SHOWER

Mustahil (An Arabic word meaning rationally impossible)

We moved from the desert to the village of Mustahil and on the way we were met by a truckload of Ethi soldiers. On board, riding shotgun was Colonel Kabede. He was the commanding officer of an Ethiopian Army post in Mustahil. He came to invite us to camp on the mesa by the fort for our safety. We were near the Somali border and Somalia was hostile to all Ethiopians and farengies too. In turn there was not an ounce of love lost by the Ethiopian government for the Somalis. If a Somali person was caught in Ethiopia he stood to lose his life, he better have the right papers on him if stopped by authorities.  

We took the Colonel’s advice and went through the village of Mustahil and drove to the top of the mesa near the fort.

The plus side was that we did not have to mow the lawn. 

We had a G P tent for shelter and Ethiopian solders for guards. A Jamesway for a dinning room containing a refrigerator and water cooler was nearby. The cook had two native helpers; one I remember was named Mohammad he would always joke with me. When I would say something crazy he would say you have had too much sin (sun). 

DA DANIEL BA BOON (Warning this is a sad story and would bring a tear to a glass eye)

A young kid stood beside the highway leading to Mustahil with a baby baboon on a grass string leash. I bargained with the kid to purchase the baboon for fifty cents American. I knew rat a way I would name him Da Daniel Ba Boon (such a clever play on words). I also envisioned how wonderful this little monkey would be as a camp pet. We could teach him how to eat out of a bowl, drink from a cup, do tricks, ride around with us and wave at the village people or something? Maybe get him a Yankee’s ball cap would be neat? His first lesson in table manners began as soon as he was introduced to the crew.  I gave him cereal in a bowl and the rascal picked up the bowl and tossed the contents on the ground, hopped down and ate the cereal off of the ground. To make a long story short we could not teach him anything!  I had wasted 50 cents! He was entertaining though in many ways. When he would get into someone’s personal stuff and receive a slap on the behind he would cry like a child and run to Wells for comfort. He would look back to the person who spanked him and scream at them. One of the natives did not like Da Daniel. One day he slapped Da Daniel’s face and of course this did not go over well with Da Daniel. Da Daniel returned the rudeness with a bite to the finger of the assailant. It was a superficial wound at best but the native made it a big deal. Cap had Da Daniel tied up to a post outside the personnel tent and ordered no one to attend to him. The possibility that he might have rabies could not be ruled out until he was tested.  The first night tided to the post was horrifying for Da Daniel; there came a terrible electrical storm. Lighting flashed all around the camp and the thunder boomed every few seconds; Da Daniel went out of his mind crying and screaming all night long.  A witness to the altercation between the monkey and the native tried to tell Cap the monkey just retaliated because he was first accosted and it was merely that, he was not rabid. Cap did not want to take a chance so the sentence stood. Several of us never liked the native worker after his lie about Da Daniel. Da Daniel was decapitated and his brain tested but no rabies found. 

​We surveyed about 11 kilometers that day and came back to camp then went to the village only a few hundred yards away. One of the huts was the village store so we checked it out. The natives were not forthcoming at first. A young boy say 4 years or maybe 5 approached me and wiped my arm with his hand. He repeated this once more, turning his little hand over each time to see if any of the white had rubbed off me. I grinned and a policeman nearby smiled but remained silent but a few of the villagers gave a nervous, muffled laugh. From thereon the children in the village accepted me and became my friends. I would reward them with some little treat and they would tag along with me when I walked though the village. 

When we returned to our campsite the second day the village people especially the women and young girls came to see how we lived. One of the girls was about 15 years old became a frequent visitor. She asks if she could have all of our empty cans. Everyone agreed that she could have the cans and she collected all that she could carry in her hands and arms. Then she told us that all of the tops had to be completely cut away or she could not use them. A couple of the guys cut the tops out of the cans with a p38 military can opener and she was happily on her way back to the village with her booty.

This same girl came back a couple of days latter and demanded her cans. I thought she was a bit audacious assuming a monopoly on the cans and at first it ticked me off a little. We managed to scourge up a can or two, which made her feel better. From then on we made an effort to save her some empty cans. 

We never knew her name but we ask her if she had gone to school? No.

Do you know how old you are? No

Do you know what year it is? No. Do you use so many moons to track time? No.

