Osa Johnson Earns Her Name
But this skill didn’t come all at once. African light was different, and Martin had to learn how to compensate for it during filming sessions. It seemed to have a similar effect on Osa’s ability to shoot. Distances were mis-judged, and heat ripples played havoc with accurately getting a bead on dinner. The status of the safari headman and gun bearers rested on the shooting ability of the hunters, in this case, the Johnson’s. It didn’t help when Osa and Martin found themselves in a ravine with buffalo and ran away when they thought the animals intended charging.
The Protectorate’s chief game warden, Blaney Percival, set the Johnson’s up with John Walsh, a hunter who supplied game to the Nairobi restaurants to help them find animals to film. This proved expensive and the Johnson’s needed to eventually go it alone. But practice helped and, while Martin became better with the camera in the African light, Osa became a more proficient hunter, providing their men with meat.
Martin liked to film action and sometimes got too close to his subjects. If the animal could retreat, it did, but sometimes they charged. That was where Osa came in again. Most of the time, firing in the air altered a dangerous animal’s course. Once, she ran shrieking after an elephant and chased it away, a stunt not highly recommended. But sometimes there was no choice, and Osa’s sure shooting brought down an elephant or a lion before it mauled Martin. It was when she brought down a charging elephant just yards from Martin that their African crew named the petite Osa, Memsahib Kidogo, or “little missus.”
NEXT WEEK: INSIGHTS FROM THE GREAT MANHATTAN MYSTERY CONCLAVE; MANHATTAN, KS.