National Geographic : 1965 Feb
Nellie, however, determined to push on some 700 trackless miles into Uganda. Old timers in Africa shook their heads, and the alarmed British commissioner put her off re peatedly. Eventually Nellie told him flatly, "I want to go now." "I am very sorry," he replied with exquisite courtesy, "but you cannot." The girl left in a huff, and the commissioner heard no more of the affair-until one day a young assistant burst into his office: "Terrible news! Miss Bazett has hired porters and set out for the interior. We must overtake her." "No," smiled the commissioner, wise in the ways of Africa. "We shall leave her alone. In a day or two she'll be back. And our little problem will be permanently solved." He never saw Nellie again. Six months later she arrived in Uganda. Alarm Clock Frightens Away Lions "Aunt Nellie," reminisced Louis, "always maintained that her only weapons on the safari were an umbrella and an alarm clock. She'd set the clock at two-hour intervals throughout the night. She reckoned that a prowling lion would require at least two hours to reconnoiter before entering the camp, at which time the clanging of the alarm would frighten him off. All the way to Uganda, she slept in two-hour naps." In time Mary Bazett, making her rounds in Mombasa, fell ill. The doctor who treated her was firm: She must leave at once for England and never return. Africa would surely kill her if she stayed. "She did what the doctor ordered," Louis told me. "She went back to England, where she soon regained her health and married another missionary-my father. In 1902 they both came back to Africa. She lived in Kenya until she died fifty years later." Through the dazzling afternoon heat, as our vehicle coursed across the East African uplands, leaving a smoke screen of yellow dust, the Leakey family saga unfolded. Louis's parents, Harry and Mary, took over a Church of England mission at Kabete, eight miles from a tiny upcountry settlement called Nairobi. There they began to work among the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe. And there, on August 7, 1903, was born their first son Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey. Word of his birth spread quickly, and the Kikuyu tribal elders called. They gathered solemnly about the cradle and spat on the new child as a gesture of trust. "The Kikuyu," Louis explained, "believe 200 that to possess part of another person-a fingernail, a lock of his hair, even his spittle gives one the power to work deadly black magic against him. Symbolically, the elders were putting their lives in my hands. "The elders," he grinned, "made me the best-washed baby in East Africa." The British youngster grew up a Kikuyu, speaking Kikuyu, thinking in Kikuyu, even dreaming in Kikuyu-a habit he professes to this day. While his parents saw to his formal LEAKEY FAMILY COLLECTION On a dinosaur dig in 1924, during his first scientific expedition in Tanganyika, 20 year-old Louis Leakey holds a lightweight pick he designed and still uses. Stone-ax Storehouse Shows Wares Manufactured 200,000 Years Ago A near-fatal step in 1929 led Dr. Leakey to the first known living site of hand-ax man. At Kariandusi, Kenya, he shows Mrs. Mel ville Bell Grosvenor where he almost stum bled over a cliff and clutched at bushes to save himself. Peering over the edge, he spied an ax embedded in the wall. Digging un covered some two thousand tools of black volcanic glass. The Kenya government maintains the site as a field museum. KODACHROMEBY MELVILLE BELL GROSVENOR (CN.G.S .