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Archive for June, 2010


I was known as the tester child amongst the family and close friends (trainers on the ranch). Whenever an animal was up for a movie or TV show and there was a child actor involved, my dad would always say yes to the production, even before knowing which animal would work best with the child actor. That is where I was always brought in.

I was about 4 or 5 years old when a call from the studio came in about doing a “pilot” show and they needed a child who could ride a zebra. Of course my dad took the production, before any child had ever ridden ‘Folsom’ our Grant’s zebra. He could be ridden, but on his terms of course. Folsom had a mind all of his own and animals, like humans, pick and choose whom they like and don’t like. When my Dad came to me and told me he needed to see me ride Folsom, the first thing I said was, “Are you crazy?” as I had seen Folsom throw grown men who he didn’t like. And although Folsom and I always got along well, it was with my feet firmly on terra firma at all times.

My Dad said, “Tana, you have been riding since you could sit up, you can do this.” “Dad, I know I can ride, it doesn’t mean Folsom wants me to ride him.” “Tana, don’t let me down honey, I need to see if Folsom will be ok with a kid on his back, I will be right next you in case he try’s to bolt and Frank will be holding the reins.” “What is in it for me?” My Dad took a deep breath, as I had learned to negotiate at too young an age. “I will be extremely proud of you,” he said. I laughed, “Dad that worked when I was a little girl. How about I get to choose the next movie we all go to?” “Ok, kid, that sounds fair to me.”

The next day we were at the ranch (Africa U.S.A.) and I was watching Folsom come out and a couple of the guys with him. My Dad called out for me and asked me to join them. I yelled back, as he was a ways away, “I want to see one of the guys get up on him first, to see what kind of a mood he is in!” My dad dropped his head, as he was not use to anyone questioning him or not jumping to his every whim. He called out to Dick (a trainer) and asked him to get up on Folsom. Dick walked over to Folsom and jumped on, sure enough it took Folsom all of 2 seconds to decide he didn’t like Dick and he took off. Poor Dick was being bounced from side to side for about 20 yards before he could jump off.

I was rolling with laughter watching, till my Dad walked over and said your turn! I straightened right up and said, “Did you see that? He is not in a good mood, and you want me to get up there? Are you crazy?” “Tana, trust me, have I ever let you get hurt? I love you honey, please.” I looked up at him with my hands on my little hips and said “NO!” I walked off to the nearest fence, climbed up and refused to move.

My Dad took a deep breath, walked over and for the next 15 minutes stood there looking up at me and pulled out all the stops to talk me down. I finally came down and walked over to Folsom, I approached him from his head so he could see me, then I slowly walked to his side and put my little hands on his belly and slowly walked towards his head while talking gently to him the whole way. I was explaining how I had to ride him and I would so appreciate it if he would allow this and not try to run off with me.

When I got to his head he lowered it and I kissed his nose. I looked at my dad and said, “Okay, lets do this.” My dad slowly lifted me and gently put me on Folsom’s back, he didn’t let go till he saw I had the reins firmly in my hand and that Frank had a good hold on Folsom’s head collar. He looked at me and asked, “Are you ready?” I nodded back and said, “You so owe me,” and one by one each person released and it was just Folsom and me. I kept talking to him and gave him a gentle nudge with my feet and he started to walk. I set out and then turned him so we were going in big circles then I reversed the circle, he was a perfect gentleman with me. I jumped off and gave him a hug around his neck and walked him back over to Frank who had a grin on his face. I looked up at my Dad and said, “There you go!” He cracked up and bent down and gave me a hug and then said, “See you listened and all was fine. Good job kid.”

When the producers came out to see the animals they wanted to hire for the production they asked to see Folsom and me, I rode him around for them and to my huge disappointment they not only hired the animals, but they wanted me to be the little girl in the pilot! I hated acting and now to my poor Dad’s apprehension he knew negotiations were about to begin all over again with me! The TV show pilot was for the hugely successful TV series ‘Daktari.’

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0375046/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daktari

The child star was Erin Moran

xxx

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TANA, TEACHERS AND MODOC


There are those who would call me an “odd duck”.  Those who know me well would have kinder things to say. Being born amongst the king of all kings “Zamba”, a Lion who laid with lambs, it was he who first protected me and it was his great grandson, Zamba Jr. who last saw me whole, the person I was before my life changed.

My true friends, who have seen me through thick and thin, know my true soul. I am not, nor have I ever been “normal” I fight for justice, defend the innocent and stand by my word. Something the animal kingdom taught me. Not any human.