Have you always lived here? No she had lived in another village for a while before coming here. She wore only a long skirt and sandals. Wearing a black headscarf signified a woman or girl was married. She wore no black headscarf. Her hair had small brads with various colored buttons arranged horizontally along her hairline.

Ethiopia:

Today there is a national park in Ethiopia by the name of The Yangudi-Rassa Park. Access to the park is from the town of Gewani, where the park administration is based. 

When I was there in 1967-1968, the town of Gewani was far from the beaten path and was accessible only by a track road near Awash Station. At the time the area was known as Haile Selassie Game Reserve.  Not many great white hunters came there then. This area was filled with Thompson Gazelles, known as “Tommy’s” a great many Oryx, some Somali Wild Asses, Grevy’s Zebra, Hamadryads Baboon, the hyena, and a few lions other animals. Snakes were the Black Mambas and King Cobras and some that were just big. I never saw a lion but could hear them at night sometimes.

I was with the Ethiopia-United States Mapping Mission and party chief of Detroit Party. It was our mission to follow this track road and redo what was called the Mark Hurd Line, a survey firm that had made a survey earlier. 

Their RM and BM’s sometimes consisted of a stub of a cut off bush. Needless to say, their work was pretty much garbage. We picked up our first benchmark south of the town and began to survey towards the village of Gewani. We retraced their work (we being Whitmel Hill Webb, of North Carolina, Arlie Cornbower of Pennsylvania, James Allen of Texas) by performing second order survey and turning angles or triangulation. The Ethiopian workers after Mesfin left are shown here.

Natives gather around Taye in the blue shirt Jim Allen w/o shirt Abe sitting on rock and Whit with foot on rock.

For reasons unknown to outsiders, the natives in many villages would allow the flies to drink from the corners of their eyes. This spread the eye disease. I ask an elder in a village once why he tolerated the flies drinking from his eyes. His reply was “Do I have the tail of a cow?” Sounded like a good answer to me!

I don’t know what it was about the clinic, but the natives of the bush were reluctant to use it for some reason. I know the clinic was free for I used them once when I got a cold. They seemed eager to help me and gave me codeine and aspirin and instructed me to take this combination for 5 days. I was over the cold in three days. 

I would say Gewani was a village where I truly felt at ease with the people. It was not so just a few miles outside in the bush. Nomads, we called Danakil’s were not so friendly. They were expatiating, armed herdsmen actually, herding their livestock around the county side to find grass. Those in the village had livestock too, but came home at night placing their animals in so-called cattle pens to protect them from lions and hyenas. 

Near the village of Gewani was a hot spring, which flowed toward Lake But. It was here we could take a hot bath, It was here too where we filled water trailer (600 gallons) with water that was not contaminated. However, we never knew of what kind of microorganism could be incubating in this type of water but deduced it had to be safer that any water we had ever had. Most of the time we gathered water from a stream contaminated with all sorts of things and generally cow dung was present since the herdsmen or boys drove their cows to the streams too for water. The Gewani water was so hot near the source that it would burn the skin. I went down stream some and stood on a rock to bathe. Even there the water would burn my feet.

The land on the mesa was like a lunarscape, full of rocks of all sizes. A spot with the least rocks predicated the campsite for the night. It would have to be cleared for it to be a practical site. Dennis Kapperman told me to go down to the village and hire some men to clear the campsite. I ask the Ethi workers if they spoke the Somali language, I said I would at least like to greet them in their native tongue.  Kabede was a bit of a rascal said when you great them in the village say Ta shim- shim arogueat , Ta shim-shim a goo-goo. Another native warned me not to say that if I wanted to live. It more or less translated to screw you old woman and screw you old man. 

One of the more serious workers went with me to hire the help. That was done with ease and in a few days we could walk around the camp without perilous impediments jutting from the ground. 

One of the workers of the village asked me to teach him some English.  I said Ishee. He was the oldest of the group and rode in the cab with me each trip. I would point and say English ya hay (this is) and name the item. English was difficult to learn and I had very limited Amharic. When I dropped him off at his home and or going down the mountain he would touch the steering wheel and say steering wheel, but that was all he ever learned. Could be that the teacher wasn’t any good.   

While working in camp clearing rocks they would go to the mess and get something to eat around mid-morning. The field party Ethi cooks would put out things for those in camp to snack on before lunch.

