Africa 1975 – First Leg

Black and white portrait of a young woman clasping the broad collar of her light-colored fur coat in front of her chin. Her right thumb with glossy finger nail is straight up and almost reaches her lips in front of the right side of the collar, which covers the lower part of her right cheek and extends up to her cheekbone. The ears are hidden by straight, fairly dark hair. With her head slightly bent downward, she glances straight into the camera, which causes broad white bows of her sclerae to contrast strongly with the dark areas comprising her eyebrows, upper eyelashes, and mid to lower visible pars of her irises.

My Female (aka Ms Rüttimann) – Copyright © 1972 Donat Schaad

They met in June 1974, after my Female had learned from a journalist that World Wildlife Fund Switzerland was looking for an editorial researcher to join the team. Back then, the organization was managed by three executive directors. The one in charge of the publishing group and of conservation and education projects, who interviewed the skinny girl from Lucerne, turned out to be my Wolfman.

Ms Heidy Rüttimann (who 40+ years later is known as Mignon, or to me as My Female) went to the job interview in a hand-crotcheted stole that covered the green-striped top she donned over bluejeans and red high-heel cork sandals. Despite an appearance as if she were changing her hair color as often as her underwear, the interviewer made sure she would start working at WWF before summer’s end.

October 1994
The venue for a WWF fundraiser was an old steamboat, permanently docked at the fancy quay on Lake Lucerne. A group of the Female’s girl friends and the Wolfman where eager to see Cat Balou, which was to be broadcast on Swiss TV that night. Together they dined at the only Chinese restaurant in town, where she agreed, while serving tea to her handsome young boss, to host a viewing at her one-bedroom apartment. Soon thereafter her cat Hector Samuel—a man hater—wrapped himself around the gentle, well smelling man’s neck, who relaxing on the female’s ottoman, was watching the mediocre western movie starring the great Lee Marvin.

A few months later
After the Wolfman’s trip to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, a marriage proposal was accepted by cat and woman alike. He immediately informed his family that the long-planned trip to Kenya in February of 1975 would include a fifth wheel, his wife, who at the time, still called herself Heidy-Mignon.

Not exactly overwhelmed with joy, the Wolfman’s parents, well mannered as they where—nothing compared to a contemporary U.S. presidential candidate—paid for the extra plane ticket. The rest would be up to the newlyweds; expected to do their own thing, the parents insisted.

Color photograph of a couple with happy faces. The female is holding a bouquet of yellow roses.

My Female and the Wolfman on their Wedding Day – Copyright © 1974 Mignon & Wolf Naegeli

But it wasn’t so easy and predictable
The travel agency reported that there were no additional tickets available for the booked flight. But, they were quite confident they could accommodate the extra person, as there usually would be cancellations closer to the day of departure. Eventually though, my humans had to fly one day later than the Wolfman’s parents and his sister.

After the family reunited for breakfast at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, the Female, the Wolfman, and his birth Wolf went to the car rental to pick up their reserved Landcruisers. Thereafter, my humans ventured out to borrow and buy camping equipment to fit their Toyota. While the rest of the Family drove ahead to Naivasha, the newlyweds went to the embassy of Rwanda to obtain their visas for the second part of their journey. The line was long and they were told that they would have to come back the next day to pick up their passports with the visas.

It was getting late in the day. They went to the nearby Stanley Hotel and checked in, but were asked to wait for a room to be made ready, although many hours already had passed since check out time. The receptionist didn’t care to tell them about the dangers of the Nairobi night time, so they went for a stroll near the hotel. By an incredible coincidence, the Wolfman spotted John Hopcraft crossing a street. They had no idea he would be in Nairobi because they had scheduled to visit him two days later at his home in Nakuru. In the fading daylight, they ran after him. He recognized the innocent Swiss tourists, and immediately suggested that they cancel their reservation. He directed them to a more reasonably priced motel in a safe suburb of Nairobi.

The following afternoon, the family met up again at Lake Naivasha. But there was little time left for my humans to observe wildlife. My female admits that she would have loved to meet Elsa, the lion featured in Born Free and her writer mother Joy Adamson and husband George. It could have been a once in a lifetime encounter, my female thought. But it wasn’t meant to be …

Elsa had died young; the Adamsons had split; Joy devoted her love to cheetahs; was murdered later; George had ventured to another park, where eventually, he met the same fate as his late wife.

Forty years had passed when my Female met—and fell in love with—another Elsa; not a lioness, but a beautiful, huge older pit bull terrier with the manner of a gentle soul.

Color photograph of a dog's head in profile view. The black head with dark brown eye and strong jaw is sharply delineated from the white neck that appears to have a black spot on top above the shoulders.
Elsa – Photograph copyright © 2016 Mignon Naegeli

To be continued.

March, 2016

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