Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author Quirks: Cathy Liggett

Next up is Cathy Liggett, the author of Beaded Hope. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels? (For example, you can tell us about a non-standard pet you have, an unusual way you do your writing, a strange real life incident that inspired a scene in one of your novels, or so on.)

Cathy Liggett's answer:

What is big and gray and a little wet behind the ears?

Well, before going on our mission trip to South Africa, I wouldn’t have known the answer to that question either. But when we went on safari during our stay, let me tell you, we learned very, very quickly! And it was SCARY!

First off, I need to say, you’re probably thinking what I was when I learned the trip to South Africa included a safari. Really? And I would spend money on a safari for what reason? When I could actually be using that money for the people in the township? BUT, I was quickly told and learned firsthand that while the people of South Africa suffer unimaginable tragedies with disease and poverty rampant everywhere, they are still a people who are joyous and feel quite blessed. They feel God has given them an incomparably beautiful homeland with exquisite creatures abounding, and they want visitors to see what the Lord has blessed them with.

So...off we went to Pilanesburg one day ~ and were so lucky to be able to take the “real” Mama Peggy and Mighty with us too. They’d never done such a thing before, so it was a first experience for all of us.

It was bright and sunny when we got to the park that afternoon. After getting something to eat and letting the monkeys that populated the grounds entertain us for while, we prepared for our safari that evening. By the time we set out, however, the clouds were rolling in. And, by the time we got to the furthest point along the dirt path, rain teemed down. Since the caravan (which held about 12-15 people I’d say) was canvas topped and had canvas sides, we were drenched and freezing in our shorts and spring parkas. Kindly, the driver high-tailed us back to the lodge and gave us a raincheck ~ good for the 6 a.m. safari the next morning.

It was our first night in a bed that felt like anything comparable to home. Even so, we climbed out of that comfortable spot (a bit reluctantly, I admit) at around 5 a.m. and set out in the van in the darkness once again.

It was truly breathtaking to see the sun rise over the African grassland and hills, and to see the animals in their natural state as well. Lion cubs with their moms rose up out of the tall grass, stretching…giraffes dipped their necks to breakfast on leafy tree limbs… impalas slowly made their way to waterholes for morning drinks. Oh, and the birds we saw were incredibly beautiful!

Anyway, I’m not sure why but about halfway through the safari, the driver stopped the van and turned off the engine. I think he wanted us to look around and see some of the animals in the distance. My husband and I, along with a South African man with a huge camera, and a South African family (mom and son in one seat, and dad and daughter in a seat across the aisle), occupied the last two rows of the van which, again, was completely open, no windows, and had only canvas that ran around the sides.

Turned around, looking behind us, our two rows did see an elephant in the distance. An elephant that kept getting closer and closer and closer… The man with the camera had been on many a safari and knew the elephant was a young male and could tell from the seeping coming from his ears (just to let you know how close the creature had gotten!) that he was a young male during mating season and could be very easily agitated.

Oh, and the elephant was! Yes, indeed, the young male seemed quite perturbed. He came about twenty yards from the van and kept ducking and raising his head, like he was trying to tell us that we really needed to be moving along. We thought he was completely right!! We began calling up to the driver to start the van! Please! But…the driver was preoccupied and talking, and no one at the front of the van seemed to hear us.

So…as we sat there, the elephant moved closer. Ducking his head some more, he didn’t look at all happy with us. We yelled to the driver again. By this time, he seemed to hear us, but wasn’t comprehending the situation at all. Oh, but the young male elephant was! He saw we weren’t moving, so he started to! He began to stomp determinedly down the path toward the van.

All of us in the back seats screamed at the driver some more. My husband (I’m guessing in an act of chivalry) pushed me out of the seat and into the aisle, away from the open back area. And, I’m telling you in all honestly, by the time the driver got the van moving, the elephant was a foot from the van, his head lowered and looking ready to charge. I can truly feel my pulse quickening right now, just remembering it!

I learned that when you drive away from a beast like that, you’re supposed to zigzag so they have a hard time catching you. Luckily, that’s what the driver did. He started the engine and gunned it out of there, zigzagging away from the young male who only ran after us for a little ways. The South Africans, who knew better than we did, had much to say to the driver when we got back to our lodging, and it wasn’t nice. The driver should’ve never cut the engine, they told us. What if when he went to turn on the van, it wouldn’t start again?

Whew! I’m just so very thankful it did!

Thank you, Cathy Liggett, for sharing this fun story.

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