I suppose it’s in the nature of our work that our relationships with all the living, other occupants of Londolozi, is transient. Leopards die, seasons change. Rangers head for corporate Johannesburg, Camp Managers become Rangers and eventually Trackers retire.
Simon Mathebula retires this month after an inspiring innings at Londolozi.
I’ve always been envious of the wizened characters who experienced Big Black, Shingalana and The Mother -amongst others. Fortunately few of them are still here to gloat and reminisce over the glory days leaving the current brigade to create their own special myths and weave their own fabric of the ‘wonder years’. There are however a few living legends still stalking the thickets out there and finding animals, but there are only a few and Simon is one of the last.
There has always been something special about the way a tracker delves into a story of a past animal. Possibly it’s the recognition of a relationship broken – I’m not sure. But I’ve always listened intently when they speak and I’ve been fortunate to hear Simon frequently with his connection to the past.
I’ll miss his memories and his valuable knowledge. I’ll miss seeing him waiting patiently at the back of Founders for his beloved Lucy to finish in the kitchen before walking her back past the nuisance buffalo.
We will all miss his no-nonsense approach to finding an animal and his rigid adherence to protocol and standards. Simon never tracked from a dirty car and his rangers were always impeccably turned out. They were never allowed an idle fib either because Simon treated misinformation like a lioness tolerates an intruder in her den.
Simon made plenty of rangers in his time here, improved a whole bunch and I suspect didn’t bother with a few either. He’s never suffered fools and I’m sure for that reason his rest will have been well earned!
It would be fair to say of Simon that he always gave as good as he got but it would be a better truism to say he was more of a giver than a getter.
We’ll miss you Simon – make sure you visit.