Saturday, March 28, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Lt. Col. Deanna Brown - Never be weak, Never back ...

Forever A Hillbilly: Lt. Col. Deanna Brown - Never be weak, Never back ...:      "It's Unca' Pat!" I often heard these sweet words from my beautiful little niece as she and her slightly older...

Lt. Col. Deanna Brown - Never be weak, Never back down

     "It's Unca' Pat!" I often heard these sweet words from my beautiful little niece as she and her slightly older brother Stan ran to meet me as I arrived at my sister Barbara Lou’s house in the early 1960’s.

     Forty plus years later, I needed to call a relative in the military, who had a command at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. This particular relative was in charge of many of the army’s veterinarians.  The only phone number I had was the business line. I had never used this number before. A rough, gruff (and frankly, somewhat scary) voice greeted me with, “This is Col. Brown. What can I do for you?” Shaken, my first instinct was to jump to my feet, come to attention, and salute. Though, never being military, I really didn’t know how. I finally stammered out, “This is Pat.” The roughness suddenly disappeared, and as she laughed, embarrassed that I had heard her business voice, she was that sweet little girl once more. “Family always calls on my other line."

     I had planned to include Deanna’s story as a chapter in Spreading Wing, my book. She agreed. I reminded her regularly to put some stuff down on paper and send it to me. “I want to do this. Don’t worry, I’ll try to start on it next week.” Next week just never rolled around. I finally realized, Deanna was one of those modest people who just can’t boast about their accomplishments. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for all these things to happen to me.” Yeah, right.

     But finally, a couple of hours on the phone with her, with me asking questions and pushing her on, did the trick.

     As Deanna grew up, she admired many of the men in the family who had served in the military.  But what she really dreamed of was to be a veterinarian. In high school she learned of a program in the Army that would help pay for vet school, so she decided that was for her. But soon before graduating, she found that program was cancelled.  She then heard of the National Guard and decided that might be the best of both worlds.  Right after high school, she entered basic training and signed up for ROTC when she entered Mississippi State.  She knew MSU had a good vet school, and the National Guard gave some tuition help in reaching her goal. During the eight years of college, the cold war was raging. She served as a military intelligence officer in the guard, and loved her “part time” job.

     Active duty in the Army was not her plan. After graduating vet school, she found a position as a vet in Wisconsin, primarily in dairy practice, but remained in the National Guard.  She was pulling three or four newborn calves a day, sometime working eighty hours a week. It’s cold in Wisconsin in the winter. Pulling a calf can be somewhat of a complicated maneuver. It involves chains attached to a “calf jack,” attached to a come along to ratchet up the pressure. She had to keep the calf turned just right, as skinny as possible.

    The first Gulf War came along, and her National Guard unit was notified to deploy.  She was initially upset, but shortly after that notice, on a cold January night, she was called out to pull a calf on a beef heifer. The temperature was minus 43 degrees, and that lean to barn was not very warm. She just knew she would freeze to death.  She ended up having to perform a C-section, but she saved the calf and the cow.  She had just spent the good bit of her night, she was freezing, and the farmer was angry about the bill. She thought, “What the heck am I doing here?’ She decided being an Army vet and deploying might be better.

      She went active duty Army, but instead of going to the Gulf War, she was initially sent to the Gulf Coast, in Biloxi, Mississippi. As an Army vet she primarily worked with the army’s dogs, mules, horses. The military also uses dolphins and sea lions, though she would give me no details about that. I was surprised about the horses and the mules in this day and age, but she assured me mules, especially, played a very important role, later, in such places as the mountains of Afghanistan as a pack animal.  Camels are also used at times. Dogs, of course, are valuable as attack animals and detecting drugs and explosives.

     In 1994, Deanna was assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC to the civil affairs.  This unit is somewhat of a go between with the civil population.  Her battalion consisted of four companies and she was the vet assigned to one of them.  But the unit was short of officers, so she was also assigned to lead a civil affairs team.  To be in civil affairs, Deanna had to learn to jump out of planes and was trained to be a civil affairs officer.  She really enjoyed this.

