Jeff Reynolds and Harry Smith had begun work at the mine in Kolbazi on the same day. Jeff was an accounting manager and Harry worked in distribution. Both men were expatriates from England, having moved to Africa lured by the promise of salaries that were four times what they could ever expect to receive at home. In addition, they were provided with small but comfortable bungalows in a safe section of the small city.
Jeff and Harry were similar in appearance and personality. Each was in their early-forties, and a lifetime behind a desk had left them with narrow shoulders, thin arms, and substantial paunches to go with their receding hairlines. Having met on the inbound plane, they had become good friends in the last few months.
Their wives were a few years younger, both in their late-thirties. Jeff's wife Andrea and Harry's wife Mary also struck up a close friendship, perhaps even more so than their husbands. The women shared a similar conservative upbringing growing up in England. Each was obsessively concerned with maintaining appropriate appearances in the small expatriate community. Amongst themselves and their husbands they strongly disapproved of any conversation that remotely veered toward the risqué. By any standard each woman also offered a quite unexceptional sex life to her husband. In other words, neither initiated any activity, all of which occurred in a darkened bedroom in the standard missionary position. Twice a week was considered more than enough by either party, whether due to lack of need by the one or lack of stamina by the other.
Andrea was a fairly short and relatively plump blonde woman but was by no means fat. She had maintained a pretty face even as it had filled out a bit. Her face was framed by shoulder length golden blonde hair, which with her full breasts and wide hips caught a number of men's eyes. Mary Smith was slightly taller with very short bright red hair. Her figure was a bit lither than Andrea's. While she had also added pounds to her hips, her large breasts and extremely creamy and lightly freckled skin attracted a few more eyes than did Andrea.
The vast majority of the locals had deep black skin, a physical difference that seemed to unconsciously make them even more foreign to the white women than did the language barrier. Despite their cultured airs, Andrea and Mary had somehow adopted the habit of referring to the locals as "kaffirs" to the astonishment of their husbands. Perhaps other wives in the community used the derogatory term. However, while the men were accustomed to a certain amount of vulgarity amongst each other, neither would think of using such a word.
After a few weeks working in the mine, Jeff and Harry scarcely seemed to notice the black workers, who simply represented costs to be accounted for, or human machinery to be moved to one place or another. The native workers easily sensed the white men's disdain toward them, feeling it was due less to the menial nature of their jobs, but more so to the color of their skin.
The two men also displayed a near total indifference to the local way of life and customs. In any event, neither white man bothered to determine the proportion of the mine's proceeds that lined the pockets of the central government bureaucrats and politicians, or that which went toward the exorbitant salaries of the expatriate technical staff, or to compare these to the amount left for the local economy.
On Saturdays, the Smiths and Reynolds often accompanied each other to the markets that dotted the town. Inevitably, Mary would express the same opinion at one point or another — "These kaffirs don't know the meaning of the word honesty" - heedless of the paltry living the merchant might be eking out in the dusty poverty stricken city. For Andrea's part, scarcely a trip passed that she did not remark that "These lazy kaffirs would not be so poor if they would show a little initiative." Even though the men could at least sense the injustice in these opinions, they let it pass both as a product of the sheltered lives they provided for their spouses, and as part of their overall indifference to the locals.
In addition, the couples frequently met for dinner at one of the more acceptable local restaurants in the small city, which offered the opportunity for the women to complain in a condescending manner about the inept (and completely black) wait staff. At dinner one Friday night, Harry surprisingly blurted "Let's rent a car and take a look around the countryside tomorrow. They say the area to the north has sizable herds and perhaps even an odd lion or hyena."
Jeff felt more than a little trepidation, having heard rumors of infrequent banditry, but did not want to appear the coward. "Alright Harry, what say we start early and make a day of it with the wives — take a picnic lunch and have a few drinks." The men agreed to meet the next morning at the local car agency, brushing aside any concerns expressed by their ladies.
