“Lord of the Forest”
Mount Kenya was shrouded in a fine misty rain, soft and cool, as the small hunting party departed camp in search of elephants. With enough supplies for three days, a change of clothes and two small Whymper tents, Theodore Roosevelt and safari leader R.J. Cunninghame, headed into the great and mysterious forest. It was the end of July in 1909 and TR’s safari had traveled far, marching from Naivasha to Nairobi and then on to Mount Kenya.
The trail curved to one side, leading the hunters in a new direction where they were able to catch sight of their first elephant 30 yards away. The elephant moved just enough to reveal that it was indeed a bull, with big ivory.
TR aimed and with his second shot brought it down. Suddenly the bushes and vines parted and another huge bull came thundering toward them, snapping small trees like toothpicks. Both men darted for cover. Cunninghame fired twice, perhaps hitting the bull, while TR stayed low, trying to reload.
The “lord of the forest” stopped its charge, stared at the men for a brief second or two, then turned and disappeared. Roosevelt later commented, “It was so close that he could have touched me with his trunk.”