Freddie or How the Rhinoceros Got His Horn
In 1973 three college friends and I went on safari in Kenya. This was long before the air conditioned SUVs and luxury hunting lodges that tourists use now. All we had were two Maasai guides and an old World War Two army jeep that had Bessie written on driver's side door. All day we drove through the bush watching animals eat, play and hunt and every night the guides took us to little villages to eat and sleep. It was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. The last day but one, we were deep in the bush when the left side of our jeep slipped into a huge pothole. We pushed and pulled but we couldn't get it out. As night was coming on, it comes on really fast in the bush, the guides said we should stay where we were and they would walk to the nearest village and get help. We should have been scared but we were young and the adrenalin overcame our fears. "Don't worry," we said. "You go to the village. We'll be all right." We lit a big fire to keep the animals away, pulled mosquito nets over us, which we carried in case of an emergency like this one, and hunkered down in the jeep to sleep. The truth was we were so scared we didn't sleep a wink. It was dark, the rainy season was coming, and we could barely see the moon and stars. We must have been close to a watering hole because we not only heard roars and howls but also the grunting and shuffling of elephants and wildebeest as they passed by sometimes not more than twenty yards away. We saw a leopard padding through the bushes. We thought it would just a matter of time before we were attacked by lions. And then came the rhinoceros. I'll call him Freddy. At first, all we heard was huffing and puffing and squeaking and grunting. We didn't know what it was whatever it was it didn't sound friendly. We peeked our heads up and I shone a torch into the bushes, and standing there about thirty yards away was a large fully grown rhinoceros with a huge horn at the end of it's nose. No one said anything but I knew we were all thinking the same thing - please don't let him hit me with that horn! We knew that rhinoceroses couldn't see very well, but that their sense of smell and hearing were very good. Freddy must have smelled us and I can only guess that he didn't like the way we smelled. He started pawing the ground and tossing his head in the air. "He's getting ready to charge!" Dave whispered. "No, he's not," I said. "He can't see us." "He can now! You just shone the torch on him!" "Just be quiet and he'll go away," Mark said. "But we're right in his path," Dave squeaked. "Well, we can't get out the way," I said. "Yes we can," Dave said, and before we could stop him he pulled off the mosquito nets and leaped out of the jeep and started running. Well, as soon as Dave jumped out, Mark and I followed. At that moment Freddy charged. Rhinoceroses may look heavy and clumsy but they can run fast. The ground shook. No sooner had we jumped out than Freddy hit the jeep. It was like a bomb going off. I thought the next moment he would stomp me into the ground. But he just roared and raced off into the darkness. Mark and I got up. Unbelievably, there was not a scratch on us! Then we started laughing and hollering and jumping up and down because although the right side of our jeep, Bessie, was smashed in, Freddy had somehow knocked it out of the hole and it was now standing on the ground perfectly upright on it's own four wheels. When Dave heard us laughing he came back. He couldn't believe it either. The three of us got into the jeep and drove out of there as fast as we could. The whole next day the guides and the villagers kept pinching us because they couldn't believe we were unharmed. Some of them said it was magic others said it was a miracle. One old woman didn't agree. "It wasn't an accident or a miracle," she said. "He was helping you. He knew you were stuck. Why do you think he waited until you got out of the jeep before he charged? He didn't want to hurt you." My first instinct was to laugh at her explanation but the more I thought about it the more I thought that perhaps she was right. Now I'm convinced of it. That's why I wrote this story. Thank you, Freddy. For much more information about me and my work please visit my website peterelbling.com.