By: Dan Revoir



His name was Tomba; he was one of the best trackers in Africa. He was weathered and scarred from years of hunting in the bush. Thorn trees and burning sun had furrowed his face and body giving his skin the appearance of rough tanned leather. The white stubble of a wiry beard was a sharp contrast to his ebony face and earned him the title of 'mzee,' the old man. This was a name of respect and even reverence since old men are a rarity in the Dark Continent. The most outstanding feature of this Masai warrior was his piercing black eyes. Nothing escaped his scrutiny. He could pick out the track of a wounded animal running with a herd and tell how badly it was hurt. That is what he was doing on this safari.

A rich would-be sportsman who wanted to hunt the Cape buffalo in Tanzania had contacted me. I was reluctant to take a tenderfoot after one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Tomba's limping walk was a constant reminder of what can happen if a client makes a bad shot, wounding a Cape buffalo. Tomba had been mauled by a huge bull that had been impervious to a .458 Winchester in the hands of an inexperienced hunter. My. 416 Rigby, side-by-side double, which shoots a .550 grain bullet has more power than a .458, dispatched the huge bull but not before Tomba was gored.

That would be the price you would pay to take a greenhorn on safari, but here we were, camping on the Serengeti watching the Masai warriors huddling around their campfire. They had guarded our tents all night to protect us from wild animals using only their ever-present spears.

The Masai are fierce and arrogant, a tall, handsome people who are nomadic and depend upon cattle for their livelihood. At times they will not even talk to you unless it comes to money that they expect for guarding you all night. Their young boys become men through a severe ordeal, which includes circumcision without benefit of antiseptic or painkiller. Then they must kill a lion with a spear. They do have one unwritten law that seems quite harsh. If a Masai is caught sleeping while he is guarding a 'wazungu', or white man, he may forfeit his life. So we all slept fairly well, except for the roar of a leopard and the spotted hyena hunting in the night.

The sky in the east had just turned a slight tinge of pink as we sipped our first cup of hot steaming tea. The fragrance of the pungent brew had roused the entire hunting party and even the bearers were brewing their morning 'chai' tea for an early breakfast. Canned bacon and biscuits were baked over an open fire. The honey found in an old tree by one of the bearers would top the golden-brown biscuits slathered with butter.

The morning air was cool and heavy and the campfire felt good, the smoke spiraled upward straight into the air. This was a good sign since we would be able to stalk closer to our quarry ensuring a good shot and lowering the chances of merely wounding a buffalo. Excitement was like static electricity; you could even feel it in the air. Everyone was talking rapidly and there was much nervous laughter as we made ready the two Land Rovers.

After several years of hunting I also have an unwritten law: never touch another man's rifle. All my bearers strictly obeyed this. My client was carrying a .300 magnum, which was a bolt action. I didn't feel comfortable with that cartridge because it was marginal for most of the African dangerous big game and a bit doubtful for the buffalo.

It is adequate in the hands of a skilled marksman, but you never know how a man will react under fear, as in being charged by a 1,500 pound wounded buff. The other very apparent weakness was the $2,000 scope that topped the rifle. It would be excellent for 400 or 500-yard shots at elk in Colorado but rifles really take a beating being bumped around in a Land Rover all day.

I admonished my client to carefully put his rifle in the Land Rover and as he reached for it leaning against a table, it fell over and landed on the scope, of course. It was very foolish to leave the rifle there and he was very embarrassed as he used his handkerchief to wipe the dust off and clean the lenses of the scope. A caution light was flashing in my brain and I knew we should postpone the hunt until the rifle was sighted in again. But he assured me the rifle was not damaged and would shoot true.

The sun was starting to climb in the eastern sky and everyone was feeling a sense of urgency to get started. A shiver ran through my body not from the cool damp morning air but the excitement of the morning hunt.

The rovers coughed and sputtered in protest as in reluctance of the early start but soon the engines roared with power, with the whining of gears we started out on safari. As we jostled and bounced up through a large ravine we saw the law of Africa taking place on top of a ridge, 'kill or be killed' the survival of the fittest. A pair of young lions had pulled down a young wildebeest buck and was in the process of trying to strangle him. It was obvious that they were not skilled in their hunting technique and the hapless animal kept kicking and gasping with a raspy cough-like sound. This centuries old struggle culminated in about twenty minutes with the young lions gorging themselves, stopping only long enough to drive back a couple spotted hyenas that tried to pirate themselves an easy meal.