CONTINUED  This story will have four parts, about one week apart. Thanks for reading!    Next post - Deanna's small team of 8 faces 200 bad guys, guns ready, in Haiti. Deanna, with an interpreter, disperses 300 Haitians who are attempting to tear down her team's brick wall. Her team lives for a month, outside, with no food provided, no bathroom, not even a tent, guarding an airport. Deanna successfully completes a 12 mile forced march with a 50+ pound pack. In all of this, she's the only woman. Much more. And, this entire, four part story is totally true. Don't miss it!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: The Summer of my Broken Heart

Forever A Hillbilly: The Summer of my Broken Heart: Contimued from last post - -      Following her directions, I headed for Watson Saturday night. I had misgivings. It was a well known f...

The Summer of my Broken Heart

Contimued from last post - -

     Following her directions, I headed for Watson Saturday night. I had misgivings. It was a well known fact at A&M, 25 miles away, that a young man just did not venture into Watson, alone, after dark. Watson had 3 or 4 really bad young dudes, they loved to fight, and they were good at it. Stories were told of one average to small looking guy who had mastered the art of getting in three running steps and throwing the first punch in a one – punch fight, usually against much larger guys.
According to the stories that abounded at Arkansas A&M, If any new, young guy dared enter the city limits of Watson in search of one of the numerous beautiful young women that seemed to abound in that town at that time, those three or four locals would look him over good, flip a coin, the winner would go into action, and the stranger would  quickly be seen  heading out of Watson, usually much the worse for wear. Many years later, that average to small guy told me that if you see it’s just gotta happen, don’t waste time blustering around. Just run as fast as you can toward him, get in the first punch. That seemed to work very well for him.
I slunk down in the seat as I drove down Main street. Well, actually, THE street. It was dark, but not nearly dark enough. Watson was like an old western town. In fact, at least one old western movie was made there. I couldn't help but remember all the men I had seen die in the dust of just such a street, in the movies. Well, I made it through town, breathing easier now, and headed for her house, out a winding gravel road three miles out through the cotton fields.
     When I arrived, Barbara invited me in. I thought the whole family must be there, but no. I just barely scratched the surface of the Dunnahoe clan that night. Her little sisters, two squirmy little girls, whispered and laughed to each other about how tall I was, how big my hands were, and would you just look at those feet! Her brother, about my age, an average to small looking guy, was there with his wife and baby. The brother, JD, shook my hand and all, but the look in his eye was anything but friendly. It wasn't until years later, I began to piece it all together from his stories about his "three running steps" technique, that I began to realize how tenuous my situation had been at that moment. The real danger was not on the streets of Watson, but here, in this house, looking at me hard. But his Mama and Daddy were there, and things went well that night.
     We got to date a few times, then student teaching was over and I was off to my new teaching job at St. Paul, Arkansas.
     I went to see Barbara every weekend I could, which meant when I was invited. Once, I called Barbara about coming that weekend. She said she would be alone that weekend, all the rest of the family would be at Little Rock visiting her sister Frances, But go ahead and come. Daddy won’t mind. This shocked me, because my Dad was very strict. My sisters weren’t allowed to date at all in high school, and this girl was 17. But I went. Well, as soon as we got back from the movie, Barbara told me it was time for me to head out. Well, I didn’t have any reservations anywhere, so I drove over on the levee, crawled in the back seat, and me and all those delta mosquitoes had a big party. All night long. Over time, I learned why Barbara had so much freedom at 17. She was an old soul, her parents trusted this girl completely, and she never gave them reason not to.
