I haven't talked enough about Frikkie von Solms, Marieta's cousin and the director of the Volunteer Program. Frikkie is unlike anybody I've ever met. He brings to mind all the old cliches: tough as nails being the most accurate. He's built like a piece of beef jerky but he's not as tender.
Every volunteer who comes here (and every guest, too) is changed somehow by Frikkie. They see him as a father figure or a slave driver, but it's hard to get away from Frikkie the same as before you met him.
Two of his favorite lines that the volunteers hear from him are (1) Run like hell! (He hates dawdlers) and (2) I might kill you, but you will learn!
One of his most amazing character traits is his unbelievable bond with animals--especially lions. He says he understands people better because he understands animals--or maybe it's the other way around. I get confused. But whatever--he will "get" you before anybody else does.
Recently I went on a lion walk with the "Babies"--four not-so-small lions who are not-so-well-behaved because they are youngsters still. They love to go OUT on the walk, but when it's time to get back into the truck, they are often--well, let's just say they're reluctant. And it's no easy feat to convince lions to do anything they don't want to do.
So they were behind us humans in the group, straggling far behind us, actually, so we had to keep calling "Come! Come! Come Lions!" They ambled along.
Suddenly, the truck approached us to take us all back to the enclosure. The lions became even more reluctant. UNTIL, out the of the car stepped Frikkie.
Let me just say that it isn't just Frikkie who loves the lions. It is a mutual adoration society. They LOVE him. They, like the volunteers, are drawn to this man. They heard his voice. They saw his stick-thin silhouette against the sunset.
And they came bounding toward him--four lions at over 200 pounds each.
By the time I could get the camera out, they were all over him, giving him the only kind of loving a lion knows how to give--a gentle mauling. And nobody loved it more than Frikkie.
Admit it: you wish it was YOU under all those pelts.