Help Benga

With all the insanity that has occurred in the last 25 minutes, none of us has noticed that the rain has stopped and now a full moon illuminates the entire camp. From my vantage point, standing in the open side door, I can clearly see our fallen and unconscious adversary only yards away from our RV. I step out of the camper and into at least an inch of standing rain water. Benjamin is next. Then Jacob. I reach up and help Makali as he steps down the ladder into a bloody puddle next to the giant fallen simba. He moves next to Jacob and we all look up at Myles. (lion roar..)

“I’ll help Benga get to the door. You Mates help him out of here.”

“You got it,” Benjamin answers. “Gently.”

Myles turns and walks back to Benga. “Kuweka mikono yako karibu na shingo yangu. (put your hands around my neck). Mimi nimepata wewe. (I’ve got you).”

With a grimace and a soft moan Benga reaches up and folds his hands around Myles’ neck. Being extremely careful with his injured leg, Myles lifts him carefully and carries him “craddle-style” to the door, being extra cautious around the uninvited intrusive acacia limb. As he approaches the door, Makali makes a move to reach up for his friend. I gently hold him back. Placing my hand on his shoulder,

“I’ve got him, Amigo. You sit this one out.” I take two steps up the camper steps and take Benga in my arms. “Benga, you are going to be alright. I’ve got you.” Benjamin helps me carry him to Myles’ Land Cruiser. Makali is supporting Bengas’ leg as we carefully walk in the golden-yellow moonlight.

“Benjamin, let’s put him in the back area of the Cruiser until we make a bed for him in the back seat. He has to be able to extend and elevate his leg. It’s going to be a long and uncomfortable ride to town. I’ll go grab some blankets and pillows. You can help by supporting his head and helping him keep his leg still, I’ll be right back.” I squeeze Bengas’ right hand. “Stay brave, soldier.” Benga squeezes my hand in return and smiles up at me.

“I’ve got him Charles,” Benjamin replies.

“Me stay, Bwana”, Makali adds.

“Yes, thought you would.”

Turning to walk back to the camper, I become aware of our now visible surroundings. In the welcomed bright moonlight  I can see the exploded and charred light pole, the devastation to the camper from the fallen acacia tree, and the damage to the door and side from the maddened male lion. I turn and look back at Benjamin.

“Oh man! Benjamin, have you ever seen anything like this?”

“No, Charles. In the daylight I’ll take some photos. No one will ever believe this.” (lioness roar)

To my left, I see that Myles and Jacob have sloshed their way over to the one-eyed female and are admiring the 2nd darted trophy.

“Chuck, ok if we drag Ms. Pop-eye over to the cage?” Jacob yells.

“Yeah, just a second. I’ll be right there. I can help.”

As I walk toward the camper, I make a quick detour and walk over to check on our caged captive. As I approach, the rain-soaked lioness crouches, growls, and leaps at me slamming into the side of the cage. She rebounds off the cage and splashes muddy water toward me as she falls backwards. I step back. The lioness stands and doesn’t retreat. I take a step closer. In a low voice, “Well, it’s almost over, Missy. Oh and, by the way, your boyfriend didn’t make it!” As I turn to walk back toward the camper, the lioness rumbles a low refrain. I’m pretty sure I just got cussed-out by a homicidal, mud caked carnivore. I mumble back, “Yeah, well up yours too!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I gave a frantic halt and backup signal. It was too late!”

We slowly walked our horses about 15 yards behind our trackers. Bryce and I had our open sight 375’s loaded and resting in our laps. A sudden gust of wind surprised us all and Makali suddenly dropped to his knees and gave a halt signal. I had everyone dismount and get behind Bryce and me. Makali was touching his nose to signal a smell. As I crouched next to Makali, I could smell it too. It appeared to be the strong musky smell of cat urine. It almost smells like a used litter box. Taking a few steps forward, we spotted the culprit. We were smelling the odor of a “cat-pee” bush. Good name, right? It smells just like it’s name, and due to the dampness from last night’s rain, the odor was even stronger. So, I gave the “all clear”, and we remounted and fell back into the same formation with Bryce and myself in front, following Makali. I lit another cigarette and felt a little less tense. The wind now seems to be swirling from several directions. This is even more dangerous. We can’t count on the possibility of us smelling them, and we can’t limit the chance of them smelling us. Bryce, still to my left, sighed and smiled. He understood our situation. Makali led us forward slowly. I looked over to Bryce to make some funny comment, when suddenly Makali fell to his knees and made a frantic signal.

I saw it at the same moment he signaled. About 15 yards to my right, four massive legs were showing under a thorn bush. We were too close and the wind was blowing in that direction. I gave a frantic halt and backup signal. It was too late!

 

“Bwana, I have new name for you. I now call you, Bwana Kifaru.”

“Makali and Bryce, I know my leg is broken. Make a splint for my leg out of some limbs from that acacia tree. I’ll hold this rag over my eye to stop the bleeding. Alan, if you could bring me my satchel, please,” I asked.

Makali wrapped my leg using two branches and some thick twine that we always carry with our supplies.