     At the end of the school year, Barbara was headed off to A&M to start college. I knew Barbara would be making a big splash there that summer, pretty girls like her always do. I decided to go to Oklahoma, work on a pipeline, make a little money. I knew Barbara still had ties to some guy in the Air force, and was not ready to put all her eggs in one basket yet. But we parted on good terms, each having no hold on the other.
     About mid summer, I stuck my gloved hand into a block and tackle on the pipeline job, and the last inch of my thumb just stayed with the glove. I went over and told the foreman, who had caused my accident in the first place, that I had lost a thumb. He cussed me out really good, for messing up his safety record. My Oklahoma adventure was over, and I was headed back to Arkansas. Driving home, I had no idea how losing that thumb was about to affect the remainder of my life.
      I drove down to see Barbara, in summer school at A&M. As I expected, she was making a big splash. Pretty, personable new girls tend to do that. Well, she was dating a football star,  the son of a football coach, who was making his own splash, and she still had ties to the Air Force dude, but she seemed, in talking with me, to be leaving the door open for us just a little bit, and I suddenly decided I had best go back to school the second summer term, pick up some chemistry. I signed up and went back to Wing a few days to collect my stuff. I wrote Barbara. Told her I met her football jock, and he seemed to me to think he was pretty wonderful. Well, she wrote back and turned my words right against me. She told me she had become convinced he was wonderful too, and another thing or two along that same line of thought.
     That hit me, and hit me hard. Here I was, already paid my tuition money, and I was getting the royal shaft.
     After thinking it over a couple of days, a couple of my hardest days ever, I decided to go to school anyway, as hard as that would be. I never liked to just throw away money.
     My old pals tried to cheer me up. Didn't work. My buddy Sam, a one legged guy, offered to fight him for me since I was thumb incapacitated. I was kinda hard to cheer up, seeing her all cozied up with him every day.
     Barbara and I both worked in the cafeteria. One day while we were working, Barbara asked me if I would take her to church that night. I thought awhile, maybe a second, and told her I didn't see why not. I saved my celebrating until I got back to the dorm. Things were looking up! I was in a really good mood, right up until I saw them, right out in front of my dorm, hugging and such. I think he brought her over there to put on a show for me.
     Well, that didn't help my mood much, and I was pretty cool to her at church. When I pulled up in front of her dorm, the jock was waiting. He came storming up. I knew I wasn't in good fighting trim, thumb cut off and all. Actually, I have never been a good fighter, thumb or no thumb. Well, I shouldn't have worried. He did all the fighting, with his words, all aimed right at her, right there in front of me. Barbara very nicely listened to everything he had to say, just ranted himself out, ending up with, “You either leave with me,  right now, or it's over!” She just looked at him, and very nicely said, “It's already over.” "Well, then, I want my picture back," he said. It was a nice, framed 8x10   and, bad as she hated to, I'm sure, she agreed to give it up.
     They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, that night I began inheriting the part of it I most wanted, Barbara. I was a little uneasy, as she very nicely went through the process of cutting off the other hopefuls, one at a time. By the time I had learned a little chemistry, and I was ready to head to St. Paul and my new coaching job, we were engaged. I always made sure, when I saw the jock coming through the lunch line, that I had her hugged up as she spooned food on his plate. He always got mad, red as a beet, but he never said anything.

