My daughters Rian and Savanah asked if they could have a story just about them, posted to my blog. I asked which one they wanted me to write, to which I was told by Rian, ‘No Mum, I want to write it because you weren’t there, it was just Savanah and Me.” I said that would be great and I look forward to reading it.
Allow me to introduce Rian’s story that took place at our farm in Nanyuki in 2003.
It had been a very normal day for the lives of Tiva who just 13 years old, Rian who was 12 years old and Savanah who was 10 years old. It was early in the morning in Nanyuki but the sun was already scorching through their private classroom window, where the girls were being home schooled before they would start the new semester at Hillcrest, a private school in the capital city.
The teacher, Scott, was busy trying to explain the importance of grammar, and while all three of the girls were entirely uninterested, Tiva was the only one who persisted. As Scott took a break to go to the bathroom, Rian convinced Savanah that they should escape, Tiva, being the ever unwavering academic would not leave, Rian, being the ever bored student had spent the first thirty minutes of class trying to figure out a way to leave, and Savanah being only about ten years old was always eager to follow whichever older sister appeared to have a more exciting plan of action.
As soon as Scott left so did Rian and Savanah, with the warning from their oldest sister about the trouble they would get in to. Little did they all know, the trouble would not pertain to their sure to be angered teacher. Rian and Savanah ran out of the class room and in to their backyard, which was just a couple hundred acres, but a couple hundred acres was like owning your own unexplored planet when you were two little girls. Their dogs, an Alsatian and two Jack Russell Terriers, came to them immediately, the loyal pets always just as eager for the girls to finish class as the girls were themselves.
“Where are we going?” Savanah asked, “We could go to the river,” Rian suggested, “No, we do that all the time,” she refused and then suggested, “We can play in the woods up front.” “No, mum will probably see us,” Rian reminded her. “Okay… Let’s go to the dam,” Rian suggested after a minute of them hiding behind the staff quarters with the dogs wagging their tails, anxious to know the plan. “The big one or the small one?” Savanah asked, “The small one,” the small dam was an unfinished mess of over turned soil and a small lake of water. And with that, the two small girls set off, going the short way round to the dam, the three dogs never leaving their sides.
As they climbed over the hills of dirt and in to the cavity of the dam they smiled, “Did it again,” Rian exclaimed, “I don’t know how Tiva stands him, I hate him!” Savanah burst out, after an incident where Savanah tried to convince Scott to not unnecessarily kill a bee and he ignored her pleas, she was not particularly fond of the man. Savanah was allergic to bee stings, she wouldn’t touch them, and wouldn’t want them in the same room as her, which is why Tiva or Rian would always willingly trap the bee and get it out of the room for her. The way Savanah found out she was allergic was when she was trying to save a bee from certain death and it stung her; nonetheless, she would not kill them and as long as her sisters would get it out of the immediate vicinity she was happy to co-exist with the bees.
“Do you want to go in?” Rian asked, after a minute of silence, watching the dogs run around, sniffing the area and playing with one another. “No, but we can put our feet in,” Savanah negotiated, “Okay,” Rian agreed, and the two of them walked down in to the small basin. The dam was only partially constructed at this point, it had walls of soil around it, these mounds were so high that once you were in the water you could not see outside the dam, which had never seemed to be a problem before. As the girls stepped in to the dam water they laughed about how cold it was, threw some mud at each other, and played with the dogs; infinitely better entertainment than sitting in class. The best thing was, living on a farm, there was no way their teacher or anyone else would find them because there would be just too many places to look. This too never seemed like a problem before.
After about twenty minutes of playing around and aimlessly starting new games and talking about their hate of class, a noise erupted, a low grumbling, filling the dam. Rian and Savanah were silenced by it, the dogs all stood still, tails out, ears up, staring at the mounds of soil. “What was that?” Savanah asked, “Probably nothing,” Rian declared, but when she saw the dogs still hadn’t relaxed despite the noise having stopped she got worried. She had only ever heard one thing make that noise, it was the same animal who left a mess of bones in a hollow near the river under a mess of twisted trees; it was a leopard.
They had seen the leopard before, but just briefly, and their mother had been there. “Rian, what is it?” Savanah asked, knowing that it was indeed something and knowing that the dogs would have gone back to their own enjoyment had it been nothing. “Shatu!” Rian hissed, and her Alsatian didn’t move, “Shatu!” She called his name again, and reluctantly the large dog trotted over to her, “Jema! Hap!” Savanah called her own dogs over, and as soon as they reached her heel she swept them both up in to her arms. Rian wished she could pick her own dog up but knew it wasn’t possible, so she gripped the loose skin and fur on his neck.
Again, the noise happened, but it sounded like it was coming from a different mound, this one behind them. The girls and their dogs whipped around, it was a low growl, a released hiss, like a wild echoing purr. “Rian…” Savanah looked to her sister, “It’s the leopard,” Rian told her, Savanah nodded. They stood there not knowing what to do. Then they heard it move, it flicked up the soil as it left one mound and went to another, coming around the side of the dam, the dogs started whining, kicking to be set free, Rian crouched down to get a stronger grip on Shatu and Savanah strained to keep both dogs in her arms. “Where should we go?” Savanah asked, Rian looked around quickly, not sure what to do. The leopard let out another hiss, almost like a sigh, but it was coming from the other side of the dam now, the leopard had moved around them instantly.
The dogs whined and growled, wanting to be set free. The two girls stood there, in the middle of the makeshift arena, not being able to see over the mounds they could not see where the leopard was, but they could hear it moving. When dust flew up again from another location, and the cat unleashed another grumbling hum, resonating through the walls, Rian believed she knew where it was. “This way,” she decided, moving out of the back of the dam, opposite to where the leopard was. They moved as quickly as they could but slowly at the same time; a speed difficult to explain to anyone who had never encountered wild animals, you needed to get to your destination as quickly as possible but if something went wrong, if the animal spotted you, then you would need to be still and hope your submissive pace and stance would show you were no threat.
Rian pulled her dog towards the back of the dam, his reluctance to go that way showed he knew where the leopard was and wanted to go find it, they were going the right way. Savanah followed in tow, they began to walk over the mound of dirt, and just as they reached the top, the leopard called out again, shooting both girls in to action, they made their way to the far trees, trees that grew parallel to their farm house. The dogs were urging to go back, trying to escape their owner’s holds, but Rian and Savanah, both deeply attached to their pets, would not let them go, which did slow them down a bit. They made their way up the line of trees, through the growth of purple flowers, and were home, in the main backyard between their house and the staff quarters.
They dragged their dogs inside the house, afraid they might go back to the leopard, and shut the doors. Quickly, they ran in to their classroom, which was also in the house. “Where did you two go?” Scott began yelling, “No where, Scott,” the girls chimed, both shooting looks to their older sister, “They wont leave again,” Tiva stepped in, and with that, they continued with class.
After class Rian and Savanah decided to tell their Mom what happened. Tana listened carefully to the both of them. “I am so proud of the two of you. You obviously did everything right, as you both are okay, Well done guys.”
Written by Rian Herbert