We had just arrived in Mustahil and on or about the second night a few of the Ethiopian workers want to check out the nightlife in the village. They ask if I would drive them in the new pickup. I reluctantly agreed and during the night we meandered down the narrow road from the mesa. In order to access to the village from our camp we had to pass over the Italian bridge spanning the Webi Shebele.

DRINKING TEJ IN THE VILLAGE

In the village were many native houses and some of them sold beer and wine. The wine was called Tej (tedge) and is made from honey. It never appealed to me because it appeared to be slimy but Hank drank it from the berele (glass) often cloudy because the average native did not have Dawn dishwasher detergent to do the glasses. Hank also drank Anisette from time to time. I had met Hank and Quinn in a previous encampment. Both men were from New York State, Hank from NY, NY and Quinn from Rochester NY, both were fun loving guys.  We went to a native hut to partake in the indulgence of adult beverages. Hank ordered Tej and Quinn and I had a Ma Lot EE. The Tej was served in a drinking glass and as Hank was holding it in his hand a thirsty lizard from Acapulco dove into his glass from the thatched roof and began swimming or drinking. It came out of nowhere and scared the cowboy crap out of the three of us. 
 
In reference to Quinn and Hank, one evening their survey party had failed to return to the mesa. I was told to see if I could find them. I did not get down the side of the mesa before I saw them walking on the narrow road.  Hank was as mad as a hornet and all were sweating profusely.  They had punctured a hole in the gas tank on their truck.  They had a jerrycan (5 gallons) of gas and instructed a native worker named Kebede to add gas to the truck from the jerrycan slowly and about a quart at a time to keep the truck running. If the gas were fed into the tank too much at a time it would pour out the hole. Kebede poured all the gas into the truck’s tank at once; there were no measured increments. The truck did not go far and it stopped again. In order to make it a little closer to camp they poured water in the tank to cause what little gas remained to rise since gasoline is lighter than water.  It helped but the truck quit far short of camp. When I told them to get in my pickup Hank did not want Kebede to ride but to walk the rest of the way up the steep side of the mesa. When we returned to camp Hank went to Dennis Kapperman and relayed the episode and demanded that Kebede be fired.  That did not happen then but later he was dismissed from the mission. 

We moved to Shilabe a village almost due north from Mustahil. Although the mileage was not all that great it took forever to get there. The thorns from the Umbrella Thorn Acacia tree caused flat after flat on our trucks. 

Left to Right: Phil Bloom, the two native cooks and our MM cook from Missouri (cannot remember his name) field dress the Oryx.

DENNIS RICHARDS

When I was surveying near Dup-Tee there was an English cotton plantation (called Tendaho Plantation). The natives in that area were hostile to the missionaries too. Missionaries around Tendaho had given up trying to convert the natives to Christianity. They were a tribe who were staunch, immutable Muslims and felt as strongly about Islam as we do Christianity and there was no changing their minds. I did not want any problems with the Gewani residents. 

As we drove to the village a young boy was standing along the road just a few feet from away from the huts that encircled the village. He had spotted the dust kicked up by our truck as we drove along the road. He stood motionless until we were almost upon him. It was at this point he saw me, a white man. This child was about six years of age and had never seen a white person. He no doubt had been told about the Italians and their war on Ethiopia just before the start of World War II. He turned in awe and ran to the village, scared out of his little mind, yelling Fascist, Fascist, Fascist! I was looking around for the police station when Abe spotted it. By this time several of villagers had quickly ran out of their homes to see the Fascist driving the truck.  Though Abe, I got the blessings of the cops who had been placed in this remote outpost after the missionary atrocity to keep anything like that from happening again. The chief told the people gathered around the police station that we were Americans and not Fascist which settled their nerves.  I ask the policeman in charge, after divulging our plans, if there was any problem if we occasionally killed a Tommy to eat. He said no problem but all of the village would be grateful if we in turn would kill some of the hyenas.

 The hyena population had out grown it’s natural food sources and had supplemented their diets with humans. These were actual attacks killing about 8 people for food.  The Ethiopian government had intervened when they heard of the hyena problem and had spread poison around to kill the hyenas. This was a measly attempt and hardly dented the population. Of course, this sounded great to me and agreed to declare war on the vermin.  . 

