October 3 – At one mission station, there was a famine and the missionaries had to find food for the students, so they sent out to the nearby villages and bought bags of dried locusts. The missionary men also went out hunting for African Cape buffalo to feed the students, and brought back several. These buffalo are very dangerous and have big horns that are very thick and hard to shoot through. The missionary men would line up beside each other and fire shots at a buffalo until it fell dead while charging them.
I remember swarms of locusts flying over the mission, millions of them, eating everything they could find as they went, and they were so thick in places that they darkened the sun. Flying behind the swarms would be flocks of big storks, gobbling down the locusts as they flew. Down on the ground, the Africans would be out with branches and sticks, waving them at the locusts to make them fly on and leave their crops alone.Other insects I remember were the termites, that build big mud castles, some big enough for a road to go through and many feet tall. Termites eat dead wood and dry grass, so you didn’t find a lot of dead wood lying around, and in winter there were no lawns as the termites ate the dry grass. Any houses made of wood would be eaten by the termites too, so the Africans had to build new houses quite often and those who could afford it put metal strips over the ground to keep them from crawling up into the woodwork and eating it.
In the summer, the male and female termites had wings and would come out of the ground by the millions and fly around looking for places to build new nests. Everything wanted to eat them – frogs, birds, lizards, other insects – and their wings would lie around just about everywhere in great piles, even in the houses where the ladies had to sweep them out. At night they would fly to the windows, attracted by the lights inside, and would flutter on the screens in swarms and if there were no screens, then they would come right in and fly around the lights and fall into the food at suppertime. Many other bugs would fly in too, so if you didn’t have screens, then you ate before dark and went to bed early.
There are interesting ants in Africa. We had army ants that would go in great swarms, marching along and eating anything in their way, so people would leave their homes if a swarm came along and wait until they had left. The homes would be all nice and free of bugs for a while. We had a kind of marching ant that would go in smaller swarms, marching swiftly along on their way to a termite nest where they would go in and each grab a mouthful of termites and all go home together with food for the baby ants. If you wiggled a branch amidst one of these swarms, the ants would rush angrily around, squeaking loudly.There was another kind of ant, big black fierce ones, that went around alone looking for food, and if you happened to bump one, it would dash about angrily, looking for someone to bite and sting. They smelled bad and stung even worse, so we kids kept an eye out for them. I had a pet monkey that would sit on my lap and her tail would hang down to the ground. I would look for one of these black ants and hit it with the monkey’s tail and make the ant angry. It would dash around until it found the tail and would bite and sting it. The monkey would leap up and grab its tail and scratch and rub it, and look angrily at me, thinking I had done it, and I would have to be very sympathetic or I would get bitten by the monkey. For one year I taught seventh grade on Lower Gwelo Mission mission, because they couldn’t find a regular teacher, but otherwise I worked in the town of Gwelo about 20 miles away. Then a young lady teacher came out from Erie, Pennsylvania, to teach, and we got acquainted. She was known then as Miss Christoph, the lady who is today Mrs. Fairchild here. I had a German Shepherd dog that I couldn’t keep, so I gave it to her and then I would have to come out to the mission station from town to see the dog, and then I came out to see Miss Christoph, and eventually we got married in 1955, and came back to America in 1956.
While still in Africa, I had a motorcycle and used to drive out to the mission to see Miss Christoph, and sometimes we would go riding out into the countryside to see the sights. We would take the dog along sometimes, riding between Miss Christoph and me (or on the gas tank), and one day we passed a herd of cattle. My dog leaped off to chase them, not realizing that we were moving along, and so fell flat on the ground with a big Oomph!On another day we went out riding and had a number of accidents. First, I lost my motorcycle goggles somehow, then we came up behind a donkey on the path, bumped its hind leg, and it kicked the motor cycle. Then we stopped at a farm and when we were leaving, their dog came up behind me and bit my leg. And finally as we were riding along, we passed a big secretary bird, a tall bird that likes to eat snakes and mice and bugs and things like that, and scared it. It flew up and went overhead, and you know what scared birds sometimes do? Well, I had grey hair as a result (for a while), and the lady behind me laughed quite hard. When you pass a secretary bird when you are in Africa, be careful! – DALE