Swinging with Tarzan

Louise M. Robinson

Well, here I am, lost in the jungle again for the first time.

It all started about fifty years ago. I was an avid reader as a child and eventually acquired the wonderful "Tarzan" books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912. I was immediately lost in the jungle, searching for the mysterious Lord Greystoke and his wonderful family of great apes.

What child of nine or thereabouts wouldn't rather be in the jungles of Africa than in some dull old grammar school? Thus began my fantasy life with Tarzan, the ape-man. I had never wanted to be any particular character in the book, just one of the gang. I decided that some day I would go to Africa and experience all the wonderful adventures I had only read about.

Gradually, as the years passed, I forgot about my childhood passion and went on with the other things that filled my life.

As my sixtieth birthday approached, I became a little nervous about the occasion. Was this the advent of feeble old age? There were a few creaks and cracks as I moved about my daily life, but I was sure that they emanated from my shoes, or even the old floorboards, rather than my body. Then I caught myself grunting as I bent over to pick up my Chihuahua. She was a little chubby, but she still only weighed eight pounds.

That was my wake-up call. Suddenly I realized if I were ever going to get to Africa, it had better be now while I could still walk.

I called a travel agent friend and got a ballpark figure on how much this dream trip was going to cost. Wow! Enough to put me in the poorhouse!

Was I going to let the specter of starvation and homelessness stop me from attaining my dream? Never! So I cashed in a couple of investments and sold my furniture. My friends were stunned. They asked what I was going to sit on when I came back from Africa if I had sold my furniture to get there. What a question! Would you rather have a ratty old chair or a trip to Africa?

I was so excited, I walked around town telling everybody I saw, "I'm going to Africa!" Most of my friends and acquaintances, and quite a few perfect strangers were very excited for me. The usual reaction was, "How great! I wish I could go!"

But one friend looked at me quizzically when I told her all about my plan to take photos of the wild animals. In all seriousness she asked, "Why don't you just go to the zoo?" Some people just don't get it.

A respectable married librarian friend responded, "How exciting! Are there going to be lots of single men?" Single rhinos, perhaps.

And so I traveled to Africa to search for my dream; all those wild animals to photograph, and Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.

I saw lions, but not Tarzan. I saw elephants, but not Tarzan. I saw cheetahs, leopards, baboons, snakes, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, but not Tarzan.

I was almost ready to give up when suddenly my guide, Sabu called out, "I think I saw him over there!" Was it my imagination or was he smirking? I hurried my guide toward the clump of trees he had pointed to.

Would Tarzan be as I remembered him? Would he be interested in a somewhat "experienced" woman of sixty years?

But wait! Sure I'm sixty, but going by the publication dates of the Tarzan books, by now Tarzan would be almost 90! How could he not be fascinated by a woman as young as I? Still my guide led me deeper and deeper into the trees. Could it be? Yes! There he was! Standing in a shaft of sunlight, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle!

The not-so-mighty fists beat weakly at the scrawny chest, the heart stopping cry that once rang throughout the jungle now a feeble, "Eee-yah!"

When he saw me he lifted me in his wizened arms. Sure I've gained a little weight, but that was no reason for him to let out a shriek, grab his back, and fall writhing to the ground. I helped him to his feet and we both climbed slowly into a tree where I clung awkwardly to his shoulders. He groped for a handy vine and swung us into the trees.

What a sight we must have been! The two of us, slightly wrinkled but determined, launched into the air above the jungle..

Barely able to hold onto the vine, Tarzan's grip began to slip. We fell screaming to the jungle floor; where we lay, semi-conscious, until a herd of wild peccaries arrived to dine on our still living flesh. Just in time, a pack of elderly chimpanzees came to our rescue and beat off the peccaries with sticks. We staggered to another tree, climbing again to safety, swinging and clawing our way to his home in the trees where Tarzan proudly threw back a ragged leopard skin and ushered me in.

The place looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the last monsoon went through in '53. Tarzan turned to me with his cute little snaggle-toothed grin and pointed to the corner where, after some frantic searching for whatever it was he wanted, I unearthed what might at one time have been a broom. Now it was just a stick with four broken twigs attached by some frayed elephant hair.

I looked at Tarzan, who nodded and waved his hand around the "house" and then limped over to a pile of animal skins and went to sleep.

I tiptoed to the doorway, took one last look at my hero and climbed down the tree. There stood my faithful guide, Sabu, who took my hand and led me back to civilization.

Sabu and I have been married for two years now and he never tires of playing with modern inventions like the vacuum cleaner and the blender. He has learned to mix the greatest Margaritas you have ever tasted.

I know there really is no Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Does it matter? Not a bit. In my heart he is there, just past the next clearing, waiting for me. And my dream has come true.

© Louise M. Robinson

Louise Robinson is a Red Cross Disaster Nurse who has traveled extensively. A freelance writer and a recent winner of a BYLINE contest, she has been published in Honolulu Magazine, Senior Citizens Gazette, and Families Matter.

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