Sunday, March 26, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa - Part Two

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa - Part Two:      We got word that the Little Rock family had left Rafiki. Our tickets were such that we could change our destination right up to the ...

Africa - Part Two

     We got word that the Little Rock family had left Rafiki. Our tickets were such that we could change our destination right up to the last moment, if we wished.
     We started thinking that we could hop over to Tanzania, right next door. No fighting there yet. We changed our destination to Tanzania. We notified their director.
     We then realized we would still have an overnight layover in war-torn Kenya, and we would be on our own. Tanzania Rafiki was very new, and it was unclear if they would have many children yet.
     There was talk of a power sharing agreement between the two tribes, and it was still awhile before the plane flew out. Maybe things would settle down by then.
     We changed our destination back to Kenya, and prayed for peace.
     I talked to missionaries on the ground in Nairobi two days out. They told me, "If you fly into Nairobi this weekend, you will be met by a collective sigh of relief, or Gunfire. This is not a good time. Don't come." 
     The morning of the day we were to fly out, the big news of the day on TV was, a power sharing agreement has been signed in Kenya. I called the missionaries in Nairobi. "Well, in view of this, now may be a good time to come." We took this as God's sign to us .We went
     We had an overnight layover at London Heathrow, and looked for a place to lie down. Although information desks will tell you there is none, we knew that if you go into the very depths of Heathrow, there is a place with lots of long couches.
     I must have picked up some sort of bug from that couch, because the next morning I was a total zombie. It didn't worry me at all when the pilot notified us, once airborne, that we were being diverted to Uganda. Just gave no reason, other than something about needing to pick up some tires, which sounded pretty thin. We would eventually reach Nairobi, but be two hours late. I was still a zombie when we landed in Uganda, and I did not even feel like looking out. Barbara was afraid I was had picked up some strange sickness, leaving her on her own, not a good thing to be in Africa. When we, at long last, landed at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, Barbara was excited, and I was just there.
      Rafiki headquarters in Florida had sent us a very large bag of books for us to carry through for them, along with the appropriate paperwork. We also had a huge suitcase of toys they requested us to buy and bring for the children. The customs agent told us we couldn't do that, then waited to see if the customary bribe was forthcoming, maybe in the form of a supply of toys for his grand children. Barbara just kept smiling at him, telling him "The toys are for the orphans." He gave us some more reasons why we just couldn't do that, but Barbara just kept smiling. "The toys are for the orphans." Finally, he just gave up and waved us on through.
     Our driver, hired by Rafiki, had patiently been waiting three hours now. We kept this same driver throughout our stay, and he was always competent and patient. He had a little sign that said,"Patt and Barbra". Whatever the spelling, we were overjoyed to see him, we're here, and we'll take it.
     It was a 45 minute drive to Rafiki, and the route was directly through the staging ground for the violence. The last mini missionaries picked up, right at the start of the violence, had to pass through road blocks for both sides, and the car had been shaken around pretty good. Yeen-Lan, the director, was in that car. She kept saying, "Just keep smiling. Whatever happens, just keep smiling."
     Well, the warriors, and the roadblocks were gone now, and we were happy. When we entered the gates at Rafiki, we were treated like rock stars. To the children, we were the first mini-missionaries to arive since the violence, and we must have represented the end of that horrible time for them.
     Getting out of the car at our guest house, a woman screamed, "It IS you! It IS you!"
 We saw our friend Emily running from the guest house to hug us.
     We had assumed the area we had come through near Rafiki was a slum, but no, they said. Upper middle class.
     Our rock star treatment continued for a couple of days. My strange illness slowly went away.  By then, all 80 of the children knew everything there was to know about both of us. The children just loved to stroke the long, thick hair on my forearm. "Uncle Pat is like Esau!" The children always had a neat way of asking a question."Where are you going" woud always be asked, "And you are going where?"
     The oldest of the children were now in the fourth grade. Six native Africans were the "mamas," full time care givers. Each mama had 10 or so children, and the goal was, to give continuity, each child would have the same mother until they were grown. But things didn't seem to always work out that way.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha - The E...