     We got married on December 26 of that year, and we headed off to New Orleans. Well, I couldn't understand those Cajun's directions, and we never found New Orleans. But somehow, it just didn't seem to matter at the time.

This story has been published in the February edition of AY Magazine, read on Tales from the South, read on NPR and their affiliates world wide to 130 million people, and is number four on my blog of 37,000 readers in 70 countries. People just love to hear of my hard times and heartaches!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Finding Barbara

Forever A Hillbilly: Finding Barbara: For a time, during my freshman year of college, I hitchhiked home to Wing occasionally, four driving hours away from Arkansas A&M. At t...

Finding Barbara

For a time, during my freshman year of college, I hitchhiked home to Wing occasionally, four driving hours away from Arkansas A&M. At that time, that was not as hard as it seems now. With my clean cut looks, an A&M bag in my hands, it seldom took more than five hours, though it might take a dozen rides to get there. That got a little easier when I got acquainted with Earl, who lived at Hollis, only 30 miles from Wing. I often rode with him to Hollis, and hitchhiked on home.
One Friday afternoon when we headed out, he told me he needed to first go over into the deep delta,  pick up a foxhound from a man to take to his dad. We drove over to near Watson, then took a dirt road for what seemed like forever, winding out through the cotton fields. Finally, he stopped at a farmer's house. While he was loading the dog, I got to looking at the neighbor's house, right next door.
Little did I know at the time, the love of my life was in that very house. Just pining away, awaiting the day I would come riding in on my great white stallion, sweep her up, and carry her off to live happily ever after.
     But she was only thirteen, and she was still four years into my future. I wish I could have just walked over to that house that day, went right in, and got a look at that little girl, knowing what the future held. Wouldn't that have been grand?
     After my junior year, I went to summer school. I had figured out if I did that, I could graduate at semester my senior year. Two pretty girls from Watson were making their grand entrance into college that summer, and were making a big splash as pretty girls like them always do. I was kinda’ caught up in the backwash of one of them, Janice, and we hung out together a lot.
     She was showing pictures from her billfold one day, and in the first one I saw her house. I soon figured out that was the house where Earl and I had picked up that foxhound. The next picture was of a beautiful girl, in shorts, and it kinda’ made me catch my breath. “Who is THAT?” I asked. Well, Janice didn't think much of me going on about another girl while I was with her, and she closed her billfold, mumbling, “Oh, just a girl I live next to at home.”
     I had finally seen her. The love of my life. But she was still just a picture of a very hot chick, and she was still six months into my future. But I was quickly closing in on Barbara Sue Dunnahoe, little by little, one fateful step at a time.
     I decided to do my student teaching at Dumas, in the Delta, home of the Ding Dong Daddy. As I was finishing up my student teaching, I drove down to the Delta Dip one night, and I had no idea the love of my life awaited me there, and that my life was about to change forever. And I had forgotten to bring along my great white stallion.
     I was walking back to my car at the Delta Dip, and a guy I knew from A&M called me over. He was standing by a carload of girls, talking into the car. I walked over. In the front seat, driver's side, a pretty girl. Sitting beside her was another pretty girl. Then I looked into the back seat, far side, and there she was. A totally magical moment. Sitting there, before my eyes, was the most beautiful one-eyed girl I had ever seen. I almost dropped my burger. Her hair style covered one eye, but as soon as I saw the covered one, saw it was every bit as beautiful as the first one, I knew. This was the one. The girl I wanted to marry!
     But I had this problem, you see. In high school, I never dated much. Not totally my idea, but it just never happened. Around a girl I really liked, I just could never talk much. I just froze up. In college, I dated a little more, but if I ever found a girl I really liked, my problem returned. I just couldn't talk much, at least not sensibility. I might call her up and say, “Hey, you wouldn't want to go out with me, would you?” Then, if she hesitated, even for a moment, I would throw in the clincher. “That's OK, don't worry about it. I don't blame you. I wouldn't either, if I were you. Bye.”
     But this girl was so friendly, so bubbly and out-going, she would just not allow me to freeze up. She brought out the real me, which had been hidden deep inside me for all these years. Pretty soon, I was invited to sit in the car. Things were looking up.
     Tommy Neely walked up to the car. Tommy was a big jock from A&M. A total chick magnet. I knew Tommy well. I used to rub his legs a lot on a regular basis. Maybe I'd better explain that. He was a star on the track team, I was the manager.
     Tommy started talking to the girls about going to a big wild party he knew about. My heart sank.  I didn't like wild parties, and even if I was invited, I wouldn't dance much, except for the twist sometimes. And I usually got my legs all twisted up doing/trying that. But guess what! This girl said no. She didn't like wild parties. I suddenly fell deeper in love. Before the night was over, I had a date set up with her for Saturday night. Things were really looking up! But this was not going to be easy. It would be a long, uphill battle. My heart would be totally shattered in the process. I had best go find my great white stallion. I would need him, and much more.

The long, hard struggle to capture the heart of the love of my life had begun. Was I up to it?      

Monday, March 9, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa! Conclusion

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa! Conclusion:      Our last week was a busy one. We went to visit a Satellite Village, which was just finished, and ready to be turned over to the Afr...

Africa! Conclusion

     Our last week was a busy one. We went to visit a Satellite Village, which was just finished, and ready to be turned over to the Africans to run. The babies were due shortly. There still seemed to be some reservations about whether they could hack it or not, but high hopes. We shook hands until we were tired.
     We helped  the children make cards to mail to their sponsors. Sponsors normally contribute about $25 each month to the child's welfare. We later decided to sponsor two children, and we get these cards and letters from them regularly. We picked a boy and a girl who had impressed us with much potential, but had few sponsors.
     Barbara was helping a little boy color a picture in an American coloring book we had brought. It was a picture of a mailbox, and Barbara told him to color the flag red. While he was coloring it, he stopped, looked at Barbara, and asked, "what IS this?" There are no mailboxes in Africa.

     We visited a Masai Market in Nairobi one day. There were many, many Masai there, all decked out in bright clothes, and lots to sell. But there were no tourists. Barbara and I, and one or two more, were about it. While we looked at one seller's wares, others would gather round, trying to get our attention and steal us away. I finally said, "Look, unless you allow us to look at everyone's stuff, we won't buy from anybody." They eased up a little, and we did find some really special things. Barbara bought a necklace from a man for $12. He held it in her hand, held her eye for a moment, and said, "You have no idea what selling this to you means to us." The violence had dried up their income.