I rejoined the party and in a day or two we were at the village and the abandoned shed. We got out our cots and the first night and put them near the shed but not under it even thought it was an open shelter. We had bedded down for the night and the night was extremely dark. I don’t know how long I had been on the cot, perhaps 30-40 minutes when I heard a sound that concerned me. I grabbed my 6 volts lantern and saw hyenas all around us. I drew my 45mm pistol and began firing (we were always armed). Some of the guys were already sleeping and did not have any idea what was happening. The sound of the hyenas running though the campsite sounded more like running ponies, They did not come back, I guess they were as frighten of the gunfire as I was of them 

We moved our cots under the shelter the next day.

When I first set up the holding tanks for the water the kids in the village wanted to ride in my truck. I had a new 1967 Ford pickup with 4 wheel drive. So when I got my sediment tanks filled and treated they loaded up in the truck bed. I told everyone to sit down and not to sit on the tailgate. This was the first time I met Lemma. He chose to sit on the tailgate, I chose to chew on him and told him in sign language and saying yellem Amharic for no as I slapped the tailgate. He sat down on the bed of the truck (they called the truck a markeenee).  With everyone now seated I took off down a graveled road keeping an eye in the rear view mirror to make sure everyone remained seated. As soon as I got up to about 25 miles per hour, Lemma stood up and seated himself on the tailgate. Before I could do anything the tailgate fell down dumping Lemma on the pea gravel road. I stopped the truck and ran back to see if he was still alive, all the time regretting I given in to these leaches request. Lemma had no broken neck or back, no broken bones but he had the small gravel embedded in his skin on his arms, legs, back and head. Blood oozed from a few of the indentions.  He got up after a few seconds brushed off some of the gravel and climbed back into the back of the truck. This time he sat down, he now understood why I wanted everyone seated. I gave them a ride and they were happy but I had to return to camp. They wanted to ride to the top of the mesa even after I told them I was not coming back to the village until the next day and they would have to walk back to the village. They agreed to walk back to the village. The side of the mesa was almost straight down and the road was about a two miles walk. OK kids! I did just that and these little guys walked back to the village. 

Kapperman informed Addis that we were running out of food on one occasion. Addis told him the C-47 was not available at that time and it would take some time to obtain the supplies, not what we wanted to hear. Lee Rodawalt, hearing of our predicament took a chopper and headed for our camp, arriving with an Oryx he had shot nearby. It was a large animal and it was soon butchered cooked and served. 

While camped in the shelter at Gewani the Afar lady to right came into our camp saying se-kar se-kar, se-karr over and over. She was saying sugar in Amharic. Someone finally figured it out that she was saying sugar and rolled her up some sugar in a newspaper. Black headscarf signifies that she is married. 

OUR MASCOT

Shortly after setting up camp on the mesa near the fort Colonel Kabede drove over to present us with a Billy goat. He said our camp needed a mascot and persisted that we accept his gift. Obliging him the goat was taken off the pickup and tied up. Surveyors always give a great deal of thought to important matters. Considering the hypothesis of the goat becoming a fugitive from the MM camp how would we identify him? He was solid white and had no identifying marks so he would not stand out in a crowd of goats. This undistinguished male goat was just an ordinary goat, why we did not even have a name for him. Several camp personnel pondered over this perplexing situation. Perhaps we could devise a collar out of a belt? No, not permanent enough! Why don’t we paint a number on his side with spray paint? In fact the supply of spray paint was plentiful within the camp for surveyors used lots of paint. The suggested number of 69 was selected and agreed upon by the majority of the brain trust. We could call him ole 69! Great and the numbers were affixed on both sides of the goat. This no sooner done than another flash of brilliance emerged, that being why not give him a compete paint job with different colors all over? As four guys held Ole 69 he was painted many colors. I said we could now call him “The goat of many colors”. When his long hanging scrotum was painted red the solvents in the paint caused him to kick and bleat profusely. The crew responsible for holding him secure could hardly contain him. He did not have a problem when they painted his horns or a large orange spot on his chest but he did not appreciate the painting of his scrotum. I know goats ain’t too smart but I know he was thinking how he was going to escape from this bunch of crazy humans. He did run away and was gone for several days before being captured and returned to the concentration camp. Since the paint had begun to fade a bit he received a complete paint makeover and refresher red for his scrotum. This was more than a good goat of many colors could endure and he ran away for the second time. We never saw Ole 69 again!

