After two years of invitations, I finally made it to Africa to visit my friend Moses, a Maasai elder, at his village in Kenya.
That first night, while sitting around a fire, he offered to tell me about hunting lions. I thought this to be an honor, as the Maasai consider themselves to be great storytellers but do not often share such private tales with visitors.
A Maasai boy is expected to hunt a lion with shield and spear before he is considered to be a man. While he does not have to actually kill the lion, he must participate in the hunt. Moses was 13 when he faced this trial that is an integral part of Maasai culture.
Moses put on a grave face and began to tell me that they hunt by surrounding the lion in a wide circle, then slowly advance until the lion is so threatened that it will attack one warrior, who throws himself on the ground, covers up with this shield, and hopes his fellow hunters kill the lion with their spears before it kills him.
At this point Moses pulled up his bright red shuka (robe) and showed me a long jagged scar on his calf, saying he got it on his first lion hunt.
I was astounded and could only think to say, “A lion did that to you?”
He leaned forward as if to impart a great secret and said, “No, I was so scared, I speared myself in the leg and the lion got away!"
With that, he threw his head back, giggling uncontrollably, and I was introduced to Maasai humor.