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It was July, 2016 and the landing gear was going down on our plane. I looked over at my girlfriend Barb and she was staring out the window, looking at the Indian Ocean and the Eastern Cape mountains in the distance, with Port Elizabeth, South Africa coming up below us. Her smile said it all. Her first African safari was becoming a reality.

I had hunted with Eldre Hattingh, the owner of Lucca African Safaris before and we had booked with him again for a “special” safari this time.

Barb is a fairly new hunter. She took up this great hunting heritage of ours a little later in life than most hunters. She has done well over the last 4 years. She hunts hard, is a very quick learner, and she shoots well.

As I was looking for our baggage on the carousel, I looked up and chuckled to myself. There’s Barb giving Eldre a hello hug, and introducing herself to another PH (professional hunter) who was there visiting with Eldre. Yep, Barb’s going to do just fine on this safari.

After getting loaded up in Eldre’s truck, we traveled about four hours to our hunting area. I could see some familiar faces from my last safari. Philipe and Elsa, Eldre’s camp manager and cook, and Boy, Eldre’s tracker and skinner were lined up waiting to greet us.

We hopped out, and there’s Barb giving everyone a hug. She had heard me talk about them so much from my last safari that she already felt that she knew them. As she hugged Boy, he looked at me with eyes as big as pie plates. I laughed and told him to get used to it.

Fast forward to our second day in the African bush. Eldre looks at Barb and says today is the day you’re going to try to shoot your big bull giraffe. Well, Barb’s eyes light up and she says, “Let’s go!” She kind of looked at Eldre and me a bit funny, as we high-fived each other. But what Barb didn’t know was that a year and a half before this day, I had talked to Eldre at the Red Deer Sportsman’s Show. I had a plan for the giraffe day, and Eldre was all over it!

We ended up using some horses to get up in the mountains after a herd of 11 giraffes. There was one dark, old bull in the herd that Barb wanted to take. About six hours after going up and down the mountains, Barb finally got the shot she had worked so hard for. Three good shots from the 375 H & H and she had the big, dark bull down on the ground. WHOOO HOOO! She had done well.

We get over to her giraffe and she kneels down beside it. I can see the excitement in her whole body and the smile on her face is huge. I’m pretty excited myself, as my plan is about to really be played out.

Eldre sets up his video camera for an “interview”. Barb looks confused. “Interview? What interview?” she asks. I tell her it’s something Eldre and I do all the time.

Barb and I get down behind her giraffe and I talk a bit. Then I get Barb to tell her side of the story about taking her first African animal. The adrenaline is still pumping pretty hard but she manages to say a few things. Then she says, “I don’t know what else to say.”

There’s my cue!

“Well I have something to say.”

I scoot away from Barb a bit and reach into my pocket. I pull out an empty brass cartridge from a 577 Nitro double rifle that Barb’s Uncle Tom had made for him to come to Africa. Barb and her Uncle Tom were very close. Uncle Tom’s dream was to go to Africa but he never made it. He fell ill and passed away before he got over to the Dark Continent.

I held the cartridge out and told Barb where it had come from. She started to cry and then I told her the cartridge was engraved. She couldn’t read it due to the tears in her eyes, so I told her what it said.

“Barb, will you marry me?”

Barb poses with her giraffe.
Geez, then the tears really got running for both of us. Barb was finally able to say yes. WHOOO HOOO again!

In true Barb fashion, she takes the empty 577 brass and laughs. She sticks it on the end of her ring finger, looks at the camera, and says, “I don’t think it’s going to fit.” (I did get her a beautiful ring when we got back home.)

Here comes Boy, our tracker and skinner, up through the bush with a great big smile on his face. He walks right by me and gives Barb a big hug. He turns to me and says, “And she can shoot too, she’s a keeper!”

Well, as you can guess, the rest of our safari went very well. Barb carried her Uncle Tom’s brass with her every day. We hunted hard and had lots of great times with great people.
Thank you to Eldre, his family, and the crew of Lucca African Safaris for sharing in this special time for Barb and me. We will be back to hunt with you on the Dark Continent again. This time, as husband and wife. WHOOO HOOO! ■

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