A few days after my mother's funeral I went to stay with my dad and his wife for a couple of days. In an effort to cheer me up my dad contacted the owner of an exotic ranch in a nearby town and paid him $100 to cart me around in his ATV so I could take pictures. I hadn't shot anything in well over a month and wasn't sure I'd ever shoot again. My mind was in a bad place. If exotic animals didn't reignite my love of photography, nothing would.
A wealthy recluse, this man invented a sophisticated device for underwater drilling. His passion is hunting, so he bought hundreds of acres of land to import exotic game from Africa such as elk, axis, nilgai, black buck, antelope, bison, wildebeest, fallow deer, and oryx.
I walked up to the ranch owner to introduce myself, carrying my camera and 400mm lens, and he says, "What the hell is that?" Then he spit a disgusting wad of tobacco juice on the ground. Mortified and speechless and happy the wad missed my shoe, my dad quickly explained that we were there for photography. "Hmph!"
With tobacco juice residing precariously on his chin like fresh oil, the Beverly Hillbillies theme song came to mind. Sitting directly behind him in the ATV I couldn't help noticing his oily, matted hair which begged me to fetch a bottle of Prell (he needs the strong stuff, y'all). Within the first few minutes I realized this would be no picnic. Forget the endearing Clampetts, scenes of Deliverance began flashing through my head.
The man is almost deaf, so in order to stop for a photo I had to tap him on the shoulder, which meant I had to touch his filthy camouflage jacket. Further intensifying my uneasiness, he seemed to get annoyed when I'd ask him to stop. Therefore, I was forced to be frugal with my requests, vowing after each touch of his jacket to remember my antibacterial hand sanitizer. My germaphobia was on high alert.
Here's a small sampling of what I managed to get that day.
Once the safari photo shoot was over, Jed Clampett pulled the ATV next to a large rock at the edge of a pond and without a word drew his rifle out and blew a turtle to smithereens. Well, I was pretty incensed and just wanted to leave before my blood got to the boiling point. That poor turtle was innocently sunbathing, minding his own business and BOOM! Life over.
These beautiful animals, although well cared for, are basically sitting ducks for hunters that pay mega-bucks to slaughter them for trophies. At least out in the wild they'd have a chance, but here at this ranch they are accustomed to people and the sound of vehicles, lulling them into a sense of security. And it's just wrong. Too much money in the wrong hands is a travesty.