Mapping Mission

On one occasion our party was met by some Afar chieftains as we set up camp on the outskirts of a small village. The chieftains told us we could not stay there. I told them we worked for the King Haile Selassie and we had the right to camp here for the night, showing one of them my special ID. One ask, “ Who is this Haile Selassie, is he a dog, or camel?” We have no king! We have the sultan. I said I had met the sultan in Jigjigga he knows who we are and if you can contact him he will tell you we have permission to stay here. They were pertinacious. If you stay here we will kill you the chief said. I ask the Allen and Cornbower to up the transits and point it at them hoping this improvisation would make them uneasy at the least (betting on them not knowing what a transit was). This threat to kill us enraged me and I told Abe to tell that SOB and I want you to tell him I called him a SOB that we are not going anywhere. If he tries to kill my crew or me I will kill him. Abe said he could not call him a SOB because it would cause more trouble. Abe was uneasy but did tell him we would stay and kill anyone who tried to kill us. 

I slept with my pistol under my pillow that night as we slept under the stars by our vehicles. Nothing happened that night and the next day they were smiling and waving bye to us as we drove through the village. 

When I told Huff about the encounter he was not impressed, said I was imprudent. He chewed on me a couple of minutes and said should we be told to leave then do just that. It is not worth the chance of being killed. He explained how vicious these people can be and quoted a couple of episodes where the Afar had killed. Now in retrospect, I should have moved on and not chanced our lives. It was so trivial, it was not as if we were immigrating, just an overnight rest stop. 


Being young however when the chief threw down the gauntlet I accepted the challenge. 

Ethiopia - Dennis Richards  © 2008
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They brought with them ice and iced down beer. Dick Babbitt came out as our chopper pilot to help with classification. I had never flown with Dick and ask how long he had been flying helicopters?  He said this was his first time to fly a chopper.  Boy that made me weak kneed for we were flying about a mile and a half high. He smiled and assured me that there was nothing to it; he had been flying fixed wings for 23 years in the Navy. He went on to explain that once you learn flying it does not matter much what it is you’re flying in. Of course he was pulling my leg.

He also added that he had never had an accident. Dick and I became friends from then on and even after leaving the Mapping Mission I got a Christmas card from Dick and his wife Irene for a long time. The card usually contained a short note written by Irene but the cards stopped suddenly and I never again heard from them anymore. I wrote a letter inquiring as to their health but never got a response.  

On one of our excursions in the early morning, we flew near the Awash River and saw hippo tracks leaving the river and going into a grassy area. As we flew along we spotted the hippo and her baby heading back to the river before they were sunburned. I had never seen then out of the water until then. 

Once we reached the Awash River we were through with this particular mapping mission and turned around and headed back to Addis Ababa. We had been many days out in the boonies and had spent Christmas and New Years Day in the hot savanna. We took off Christmas day and wrote letters to family back home and did the same New Year’s Day. Ostriches had been all around us our entire time we were in the area. It was suggested we kill one had roast the legs for dinner for a new years celebration. They must have been eavesdropping and hid from us. We searched and searched but never as much as spotted one. Whit shot a Secretary bird after Haile told us the Italians ate them. Once we cut into the bird and saw it’s blood red flesh we ended up eating a can of Jolly Green Giant corn instead and maybe a can of tuna. Yuck! 

Although this had been one more prodigious adventure, it was one I was glad had come to an end. I looked forward to getting back to some resemblance of civilization. When sitting around the campfire one night Whit said if we told of the things we had gone through it would be received as profligate lies. Bathing in a pan of water or a river full of crocodiles, or not bathing at all for four to five days at a time, taking a dump behind a bush, eating in the villages with sanitation standards non existent, obtaining our drinking water from streams full of animal dung and sleeping under the stars while the cobras crawled about in the nearby grass was just a few of the prodigious things. The trip back to Addis Ababa took a couple of days. The first night we made past Gewane and close to Awash Station. We had stayed in Awash Station before launching our mapping mission in the game reserve. It was a hotel owned by Greeks and was actually pretty nice. They had a restaurant which served good food considering where we where. There were grape vines growing along the porch that were large and green. They looked so inviting but were not ripe. What a change in diet that would have been to have fresh grapes to eat? The second day we made it to Nazret before stopping for the evening. We got a room and had a good shower and went to bed clean for a change.

