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The Moonlight Marathon

Often in the course of the exhibitions which I mount from time to time, people tell me some hair-raising animal stories. Some of them are fine examples of heroism in the face of the most dangerous of circumstance.

There are hosts of stories concerning lions for example, many of them tall and many long.

This is a true account in the best of lion tradition.

At one time some personal friends of mine ran out of petrol some miles from Sinamatella in the middle of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. It was close to sunset and two of their number elected to walk to the nearest camp to get help. Unfortunately there were some important facts that they didn't know about each other when they set off on their errand of mercy.

They strode along in the magnificent panorama of the highveld sunset, as the compelling calm at twilight settled and a great bronze moon escaped the hazy thrall of the lead wood trees on the horizon. It was a calm evening, the very substance of grand adventure.

Then as they rounded one of those dusty bends in the combretum forests, where the russet four winged seeds gather in the deep root pits and the flaxen bush grasses strike through the stony grey soil, they came upon a lioness playing with her cubs in the moonlight!!

For a moment they were stricken with terror and backed away rather too hastily to flee towards the car, already some two miles distant. The lioness keen on some instructive night sport for her cubs, padded along in pursuit.

The men ran on with as much pace as they might muster, but it soon became evident that one of them could not hold to the gruelling pace and quite suddenly, he collapsed unconscious upon the way.

His companion seeing no alternative, seized him under the shoulders and dragged him with all haste towards the car and safety. During these desperate moments the lioness and her cubs shortened the tenuous lead and the courageous Samaritan could hear her rough beating breaths close behind him.

Finally he drew in sight of the car and struggled the remaining long yards towards it. The lioness, sensing a change in pace, drove on faster with the cubs in close formation along her flanks. In the car up ahead, the drama of their plight enjoyed most attentive audience!

Summoning his last reserves of strength, our stalwart hero, his heart thundering painfully, gasped those last aching paces, gaining sanctuary as the lioness and cubs closed for the kill.

"a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-l-i-o-n" he choked as his friends pulled the door to.

His companion, still comatose, knew nothing of this heroism and only came to, after an injection of insulin; for he was a diabetic who had chosen to collect petrol with an English middle distance cross country champion!!!

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