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"Parker Gillmore was already a seasoned world traveller, big game hunter and prolific author whose journeys had taken him to dangerous parts of North America and Africa, when the British government offered to send him on a secret mission for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria.
The date was April, 1879 and the job was simple. Gillmore was to mount up at Cape Town, South Africa, ride more than a thousand miles alone into the heart of the African continent, whereupon he was to negotiate with local native rulers, urging them to allow their warriors to become part of the English army. When that bit of mounted diplomacy was accomplished, the amateur ambassador was to ride back and report on his success.
Mind you, there was one bit of bother. Forty thousand warriors in the deadly Zulu army, under the command of their wily leader, King Cethshwayo, had gone on the war path against the English red coats. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the overly optimistic British force which initially took the field suffered a deadly defeat while camped at Isandlwana, where nearly every soldier was killed.
Thus Africa was ablaze inwhat amounted to a genocidal gang war when Parker Gillmore was asked to ride into this blazing cauldron of danger and deceit. The resultant equestrian journey became a litany of courage and suffering.
In his book, A Ride through Hostile Africa, Gillmore recounted how he drove away lions intent on eating his horses, crossed the edge of the deadly Kalahari desert, endured starvation, went without water and became lost on the trackless veldt, before he even managed to find the tribal chiefs he had been sent to negotiate with.
One such meeting resulted in the chief informing the uninvited Gillmore that he was prepared to have a hundred of his nearby warriors spear the impudent Scottish Long Rider to death. At which point the cool Gillmore pointed both his pistols at the chief and advised the local regent that if a spear moved the king would proceed the equestrian explorer to the happy hunting ground.
Thus, with little to show on the diplomatic front, Gillmore turned his weary horses, Bobby and Tommy, towards the safety of faraway Cape Town.
Yet his troubles were far from over. Raging rivers blocked their path and Gillmore was tormented by an “African fever” so severe that at one point he passed out under a tree for nearly twenty-four hours. Luckily, when he awoke, the Long Rider found his horses hovering overhead, as anxious as he to escape from the many perils surrounding them.
At last, after a ride that should have made him a hero, the near-dead Gillmore rode into civilization, where he was promptly informed that the Zulu war was over, hence his services were no longer required, and that during his absence his beloved wife of twenty-five years had died and been buried.
Years later the famous English author, H. Rider Haggard, penned several novels about an intrepid big game hunter named Allan Quatermain, a fictional hero whose adventures in turn helped inspire the creation of Indiana Jones. Yet few now remember the real life Long Rider, Parker Gillmore, whose equestrian journey across African rivaled any fictional account either on the page or the silver screen."