Forever A Hillbilly: Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha - The E...: Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha - The End :      With Tenny’s move to Wing, Tenny’s connections to Dover, and even to Samantha, w...


     Barbara and I went to grandson Christian's birthday party in Little Rock one day. We just happened to be talking to a lady who was telling us her family was about to leave for Nairobi, Kenya, to work at an orphanage. She casually asked, just as son Corey walked up, "Why don't you come help us?" Corey waved her off. "Listen," he said, "You don't know my parents. You don't just ask them something like that, unless you mean it."
     Barbara and I looked at each other. We both knew we were in agreement. "We'll do it," Barbara said.
     After some investigation into the Rafiki Foundation, we flew to Florida one weekend to train for our mission as Mini-missionaries. Actually, I think Rafiki just mostly wanted to get to know us. Satisfy their minds that we were suitable.
     We quickly picked out Rosemary Jensen from the crowd when we arrived at Rafiki. She looked the part of a semi-angel. She and her husband, Dr. Bob Jensen had been African missionaries for many years. She had also been the international director of Bible Study Fellowship for many years. When she retired, they wished to give her a gift, and what did she want? "I want an orphanage in Africa."
     From this start, Rafiki, which means "friend" in Swahili, the inter-tribal language in Eastern Africa, grew quickly. They now have ten villages in ten of the poorest African countries. Plans are being implemented to build ten "satellite villages" in each country. They are built and staffed by Rafiki, then turn over to different church organizations to support and run. Many different church organizations participate.
     Baptists churches are not among them. I asked Rosemary why. "Baptist churches in Africa are very loosely organized. There was no one person I could go talk to."
      Rafiki takes in orphan and deserted children, from infancy to six years, though sometimes exceptions are made on the age limit. Their goal is not to adopt out these children. They feed, clothe, shelter them. They give them a top notch education. They give them a strong Christian upbringing. If they are suitable for college, they help them achieve that. The are gradually brought back into the African society.
     They are raised as Africans throughout. Hopefully, from the midst of these strong Christian adults, strong leaders will arise to help Africa move forward.
     We were a small training group, the first since their headquarters had been moved to Florida. Small enough to meet at Rosemary and Bob's house. Surrounded by African decor throughout, we gathered around Rosemary, filling the chairs and the floor at her feet. In the lamplight, a glow seemed to eminate from this great woman.
     "I know what you're thinking," she said. "Because I've been there before. I'm not anybody special, I'm not talented, I'm not extremely smart. I just stepped up and said, here I am, Lord. Use me. That is exactly what you are doing."
     We met a lot of very great people there that weekend, most (all)  much younger than ourselves. But then, isn't that always the case? One we met was Emily, and she really stood out. A delightful young woman from Oklahoma, just graduated from college. She became our good friend.
     When we got back home, we had pretty well settled on Kenya. Not only would we know the Arkansas family already there, at least the mother, but also, Kenya seemed to be one of the most stable of the African countries. Our bonus miles would not completely pay for our tickets, but we got the missionary rate when we bought more. We started preparing for Nairobi.

     Closer to time, things began to change in Kenya. The presidential election went bad, the incumbent representing one tribe, the challenger representing another equally strong tribe. The President won, but fraud was widely suspected. Tribal fighting broke out, and many people were dying.  CONTINUED

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha - The End

Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha - The End:      With Tenny’s move to Wing, Tenny’s connections to Dover, and even to Samantha, were mostly broken. But Samantha would just not let ...

