Chapter 63

The Turning Point

 

About the end of April 1929 afforestation was more or less completed, so a massive clearance operation was started for tree nursery beds and tree planting in 1930.

Pay day came round and a large queue formed. My clerks had everything ready, so payment did not take too long. I was quick to notice three of my clever key men, trained students, were standing outside. Knowing African customs I called them into my office and asked them. 'Please let me help you.

As their eyes turned from me to the floor I knew what was in their minds and so I said kindly, 'So you want to leave your work?' They shuffled uncomfortably and so I encouraged them to speak with, 'Please don't be afraid to speak.'

They told me what was in their minds and my suspicion was right that they wanted to resign, though they had a contract for another year.

A plantation run by Europeans had offered my men houses for their families, cereals for food at half price and six times the pay they had from the mission. The mission just could not afford the wages. Planters were always willing to pay. I appreciated the point of view of the Africans. They had worked hard for me, they were progressive. I gave them first class testimonials.

They said goodbye with tears in their eyes and we parted good friends. The resignations put me in a fix - three key men in important developments many miles apart and I just could not fill the vacancies.

For two days I was in conference with twenty of my progressive men. We came to a solution: six agreed to fill the vacancies, two in each place, one man to supervise agricultural products, the other to concentrate on afforestation. An elderly and capable chief who had worked with me for four years promised to act as supervisor, on condition I toured the distant areas with him and point out all my plans. This I was willing to do.

To do so involved a lot of travelling, motor cycling, walking, being carried through swamps and camping out three nights. Men had to travel during the night to meet me at appointed places. I got every assistance from villagers in man-handling my cycle through dense bush land and in adverse weather conditions. I completed my task, satisfied that no interruption in planning would take place. In fact, certain areas were strengthened and greater cooperation between chiefs and supervisors was made possible.

On returning, I reported to Principal Rev D.R. Mackenzie, on my exacting and satisfying tour. He was very pleased everything had worked out so well. Then his words were stern.

'Caseby, you look exhausted. Go home, have a hot bath and good meal and get into bed.'

Four days' rough travelling, three nights in a tent, soaked to the skin by rain and sweat, too tired to sleep. Yes, it was good to go home to my wife and dear children and to have a bath, clean clothes, a light meal and a soft clean bed.

The Principal said I was exhausted; my wife told me I was exhausted. At three o'clock next morning I knew I was exhausted - my body ached, my ears buzzed. I realized I was in the throes of another malaria attack and a severe one at that.

The doctor was at my side before dawn. I was sponged down, reclothed in clean pyjamas, given some tablets and an injection. Next thing I remember was a sweet little voice chirruping at my bedside, 'Daddy, you sleepy head, wake up!' It was Zinda. She had slipped into my room and to my amazement it was four p.m. I had slept nearly ten hours.

I was still exhausted. Every bone seemed to ache, my ears buzzed and I was sweating; all typical symptoms of malaria. Again I was sponged down, given clean pyjamas, a light gruel meal and a double helping of quinine.

The doctor arrived at tea time and took another blood sample. He told me I had a serious attack of malaria. On no account was Ito worry or try to get up out of bed. My wife, with her usual courage, supervised office work and kept all my work going. Missionary colleagues were helpful. My recovery was slow because I had seven recurrent and severe attacks in a fortnight.

One compensation was that I had more time with my children. They were always so prettily dressed. My wife made all their clothes. She had a sewing machine and soon cut out patterns and sewed them up. At the end of May I was allowed up and had walks up to my office to attend to administrative duties. It was good to note that all incoming reports told of steady progress - a magnificent credit to the Africans now in charge.

My medical reports were not too favourable. I had lost a lot of weight, nearly 20 lbs, but once I was on my feet and taking in solid food I began to put on pounds.

Dr John Todd, the mission doctor at Livingstonia who previously attended to my wife at the birth of the twins, had consulted two medical colleagues and it was agreed I should have leave of absence away from the station and rest completely for at least one month.

Dr William Turner was in charge of Loudon Mission, some 125 miles distant. He invited me to come over and lecture to his headmasters and others on agriculture and our other attempts at self-sufficiency. I was delighted to accept. He was also a specialist in tropical medicine. He promised to get me back to health and strength at his lovely mission. Our very good friends, Mr and Mrs A. J. MacKenzie were at Livingstonia on holiday when I was ill. When they heard I was to go to Loudon Mission they at once invited my wife and our young children to their lovely estate. Our arrangements were made accordingly. My motor cycle was overhauled, carriers with petrol were dispatched to places on my route to Loudon Mission. My first night would be spent with Rev C. and Mrs Stuart at the Ekwendeni Mission. The second stop for two hours would be with the magistrate at Mzimoi, for lunch, then on to the mission. I was vexed to see my wife and children go one way by bush car and carry cots to the lake shore while I headed in the opposite direction.

Before leaving, everyone connected with my department in a senior capacity, met me at my Homestead office and pledged full support to carry out my planned schedules. All my missionary colleagues also met me and promised to help my many schemes as arranged.

So I left Livingstonia on my motor cycle for Loudon Mission, knowing full well that my wife and children were in excellent hands and that my department would not flounder in my absence.

 

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