I met Danny Williamson on Facebook about a year and a half ago. He was one of the first to accept my friend request. We liked each other’s posts and it was clear from the beginning that we both had a passion for the outdoors, hunting and conservation.
One thing led to another and we exchanged phone numbers. Every Friday, Danny would send me a text with a drink in his hand and say, “Cheers my friend!” and I would send one back.
In 2018, just before my wife and I booked our flight and hotel for the SCI Convention in Reno, I sent Danny a text to ask if he was attending. He told me, “No buddy. I’m going through some tests and I won’t make it to Reno this time.”
I didn’t want to pry into his personal life, so I just responded “Okay.” As time passed, Danny called me one day out of the blue and told me he was fighting cancer. He was having a chemo treatment and wanted to talk.
I told him, “I’m here for you, my friend,” and at the end of our talk, I felt I had known him all my life. A few months went by after talking two to three times a week and I finally asked him, “When are we going hunting together?” Danny told me that he was going to Africa one last time. I replied, “You are? Well hell, let’s go!”
The trip was already planned for October 2019, with some of Danny’s closest friends to hunt croc and hippo. I asked Danny what else he hadn’t hunted yet and he told me he needed a rhino to complete his Dangerous 7.
Then my wheels were spinning, and I told Danny, “Consider it done! But you will need to extend your trip in Africa eight days.” The phone went silent and I actually thought he had hung up on me. I said, “Danny, Danny are you there?” He replied, “I’m here. Let me think about it and I’ll call you in a couple of days.”
I then made a call to my friend and owner of ESP Hunting Safaris, Steyn Potgieter, and told him what I wanted to do for Danny. I told Steyn that we had to make this happen no matter what the cost, because I’m paying for it.
It took Steyn less than a day and we made it happen! I was waiting for Danny to call me, but he never did. I sent him a text and then called, but no answer. Then finally Danny called me about a week later.
He said, “Listen, it is a very nice offer, but I just can’t.” My response was, “It’s done already, my friend. All I need from you is to extend your flight and I got this. You have got enough things to worry about, so we are going hunting, my friend.”
He told me that he gave all his life and he didn’t know why someone who hadn’t even met him yet would do this for him. I told him, “Just say yes, Danny, and we can finally sit by a campfire in Africa together and drink a soda and share hunting stories.” He got choked up over it and said, “Okay, let’s get it done!”.
So, a little while went by and we talked more and more on the phone. We usually spoke during his chemo treatments or on the weekends. He always gave me updates on what the doctor told him. I was getting nervous, though. It didn’t sound promising for him to be able to travel.
Danny told me that he was going and that he would give me one hundred percent. So, the adventure was on. He sent me confirmation on his flight and told me he still couldn’t believe what I was doing for him. There was no way he could repay me. I said, “Enough of that, just stay strong and let’s get this done.”
Just before Danny left for Africa, he had the doctors give him a series of pain blockers in his back to help with the pain. He called me later that same night and thanked me for all I was doing for him. He said I was a “true gentleman and that he loved me like a brother.” I told him to stay healthy and I would see him soon.
I received photos of his croc and hippo hunts and could tell he was enjoying his safari. Then I received a call that Danny believed he had a broken rib and that he wasn’t one hundred percent and maybe we shouldn’t do this.
I told him, “Even if I have to carry you, we are going to get this done.” He was trying not to laugh because it hurt. A week went by and I was on my way to meet Danny face-to-face at the Johannesburg airport. There he was. We hugged each other, gathered his guns and were off to share what to me was a hunt I’ll never, ever forget.
Through our time spent together, we learned we shared a lot of the same beliefs in hunting and life in general. The day came when Danny had to be the best he could be. I knew he was hurting but he still pushed on, something I’m not sure I could have done.
It was a crisp morning and we headed out to locate the rhino after a short trip in the truck. We located three bulls and did a short stalk. One bull gave us a broad side shot. Danny made an excellent shot with the dart gun and his Dangerous 7 was accomplished! I was right beside him all the way. He had tears of joy in his eyes, turned to me and said, “Thank you my friend!”
And that was Danny’s final Safari. Soon after, he lost his fight and is now in God’s glory. I was very privileged to have met Danny Williamson and am grateful for our time spent at that campfire.
I extend my extreme gratitude to both ESP Hunting Safaris and Tam Safaris for helping me make these astounding memories a reality for Danny.
Until we meet again, my friend…–Richard Tate