We had witnessed a 'live kill' - something very few people get to observe, let alone some greenhorn hunters from the United States.

The warmth of the sun renewed our sense of urgency and promised us a hot sweltering day on the Serengeti. There still was no hint of a breeze - just the cooling breeze of the speed of our land rovers.

I knew of a small pond of spring fed water where the buffs congregated to slake their thirst and to roll in the mud, for protection from the intense heat and bothersome flies. We stopped about 100 yards from the pond to keep from 'mucking up' any tracks made this morning.

Tomba's eyes 'read' all the sign and he motioned to me the way Africans do when they want someone to come to them. They extend their hand palm down and motion with their fingers towards themselves. The spoor was huge, one of the largest I had ever seen. It surely was a record buff! We quickly formulated a plan and double-checked all weapons to be very sure they were loaded.

I opened the action of my double rifle and inserted two huge .550-grain cartridges; the closing of the action by lifting the barrels produced a solid metallic click much like closing a heavy safe. It was loaded and ready to fire so I put the safety on and shouldered the heavy weapon with the barrels pointing backward toward the sky. This double rifle was one of the most trusted friends I had.

My very best friend was Tomba and his tracking skill had just taken over. He started his long loping strides almost like a slow run, as he followed the invisible tracks over hardpan, which was covered with rocks and ground as hard as pavement.

The sun was sweltering already and beads of sweat trickled down our faces as we moved quickly and silently.

Suddenly Tomba stopped almost like an English Pointer on a pheasant. He pointed to the lion grass about 200 yards from us and we started our stalk. Tomba was on point position as we 'cat walked' along. Mr. Harding was on my left side, but in his eagerness he was about 15 yards ahead of me.

I motioned him back but he paid no attention to me as we entered the lion grass. There was a strong unmistakable smell of the buff.

Tomba stopped and pointed a finger indicating we were getting very close. Harding now was standing next to Tomba, like a kid who was about to shoot his first pheasant and I had no possibility for a shot since they both were in front of me.

Then it came! The quiet morning air had become a dust devil moving toward us and our scent was being carried ahead of us into the lion grass. Everything was going wrong in the matter of a few seconds and I knew we were in extreme danger and standing in harm's way.

We all heard the 'grunt' of the enraged bull and sound of breaking branches and pounding hoofs.

The buff was charging after scenting us and we could hear him but were not able to see him. Then everything went into slow motion. The buff broke out of the grass swinging his head side to side.

Harding had shouldered the .300 mag and fired! But between the adrenalin and the fear, and scope that got banged that morning, he gut shot the buff! The buff did not even flinch but kept boring down on Harding and Tomba. Harding was stumbling around trying to load another round in his bolt action. Tomba started waving his arms to make the buff charge him. My best friend was about to die a horrible death and reaction took over! Running as fast as I could, I slammed my shoulder into my black diamond, knocking him out of the way. No buff is going to maul him again.

I tripped in some thorn bushes, upsetting my balance, as I was running along like a football player reaching for a long pass. The bull was only about 15 yards from me and with complete reflex as I was falling; I shot both barrels at one time. The roar was deafening and the recoil like the kick of a zebra. I rolled over twice and came up on my knees with two fresh cartridges to jam into the double but they weren't necessary; the buff was sprawled about ten feet in front of me. No one had died and my black diamond kept saying 'mzuri sana, mzuri sana, asante, asante sana.' (Very good, thank you very much).

Then I woke up - it was just a vivid dream!

We were in Kenya. It was the chance of a lifetime. Martha and I decided to go see our daughter in Kenya, Africa. It was not a snap decision but rather the culmination of much letter writing and overseas phone calls, plus a lot of garage sales and the selling some of our toys. We even went so far as to sell our furniture to finance our trip. Patti had been at Kijabe for two years and had 'reupped' for another year and our hearts desire was to see out 'pretty little missionary.'

She had scheduled several speaking engagements for me so it was quite easy to justify our extravagance. One of the most compelling factors in traveling 8,000 miles were the words, we are planning to visit several game parks, which sounded like great adventure to me.

