What do you do if you walk up on a hungry pride of lions?
|Picture in your mind a brand new modern European-style hospital sitting empty in the middle of Kenya, Africa with three surrounding villages located within a mile of it. From each village run bumpy dusty roads leading to the front door, making it appear as a wagon wheel from the sky. Within a hundred mile radius, the land is covered in trees and brush and full of wildlife of all sorts.
My team of American specialists was assigned the task of getting this modern hospital staffed and up and running. It was built with funds from the United Nations, and my employer, the World Health Organization, was responsible for commissioning it. The ten of us were housed in the only village that had electricity and running water. An old open-bed Lorry picked us up early every morning and carried us down the dusty dirt road to work. Once arriving, we all had to shower at the hospital to wash off the sweat and dirt we accumulated in that short drive.
I overslept that fateful morning and could not wait for the Lorry to return for me. It was only a mile away by the crow-fly and two miles if I walked the winding dusty road. Not wanting to take a change of clothes with me, I set my sights on cutting through the congested foliage and headed a straight path to work; a big mistake that was never repeated again! Two of the village elders saw me leaving and tried to talk me back, but at the time I didn't understand the language and simply waved as I disappeared into the trees.
Thirty minutes into the stroll, I emerged into a grassy clearing where stood a single huge oak tree composed of stout lower limbs stretching out horizontally. I stopped instantly after spotting several female lions straddled on the lower branches. They were all looking at me. My heart was racing as I stood there trying to think what my next move should be, when up stood a huge male lion at the base of the tree. He had been hidden behind a rotting elk carcass that must have been the pride's morning breakfast. With a face full of anger, the fierce lion took a deep breath and let out the most vicious roar one would ever hear. I swear it could be heard for miles as the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. If ever there was a time in my life I thought I would faint, it was then. No doubt I was scared out of ten years of my precious life and there was nothing on my mind but to turn around and run as fast as I could.
No training had been given to my team about what to do if one walked up on sleeping lions. All I could think of was what to do in Texas if you step up near a rattle snake. You don't move! Then, the monster took a couple of steps my way and I knew I was about to die. They would find my rotting carcass next to the elk under the tree. By now the females were excited and standing on the branches where they once straddled comfortably. They were either curious to see if their king was going to provide lunch or wanted to see if I could outrun them all.
As my life passed before my eyes, a black hand suddenly appeared and rested on my right shoulder. It didn't startle me because I was already way past that stage. To my left and right were at least 10 young men from the village holding spears and some cooking pans. The one holding my shoulder motioned me to turn around and come with him. When I did, the others took a few steps toward the lions, banging on the pans while yelling as loud as they could. I turned only long enough to see the lionesses jump from the limbs and run into the thicker brush. I was told later the male took his time, but eventually followed the females.
When I told of the encounter to my colleagues, they laughed about it for days and made cute jokes about my hair turning white during our remaining months in Kenya. A day doesn't go by, even after all these years, that I do not think about the event and how complete strangers saved me from sure death. Now days, when invited to visit the local zoo, I bypass the popular lions' den and never watch the famous lion roar at the beginning of an MGM movie. I've seen all the lions I want for a lifetime.
Shortly after posting this, I linked it on my Facebook page where old colleagues and friends from the World Health Organization could see. To my surprise, one of the more educated elders of the village I stayed at in Kenya had access to my page. He responded to this short story by saying he was one of the villagers who came to my rescue all those years ago. He also noted that I had left out a detail he remembered clearly; I had peed in my pants.