30: The Cape of Good Hope

30: The Cape of Good Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

The Cape of Good Hope

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

~Dan Rather

We tumbled out of the gold minivan like a troupe of clowns. Thirteen family members were on vacation together and had arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the southwestern-most point of the African continent and the place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. Around us the waves raged, the wind was crisp, and the rocks off the coast held steadfast against the water.

Signs on the entrance road announced: “Beware of Baboons” and “Don’t Feed the Baboons!” Our tour guide told us not to approach a baboon even if it looked friendly. He explained that the baboons loitered near the parking lot because it was close to the restaurant and the garbage cans. He said if a baboon approached us we should be still and stay in place.

The sun shone brightly, and I put my hand to my forehead to admire the view and block the powerful rays. Along with the land, sky, and sea, I saw numerous baboons scattered around us. I was amazed there were so many. They were sitting, walking, playing, and picking fleas off each other. They were like the many gray squirrels scampering around my backyard — but one hundred times the size.

Our group started spreading out, amazed by the vista and wanting to explore. I turned slightly and noticed a baboon loping up a hill with a bag hanging from its mouth. The bag was my dad’s. I looked back at our aging minivan and saw that the sliding door had been left open. Our last clown had forgotten to close it.

“Hey,” I yelled. “That baboon has our bag!” I pointed for all of us to look, and then I started walking toward the baboon to get the bag back. The baboon turned around and looked at me. I could see then that it was a large male baboon. He dropped the bag and charged. He sprinted toward me, his mouth open wide and his large, pointy teeth bared. He screeched loud, angry baboon noises.

I turned and ran. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew that the baboon wanted me and I wanted to be as far away from that baboon as I could get. Despite the recent reminder to stop and stand still, not once did it occur to me. Adrenaline tore through my body. Panic spread to every nerve. I turned my head and saw the baboon coming closer. I tried to run faster. I turned again and saw he was right behind me. He raised his clawed hand and took a swipe at the back of my leg. I screamed.

I was aware of a movement off to my right side, and, as if on command, the baboon stopped. With a quick glance I saw my father. Crouched down in a football tackle, arms outstretched, Dad was rushing the baboon. In an instant the baboon understood. He knew this man was the father. He knew this woman was his daughter. Quickly retreating, the baboon loped, hands over feet, back up the hill, abandoning the bag where he dropped it.

Relief flooded my body. Tears wet my cheeks as the released adrenaline slowed. Dad gave me a long hug while the rest of my stunned family tried to digest what they had seen. One by one we looked back up the hill at the baboon whose attention had quickly been diverted.

In the days following, we shared many laughs thumping our chests and imitating the baboon’s behavior. No one bothered to imitate Dad’s behavior, but I know that if he hadn’t done what he had done, we would all remember that day a little differently.

~Jennifer Quasha

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