VAIL — Larry Trotter II’s left arm can still hug his children and grandchildren, and that’s just part of a string of miracles for which he thanks God and his surgeons.
A 2,000-pound cape buffalo tried to stomp Trotter to death in South Africa. Miracles saved him, he says. He’s auctioning the trophy head and giving all the money to God to do with as He will.
“This is not about broken bones or buffalo, it’s about being saved by an angel and prayers being answered,” Trotter said.
Trotter is 6-foot-4 inches, 220 solid pounds, a college athlete and a former world record holder in rowing. He had never broken a bone in his six decades on this earth. Then again, he’d never been attacked by a cape buffalo.
A cape buffalo is 2,000 angry pounds that can run 40 mph, and it was running right at Trotter. Lots of things run through your head at a time like that, mostly that the cape buffalo is the most dangerous animal on earth and that you’re not at the top of that food chain.
Dr. Peter Millett put Trotter back together.
“This was a first for me. I thought I’d seen everything, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” Millett said.
Before Millett’s first round of surgery, Father Brooks Keith from the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration called Trotter for a quick prayer.
“I’m thankful to Brooks and to Dr. Millett, but this is really about thankfulness to God for seeing me through this,” Trotter said. “It’s not about bones and buffalo. It’s about thankfulness.”
A year after his final surgery his arm is still limited — he can’t use a hunting bow — but said it reminds that God is alive today.
“What a string of miracles!” Trotter said.
Trotter and his brother Rob own TNT Ranch south of Gypsum and run Trotter Real Estate. The family started skiing Vail in 1965. This winter will be Larry’s 26th season teaching private ski lessons with Vail Resorts.
Three angels, three attacks
Trotter was on the first day of a 25-day African safari for archery hunting Africa’s version of elk and deer. His professional hunting guides convinced him that adding a cape buffalo hunt to his trip was a good idea.
About 25 minutes into his 25-day hunt he was almost killed by a cape buffalo. Cape buffalo are massive, and can run incredibly fast for their size when they feel like it, and this one felt like it.
It was a rogue bull, an old bull that has been separated from the herd, and that’s the one they were after.
The crew of six guides and four professional hunters stalked it to within 40 yards, but there was too much acacia brush to get a clear shot. The buffalo trotted off and they stalked it to within 100 yards, then to within 40 yards. The buffalo spotted them, snorted and charged.
Trotter was standing in the open, when he clearly heard the first of what he said were three angel voices that saved his life.
He said that first voice clearly told him, “Get rid of your bow and arrow, turn around and run as fast as you can.”
He said he knew he couldn’t outrun it, but if he cut its momentum he might give himself a chance to live.
He was also carrying a bit of padding. It was hot and everyone in the hunting party had given him their extra clothes and water bottles to stuff into his backpack. The buffalo hit that backpack and crushed the water bottles.
“If they hadn’t been in there he would have broken my spine,” Trotter said.
The impact launched him 15 feet and sent him crashing to the ground on all fours.
The buffalo was momentarily distracted by Trotter’s daypack and gear that had broken off from his backpack when it first hit him. A water buffalo tears you to pieces with its horns then stomps you to make sure you’re dead, and that’s what it was doing with his daypack.
Trotter had his back to the buffalo when it charged again, hooking his left arm and flipping him into the air like a rag doll. Trotter said he could hear and feel his bones breaking, and thought he was dead.
Two inches back and the horn would have pierced his heart.
He quickly regained consciousness and felt enveloped in a bright light. He thought he might have been on his way to heaven.
He snapped back to reality and found himself lying on his back facing the beast again.
His backpack sat him up so he could see the buffalo coming for the third charge. He crab walked backwards on his right hand and his butt as fast as he could, his broken bones grating and grinding.
He says he heard a second voice command him to put his boots on the beast’s horns and push away. He did, and that kept his chest and head away from the buffalo’s trampling feet and crushing horns.
“That voice, during that third attack, saved my life,” Trotter said.
The four professional hunters shot the buffalo nine times before it finally fell with its nose just 12 inches from Trotter’s boots. A hunter named Abrie ran around and fired the ninth elephant gun blast into the buffalo’s brain box, and Trotter’s near death experience was over.
Abrie told Trotter he saw a pillar of light surrounding him with an angel above his head as the buffalo charged the third time. He said Arbrie told him the dark beast could not penetrate the light as the angel fought the beast.
“I thought I’d died and this was heaven. I could only see it from inside the light. I remember everything being bright,” Trotter said.
These days Trotter says he focuses on his faith and family, happy to have survived an attack by one of the world’s deadliest animals and multiple surgeries. Friday morning, Trotter handed Millett a rowing jersey from the University of Wisconsin, Trotter’s alma mater.
“Without the excellent surgical reconstruction and care provided by The Steadman Clinic, Vail Valley Medical Center and Howard Head Physical Therapy, I would not be rowing, water skiing and snow skiing again,” Trotter said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
“This is not about broken bones or buffalo, it’s about being saved by an angel and prayers being answered.” Larry Trotter