     A few really old, old women were allowed to come in and pick up a very large bundle of twigs, to sell for fire building. We let them look at themselves in a mirror, and they went wild laughing. They seemed to look for twigs an awful lot around the garden, and I suspect there was a cucumber, or a squash maybe, somewhere in the middle of that bundle when they left.

     We met each morning, right after breakfast, with the native workers and a few others , for bible study, led by Yeen Lan. Listening to those Africans sing all the old hymn in Swahili was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. That gave us a good startoff to the day. Yeen Lan, in our opinion, seemed to be pushing the Africans very hard toward Christianity, and since she litterally held their lives in her hand, with these jobs, we wondered how many of them were as sincere about what they said as they sounded.  But what they said, they said very well. Most Africans speak Swahili, the universal African language,  their tribal language, and a British sounding English.

     The last Sunday, Barbara and I didn't go to church. Barbara wanted to get a photo of the Rafiki gate. All the Rafikis have the same, beautifully designed, steel gate. We got a guard to let us out, and we walked out to the edge of the road. It was a very wide road, with several lanes of reckless traffic, all trying to zag here and there to avoid the many potholes. A man with a child on his shoulders, dressed in his Sunday best, a bible in his hand, worked his way across all that traffic to get to us. He said, "I just want to thank you for coming so far to do what you are doing here. God bless you." It was the first time we had been outside that compound without a car and driver.

     Africa has few opportunities for employment. We had met many Africans who had a college degree, very bright young people, working as a maid. Or a waiter. Or looking for a job.
     Whites are expected to hire many Africans, and are looked down upon if they do not. Thus, everyone had a driver. One young man asked us that last week, "Do you know anyone in America who wants a driver?" 
He really didn't understand when we told him, we just don't know many Americans who employ a driver.
     A maid, or a cook, may be keeping many Africans alive with the wages they make. There was a good reason that we had a maid, a person who washes and irons our clothes, and a driver. Rafiki employs 50 nationals, and I am sure, if we knew how many ate each day because of that, the number would be staggering.

     Possibly the only thing we ever said to Yeen Lan that could be considered negative, was said at our departure interview. Barbara mentioned to her that she seemed to be pushing too hard in trying to convert the workers. Yeen Lan started  her reply with, "Well, I'm sorry if I frightened you -"
      Barbara just had to interrupt her there, and tell her, "No, you did not frighten me." Nobody frightens Barbara, and she just wanted that clear on the front end.
     Yeen Lan continued, "This is the only chance those people will have at Christianity. I have to make the most of it."

     I want to give to you the contents of Barbara's last e-mail to America before we left, in her words.
     "Let me close by telling you once again how precious these kids are. I have always had a theory that prejudice is taught. They have confirmed that. They could not love us more! They enjoy every tiny thing about us, and don't miss anything. I was sitting by one little girl one day in the dining hall, when Pat walked in. She looked at him across the room and so casually said, "Uncle Pat has  new glasses!" He had changed his glasses, and the difference was minor.
     We had our meeting with the director about our stay here, and she wanted to know all the good and the bad and ways they could improve. I told her that one thing we have seen first hand, that could never be faked, is how happy these children are. The light is back in their eyes that was not there when they came in. She loved that!
     Our flight leaves at 11:30 PM on Monday night so in typical Nairobi fashion, we will leave here at 6:00 PM to get there on time in case the traffic is snarled. We are dying to see our family and friends! Our love to all of you, Barbara."

     We came to Nairobi just after the President agreed to sign a power sharing agreement with the opposition. While we were preparing to leave, the opposition seemed to be beginning to think he didn't really mean it. Perhaps we chose a wise time to come, and perhaps we are choosing an even wiser time to go home. Africa has a way of getting into one's heart, making one always want to return. Most likely, we will never see our wonderful kids again. Then again, maybe we will. Either way, they will be in our hearts forever.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa! Tanzania Adventure

Forever A Hillbilly: Africa! Tanzania Adventure:      During the violence, Yeen Lan had 100 mouths to feed, and they were running out of food.  In addition to the children, the national ...