Epilogue for Samantha - The End

     With Tenny’s move to Wing, Tenny’s connections to Dover, and even to Samantha, were mostly broken. But Samantha would just not let that connection die. Automobiles were soon becoming the latest mode of travel, and Samantha bought the first model available. She never learned to drive, but she always found a driver to take her to Wing, on a regular basis.
     John Wesley died early, at age sixty. Tenny remained a widow for many years, working hard, and running the Gillum Clan.
      At Tenny’s last birthday party in 1941, a group photo was taken. The entire family was there, right down to the last child. Except me. I would not be born for three more years. Everybody seemed to realize it was Tenny’s last party. These were the people who surrounded me, and loved me, as I grew up. Some thirty strong. Studying that picture now, I note that only four survive today. Enjoy those around you who love you. Life is short.
     As a child, I could look at that picture and name everyone there. Except for one. A very, very old woman in the back row. She has a big smile on her face, and the deepest dimples I have ever seen. All anybody had ever been able to tell me was, she was a friend of Grandma Tenny.                                                  
     All of the Gillums are buried at Rover, Arkansas. Each year, on the first Sunday in May, Decoration Day is held there. All the graves are covered in flowers, and we kids played most of the day in the grave yard. I realize now that we were encouraged to do that so that we would feel comfortable in a cemetery, and bring our own family there for Decoration Day the rest of our lives. I still do.
     When I was seven years old, I was playing around the Gillum graves on Decoration Day. I noticed the oldest woman I had ever seen was sitting by Grandma Tenny’s grave. She was crying. I came by a couple of hours later, and she was still there. Still crying. I walked up beside her. She wiped her eyes, stood up, and looked at me.
     I smiled at her. “Hidy. My name is Pat.”  She returned that smile. Even with the deep, deep wrinkles in her face, I could tell she had the deepest dimples I had ever seen. “Pat, are you Tenny’s grandson?”
     “Yes ma’am.”
      She reached up and removed a necklace from around her neck with her shaking hands. She was shaking so badly I wanted to ask her if I could help her, but that would not have been polite.
     “I have something for you, Pat. Your grandmother gave it to me the day she died. She told me to give it to a grandson.”
     She placed it in my hand. On the small chain was a golden locket. “Put this locket in a safe place when you get home, Pat. When you are twelve years old, open it. Be very careful not to lose anything. Look carefully at the contents.  Close it back tightly, and bury it deep on top of your grandmother’s grave.”
     She smiled at me again. “Now, go back to your playing, little boy. This will be my last chance to visit Tenny, and I’ve got to make the most of it….. Oh, and Pat, will you run down to the front gate and tell the three fine looking men sitting there, that they can come help me to the car at sundown? Their names are Tenn, Hunter, and Colten."
     “Yes ma’am. Be glad to.” I stuck that locket deep into my pocket and ran.
     She carefully sat back down, waved at me one last time, and started crying once more.
     Well, I did just what she said. When I open the locket, five years later, I found two locks of red hair. One of them was the prettiest red hair I had ever seen.

      At the next Decoration Day, I buried the locket deep on top of Grandma Tenny’s grave. But for the life of me, as a boy, I could never figure out what all that meant….. Or who this lady was. I never saw that lady at Decoration Day again.  The End.


I hope you enjoyed Dead Eye Samantha as much as I did, writing it. I first wrote Forever Cry, about Tenny's life. It was inspired by my grandmother's early life, who grew up during The Reconstruction. While it is a historical fiction book, it is a mixture of non-fiction and fiction. Tenny's early life was very colorful, so this book leans more toward being non-fiction. Samantha was a fictional character in that book, but she attracted so much attention that I decided to tell her life story, also, which you have just finished. Some names are changed. If I tell no fiction about a character, I use their real name. If I tell anything about a character that was fiction, or tell of events I suspect actually happen, but cannot be proved, I classify it as fiction.
     Forever Cry was placed on just last night. It will be available in 3-5 days. Or, if you would like a personalized copy, order from me at The price is around $16 dollars, including shipping, either way.  Unlike Samantha, Forever Cry is an adult book. After editing, Dead Eye Samantha will be on this summer.
Thanks again for reading Dead Eye Samantha! I would love to hear your feedback!
     I have one other book that is currently being edited. It will be available this spring. It is a boy-dog love and adventure story, entitled The Truest Friend - The Legend of Tooter. It is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, about my best friend as I grew up in Wing.

I love to hear from my readers, and your comments are appreciated.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha

Forever A Hillbilly: Epilogue for Samantha: Samantha could never rid herself of the feelings that the reward money, and the share of Slim’s money that LaFayette had so adamantly s...