Monday, September 21, 2009

Frederick Russell Burnham

Imagine this: you're fighting the Boers in Africa, and you've been sent to blow up their bridge. Along the way, you run into a group of Boers and are forced to ride for your life. As you do, your horse gets shot and killed, and crushes you under it. You're knocked out for a day. When you awake, you're alone and badly injured. What do you do?

If you're Frederick Russell Burnham, you go back and blow up the bridge.

Read the Wikipedia entry. In 1901, Teddy Roosevelt said, "I know Burnham. He is a scout and a hunter of courage and ability, a man totally without fear, a sure shot, and a fighter. He is the ideal scout, and when enlisted in the military service of any country he is bound to be of the greatest benefit."

Then, in 1933, the German spy Fritz Joubert Duquesne said, "To my friendly enemy, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the greatest scout of the world, whose eyes were that of an Empire. I once craved the honour of killing him, but failing that, I extend my heartiest admiration.."

It's a truly astounding example of historical badassery.

Then, if you haven't had your fill of 19th Century badasses named Frederick, read about Frederick Selous. The man made a living hunting every dangerous animal you can think of, and died when he was in his sixties and got shot by a sniper during World War One. And get this line from his biography: "He ate less than most men, and never drank anything but tea, which he enjoyed at every meal. Sometimes he drank champagne at big dinners, but rich wines and high feeding had no attractions to him." Sounds like my kind of chap!


bluefish said...

On eighty cups a day, Selous hasn't slept in eighty years.

Kawaika said...

Did he slurp up a cup from an elephant's trunk with a couple of monks who utterly stunk?