Interviewing the Tiger-Man
George Brommers, Los Angeles, California
Even a worm has its use. Ask Stanley Christilaw. He furnished the transportation when we went to Hollywood to interview the far famed Tiger-Man, Sasha Siemel, for Ye Syivan Archer.
Stanley started with some reasonalble doubts; he knew Sasha's record about as well as I did-- 101 Brazilian ''tigers,'' we call them jaguars, downed with a rifle. Nice, playful beasts, more soild than the Bengle tiger and up to 350 pounds in weight. Twenty-seven additional ones had been brought down with a spear, three killed outright with bow and arrow and four dispatched with a spear after being wounded with an arrow. As Stanley said, a bird like that had to he tough just to bc alive and he hoped he wasn't going to practice on him.
Mr. Siemel is in the city for the first time, being under contract with Columbia for some adventure films, the nature of which will be known later. Every archer will want to see them, we know.
Never again will Stanley go with me when I interview a celebrity. Because when he gets as interested as he was this time he will paw over everything in sight and ask the questions that should he put by the head reporter. How does he get that way?
Not that he didn't have a good excuse this time. Anybody would be curious to know how to stop 300 or more pounds of snarling cat with a spear. It calls for nice judgement. We make some remark to that effect.
"Now I would just love to be a hero," says the Tiger-Man, "and I am very sorry to have to disappoint you. But the fact remains that I learned the art from a poor native who had nothing but a home-made spear where I had my high-powered rifle. But I do think I was a good pupil and will admit that it calls for experience and judgment."
Here is pretty much the key to the man. Competent, but with a keen sense of justice to others and a well developed sense ot proportion. His judgment might well be inherited from Teutonic Knights ancestors, as well as his courage. Great lads with a lance, these ancestors were, and what is a lance but a spear that got into society? Sasha's particular spear is seven feet long, almost long enough to be used from horseback, if this were practicable.
"It is all in a day's work," explains our Tiger-Man. "just plain hard work. Crawling through that jungle is no fun. Neither is heat, mosquitoes, nor being thrown off a horse that stepped into an armadillo burrow any special pleasure."
"I do not suppose it is any special pleasure to be the cat either," suggests Stanley.
"Why should the cat complain?" demands Sasha. "If he doesn't like it he can beat it. I couldn't catch him if I wanted to. Hunting is hard work," moans our host, coming back to his pet grievance.
"There is one redeeming feature about it though,"
continues the Tiger-Man. "At the end of the spear it is the cat that
labors, not I. He is impulsive, does not like me. Few cats do, as a matter
of fact. So he makes his lunge and is rewarded with a foot or so of cold
steel. His intentions were laudable, but his judgement poor."
"Suppose you miss." says Stanley. "Would I be here if I did?" asks the Tiger-Man, and there is reason and logic on his side. Sasha will never make more than one mistake. Even Stanley has to admit that. Possibly this is the reason why there are so many tigers and so few takers.
Patiently the technique of hunting is explained to us. The spear is held just so. The impulsive cat does the rest. Of course there are a few fine points to it. You must know where the cat is in the first place and what he will do in order to afford him the fullest facilities for self-demolition and suicide. Just a matter of experience, as Sasha explains.
Stanley looks doubtful, but I have no doubts at all. I do not say that a jaguar is not an undesirable citizen and all that, but I am broadminded about It. Live and let live is my motto--with anything bigger than I am myself.
What does this Tiger-Man look like? Well, he is tall, but not too tall. You would hardly judge from his appearance that he is living such a wild and adventurous life. And if you haven't already read "Green Hell," or "The Tiger Man," thrilling books by Julian Duguid, published by the Century Co., New York and London, you will want to do so at the first opportunity. I know that I have enjoyed few books as much as "Green Hell," and this was long before I had heard of the Tiger-Man.
Archer's owe a vote of thanks to Dr. Elmer for another great service to the sport. It was the doctor who in interested the Tiger-Man in archery and gave him his first instruction in the modern phases of it. It was also the doctor who put Mr. Siemel in touch with Art Young, and the two became grent friends. There is a great deal of similarity in the two of men.
Not so much in manners, Art was more reserved, in fact, quite shy on occasions. But he had the same genuineness, understanding and simple courtesy and sincerity that characterizes Sashiel Siemel. To have been in the presence of either for as much as five minutes is to feel that you have known them for years. Instinctively you felt in both cases that these men really liked you as you liked and respected them. And both of them compelled respect. Gentlemen do.
Young was hard to draw out and Siemel, while spontaneous enough, is none too easy unless you know the technique. Fortunately I do, and these fellows fall for it every time. Just suggest to them that they are reckless to the point of damphoolishness and they will proceed to show you how really conservative and calculating they are. In the process you will learn plenty.
"It is all a matter of developing a certain skill," says Sasha. "To be sure, there is an element of risk, wouldn't be sport if there wasn't." But he really has done nothing that you or I could not do if we applied ourselves. What's more, he really believes it, and so did Young. After all, such is the sportsman's creed. It is the lad who is not sure of himself who is so superior to the rest of us.
And now, to make it a litt1e more sport and to take as
much as possible of risk and uncertainty out of his hunting, Siemel has
rifle for cat hunting purposes. Bow and arrow is so much safer, he thinks. Of course a cat is inclined to argue matters occasionally. The safe and sane arrow fails to kill it, and down it comes out of a tree. It has a just grievance and a mission in life. It uses the best argument it knows, and a final settlement has to he readied over the point of a spear. So far Siemel's line of reasoning has had the edge on the cat's.
To show how far fetched any refererence to danger is in connection with these matter of fact hunts I quote from Mr. Artaur B. Cleaves' article in Explorers' Club Tales, published by Dodd Mead & Co.
"As Sasha stooped to peer through some matted vegetation to the left, Ibecame aware of the jaguar about twenty feet directly ahead, bearing down on us. He filled my sights and, as I fired, my impression was of a cat about the size of an elephant, about to engulf me. Instinctively I fell back behind Sasha, who fired from the hip and then took the charge on his bayonet."
"The weight of the animal was so great, and the charge so furious, that for the first time in his life, the Tiger- Man was bowled over backward. I was so close that, in falling, he knocked me down. and the jaguar careened past my feet. While falling Seisha had twisted his rifle in such a manner that the cat was forced heyond us. Doubtless his presence of mind saved one or both of us from being terribly mangled or killed...
Sasha Siemel has had his share of distinctions. He has guided big game hunters like Col. Theodore Roosevelt and explorers like Lincoln Ellsworth. He has had books written about him. He has lectured before the National Geographic Society at Washington D.C., and distinguished Explorers' clubs. The Adventurers Club in Los Angeles nearly tore the roof off their club house with the spontanaity of their applause.
But there is one distinction that surpasses them all. He made the archers at Griffith Park drop their sandwiches in their eagerness to see him demostrate spear technique. Never before have I known anything to be allowed to interfere with the sacredness of an archer's lunch.
What Sasha Seimel will mean to archery I leave to the raeder's imagination.
As this is written, a letter from Walt Wilhelm told me that Stanley Gardner, "the world's worst shot," as he unblushingly announces himself, is on his way back from Mexico. Wouldn't I like to see Seimel and Gardner hunt jaguars together down in Brazil. It would be the greatest combination I could think of since Pope and Young.
Lest we forget, a full pardon is hereby issued to Dr. Klopsteg. It is thanks to him Los Angeles archers were notified in time and had the privilege of meeting Mr. Siemel. No matter what Paul does or does not do in the future, no doghouse warrant filled out in his name will ever have my signature.