Examining the scribbled note, it read, “Gun shot wound to the head, temporary stiches to reduce heavy bleeding.” Looking back at the man lying on the stretcher as we climbed to altitude, the little hand written note didn’t give much detail. I knew cattle rustlers had come into this remote region the night before and the three men’s broken bodies that I was flying back to Nairobi bore witness to their handy work.
Reaching altitude, I adjusted the fuel mixture for my cruise setting to home and with the busyness of the departure complete, my mind began to wonder about what a night cattle raid must be like. Confusion, panic, fear, death, pain, and no doubt, bravery must be present in the chilling moments during the defense of a cattle raid. In this remote part of Kenya near the Ethiopian border, cattle raids are all too frequent, as some unscrupulous families try to increase their wealth through illicit gains.
Pressing on toward Nairobi we pass over a green ridgeline, speckled with little bomas where families live far from automobiles and electricity. Little fences encircle the mud homes, allowing animals to stay protected through the night. I give a long steady look at them as we pass by and notice that the man seated behind me with the chest wound is looking too. I wonder what is he thinking as he gazes upon this mountain village.
Turbulence begins to bounce our little plane to and fro. I look to the man sitting next to me, concerned about how he is doing. Unable to speak each other’s language, he smiles back, indicating he is fine. I offer him a water bottle, which he appreciates, but I soon realize that he is unable to open it. His left arm appears useless, perhaps even broken in the raid. I help him with the water, now realizing that none of the men can manage them by themselves as I open more bottles.
As we continue on toward our destination, we cross the desert floor and then over another mountain range. My three passengers had brought with them the smell of cattle, sweat, the sun, and the earth. A smell I have become quite used to, being around shepherds. A smell that symbolizes hard work.
Approaching the Rift Valley, I see Mount Longonot in the distance, indicating that home is quickly approaching. My senses become overwhelmed this time with a different smell. A very bad smell. I look back to see the man on the stretcher trying to vomit into the airsickness bag, but only partially successful he soils himself. I lean toward my air vent, hoping the fresh air will take away the stench. It does not. I remember my Chief Pilot telling me that he brings liquid peppermint along to combat the acrid fumes of someone vomiting in our little aircraft cabin. I wish I was wise like the chief pilot, but I am not. I suffer, but yet, I am impressed that the deathly ill man made it for a whole two hours without emptying his stomach on the bumpy ride.
Not long after, I call Wilson Tower on the radio and let them know we will be there soon, as an ambulance waits on the ramp for our arrival. All four of us are glad the flight is coming to an end, as I taxi toward the ambulance.
I help the chest wound victim put on his sandals as I assist him out of the aircraft. My hands touch his worn and gnarled feet as I work the sandals on. His feet bear the marks of many hard years of watching the cattle through the heat of the day and cold of the night.
The ambulance has now left and I am relieved knowing the men are in someone else’s care. I walk back to the airplane surveying the empty stretcher reeking of vomit. The plane is a complete disaster, but it never looked better. God used it to save some of His precious children’s lives and amongst the mess, it sparkles with His love!