I do not know to what degree Jonathan Rodriguez has been struck by
his illness nor do I know of the battles that he has fought to date
or the battles that he still has to face. What I do know is that in
the plentiful blessings that I have received, I have also been given
the opportunity to give back.
have also been in the privileged position to have joined a young
man, sponsored by the men and women behind the Foundation,
previously on a journey to Africa. This young man not only caught my
attention but left a lasting imprint on me. I tried to construct my
thoughts down after our experience and the following is a brief
extract of that experience and the journey I managed to share.
"I recently penned a few thoughts on what it takes
to be a child of Africa. The thoughts and emotions were formulated
away from the rhetoric of politics and race, as I deliberately
avoided getting caught in a topical debate that I do not enjoy. My
thoughts and emotions were rather captured by an experience in July
2004 that not only has left an imprint on my soul, but also has left
me feeling a better person.
story that I am narrating had its beginnings in a rural hospital in
Greybull, Wyoming. A remarkable young man, Nick DeWitt, has been
battling leukemia for the last 13 years. A hunter in soul and body,
he knew the rigors of fighting for what he wants, in his case it was
a basic and simplistic quest - a normal day away from the smells and
sounds of an intensive care unit. Our paths were about to cross away
from that hospital, and together we were to rekindle the feeling
that hunt unleashes within our soul. This story is an ode to courage
I am a child of Africa. Her mountains, open veld,
savannas and rugged bush remain an integral part of who I am. The
continent has shaped me and has left me with believing that there is
a bit of Africa in every one of us. We all long to see the
unspoiled, uncomplicated world where nature remains supreme. It was
with this philosophy in mind that I started the Hunting Network two
years ago. My business philosophy is based on a realization of the
privileged position that I have to be part of one of the most
misunderstood of continents on the one hand, and our ability to
share our world with a number of sportsmen and hunters from all
corners of the globe on the other. A few months ago I made contact
with a non-profit organization called Hunt of a Lifetime. Through
our initial discussions and long-distance telephone calls we talked
about sharing the vision of making near-impossible dreams a reality.
I was mildly surprised when I received a phone call during May 2004
in which I was asked to facilitate and arrange a hunt for a young
man from Wyoming.
To me, the name Nick Dewitt did not say much, and at
first he was just another client on our books. However with the
first of our e-mails exchanged between Nick and myself, I came to
realize that when life has dealt you a few dud cards, you need to
play your hand when the cards have fallen in your favor. I came to
realize that this was no ordinary young man, and after sitting down
with my colleague, friend and professional hunter of the Hunting
Network, Glaeser Conradie, we decided that we need to pull out all
stops to make this African Safari truly a hunt of a lifetime. The
wheels were set in motion and we started wheeling and dealing to get
a representative package for Nick going. The odd phone call here and
the cashing in on long-overdue favors resulted in a structured
plains package of game that we believed would provide Nick with a
taste and feel for Africa.
It was with great anticipation that we awaited the
arrival of the Dewitt family into Cape Town International Airport.
After the usual customs and immigration paperwork we managed to get
the all settled for their first night in Africa. I met Nick at the
guesthouse in the university town of Stellenbosch, and I was
immediately taken back by his size. He was a small compact young man
and I thought that there is no way that he could be 18 years old. I
was again struck by his gentleness, sincerity and the appreciation
expressed, while I kept on thinking that I was the one who had to
say thank you for providing us with an opportunity to show him our
world. We talked about the hunt, the animals and the small things in
life, and it was with these thoughts that I sent them in the care of
my colleague to the hunting concession. I cannot write about the
hunt itself as I was not the one who accompanied Nick. Unfair work
pressure and deadlines to get a project completed meant that my
colleague had to do the hard work in the field.
As I stated in my opening line, I am a child of
Africa and I know that in order to hunt the plains you need to be
strong in mind and body. Nick rose to the challenge, and listening
to the stories of his training on the wrestling mat, I had no
illusions that he took to the African hunt with the same ease that
he would face an opponent on the mat.
the Karoo you need to be sure of shot placement and distance. A good
guide will be able to keep the guessing work to the minimum, but
with the combination of low shrub and keen eyesight the game will
maintain the advantage of the hunter. The cold winter mornings and
hot midday sun all add to the mix of the hunt, Springbok used to
roam the plains in numbers over one million, and choosing a big male
does take time and patience. Impala on the other hand are skittish
in behavior and the slightest of noises and movement will cause them
to dart away from perceived danger.
knew that this is the basis of what his memories of the hunt would
be and we hoped that the challenge will be part of those memories. A
telephone call during the hunt confirmed the trust that I had in
Nicks prowess in the hunt. Nick soon bagged all his trophies with
the exception of a Kudu. Somehow the old master of the thorn
thickets did not present an opportunity for a clean shot and we
decided to let the Kudu be this time around, and rather, to focus
our attention on a Black Wildebeest (Gnu). It was an inspired choice
as a well-placed shot meant that Nick is now the proud owner of one
of the biggest trophy bulls ever shot on the Karoo plains. We are
still awaiting the official results from the Rowland Ward Guild, but
judged on measurements made in the veld Nicks trophy cabinet can be
dusted to make provision for a record.
Reaching records and new highs tend to be part of
his remarkable life. I could go on and on writing about him, but it
would not do his life or the love of his parents any justice. I am
struggling to find words that will outline my feelings as I reflect
back on a memorable experience of meeting a fighter and a companion.
I have four kids of my own and they are blessed with good health.
Looking at Nick I realized how much I take them for granted. Nick
made my think about the gift of health and for that I am grateful.
He might have taken a bit of my Africa with him, but he has left a
lot of him in me.
I salute you my friend.
I need to draw a concluding line in my story. As I have stated in
my opening line we all journey and for some the journey is smooth
and a road well traveled, for others the road has a number of
obstacles. Jonathan, in advance, we are looking forward to the
journey. May the road be smooth.