Africa! Tanzania Adventure

     During the violence, Yeen Lan had 100 mouths to feed, and they were running out of food.  In addition to the children, the national workers who were of the wrong tribe stayed there also. Leaving would have meant death.
     Yeen Lan worried about the situation, one morning at her desk. Looking out the window, the Mango tree nearby was loaded with ripe fruit, a couple of month's early. She sensed God was saying to her, "Oh you crazy woman of little faith! I will provide." That spurred her to action. She called the UN across town. Yes, they had food. No, they could not bring it. The town was torn by violence. Sending the national workers for it would have meant sure death. So far, they were not yet killing whites. Doug and another White missionary Built a hidden compartment in a station wagon. They had to cross town multiple times, passing through roadblocks for both sides, to get the food back to Rafiki. The food, in the hidden compartment, was not found.

     Doug told me that during the violence, once a group of hundreds of warriors walked past the gate, all making their war sounds. Not a fun time.
     A great fear during that time was that a large group of tribesmen would come in and try to kill all the children that belonged to the other tribe. The child's name often gave away the tribe name. Remember Kip Keno, the great Kenyan distance runner? Many children from his tribe were in our village. They all carried the name "Kip."

     That weekend, Yeen Lan had arranged a trip for us to the Tanzania Rafiki, which lies at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. This was a six hour trip by fast bus, which had only about three stops. The slow bus, which most of the natives rode, took two days, stopping at every village. At 6:30 AM we loaded on the bus. Emily went with us.
     Rafiki Tanzania had been completed for only a short time, and only had high school age walk-ins currently. They were preparing for the babies. The first group would all be babies, and the next year, as they grew, another group of babies would enter.
     The bus pulled up at the border, stopping on the Kenya side. It was a hectic, confusing place. People of every nationality, color, and tongue crowded into those small offices. We stood in very long lines to show our visa. Mostly, they just let everybody figure it out themselves. Barbara and I got help from a very tall, blonde German woman, who spoke very good  English. Somehow, in the lines Emily got separated from us. We finished first, and headed back to the bus. The driver said he had to drive the bus to the other side, and the remaining passengers would walk across. Emily finished, walked back to the bus, and It was gone. She was in panic, momentarily, then thought, "Barbara and Pat would never let that bus leave me in this awful place." She was right. She finally located the bus.

     We arrived at Moshe, and were picked up by the village director, Deb, a very nice lady from Texas. Rafiki, a few miles out, was shiny new, Surrounded by a tall wire fence. It was not as secure as our rock wall, but each house was a fortress in its own right. They were brick, with heavy metal grates over all the windows and doors. A beautiful mansion stood on a hill nearby. I asked who lived there.  "Oh, thats the African Mafia," Deb said.

     The majesty of Kilimanjaro did not appear until later in the day. When the top did begin to show, we had to raise our eyes up higher to see it than we would have ever thought. Far above the cloud layer. Words can't describe it, so I won't even try. Kilimanjaro is 19,000 feet high, the tallest free standing mountain in the world. It is snow capped, standing on the Equator. Deb had hiked it years before, a four day climb, the last day being through hellish arctic conditions. A guide service was a requirement, and it was very expensive. We were far too old, and way too poor, and not enough time.

     Deb took us to Moshe, to show us around. The stores were very inexpensive, selling unbelievable things, but carrying them home is another matter. For lunch, we ate Somosas, a triangular shaped meat pie. Very good.
     Native women, hair cut to the scalp, huge earrings hanging far down, in brightly colored wraps walked the streets. They carried large round platters filled with a very large load of bananas. Barbara longed to photograph them, but felt that would be impolite. Kilimanjaro produces a moist micro climate in Moshe, in this dry, arid bushland that is East Africa.
     An old house beside the village housed 15 teenagers who go to school there. They make fantastic crafts to pay the rent. Barbara bought note cards, made from Banana leaves. We can look at them, but never figure out how they did that.

     We went to church on Sunday with Deb. It was different, but we have the same God. A man and three women walked around, singing different parts of Christ's resurrection. It was very powerful.
     We all drank from the large silver cup for communion. That part of the service was identical to that of St. Andrews church in Little Rock. The Little Rock church is a plant of the African church.
     The Tall blonde German woman who befriended us at the border was there, and she turned out to be a friend of Deb's. She was a missionary, and spoke 8-10 languages.

      Driving out of town, we saw a hospital that was named after Rosemary Jensen's husband, Dr. Bob. Rosemary Jensen is an angel-like lady who founded Rafiki. In a group photo, she once honored me by sitting in my lap.
     Yeen Lan called us the last day. We were able to tell her we had seen the top of Kilimanjaro every day, a rare event  She told us she had prayed for us to see the mountain in all its glory. She said some people stay there for weeks without ever seeing the top. Don't doubt that Yeen Lan has those connections. I personally believe Yeen Lan is an African legend in the making. If we live long enough, many people will be enthralled to find we actually know her.