So it was that the four stood haggling with an elderly black man over the rental of a small jeep at dawn the next morning — to the irritation of both wives. "Give the bloody kaffir half of what he wants and let's get on with it," Mary whined. They soon struck an agreement at three quarters of the rate, to her extreme displeasure, "Robbing kaffir thief," she muttered as they set off.
The men were dressed in khaki cargo shorts, tee shirts, ball caps and short hiking boots. Truth is neither looked like the outdoorsman they strove to be. Their wives had dressed nearly identically to each other - light khaki trousers, long sleeve white shirts, white flats, and wide brim straw hats. Their outfits might not be appropriate for a long hike, but served the dual purpose of protecting their white skin from any hint of suntan and also of maintaining their status among the poorly clothed local populace.
Following the weather beaten map provided with the jeep, they quickly entered a new and unfamiliar terrain. Paved roads were almost nonexistent and the jeep, although quite old, easy moved them along the dirt tracks toward the area indicated by the old man as being the best for viewing wildlife. Harry was feeling 20 years younger as he put the jeep through its paces until Andrea complained, "For god's sake slow down, you're covering my clothes with dust."
As the jeep whined through several pitiful villages, the locals stared in amazement and waved, while both women made a show of ignoring them, literally with their noses in the air.
However, when they reached the veldt even the women were entranced at the herds of wildebeest, zebras, and the occasional elephant. Jeff was the first to spot a lion, shouting "Look at the size of those beasts," while standing up in the moving jeep to point excitedly at two lionesses sweeping through a dry wash. No one dared to suggest stopping for a closer look.
Soon Andrea was constantly shouting "Look over there," as she avidly scanned the brush and pointed out herd after herd of animals they had previously seen only in zoos.
Mary even managed a few exclamations of "Oh, how beautiful!"
All four felt they were masters of their environment after several hours of successfully navigating around the alien landscape. The women suggested they find a shady spot for the lunch they had prepared. Harry pointed the jeep on a track toward a group of wooded hills that appeared to be off to the north according to his reading of the map. As they ran up into a valley, Jeff began to feel they had made a mistake in their choice of destination as the trees and thick underbrush quickly closed on the sides of the track and prevented any attempt at turning about. "This is not what I had in mind at all. Can't one find some grass and decent shade in this dust bowl of a country," complained Andrea.
Mary suddenly noticed a track ahead immediately on the right that appeared to lead toward the nearby hills. Harry quickly pulled the jeep to a stop at the intersection and the men warily eyed the track. A clearing appeared to open up about fifty yards away.
"What do you think?" asked Harry.
"Let's go for it," Jeff replied.
Harry rolled the jeep slowly down the track. As soon as it cleared the brush into the small clearing, the women let out piercing screams as four black men wearing dirty ragged tee shirts, shorts, and dusty old boots moved in quickly from the surrounding brush, surrounding the jeep with AK-47s leveled at the occupants.
Harry brought the slow moving jeep to an skidding halt and all four occupants stared in wide-eyed fright at the hard-faced men. As the men spoke rapidly to each other in Swahili, both Jeff and Harry knew they were in serious trouble. The well maintained weapons gave these men every appearance of being accustomed to their use — either as part of a small local guerilla movement intent on driving out the corrupt central government, as bandits, or both.
"Can I help you gentlemen," Jeff called out in an attempt at easy camaraderie. "We were just turning about. Perhaps you would like some water — it is parched out here."
The largest of the men, who appeared to be the leader, stepped forward and scanned the interior of the jeep with a scowl. The vehicle contained little except the occupants, some water bottles, a picnic basket and several blankets. The man waved his rife at Jeff and Harry barking, "All out of jeep now!" As the stunned whites simply stared at him, one of his comrades stepped forward and jabbed Jeff in the gut with his rifle barrel. Jeff shouted and doubled over in pain, and all four occupants quickly piled out of the jeep — with Jeff slowly bringing up the rear.
.... There is more of this story ...