“Makali, another request, please. Use your knife and get these thorns out of my arm. They hurt as much as anything,” I asked.

So, using the same knife he had used on the zebra a few hours before, he carefully dug the 3 thorns out of my left arm. After wrapping my arm with another rag, with his help, I stood up.

“Well, that was something, wasn’t it sports fans?” trying to be funny. ” I guess the lions will have to wait. Makali, we’ll give the rhino meat to the village. What a shame, he is magnificent. Couldn’t be helped. I think we can blame the wind. Rhino always ‘mark’ their territory. Normally we would have smelled him.” I added.

“Yes, you right Bwana. I’m sorry,” said Makali.

“Oh not your fault my friend.”

Bwana, I have new name for you. I now call you, Bwana Kifaru.”

“Mr. Rhino,” I said. “Ok, Makali. I like it. Bwana Kifaru.”

 

The massive black rhino dropped three yards from Makali. I fell to my knees.

In the blink of an eye, I fired twice and Bryce fired at least once. The massive black rhino dropped three yards from Makali. I fell to my knees. My right leg was broken and I had blood streaming from a cut above my right eye. I didn’t even realize the rhino had knocked me into a thorn bush. I had several large 2″ thorns in my left arm and a nice gash above my eye. I didn’t feel any pain for about 5 minutes. Makali was fine, and thank God no one else got hurt. Stan and Alan somehow stayed on their horses.

Makali ran over to me.

“Oh Bwana, oh Bwana, you ok?” he was crying,

“Yes, Sharp Eyes. Thank you for protecting me. Asante, my dear Makali.” I felt the need to embrace my friend and tried to stand. Bryce held me down.

“Just stay put, Cowboy. Let’s check you out first.” Bryce said.

“Thank you too, Bwana Bryce,” said Makali.

“No worries, Makali,” added Bryce. “Besides, where would we find another tracker at this late hour?” he smiled.

Stan and Alan where standing behind me. They were speechless. Stan finally spoke.

“Nice shooting Bwana. I think we should call it a day.”

 

The crazed rhino was on me in 3 seconds…”Look out, Bwana!”

Makali led us forward slowly. I looked over to Bryce to make some funny comment, when suddenly Makali fell to his knees and made a frantic signal.

I saw it at the same moment he signaled. About 15 yards to my right, four massive legs were showing under a thorn bush. We were too close and the wind was blowing in that direction. I gave a frantic halt and backup signal. It was too late!

Makali yelled, “Look out, Bwana!”

The bush exploded. He yelled again, whistled, and waved his arms. I later realized he was risking himself to save me. The crazed rhino was on me in 3 seconds. There was no time to react. My horse spun to its’ left just as the rhino rammed us with his horn. The power of the impact knocked us to the ground.

The rhino’s horn had hit my right leg just below my knee. My foot was in the stirrup, so my leg and the saddle had saved the horse from injury. As we hit the ground, somehow I had held onto my rifle. Expecting the rhino to come for me again, I managed to stand and prepared to shoot…..

In the blink of an eye, I fired twice and Bryce fired at least once. The massive black rhino dropped three yards from Makali. I fell to my knees. My right leg was broken and I had blood streaming from a cut above my right eye.

 

 

Suddenly a sound of swift movement in the grass behind us….

(After about 4 yards he disappears into the grass. Benjamin and I stay kneeled, silent, and ready.)

One minute, three minutes, five minutes. My “rhino” knee is aching, I have to adjust my position. I look at my watch. It has now been seven minutes. Seven anxious minutes, listening for sounds, watching for movements up ahead, and hoping for Makali’s whistle that all is safe. Nothing so far. In the distance I hear the song of robins and warblers. The wind seems to be swirling now. This could be very bad! Ten minutes. Nothing. Suddenly a sound of swift movement in the grass behind us. I turn, raising my rifle.

“Easy cowboy. Careful with that thing, Mate.”

“Damn, Miles.” I’ve never been so happy to see anyone before. Miles and Benga fall-in besides us, loaded and ready. In a low whisper I quickly update both as to the situation. The four of us re-assume our kneeled positions. Twelve minutes!

 A whistle. Finally. I painfully stand and see Makali walking towards us at about 20 yards.

“Bwana! Bwana!” almost in a scream. “You no believe!”

“Let’s keep our eyes and ears open, men…”

(“We are in the simbas’ backyard.”)

“Your right, good point. Think we should always have the tranquilizer guns too?”

“Well, ya’ know that’s a good idea, too. Who knows, can’t imagine getting that lucky. But, who knows.”

“I get, Bwana,” Makali announced, getting out of the Rover.

“And the box of darts, Bright Eyes,” I added. 

Makali is back before I have time to back the Rover away from the motor home. He sits in the front with me.

“Let’s keep our eyes and ears open, men,” I said as we pulled away from our newly dedicated base camp. “Lead on Benjamin, tell me the best route to take to their house.”

“Pretty easy Charles. Head back the way we came, but as we approach that larger waterhole, there will be a road back to the north.”

“Yep, I remember the waterhole. Makali, I think we should stop and check for tracks. Unakubali (you agree)?”