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Tent Life in Tigerland
Chapter XXI - A Chatter on Guns


On guns—How to cure skins—Different recipes—Conclusion.

My remarks on guns shall he brief. The true sportsman has many facilities for acquiring the best information on a choice of weapons. For large game perhaps nothing can equal the Express rifle. My own trusty weapon was a '500 bore, very plain, with a pistol grip, point-blank up to 180 yards, made by Murcott of the Haymarket, from whom I have bought over twenty guns, every one of which turned out a splendid weapon.

My next favourite was a No. 12 breechloader, very light, but strong and carefully finished. It had a side snap action with rebounding locks, and was the quickest gun to fire and reload I ever possessed. I bought it from the same maker, although it was manufactured by W. W. Greener.

Avoid a cheap gun as you would a cheap-Jack pedlar. A good name is above riches so far as a gun is concerned, and when you have a good gun take as much care of it as you would of a good wife. They are both equally rare. An expensive gun is not necessarily a good one, but a cheap gun is very seldom trustworthy. Have a portable, handy black leather case. Keep your gun always clean, bright, and free from rust. After every day's shooting see that the barrels and locks are carefully cleaned and oiled. Nothing is better for this purpose than Rangoon oil.

For preserving horns, a little scraping and varnishing arc all that is required. While in camp it is a good plan to rub them with deer, or pig, or tiger fat, as it keeps them from cracking.

To clean a tiger's or other skull. If there he a nest of ants near the camp, place the skull in their immediate vicinity. Some recommend putting in water till the particles of flesh rot, or till the skull is cleared by the fishes. A strong solution of caustic water may be used if you wish to get the bones cleaned very quickly. Some put the skulls in quicklime, but it has a tendency to make the bones splinter, and it is difficult to keep the teeth from getting loose and dropping out. The best but slowest plan is to fix them in mechanically by wire or white lead. A good preservative is to wash or paint them with a very strong solution of fine lime and water.

To cure skins. I know no better recipe than the one adopted by my trainers in the art of shikar, the brothers. I cannot do better than give a description of the process in the words of George himself.

" Skin the animal in the usual way. Cut from the corner of the mouth, down the throat, and along the belly. A white stripe or border generally runs along the belly. This should be left as nearly as possible equal on both sides. Carefully cut the fleshy parts off the lips and balls of the toes and feet. Glean away every particle of fatty or fleshy matter that may still adhere to the skin. Peg it out on the ground with the hair side undermost. When thoroughly scraped clean of all extraneous matter on the inner surface, get a bucket or tub of buttermilk, which is called by the natives dalvye, cr mvtha. It is a favourite article of diet with them, cheap and plentiful. Dip the skin in this, and keep it well and entirely submerged by placing some heavy weight on it. It should be submerged fully three inches in the tub of buttermilk.

"After two days in the milk bath, take it out and peg it as before. Now take a smooth oval rubbing-board about twelve inches long, five round, and about an inch thick in the middle, and scrub the skin heartily with this instrument. On its lower surface it should be cut in grooves, semicircular in shape, half an inch wide, and one inch apart. During scrubbing use plenty of pure water to remove filth. In about half-an-hour the pinkish-white colour will disappear, and the skin will appear white, with a blackish tinge underneath. This is the true hide.

"Again submerge in the buttermilk bath for twenty-four hours, and get a man to tread on it in every possible way, folding it and unfolding it, till all has been thoroughly worked.

"Take it out again, peg out and scrub it as before, after which wash the whole hide well in clear water. Never mind if the skin looks rotten, it is really not so.

"When washed put it into a tub, in which you have first placed a mixture consisting of half an ounce of alum to each gallon of water. Soak the skin in this mixture for about six hours, taking it up occasionally to drain a little. This is sufficient to cure your skin and clean it."

The tanning remains to be done.

"Get four pounds of babool, tamarind, or dry oak bark. (The babool is a kind of acacia, and is easily procurable, as the tamarind also is.) Boil the bark in two gallons of water till it is reduced to one-lialf the quantity. Add to this nine gallons of fresh water, and in this solution souse the skin for two, or three, or four days.

"The hairs having been set by the soaking in alum, the skin will tan more quickly, and if the tan is occasionally rubbed into the pores of the skin it will be an improvement. You can tell when the tanning is complete by the colour the skin assumes. When this satisfies the eye, take it out and drain on a rod. When nearly dry it should be curried with olive oil or clarified butter if required for wear, but if only for floor covering or carriage rug, the English curriers' common "dubbin," sold by shopkeepers, is best. This operation, which must be done on the inner side only, is simple.

"Another simple recipe, and one which answers well, is this. Mix together of the best English soap, four ounces; arsenic, two and a half grains; camphor, two ounces; alum, half an ounce; saltpetre, half an ounce. Boil the whole, and keep stirring, in a half-pint of distilled water, over a very slow fire, for from ten to fifteen minutes. Apply when cool with a sponge. A little sweet oil may be rubbed on the skins after they are dry.

"Another good method is to apply arsenical soap, which may he made as follows :—powdered arsenic, two pounds; camphor, five ounces; white soap, sliced thin, two pounds; salt of tartar, twelve drams; chalk, or powdered fine lime, four ounces; add a small quantity of water first to the soap, put over a gentle fire, and keep stirring. "When melted, add the lime and tartar, and thoroughly mix; next add the arsenic, keeping up a constant motion, and lastly the camphor. Tire camphor should first be reduced to a powder by means of a little spirits of wine, and should be added to the mess after it has been taken off the fire.

"This preparation must be kept in a well-stoppered jar, or properly closed pot. When ready, the soap should be of the consistency of Devonshire cream. To use, add water till it becomes of the consistency of clear rich soup."

I have now finished my book. It has been pleasant to me to write down these recollections. Ever since I began my task, death has been busy, and the ranks of my old friends have been sadly thinned. Failing health had driven me from my old shooting grounds, and in sunny Australia I have been successful in recruiting the energies enervated by the burning climate of India. Australia has become indeed a second Fatherland to me, and amid the busy whirl of commerce, and the battle of politics, I still find room for the exercise of the old hunting ardour, and sometimes have occasion, alas! like the old apostle, to war with wild beasts, and so I find that I have not lost all my old nerve and sporting zeal. I have achieved high honour and distinction in my adopted country, and its interests demand my best and highest service. That my dear old planter friends may have as kindly recollections of the " Maori" as he has of them, is what I ardently hope ; that I may yet share in the sports, pastimes, joys, and social delights of Mofussil life in India, is a cherished wish, which a visit may one day gratify. If this volume meets the approbation of the public, I may be tempted to draw further on a well stocked memory, and gossip afresh on Indian life, Indian experiences, and Indian sport. Meantime, courteous reader, farewell.


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