By Krystal Spring
Cheryl Darlington leans her elbows on A large boulder and steadies a .375-caliber Holland & Holland Magnum against a rock - the gun dwarfs her small-frame, as she tries to camouflage herself into a large outcropping of rocks.
Her eyes dart from one end of the African landscape to the other as she tries to slow her breathing. It's day one of an eight-day African safari hunting trip in Namibia, and Darlington's first kill is just seconds away.
For the past four years Darlington has spent her days ringing up customers' fuel and gas station purchases as assistant manager at the Emporium Food and Fuel in Havre. On a cold, dreary day in February Darlington was hard at work when one of the station's loyal customers, longtime Havre resident Erik Meis, walked in and offered her the opportunity of a lifetime.
"He came up to the counter and asked me if I wanted to go with him to Africa," Darlington remembered, laughing. "I thought he was kidding."
But Meis is not one for joking, at least when it comes to big game hunting in Africa. He's gone on four successful safaris in Africa.
Less than 24 hours later, Darlington accepted Meis' offer, and her life has not been the same since.
"My entire life, I've always wanted to go to Africa," Darlington said. "But I never imagined that dream would come true."
Growing up in Big Sandy, Darlington had several family members that loved to hunt, but at age 51, she'd never even shot a gun.
"Initially I planned to go to Africa as an observer, not a hunter. I'd never even shot a gopher," she said. "But after some thought, I figured if I was ever going to start hunting, what a time to do it."
Darlington spent the next three months with Meis, learning the basic principles of hunting and how to shoot a rifle. On May 17 Darlington packed up a bag and boarded a plane to Africa. Two days later she arrived at a tiny airport in Upington, South Africa, where her real journey began.
"Erik was supposed to meet me at the airport, but he was late," Darlington said. "So I
was by myself in Africa. I was