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The Wildebeest Charleston
Witness a very rare and historic commemorative command performance of the Wildebeest Charleston by one of the Flapper Era’s oldest surviving quadrupeds!
This fleet-footed member of the species Connochaetes taurinus — best known by all of his closest friends and avid admirers by simply his stage initials of C.T. — is a blue wildebeest (or, within certain circles, a brindled gnu, or sometimes just a common wildebeest). But, as his fancy hoofwork shows, there’s nothing at all common about this guy!
For one thing, he is probably the extreme senior citizen of his ilk, having survived well beyond the normal male wildebeest life-span of a mere two decades to make it into his 90s, with no signs of flagging or dragging tail anytime soon. And then there’s the dancing. The shimmering bluish sheen of C.T.’s striped coat reflects myriad campfire glints and glimmers, as he stamps about the ochre dust of the village’s central hut-cluster to the sound of Khoikhoi drumbeats. So entrancing is his prancing that those natives crouched in the closest inner spectator ring fail to notice even when they are accidentally but pungently scent-marked by the whirling wildebeest.
Blue wildebeest are prevalent throughout southern and eastern expanses of Africa, the Dark Continent. More than a million of these large antelope-like creatures regularly migrate back and forth across the Serengeti in tempo with the seasonal rains and the grasses they nurture. Related to cattle and goats, the large mammals can be readily distinguished from a distance by their striated blackish manes, and broad dark muzzle and face, capped by a large pair of parenthetical horns. Despite their considerable size and bulk, these ungulates can reach a maximum running speed of up to 50 miles per hour. Though popular imagination often pictures such wildebeest stampeding in vast hordes, the animals are usually much calmer and more leisurely in their habits. They cooperatively herd with zebras for complementary grazing and mutual defense against their most common predators: spotted hyenas, lions and crocodiles.
Look out when the first full moon arrives after the end of the rainy season on the plains, for this is when the male Blue Wildebeest will go into rut, and will start to act out. Some strut and scent-mark and lock horns to prove superiority and express dominance. Some take up dice, cards, smoking herb and late-night drinking. Still others will reach for sax or clarinet or squeezebox.
But C.T. chose to take up the call of dance, and press the proof of the hoof. At first, he dabbled with The Cakewalk and the Black Bottom. Then his interests shifted to the swing of the Lindy Hop, embellished with Savoy kicks, freezes and Johnny’s Drops. Later, the foot-tapping taurinus turned to jam circles, the Jay-Bird and The Juba. It didn’t take long before C.T. was known as the jazziest, snazziest, snappiest, tappiest wild beast about town. And so there was no further challenge for C.T. than conquering the Wildebeest Charleston, a far more raucous and righteous version of that chorine specialty of the Jazz Age!
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