Because of the way I was raised, I never knew the true meaning of being a human. I know this sounds strange to most, but I was raised amongst the purest of souls and the humans were on the sidelines. I didn’t realize I was so different till I entered school and had to play with human children, some incredibly cruel and others with kind souls. This perplexed me to no end; it was a challenge I would face my whole life.

When I was in grade school, I was under constant discord with my teacher, who persecuted me and said I was a Liar who needed help. I told my father what the teacher had said;  “Tana, you can’t come into my class and tell stories of swimming in a lake with your elephant, and riding on a Lions back!”

My parents received a letter from the school stating that they highly recommended I be given a psychological examination because; I have a very vivid imagination and continued to tell lies. And I would not stand down, after the teachers confronted me.

My father came to me and said,  “Don’t worry honey, this will all be sorted out soon. Be strong and stand your ground!”

The morning before I went to school, my dad pulled me aside and said I have a very big surprise for you and all those who have doubted you. I am sorry it took so long for me to understand, but meet me in front of the school at lunchtime.

I went to school that day and carried it on like any other. At lunch I ran to the front, as Pet day was about to begin. At the entrance was a huge semi truck and I knew!

I ran to my fathers and mother’s side, standing next to the semi, and hugged them both. Then I heard Frank, one of the trainers, calling out to Modoc. She started to descend from back of the open truck one massive leg at a time.

Modoc was one my parents greatest of animals. She stepped down from the massive slab of timber and turned around to greet me, with an explosion of air from her partially paralyzed trunk, I lifted it with my 6-year-old hands and blew into it, a greeting we had. She blew back and I released her trunk and walked to her front leg and gave her a massive hug. Frank, took me by the hand and said, “stand back Tana! I need her to stretch her legs first.”

I hadn’t realized that a crowd had gathered and standing amongst them was the teacher who had called me a liar! I looked at her and stared, as any cub, which knew she had strength behind her. The teacher was speechless. My dad walked over to her and said, “Don’t ever call my child a liar again.”

Modoc had stretched and was asked to come down. Which meant, she got down on all fours and awaited my ascension. I climbed up her side with help from Frank and upon reaching her back I scooted up to her neck. Frank yelled out “Tana hold on” I leaned in to Modoc as she stood up, feeling every muscle underneath my tiny frame and her coarse hair tickling my thighs and felt Frank’s hand on my foot the whole way. I loved Frank tremendously. He was always kind and good to all.

Now I was on top of Modoc, an elephant like no other, who was majestic in her own right and had survived incredible circumstances. I felt pride and honour to just be with her. She was loving and gentle and had a soul that was beyond any human I had ever met.

Frank yelled out, “Mo, move up” and with that one statement, Modoc took a step that rocked me from one side to the other, then another step. We were on our way into the school for all to see.

The Principal of the school was a kind man. He didn’t know any better until he received a phone call from my Father, who explained who I was and who he was! The Principal granted full permission to my Dad to bring Modoc to the school and to put a stop to all the bullying I had undergone.

The teacher who never believed me and had written the letter recommending me get psychological help, stepped aside as Modoc’s massive tonnage walked by her, with me on top, feeling like a princess and right at home.

We walked into the school and huge cheers of excitement exploded!

That was the day I realized I was different from others, because of the life I was born into and the privilege of being raised with such amazing creatures. Very few would ever get to know or understand. It has been both a curse and a blessing. And I have learned so much more in the years since!

Thank you Modoc, Frank (R.I.P.), Dad and Mom. It was the one of the proudest moments of my young life.

xxx

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Tiva turns 21 today! Anyone whom has ever watched a child grow up understands the immense pride you can have for your child, even someone else’s child. Tiva and her sisters have brought me overwhelming pride and joy every moment of their existence.

This story is 100% true, nothing elaborated on and all because of Tiva’s eminent enlightenment at the age of two.

At the time we were living in Washington State as I had the children there and then would come back to Kenya later. I had just had Rian in January of ‘91 she was about 6 months old at the time of this story and Tiva was 2 years old. We lived on a small plot with a huge forest for our back yard which we did not own. Tiva loved the forest and often I would find her sitting by the fence looking at the trees and the small wildlife playing. She would play around the trees in our yard and hug them.

It was early morning and I had been up for a while cleaning and feeding Tiva and Rian. Tiva was watching her little sister in her bounce chair and talking to her as big sisters do. I had stepped in to another room to make a bed when I heard Tiva start Screaming “NO, BAD MAN, NO, GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU!” I came running in to the kitchen to see Tiva banging on the sliding glass door and overwhelmed with grief and anger. Tiva just kept saying the same words over and over. I ran over to her and picked her up and asked her “Tiva, what is wrong? What man honey?” She pointed with her little finger to the forest. That is when it struck me, she saw a tractor and heard the chainsaws. I too had heard them but, to be honest, I just said a prayer for the forest and left it at that.

