Black death, white light: Vail Valley man captures miracles in inspirational book
An enraged cape buffalo, nicknamed “Black Death” by Africans, was literally stomping the life out of Larry Trotter. It would take a miracle to save him. Miracles happen, at least one did that day, July 3, 2012.
Trotter, a Vail Valley rancher and ski instructor, wrote a book, “Seeing the Light Through Black Death,” about that miracle and many others. The book is divided into 12 chapters —reflecting God’s 12 messengers, the apostles — beginning with pursuing excellence through Boy Scouts and other avenues during his Wisconsin youth. It continues through being part of a world record rowing team, gaining affluence as an entrepreneur, and culminating in his near-fatal experience with that cape buffalo nicknamed “Black Death,” that dramatically changed his life.
“You could look at life as if nothing is a miracle, or everything is,” Trotter said.
Miracles come from God, said Trotter, and that’s where he puts his faith and thanks. “Seeing the Light Through Black Death” is a memoir hinging on the rejuvenation of Trotter’s faith in the face of a near-death event.
“God doesn’t deal with people in small ways. This is a big story for a big guy. Larry didn’t need a subtle message. Some people do. Larry didn’t get that. He’s a walking miracle and testimony as well,” said the Rev. Brooks Keith, Trotter’s minister at the the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Vail.
Seven years in the making
Trotter scribbled notes for seven years, August 2012 through August 2019, before he finally decided to publish his story — another miracle. Book publishing is expensive and, although he is a business success, he didn’t have the extra cash. One day his mail included a letter and check from a guy who owed him money that Trotter thought he would never see again.
“That was the last of my excuses,” Trotter said.
He said he revised the manuscript 75 times, (“It didn’t seem like it, it was 75,” Trotter said), finishing the final rewrite for the publisher last year during Holy Week. The first copies were printed in August, drawing sterling reviews and some awards. It’s in its second printing. Every dime the book generates is being donated to the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Vail, to help with the church’s philanthropic work.
“Seeing the Light Through Black Death”
By Laurence W. Trotter II
Available at The Bookworm in the Edwards Riverwalk, at seeingthelightthroughblackdeath.com and online.
All royalties are donated to The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration.
“The message of the book is going back to God. He saved my life. Giving it back to the hands and feet of Jesus seemed like the least I could do,” Trotter said.
The cape buffalo attack was recorded on video with a time clock. Trotter made it public with the release of “Seeing the Light Through Black Death” to encourage others to share their own cape buffalo stories.
“It wasn’t until after Black Death attacked me that I learned that everyone has a Cape buffalo story. Some have more than one,” Trotter said.
The day he didn’t die
Trotter was 20 minutes into his 25-day South African safari when a two-ton cape buffalo pummeled him onto death’s door. The buffaloes are incredibly fast for their size and wish they were meaner than they already are. They generally get their wish. Trotter was in the open when the buffalo spotted them, snorted and charged.
He’s alive because, he said, a voice told him how to survive. Ten people say they saw a pillar of light and an angel over his head. One of the guides told him the dark beast could not penetrate the light as an angel protected him, Trotter said.
“This is not about broken bones or buffalo, it’s about being saved by an angel and prayers being answered,” Trotter said.
The first message ordered him, “Get rid of your bow and arrow, turn around and run as fast as you can.” That cut the brute force with which the buffalo initially hit him. He was also carrying a backpack filled with water bottles and extra clothes that absorbed enough of the impact to keep his spine from shattering, he said.
A cape buffalo tears you to pieces with its horns, then stomps you to make sure you’re dead. That’s what this beast was doing to Trotter’s backpack. Trotter had his back to it when it charged again, hooking his left arm and tossing him in the air like a rag doll. He felt and heard his bones breaking, and thought he was dead. He said he was bathed in bright light and thought he might be on his way to heaven.
Trotter heard a voice during the attack guiding him to survival: “Stay on your back,” the voice said. “Put your boots between the horns and push away with your feet.”
He crab-walked backwards on his right hand and his butt as fast as he could, his broken bones grating and grinding.
Trotter’s four professional hunting guides shot the buffalo nine times before it finally fell with its nose just 12 inches from Trotter’s boots.
Miracles and mile markers
Trotter seemed to have it all: a string of successful businesses, a long-term marriage, four loving children, and more friends than he could count. Even with all that he felt he lacked purpose, he said. Miracles are the way — points in his spiritual journey – his and others’. Everyone sharing their miracles is the purpose of the book, Trotter said.
“We all have attacks on our lives in one form or another and I believe we should share our stories to help each other heal from our difficulties of life,” Trotter said. “God is for real and alive today. God is always with us to proactively show us the way and heal all of us spiritually, mentally and physically.”