We had six weeks to go on 'safari.' And our daughter Patti who had been a missionary at Rift Valley Academy was going to show us all the sights. We were so anxious to learn the African culture and, of course, I wanted to learn Swahili so I could better barter with the venders at the open market in Nairobi, which I did.

We had two cautions as we traveled. One was to never drink their water and never order ice cubes in your soda (same water only frozen). The second caution was to always sleep with mosquito netting over your bed. It was actually quite romantic.

We visited several game parks and the orphan's park where little animals that were caught, raised and protected. Probably the most beautiful safari we went on was to take the train overnight to Mombasa, a beautiful ocean paradise. Another highlight was going down to Lake Victoria and staying in a beautiful hotel with our elegant rooms, sort of like something from Ali Babar and the 40 Thieves. One day Patti and I were invited to go out and fish for Nile perch (they get to be huge fish). And, of course, as usual, Patti caught the biggest one.

They had placed a carafe of purified drinking water on the stand by the sink. As I was bouncing on the bed and dinking around with the mosquito netting, I was watching Martha as she brushed her teeth. The faucet was running and she kept dipping her toothbrush in the contaminated water. 'Honey, don't use that water, it is not pure and can make you sick, very sick.'

We did some more sight-seeing but the deadly water took its toll, Martha started vomiting and had diarrhea. We tried Kopectate in hopes that she would get rid of the bug she had picked up, quite probably an amoeba. But she just kept getting sicker. We were looking for our last hurrah of going to the 'Masai Mara Game Park' and camping out with the Masai guarding us through the night.

But Martha did not seem to be improving very quickly. Then one day she stopped vomiting and seemed to be getting a little better. She started eating a little bit of food and we were elated that she was improving, but could she travel 300 kilometers to Masai Mara in a maxi van?

We started making all our wonderful plans to go on safari; packing camping gear, cook stoves, sleeping bags and cots to sleep on. We even thought about putting a mattress in the back of the van for Martha to sleep on as we traveled. Yes, I agree that was foolish!

So we loaded up, gently got Martha situated on the mattress and started through the Great Rift Valley.

Brian was our driver and so I sat in the front seat next to the right windshield and we started playing a game of who can spot the animals first. There were tommies, impala and giraffes. 'I saw it first' became the war cry of our game as we were trying to beat each other.

We had traveled approximately 60 kilometers when Martha moaned, 'I'm going to be sick.' And within seconds a tire blew on the van and made that clunk, clunk, clunk sound as we stopped.

I quickly jumped from the van to help Martha get out and there standing before me was a black man. He looked at me and smiled but he did not speak. He turned and walked to the back of the van, opened the doors and started taking out tools. This van was packed with camping gear and I do not know how he found the jack in all the mess.

As we were trying to get Martha out of the side door I watched as he put the jack under the axle and with a little short rod started jacking up the van with one hand. A maxi-van loaded with people and equipment - he had super human strength.

So I carried Martha over to some bushes, but it was too late. She already had diarrhea. She said, 'I'm sick,' and her eyes rolled back up in her head and she was unconscious. I carried her back to the van where Patti and Brian tried to help revive her.

After putting water on her face and covering her head so the sun couldn't beat on her, her eyes opened and she said, 'I'm sorry.' Her eyes rolled back in her head again. Patti, 'my nurse tech' was screaming, 'Help her, help her.'

After tucking her head between her knees, she came to. More wet towels were put on her forehead.

I wanted to see and talk to our black Samaritan. I sensed he was a very unusual African; no greeting, no small talk, no laugh; just a smirky smile like I've got a secret. As he put the flat tire and tools back in the van I called to him, 'bwana' and I motioned to him. I had dug out a 20-shilling note from my pocket and put it in his hand. He smiled his 'I got a secret smile.' But he didn't speak, not even a word of thanks!

We loaded Martha into the van quickly, in minutes; then I turned around to talk to him and
he was gone! With no place to hide! He just disappeared! He vanished into thin air!

The trip back to Kijabe was as fast as we could go, to take Martha to the infirmary. They had to start IV's immediately. She was so dehydrated. My Martha, my wife and best friend could have died out in that bush with the terrible heat! We saw the finger of God in Kenya Africa
, my black diamond; an angelic being was sent to help us! 

Hebrews 1:14: 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?'


Hebrews 13:2: 'Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.'

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