After the start has been made successfully, the craft must be kept under way. To an unbiassed bystander the whole affair looks insane. The wagon creaks and sways and groans and cries aloud as it bumps over great boulders in the way; the leading Kikuyu dances nimbly and shrills remarks at the nearest cattle; the tail Kikuyu winds energetically back and forth on his little handle, and tries to keep his feet. And Brown! he is magnificent! His long lash sends out a volley of rifle reports, down, up, ahead, back; his cracked voice roars out an unending stream of apparent gibberish. Back and forth along the line of the team he skips nimbly, the sweat streaming from his face. And the oxen plod along, unhasting, unexcited, their eyes dreamy, chewing the cud of yesterday’s philosophic reflections. The situation conveys the general impression of a peevish little stream breaking against great calm cliffs. All this frantic excitement and expenditure of energy is so apparently purposeless and futile, the calm cattle seem so aloof and superior to it all, so absolutely unaffected by it. They are going slowly, to be sure; their gait may be maddeningly deliberate, but evidently they do not intend to be hurried. Why not let them take their own speed?
But all this hullabaloo means something after all. It does its business, and the top of the boulder-strewn hill is gained. Without it the whole concern would have stopped, and then the wagon would have to be unloaded before a fresh start could have been made. Results with cattle are not shown by facial expression nor by increased speed, but simply by continuance. They will plod up steep hills or along the level at the same placid gait. Only in the former case they require especial treatment.
In case the wagon gets stuck on a hill, as will occasionally happen, so that all the oxen are discouraged at once, we would see one of the Kikuyus leading the team back and forth, back and forth, on the side hill just ahead of the wagon. This is to confuse their minds, cause them to forget their failure, and thus to make another attempt.
At one stretch we had three days of real mountains. N’gombe Brown shrieked like a steam calliope all the way through. He lasted the distance, but had little camp-fire conversation even with his beloved Kikuyus.
When the team is outspanned, which in the waterless country of forced marches is likely to be almost any time of the day or night, N’gombe Brown sought a little rest. For this purpose he had a sort of bunk that let down underneath the wagon. If it were daytime, the cattle were allowed to graze under supervision of one of the Kikuyus. If it was night time they were tethered to the long chain, where they lay in a somnolent double row. A lantern at the head of the file and one at the wagon’s tail were supposed to discourage lions. In a bad lion country fires were added to these defences.