Monday, July 3, 2017
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” — Charles Dickens
Chris, Brenda, and my sister, Penny, will be coming in from the Serengeti this afternoon after three days of communing with wild animals. This, of course, takes me immediately to San Jacinto Junior High School in Midland, Texas, circa 1959. There will be a connection, just stay with me. As a ninth-grader, I got talked into training as a boxer. At first, I really liked it, and it was an excellent outlet for my anger. I was pretty good, too, winning the first seven of my bouts. Then, in the eighth match, my opponent landed a knockout blow to my neck, I dropped to the mat, and I saw stars—just like in the cartoons. This ended my career as a boxer, and I never again hit anyone out of anger. However, that statement does not cover all primates, especially baboons.
I was reminded the other day while watching a nature show on the National Geographic Channel that I was once guilty of baboon brutality. Shaban and I were on a safari through the Serengeti on our way to Arusha and the second car full of folks wanted to go down into the Ngorongoro Crater, but I had been there several times before (as had Shaban), so we opted to stay up near the exit and just to wait for the other car to return several hours later. We found a shady spot, pulled up, turned off the engine, and began to rest and wait. It was hot, but Shaban began to roll his window up. I thought that was quite silly as I began to roll my window down. It didn’t take long to figure out that Shaban had what we call local knowledge as an adolescent male baboon jumped up on our car and came in my window. Without even thinking for an instant, I punched him hard on the nose and knocked him back out of the car, rapidly rolling up my window. It startled the baboon, Shaban, and me. Shaban began to laugh almost uncontrollably. Then, I began to worry that a game ranger may have seen me and that I might have to pay a fine or worse for baboon bullying. We worried for a while, but no one ever said anything and had Shaban not been there, no one would have ever known, but he thought it was a story worth telling and retelling time after time. So, now, even you know that I am not the man of peace I claim to be. Apparently, I have an internal mechanism that will make me punch baboons if one attacks me.
At my age, it's best for me to remain calm almost all the time, so I do try to avoid baboon encounters. I only mention this because sometimes, when we go the Serengeti Stop Over for lunch, we do encounter curious or hungry baboons. Don’t be surprised if you ever hear of my having legal problems as a result of a baboon/bishop dust up. I really am a man of peace, except in those rare occasions when a teenage baboon jumps in my face. What can I say, for as Desmond Morris wrote, I am just a naked ape after all. As for you, stay calm, relax, and let God deal with all the baboons in your life. You will be much safer relying on God than trying to punch all the baboons that bother you. After all, He made the baboons, too. Sorry, Lord, don’t know what came over me, but it won’t happen again, honest.