Editor’s Note: The little, barefoot, overall-clad boy Howard Hill made small clouds of dust as he raced from the cotton field down the road to the house holding the first rabbit he ever had killed with his bow and arrow. That first rabbit taken in Wilsonville, Alabama, marked a new page in the history of bowhunting and began Hill’s quest to fulfill his impossible dream that would span a lifetime, an ocean and two continents. Before Howard Hill – a world-renowned bowman who won more than 196 competitions and set a world record for the farthest recorded flight shot of 391 yards – died in 1975 at the age of 74, I was privileged to interview him. This giant of a man – still strong and powerful – grasped my hand in a hand twice the size of mine – and told me he still shot 100 arrows a day. He also said his heroes were the Native Americans, “Who were some of the best hunters who ever lived. They weren’t necessarily the best shots, but their abilities to stalk, get in close to their game and make clean kills set them apart.” He told me of his personal windmill, how he charged it, and how it fell.
Hill wrote the script for “Tembo,” the story of the first white man to ever take an elephant with a bow. Even after Warner Brothers and MGM Studios turned down the script, Howard Hill was undaunted in his quest to kill the elephant he had dreamed of so long ago when he was still that barefoot Alabama boy.
“Uncle Howard went to see his friend, Errol Flynn,” Jerry Hill, Howard Hill’s grandnephew remembered. “They had hunted together and become very close during Uncle Howard’s years in Hollywood. Uncle Howard said, ‘Errol, I need to borrow some money.’ Flynn asked, ‘How much do you need?’ ‘Well, I need about $225,000.’ ‘Okay. What are you going to do with it?’ ‘I’m going to Africa to kill an elephant with my bow and arrow and make a movie about it.’ ‘That sounds great,’ Flynn said as he chuckled.”
The two men went back to Errol Flynn’s accountant’s office where Flynn directed his bookkeeper to write a check for $250,000 to Hill. The accountant was reluctant and explained that Hill probably would go to Africa and get killed. “Then you’ll be out of all your money, Mr. Flynn.” “Write the check, or I’ll write it myself,” Flynn directed. “And furthermore, if Howard needs any more money on the way or when he gets there, send it to him.”
To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillip’s book, “The Most Dangerous Game with a Bow” in Kindle and print versions at http://amzn.to/164UQpN
Tomorrow: When Bowhunter Howard Hill Took an Elephant