Learning to Play With a Lion’s Testicles: Unexpected Gifts From the Animals of Africa
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Playing with a lion’s testicles: An African saying that means to take foolhardy chances.
For the reader who has ever dreamed of going to Africa or knows the pain of loss and guilt, Learning to Play with a Lion's Testicles will fill your soul.
Melissa, an exhausted executive from the city seeks meaning and purpose from her work volunteers for a Big Five conservation project in South Africa. Her boss, an over-zealous ranger, nicknamed the Drill Sergeant, has no patience for city folk, especially if they're women. He tries to send her packing on day one, but Melissa stands her ground with grit and determination, however shaky it may be.
Conflict soon sets the pace with a cast filled with predatory cats and violent elephants, an on-going battle of wits with the Drill Sergeant. Even Mother Nature pounds the reserve with the worst storm in a century. But the most enduring and profound conflict is the internal battle going on within Melissa, as she tries to come to terms with the guilt surrounding her mother's death. When death grips the game reserve, it is the very animals Melissa has come to save that end up saving her.
to undo the mess of twist ties holding the trailer gate on. He is careful not to drop any of the sacred wire, and re-attaches each piece for later use. As we begin to unload the garbage, a man appears, out of nowhere. He’s not one of the gatekeepers, there are still six men there. Fidgeting his hands, he approaches the trailer, avoiding eye contact. Something is off. The mountains of garbage begin to move all around us. Big white eyes appear in the shadows—lots of them. “Gerrit,” I whisper. He
be, and how, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are not in control. Sitting on a stack of Lucerne in the back of a beat-up truck in the middle of Africa, those feelings are still able to invade me, just as they did on that Christmas day in the hospital room. And it makes no difference that I’m here, on the other side of the world because death’s power keeps me trapped in that ugly little room. And I hate everything about it. I hate the antiseptic stench. I hate the
animal in Africa. Buffalos kill an average of two hundred people a year—more than all of the Big Five combined. The Drill Sergeant pulls a knife from his pocket. What is he going to do? Throw a knife at the buffalo? Anticipating the worst, I watch and wait for him to launch the knife. Surely there must be another way. The Drill Sergeant leans forward and slices the rope off a bundle of Lucerne. Phew. He throws a bunch of it towards the buffalo. The buffalo edges forward, from behind the reeds,
continue to block the road. Each time he inches forward, it aggravates them further. Finally, he revs the engine and floors it, creating a wake of legs kicking everywhere as they scramble to get out of our way. The field is rough and full of potholes and shallow ditches, putting Harrison through hell. The trailer squeaks, squawks, and shutters over each obstacle, but stays in one piece, defying basic engineering principles. The bulls are following closely behind—the whole herd of them. A quick
ball is whacked and flattened into patties with the heavy rusty shovel. My arms, back, and legs are on the brink of exhaustion—this is like no gardening I have ever done before—but this garden has a much higher purpose than any other. After many hours and countless wheelbarrow loads, the garden is coming together in the form of a deep plot of luscious-looking dung. Just as I dump the last load of dung, I sense someone behind me. Slowly turning around, her monstrous presence shadows me.