     We got bad news just before heading back to Kenya. Deb told us our visa was a one way thing, and we would have to buy another to cross the border back into Kenya, at $100 each. No way around it, that's just how it's done. We didn't have that much on us, and only cash could be used.
     Deb insisted on cashing a personal check of ours before we left. Barb seemed confident we would never need that money, I wasn't so sure, and I took Deb up on her offer. But, as I well knew, its very easy to underestimate Barbara's abilities, when it comes to public relations.

     On the bus headed out, we saw many small, circular compounds in the bush. Mud and cow manure huts were surrounded by a high fence of thorns. Most were unoccupied. The Masai, with their herds of cattle, mules and goats, just went wherever the grazing was in this dry, arid land. The donkeys were used to haul containers of muddy water from sources that might be many miles away.
     Drinking water was a real problem there. The Masai often had to drink from the same source the cattle had been in, a very bad thing in Africa. Many people die because of the water. Modern water wells and filtering systems could save many lives there.
     Young boys herded the goats. "Isn't that dangerous?" I had asked. "Yes, we do lose boys often." Those who survive and become a man are a very formidable force, with only a spear, in protecting their herds.

     Traditionally, a young Masai man has to draw first blood in the killing of a lion to become a man. One young warrior showed me how this was done.
     When a lion stalks their animals, four or five warriors track it down. They surround it, each with a spear and a cowhide shield. The young warrior seeking to become a man confronts it. When the lion charges, he braces the back of the spear with his foot, points the spear at the charging lion. If things go well, the lion will be impaled, and the warrior crouches behind the cowhide shield. Other warriors then move in and help. This is technically not legal now, but many older men show many scars from the day they became a man.

      Masai often open up a vein in a cow's neck, drink the blood, and close it back up.
     When dry times hit, and the grazing dries up, They move the cattle into downtown Moshe, in the moist micro climate. They have been doing this for eons, long before Moshe, and besides, who is going to stand up and tell these warriors no? Since they strongly believe that all the cattle, and the grazing in the world belong to them, they go where they wish.
    Before we reached the border, a large truck had wrecked, totally blocking the road. A large crowd of very scary people had gathered. The bus driver just hit the ditch, spun, backed up, over and over again, before getting around this. It looked like an impossible thing to do, but even I knew this would not be a good place to stop. When we hit the pavement, I yelled, "Let's hear it for THE MAN!" He got a big hand.

     An older man and woman were on that bus. They looked like they had been out in the bush for a very long time. I sat down beside them, and started a conversation. I just had to know their story.
     They were missionaries from Oregon. They came to Moshe regularly, and stay a few months at a time. They daily travel in a 4 wheel to remote Masai village, and minister to them. Their last trip to Africa, they went to a village where the children of the chief were sick. The witch doctor was not able to help them.
     The chief called on the missionaries to heal them. They doctored them, to the best of their ability, and prayed for them. When they returned to that village on this trip, the children were well. The chief gave them, and God, all the credit. Along with that, he gave them a large plot of land. They were returning to America to start raising funds to build a hospital and a church on that land.
     He said they had gotten malaria a few times, but they take a shot and go on. Their African guide and interpreter is also their African connection, and travels with them.

     We have all heard stories of brave and dedicated  African missionaries. The African bush is full of many more we have not heard of. Many self sacrificing men and women, from many countries, are fulfilling the Great Commission. These people, the seven missionaries at Rafiki, and Deb, are just a few. They are bypassing the comforts of home, family, and security, and giving their lives to this work. It is an honor for a pretend missionary, such as myself, to be able to know and work alongside these people, if only for a short time.

      When we got to the border, things were just as conjested as before. Barbara picked the visa line she wanted, because it was manned by a guy who seemed relatively friendly,  and occasionally smiled. When we got up to his desk, Barbara poured it on. Smiling, laughing, telling all about us being missionaries, and on and on. She passed the visa over to him. He was totally won over, and stamped our old visa, not valid now, and smiling, said, "You have a great day." We thanked him, and got gone quickly. Barbara just has a gift for having her way with any man. But fortunately, she only uses it when I am at her side. At least, I think so - - -mmmmm - -? (Just kidding, really.)