Tiva had tears rolling down her Cherub face and just kept repeating “NO, BAD MAN, NO, GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU.” I sat her down on my lap and tried to explain that these men were just doing their jobs to feed their own families and that I was sure they didn’t understand they are hurting anyone who loves the trees. Tiva would not have any of it. I set Tiva back down on the floor and she ran back to the sliding glass door and started screaming at them again. The tractor was up and running and the chainsaw was in full force, you could now hear tree’s falling and Tiva was furious.

I called my Mom at this point in time as Tiva was inconsolable and explained what was going on. My Mom said, strangely, to videotape her so she could see it later and talk to her. I did this for a short while for my Mom and then turned it off and went back to Tiva. I picked her up and picked up Rian who was now crying in her little bounce carry thingy and walked to the sliding glass door and opened it. The noise of everything going on in the forest hit us all with a huge force of sound. I set Rian down where I could keep my eye on her and I looked at Tiva and I said, “Tiva, lets see if we can talk to the men in the forest, ok?” Tiva nodded and continued her chat, “Bad men, god be so mad at you.”

We got to the fence and I waved at the man closest to us and he walked over to us. I introduced him to Tiva and introduced myself. I proceeded to explain that Tiva was very upset about the forest being cut and I had hoped he would have a minute to talk to her to help her understand what his job was. He smiled and started to talk to Tiva with kindness and said, “Tiva, I cut the tree’s so good people like you have a house to live in and chairs to sit on,” and then he smiled. Tiva was having none of it, she put her little finger up and said “ You are a bad man, God be so mad at you, STOP.” I looked at Tiva and then the man and I asked, “Is there anything we can do?” He amazingly said, “Well, this is strange but it just so happens the man who owns this forest is here today and I can get him for you if you would like?” I said, “Yes, please.” Tiva and I waited as we watched the logger go get the Owner. When they were walking towards us I could see the owner was of Oriental decent and was listening to what the logger was telling him.

They approached the fence line where Tiva and I were, the Owner politely smiled and gave a small bow to Tiva and introduced himself. Tiva looked at him and said “Hi, YOU BAD MAN, AND GOD BE SO MAD AT YOU, TREES’ MY FRIENDS.” The owner was a bit taken aback, not by a two year old raising her voice at him, but at the conviction in her voice. I explained that Tiva would play in this forest and she loved it. I was polite and asked if there was anything he could do.

The owner stepped backed and started talking to his logger (site manager) and the logger started to get a bit worked up and then the owner turned and bowed to Tiva and said he was so sorry and hopes this is ok. I looked at him a bit perplexed? Is what ok? The logger turned at me and said, “Well you wont believe this, but he has ordered me not to cut any of the trees along the fence line and three inward. These are the biggest trees and he will lose a lot of money. I tried to change his mind, but he refused and said we must honour Tiva’s wishes.” The logger was dumfounded and I couldn’t believe it either, I was stunned, I had never heard of anyone stopping a clear cut and losing money, let alone doing it for a child.

I am sure there was a tremble in my voice as the tears welled up and I thanked them both immensely and did a small bow back to the owner.  I turned and was walking away with Tiva, I was proud of Tiva for speaking up and speaking her truth, I was so proud of the Owner for listening and caring enough to do something.

As Tiva and I were walking away I explained to Tiva what she had just done, she had saved a huge part of a forest. She looked at me and said “Save all trees?” I said, “Not all of them, but a lot of them.” She looked at me and said “GOD BE SO MAD.” We sat down on the ground next to Rian and I held Tiva and I told her, “Tiva I am proud of you for what you did today. And I am sorry we didn’t save all the tree’s, but you saved some and that is HUGE.” She leaned over to Rian and put her head in Rian’s lap and hugged her, then kissed her forehead and then Tiva looked up at me and said, “Thank you mummy.” To which I replied “For what?” and her sweet response was, “ You listened.”

Well that did it. I was emotionally gone, tears were just pouring down my face and I grabbed her up and held her. Then I stood up, took Rian while holding Tiva’s hand and we walked inside together.

When people heard this story and saw the video they were so moved they too started listening to their children more, knowing their children too could make a difference. They even went as far as to start a foundation called “Kids 4 Earth”, which is now part of the United Nations global 500. http://www.kids4earth.org/index.html click on “Tiva’s Sacred Grove”

From the mouths of babes, God Bless them all.

From one proud Mummy.

xxx

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