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Well, Whatever By JOHN POTTER

MASAI MARA, Kenya — SAFARI!

Is there any other word (besides “Bingo!”) that is so synonymous with “adventure?”

When I was a kid on the rez, the very sound of the word made my mind and my heart race with images of snarling, bloody-faced lions, vast herds of gazelle and zebra, towering giraffes and mammoth elephants charging out of the brush.

I used to imagine that the great plains of the Serengeti must’ve looked similar to the Great Plains of America, before it was all turned into the bread-basket of the entire world — an endless, pristine, grassland stage teeming with countless animals, all playing the roles God gave them to play according to His divine script.Safari luxuriesAnd now we were on our way to Masai Mara National Park, which encompasses the northern region of the great Serengeti Plains in Kenya.

Our guide and driver, a tall, distinguished-looking black man named Jeremiah, quickly loaded my fiancee, Janet, and I, along with another Indian couple into our plush safari minibus, and we left Nairobi in a cloud of black smoke behind us.

That’s how Narobi looks best, you know. Behind you. We ascended a very long, steep pass, and at the summit, we looked down to behold the famous Rift Valley, the “birthplace of humanity,” spreading out to the far sun-baked horizons. Janet, an anthropology professor, explained that this is where fossil remains of the earliest known hominids have been unearthed.

If you ask me, ALL hominy tastes like fossils.

“Wait up, girlfriend,” I replied. “Everybody knows that INDIANS, specifically OJIBWAYS, were the First People!” I cast a knowing look at the other Indian couple, “Ain’t that RIGHT! What tribe YOU guys from?”

They said something in their own language, but it kinda sounded like they said “We’re from Calcutta.”

I figured that they must be from some tribe back east. Whatever.Bumpy trailAnyway, after one sick stomach, one flat tire, five long hours, 12 near-head-on collisions, 200 miles and roughly 8,000 hungry potholes later, we reached our destination: Mara Simba Lodge.

Mara Simba is a five-star resort lodge located on the edge of Masai Mara National Park deep in the boundless expanse of Kenya’s southwestern grasslands, and all I can say is, someone had to have been on mushrooms to think of putting this place here. Because you GOTTA be a little lost in the head, or be Jeremiah, just to FIND it.

Speaking of Jeremiah, a word about his driving skills: PATHETIC! How ’bout PITIFUL! LOUSY! They SUCK! Who EVER granted you a license? Geez, man … ya HIT every damn pot-hole ya could! You swerved to miss the small ones only so’s you could NAIL the BLACK HOLES! OK, that’s a FEW words. Sorry.

But what Jeremiah lacked in driving ability he made up for in his knowledge of African wildlife. Also, with his keen, sharply honed powers of observation, he was able to point out many interesting African animals that we might’ve otherwise missed, like the elephant walking down the middle of the road in front of us.

In fact, Jeremiah was ALWAYS pointing things out to us, because one of the fingers of his left hand, through some unfortunate malady or misadventure, simply would NOT bend.

Guess which one.

Yep. That’s right. Stuck straight out. All the time. Jeremiah and his amazing twenty-four-seven one-finger salute. Pushed every button on the dashboard every time he turned the wheel. Put someone’s EYE out with that thing. Never a pointless conversation with Jeremiah. He always dials down the middle.

Sorry. I shouldn’t be pointin’ a finger at someone.

Next week I’ll tell you about all the amazing sights and sounds of the safari — about all the variety and beauty of the land and the animals and the — oh, never mind, no need to point out the obvious.John Potter’s Whatever column, which appears Saturdays in The Gazette, recently was awarded first place in the Montana Newspaper Association’s annual Better Newspapers Contest.

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