By Scott Molgard
From Swaziland, Africa:
Gary’s son Tyler kept telling us about the crazy lion (the black maned male lion is the Swazi royal symbol, representing King Mswati III) that was living in an enclosure about a football field away from where we ate. He said if we shake the fence the lion would come running. I thought, cool, and we headed on out.
I was with Tyler, Jake, Jon, and Andrew Maas. We walked to the enclosure, which reminded me of the enclosure where I kept my American Bulldog, Thor. Thor was an incredible dog, I wish I had raised him better, but it was a rough spot in my life and I had to sell him. This was partially motivated because I could not keep him on a chain or behind a fence and the cops visited us too often (I had to pay the vet bills for other dogs a couple of times, which is tough on the budget of a college student).
Thor was a hammer of a dog, weighing 110 pounds. I would tie him to my bike and he would pull me, all 260 pounds of me, up and down the hills for miles.
He loved that stuff, and I would punch him as hard as I could when we would wrestle, and he totally enjoyed it. He loved to be body-slammed and head-locked; it made his tail go crazy. If that dog attacked me, I would be unable to defend myself, he did not feel pain.
I wish I had videos of the fights he would get in with his twin brother Tyr, I would actually have to patch them up with duct tape and super glue. One day they got in a fight in my bedroom and I came home to blood all over the walls, the furniture all knocked over and Thor was missing a significant section of his ear, which I never found and assume one of them ate. They were lying together asleep when I came home, tendons in their legs visible. I guess this is another case of the boys being boys. Really, what was I thinking? My poor parents.
I thought of that as we tried to get the attention of a 500 pound lion that was lying down 150 yards away. We whistled and clapped and he looked at us. He did not seem very interested, until we (I) had the idea of tempting his prey drive. I assumed that, like a dog, if someone started to run that would stimulate something deep in the instincts to chase. So, Jonathon did a sprint down the fence, and the lion perked up.
This fence is easily 10 feet tall with another strand of barbed wire on top. The fence itself seems to be a chicken wire fence, just a little bigger. Fifteen feet beyond this fence is a chain link fence, also 10 feet tall and topped with a strand of barbed wire. That is what separated us from this beast. We felt pretty confident.
Then Andrew did a run and the lion stood up. We got excited then, and we all started moving around in circles. The lion started a slow approach. I have been to many zoos, and seen the lions sleeping. I had one time seen a lion pacing, and when I was young, my grandmother and I were peed on by a lion in a zoo in Connecticut. We had no idea that lions actually pee straight backwards, and received a stinking, soaking spray from the haunches of the king of the jungle. I had never actually experienced a lion do anything more than this, except jump through hoops in a circus.
I love watching lions hunt on Animal Planet, so I recognized that this lion was actually stalking us. Prowling! (Peter, in one of the books by his name, says that Satan prowls the earth like a lion, looking for someone to devour. I wonder sometimes how much we tempt the father of lies.) This excited us, because we were safe, right?
About 50 yards away the lion froze and stared at us, for what seemed like eternity. We froze. The lion crouched, storing energy in his thighs, muscles like steel. That is when I started to doubt that fence. Thor had no trouble escaping from his eight feet tall chain link fence, and I started to worry that a lion might be able to jump these fences. My heart started to race, and we all got excited.
Someone decided to run again, and the lion sprang. That lion covered the distance in maybe two seconds. He was on that fence, slammed his body into it, and it bent to forty-five degrees off the ground, then sprang up again as the lion stopped. Only the learned helplessness in his little brain kept him in.
He lowered his body and stared at us. He opened his mouth a little and let out a quiet low rumble which I could feel in my gut. I knew then that he hated me. I growled back, because what else do I do? He growled, we growled. Then he attacked the fence.
He pushed right into the fence, scaring the snot out of me. He paced back and forth quickly and attacked again. Shaking the whole fence in defeated anger. Adrenaline hit me, my heart pounded in my ears, blood thumping in my temples. I quickly learned awe. Reverence.
I felt like Job when God (Job 38) asked where Job was when He created the world. Where was I when God set the foundations and the boundaries? Leviathan (Job 41) and Behemoth (chapter 40)? (I believe leviathan is truly a dragon or dinosaur, maybe not the seven headed type of the Canaanite myths, but more than a crocodile. And behemoth I like to think is more than an elephant or hippo, but maybe not a brontosaurus.)
Voices yelled at us, the rangers were coming, telling us to stop, the lion “will bite you”. Yeah right, bite me. I was not so afraid of a bite. I was more afraid of seeing him come through the fence and eat my bowels, taking a second chunk before I could take a second breath and scream for my mommy.
The lion settled down, as we all acted brave and said we were not afraid. I actually believe a couple of the guys were not afraid, that a couple of the guys might have trusted that fence. Maybe they just trusted that they could run faster than me.
Scott of Wilmington, MA has left his career as a personal trainer to travel the world with his wife, Linnea. You can follow his adventure here.