Chapter 42

Looking Ahead, the Citreon Expedition

 

In one of my experimental areas, on the lake shore, a plot of a new strain of maize disappeared. Half an acre, about ready for harvesting. It was eaten by an elephant. The following day a planter caught the jumbo in a pit. It was shot, dragged out of the pit and cut up. The stomach revealed nearly 1,000 pounds of maize! My supervisor asked for a gun. I did not believe in guns. I told him maggots, caterpillars, locusts and weevils destroy more crops than all the animals put together. No one mentioned guns again.

In 1924 the Livingstonia Mission Council met when missionaries from all outward stations held a conference. It was a happy time for everyone concerned. My wife and I arranged all transport from the lake and we had two guests for a week. One of the leading discussions centred around Dr Laws and the Jubilee of the Mission and his own in October 1925. My commission was to arrange an exhibition of African arts and crafts, agricultural products and build access roads to all my small holdings, afforestation areas and market gardens. An extra piece of work was to cut and trim a hundred trees as supports for a new conference hall, six hundred stout bamboo poles as rafters and thatching for the whole building. As sixty European guests were expected from many Missionary Societies in Africa, I would be responsible for all transport of all visitors from two special steamers and their return after the conference was over.

After the 1924 Mission Council, I gave each colleague from distant stations 1,000 mixed fir trees and a selection of twelve fruit and shrub bushes. In 1924, from my nursery beds, I gave to missionaries, European planters and Africans, 350,000 two-year-old trees - most were coniferous - and in the seedbeds one million baby trees were growing. I wanted the Jubilee year (1925) to be a record planting season in Central Africa. At a place called Karamteta, 15 miles inland from Livingstonia, I had a squad working under efficient students. Some 250 acres of bush were cut down and burned, trees uprooted; the only implements used were the African jemmy and a long-handled hoe. I had a new two roomed wattle and daub thatched rest house built on the site and planted 100,000 trees to act as water inducers, over a dry stream bed. Most of the land would be for tea and coffee plantation, pineapple sections and an orchard with twelve varieties of fruit. My wife and I paid a visit to the leper colony, increased to sixteen patients. A friend in Scotland, reading my story of the courage of Lot Harawa, sent me 10, sufficient to feed the sixteen patients for one year. We both had a soft spot for lepers.

We returned from our short working holiday refreshed. On my office desk was a letter from Dr Laws marked 'urgent'. It was written that day at eleven a.m.: I was reading it at eleven thirty a.m. It was to say a French expedition travelling from Lake Chad to Mozambique would pass through Livingstonia Mission area in ten days time. I was requested to make sure that the seventy-five mile stretch of mission roads with bridges and culverts was strong enough to take caterpillar cars, each about half a ton. The specially designed cars were from the French Citreon works.

That afternoon, two hours after arriving home, I had swift-footed messengers sent out requesting supervisors in six districts to report for urgent work with ten men each at various points between Livingstonia and Deep Bay. I also explained that each man was to be in possession of a good hoe and an axe.

Early the following day I set out on my motorcycle to examine bridges and culverts and to give first-hand instructions and to meet the workers. I found all men busy and eager to do a good job. So far only ox wagons, motorcycles and two 'Ford' cars had passed along the bush road.

First, all overhanging branches were cut down and all bridges and culverts had to be remade, all narrow roads had to be widened and all bends enlarged. Four twenty-feet river spans were handed over to the carpentry department. One hundred people worked from dawn to darkness. It was an enormous undertaking. Praise must be given to the Africans, uncomplainingly they toiled to satisfy me.

On the seventh day from receiving orders, I was in Dr Laws' office reporting all work completed on the seventy-five miles. As I was talking to Dr Laws, a phone message came from the leader of the expedition at the lake shore, to say he had made rapid progress and would arrive that evening. The leader, M. Haardt, requested accommodation for his team of seven. The accommodation was soon found, so I was about to set out to meet the motorcade when my chief clerk told me the 'funny' crawling cars without wheels were two miles away. To quote the leader, 'the lake and mountain road was so good, we moved fast!' The Frenchmen were pleasant men - three drivers, an artist, two mechanics and the leader. One driver was a journalist and his log book was crammed full of notes. We had two men as our guests.

The team stayed three days, repairing machines, sightseeing and selecting ebony and ivory work from the carpentry department. On the second afternoon, Dr Laws held a reception in the Stone House, the ladies on the station providing the meal. Our guests were reluctant to leave, we were sorry to see them depart. They had no difficulty in travelling over the remaining thirty-five miles over roads, bridges, corners and culverts. A very large bridge was made over a swift flowing river by our mission engineer.

Later, Dr Laws had a letter from M. Haardt, saying the seventy-five miles of mission road was the finest in their travels through Central Africa and the cost for all work the cheapest, working out at SIX SHILLINGS per mile, including one cwt of salt as a gift to the African workers. Mission time was not added to the cost and material used was free. I was very happy with the crash programme, for it solved one of my anxieties, the reinforcement of the whole road system, especially with the mission jubilee less than one year ahead. To this end I appointed three men to patrol the whole road - seventy-five miles - each man had twenty-five miles to clear culverts, lop branches and to report to me at once any major fault. It proved a successful experiment; the road was kept open all the year round, something quite new. The same operation applied to plantations and nurseries; trusty men were established in each place to encourage irrigation in dry weather; to clear fire breaks and in the wet season, to prevent flooding and soil erosion.

One afternoon Dr Laws came into my office, note book in his hand. Casually he remarked, 'Mr Caseby, how many separate jobs are there in your Department?'

I took out my ledger and the Doctor wrote down, 'Agriculture Department' - '10 team-trained oxen; 200 cattle, 100 sheep; 8 goats; 12 pits; 10 students; 180 workers at the moment; 100 arable acres of cotton, maize, wheat, cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes and ground nuts; 2 to 6 animals slaughtered each week for Europeans and boarding school; 600 small-holdings.' 'Forestry Department' - 'one million seedling trees, in nurseries; areas of tea, coffee, cocoa and palms; 12 plantations; 40 workers; 1,000 tons of wood fuel for Europeans, steamers and boarding school.' 'Horticulture' - '16 gardeners; 6 orchards; 8 kinds of fruit; 4 market gardens.' 'Sundries' -'Working flour mill; building grain bins; buying foodstuffs; delivering food, meal, vegetables, fruit to Europeans; 76 miles of road; 200 bridges and culverts; supplying carriers for missionaries travelling; carriers for steamer; oversight of cemetery; 10 lectures to students weekly; arranging work for two squads of blind people making string, rope, baskets and mats; also motor cycling 200 miles each week, supervising work and every day preaching to some group for 10 minutes.'

Dr Laws closed his book. 'A lot of useful work.' A slight pause, 'I need twenty men with food at four o'clock tomorrow morning. I'll be away ten days.' After another long pause, 'I need 500,000 bricks urgently - within a fortnight - get started on this order - tomorrow.

The bricks were made by one hundred workers in a fortnight.

 

 

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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.