My sons and I spent two weeks in Kenya in 1992, on a school trip designed for middle school-aged students. By volunteering to chaperone, I was able to bring my fifth grader along with my seventh grader. Our guide was a Dutchman named Dan and our driver was Benson.
One day, when we visited a hippo pool close to the Kenya/Tanzania border, we were busy photographing two male hippos scrapping over a female, when Benson noticed that a group of monkeys had taken over the tour truck. They had unlocked and opened a crate of oranges and were munching away, letting sticky juice drip and torn peels drop, making a huge mess and finishing off our afternoon snack supply. Trying not to disturb the hippos, Benson snuck back toward the truck to shoo them away. The monkeys retaliated by throwing oranges at him, shrieking loudly, raising such a ruckus that the whole group turned around to see Benson being pummeled. He blocked his face with his forearm, ducked, and kept advancing toward the truck. When they finally scattered off into the trees, Benson discovered that one of them had placed a nice poop on his seat, the driver's seat. Since these students had spent hours sitting still, observing, listening and snapping pictures, they got pretty slap-happy, and it was hard settling them back down. The hippos didn’t seem to notice one way or the other and eventually drifted downstream.
While reading the book Love, Life and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, I noticed that buried in the middle of the second photo section, in picture no. 72, was a face that looked familiar. Benson was extremely handsome, warm, friendly, with a smile that could melt butter. I looked more closely at the photo. Benson? Then I noticed the copy beneath the photo identified the caregiver as Benson!
Coincidence or my imagination? The chances of it being the same Benson, our Benson, are very remote, are they not? Even so, the possibilities for marveling at life's quirky little twists and turns and for drawing one's own conclusions are endless, going as far as the imagination can travel. Who knows for sure? So, therefore, yes. This is my Benson. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
**Photo Credit: photo of Benson is from Love, Life and the Pursuit of Elephants, written by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, published by Picador, 2012.