Biographical, Historical, Fiction



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ERNST HUFFMAN


The African bush has to be seen to be believed. It is incredibly beautiful. From the highlands of Mt. Kilimanjaro the sunsets are spectacular. It seems that you can see forever. The air is clear and the cloying scent of wildflowers makes you glad that you have the sense of smell. Ernst Huffman loved Africa.

Ernst was the oldest son of Friedrich and Theresa Huffman. Their coffee plantation was a highly successful plantation and the beans grown on their trees were prized in Germany. The best coffee houses only served coffee from the Huffman plantation.

The Huffman plantation was the focal point of an area that was ideal for the large safari providers. Stopping at the plantation was a popular event during a safari. The family met many people from Europe and North America and South America. The people that came to Africa for safari were wealthy. It was an expensive adventure and took a great deal of time. For the most part the people that came for safari were from Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France. The British spent their time in Kenya to the north. There were an increasing number of Americans venturing to Africa. Ernst was able to meet them all and to talk with them and learn of their home countries.

The men that ran the safaris were experts in the wildlife of Africa. They knew where to take their clients for any type of game animal. Within 50 miles of the Huffman plantation you could find rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, lion, gnu, zebra, and many different types of antelope. Ernst loved to walk in the bush and smell the earth and listen to the multitude of birds singing. He searched the earth for beetles and other insects that he had not seen before. His father insisted that he carry a rifle for protection but Ernst never fired the rifle to kill an animal. He could walk into a herd of zebra and gnu without spooking the herd. Apparently the animals sensed that Ernst was not a threat.

Everything changed for Ernst one day. One of the safari guides and his group stopped at the plantation for refreshments. They were at the end of the safari and were excited about what they had seen and done. This particular guide was a man that Ernst despised. He was foul mouthed and boisterous and loud and a braggart. He was everything that Ernst thought made a man despicable. They had thirty porters carrying far more than five people would need for two weeks in the bush. The porters were exhausted and Ernst spent extra time being certain they were fed and made comfortable. Soon after they arrived a truck arrived. What was in the truck sickened Ernst. In the back of the truck were the heads of about 40 animals. The heads were being taken to Arusha to be mounted as trophies for the hunters. The bodies of the animals were left in the bush to rot or become food for the carrion eaters.

After the group left, Ernst had a talk with his parents. He expressed his dismay at the wanton killing of animals so they could be hung on some rich man’s wall. To his surprise Friedrich and Theresa told him that they also were disturbed by what was happening in Africa. They went to talk with the chief and elders of the Ghagga tribe to find out how they felt about this. It was their land and they didn’t want to stir up trouble for the tribe. The tribe welcomed them and expressed that they didn’t want the hunters on their land. The animals had the greater right to the land. A rich man from Berlin or Brussels had no right to indiscriminately kill the animals.

Friedrich informed the authorities in Dar es Salaam of the tribal decision and enlisted the aid of the authorities to keep the safaris from Ghagga land. To their very great surprise, they found a number of men in government were having the same feelings. They were watching as huge herds of animals were being decimated by the wholesale slaughter fomented by the safari operators. Information was sent to Berlin to ask about the authority of the local government to put new rules in place. It took six months but the answer came back to do what needed to be done.

During the six months, the Huffman family no longer welcomed safari operators at the plantation. They could get water but they were not allowed to camp or stay more than a few hours on Huffman land. The Ghagga chief also asked them to move on and to stay off Ghagga tribal territory. Most of the safari operators were very surprised about the change but they recognized the Ghagga sovereignty and acceded to the wishes of the tribe.

In Dar es Salaam, new rules were being enacted. Safari operators were now required to be licensed to operate in Tanganyika. They were required to submit papers after each safari telling about the number of animals killed and why they were killed. A notice was sent to the operators with limits on how many of each kind of animal could be killed in a one month period. Where an animal may be in short supply they would not show up on the list. If an operator killed more than allowed criminal penalties could be filed. Game wardens were hired to police the safari operators. Friedrich, Theresa, and Ernst were delighted that their efforts to help the animals were not in vain.

One day a man came to the plantation to talk with Friedrich and Ernst. He heard of them in Dar es Salaam and what they had started in Tanganyika. He was a safari operator but a different kind of safari. His clients were not kill-crazy gun men but people that wanted to take pictures of the animals in the wild and not in some zoo. Guns would be on the safari but only used for protection in case of dire circumstances. They asked the Huffmans to help them talk with the Ghagga to get permission to be on the tribal lands.

Ernst loved this idea. If people could see pictures of these magnificent creatures alive in the wild then, maybe, they wouldn’t be so anxious to see them dead on some man’s wall or locked up in a cage in a zoo. The Ghagga chief immediately saw the advantage of this type of safari and was quick to give his approval.

The first safari was a month away. Ernst was invited to be on the safari. The safari operator even gave Ernst a wonderful camera to use on the safari and to keep when the safari was finished. Ernst was thrilled with this turn of events. The safari came to the Huffman plantation at the start. The safari was three families. Each man had brought his wife and children so there were three women, two young men from different families, and four young women from different families. They were wonderful people; full of fun and laughter and Ernst enjoyed their company. The safari found all kinds of animals to photograph. There were giraffe, elephant, kudu, zebra, gnu, buffalo, and, on the last day, a pride of lion. They were cautious around the lion but the lion posed no threat. Not one gun was fired. While returning to the plantation one of the young ladies became very ill. The families had to return as their boat was sailing in a week. Theresa advised that the young lady could stay with them and Theresa would nurse her back to health. When she was better, she would find a nice family that was travelling to Germany and she could travel with them.

Ernst loved what the government of Tanganyika had done but he saw the threat in the rest of Africa. He determined that the world needed to know what a few very rich men were doing to ruin Africa for the future. He determined that he would write a book about what was happening. He even had a name for the book. It would be titled “Please Save Africa”. He was sure that it would be published and printed in many languages. Ernst had pictures of animals that were slaughtered by safaris and left to rot. He had photos of the magnificent animals in the wild. Ernst was very persuasive in person. Could he be persuasive with the written word.

Magda, the young lady that took sick, was gradually getting better. She was spending time outside in the sun. Ernst would take her on short walks as she was still weak. Her illness was hanging on and Theresa surmised that the young lady was not in a hurry to recover. She was enjoying the attention that Ernst was paying to her. She was a pretty girl and very charming. She knew how to charm Ernst. Ernst was pleased that Magda had a skill with words and was a big help in writing his book. She was such a big help that Ernst determined that her name would be in the credits.

The book was published and translated in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. It was sold throughout America and Europe. The biggest impact was in Africa. It was an instant success in Africa. Both proponents of Ernst’s solution and detractors that felt the harm to Africa was minimal. The book created discussion and discussion is the first step to arriving at solutions. Ernst was a celebrity.

Magda had fallen in love. She first fell in love with Africa and then she fell in love with Ernst. She did not want to go back to cold, rainy Berlin. She wanted to stay in the place she loved. Magda asked Ernst if he would marry her. Ernst knew that Magda cared for him but had no idea she felt that way about him. He loved her but was afraid to ask her as he was afraid that she would insist on returning to Germany. They agreed to marry but Theresa would not allow it until Magda’s parents were informed. A letter was posted to Berlin. Waiting for word to arrive from Berlin was difficult so Ernst went to work building a home for Magda on the plantation. Four months later, Magda’s family arrived for the wedding. It was a surprise. Magda was delighted beyond belief.

The wedding took place on the Huffman plantation. It was a great event. Many people came from Dar es Salaam and from Arusha. The entire Ghagga tribe was present for the wedding. It was a magnificent event.

Life was good.





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