spot I had chosen. Compensated for the expected high humidity of a tropical dawn. And surmised at exactly where Max stood from where I was standing. At 25 yards, the ball would drop exactly 4 inches, if I aimed directly on target. I needed to aim higher.
A wave of pride and satisfaction swept over me just then. As I told myself, “only a professional can make those sort of cold calculations.” tell myself again. Then a cold front of realization set in. If I can spot all this so can Max. Max is professional. I knew a man once upon a time in Africa like Max…knew him well…a lonely man who stood ramrod for hours watching the birds. A man who resembled Max in every aspect…I knew him so well. This man who always wore ridding breeches, knee high polished tan boots and always went around in a shouldered holstered revolver – for a while I even saw him standing in the horizon in my mind’s eye. A man who I had always wanted to forget. A man who can only bring grief and rage. A man who I did not want to color the present – my life – As all I really want to do is to lead a simple life without really disturbing anyone. To live a peaceful life with the woman who I love. And loves me. To just turn the wheel of life one day at a time, in the way a man reads one page at a time so very slowly till he can taste the full breadth of words, sentences and paragraphs – see these words magically take him to some mystical land. We don’t even need to be rich. We just need to turn that simple wheel of life with fried fish, century eggs and a bit of meat and all this will be the grist of that great wheel turning – to do it again and again. Till we both grow old and die. That is all I really want to do.
Why is it so difficult for me to live a simple life? Surely, I have a right to these things? I have after all worked hard all my life. Made sacrifices. Taken extraordinary risk to make it where I am today. So why is it so bloody difficult for me to have my piece of heaven with the school teacher.
I had no answers only unanswered questions. With these thoughts I felt a profound sense of sadness sweeping through me – it filled me with a deep sense of remorse that I had not felt for such a long time. A dark remorse, swirling it’s way from somewhere deep down inside me. A darkness so dark that even light itself is like the drop in the infinity of the ocean.
That was when I received a SMS from the daughter of the one million hectare landowner,
“I want to go and see you in the country. Will be coming over tomorrow at lunch time. c u. Love.”
I have to work on my machine now. There is so much to do.