SUPER SPIDER

Although we had 2 year old movies we could watch in camp we searched for entertainment. One such episode was Super Spider! Camel Spiders were not difficult to find. We caught a Camel Spider and put it in a jar and would introduce other insects to the Camel Spider. This spider would devour whatever we caught thus the title Super Spider plus he grew to be huge because of our hand feeding. Someone caught a smaller Camel Spider and threw it in the jar arena. Super Spider ran it relentlessly around and around the jar and thus the smaller spider was called Chicken Spider. They coexisted for a time for Chicken Spider was leaner and quicker than the fat Super Spider. A kangaroo rat became a victim when he went into the jar. Super Spider jumped at the right moment inflecting a lethal bite to the rat’s eye. Super Spider gorged on the rat’s soft eye and brain tissue. Super Spider provided entertainment for a number of days. I found a scorpion and wondered how Super Spider would conquer this contender. As soon as the scorpion was thrown into the jar the confident spider confronted him face to face. Within a flash the scorpion flipped his tail over his back, his stinger scoring a direct hit on Super Spider. Super Spider died in his tracks and some of the guys were ill at me for killing Super Spider. (Could this be why headquarters sent a shrink out to the field to observe our behavior?)

As we surveyed we ever neared the village of Gewani, We were about two days away from the village when Abraham Wondwosen our interpreter and I drove ahead to see if any police were in the village and to alert the village of our presence. We had been warned before leaving Addis that the people of Gewani had killed 6 missionaries and burned their school/church to the ground. So I thought it prudent to make contact with the natives and inform them of our intentions.

I often times went through mental gymnastics as to how it might be if I could someday return to this place with seeds of all sorts and teach the natives how to grow cantaloupe, perhaps squash, or corn using this hot stream of water for irrigation. The lake nearby could be used in the same manner but to provide water to develop green fields of grass to pasture the goats, donkeys, camels, sheep and cows. But it was only a fantasy of images conceived in my mind. I certainly had no money to finance such an endeavor to say nothing about my wife’s coming to such a remote place. Who knows what would have happen a few years down the road when the government was overthrown and the communist took over. Then again, malaria or some other disease could have killed me. Oh well, the mental exercise was good for my imagination I suppose. 

While camped out by the village we would kill a Tommy and cook the loin for our dinner and tie the gazelle carcass to a tree about 50 yards from our site. We had a spotlight that ran off a truck battery that would light up the entire area. So we would lie in wait for the hyenas to come in to eat the gazelle then open fire on them. The hyenas would approach the carcass with great caution, slowly approaching and giving out a whoop sound now and then to see if there was any commotion following the whoop. We were completely silent and gave the pack time enough to start eating. The first thing that generally took place was that one of the greedy rascals would try to run away with the entire gazelle but was shocked when he could not move it or suddenly came to the end of the rope after running two or three feet. The pack would then move in and give that laugh that they are known for as they ravaged the carcass. At the right moment the light illuminated their dinner table and then Detroit crew killed one or two of them before they could run away.  We found out that a hyena will not eat another hyena nor will they eat a warthog. We discovered this when our helicopter pilot killed a warthog for trophy tusks and thought it would be good to attract the hyenas. The hyena would not touch them, we had to tie a rope to its leg and pull it far from camp as it began to decompose. 

Wolfe and Campbell had joined our party to help in classification using aerial photographs. Wolf was the pilot and Campbell the mechanic. One day as we surveyed Wolf and Campbell flew around the area and over Lake But. They shot a Waterbuck, a large antelope that made its home near water. Although the climate is very hot the Waterbuck has thick fur covering its body to protect it from mosquitoes and flies. Wolf did not have thick fur, and when he turned the rotary blades off of the chopper the mosquitoes had a field day while he loaded the Waterbuck on the runners of the bird. All he was wearing was a pair of cut-off shorts and shoes, his entire body was covered with mosquito bites and he was almost in tears due to the hundreds of bites. His only salvation was that we did possess some calamine lotion. He used the entire bottle and was pink all over and for a while he was in such misery he began to think the lotion was worthless.  

One day I had to make a trip back to Awash Station. Abe was with me when I spotted a cheetah lying under a tree. I stopped the truck and ran to the cheetah, which caused Abraham to cringe fearing I would be eaten alive. The cheetah ran away and I knew it would but Abe thought this was reckless. Along the way an old couple were walking along the road all alone. I ask if they wanted to ride to the town and they climbed in the back of the truck. There were several steep hills to climb and on one of them and almost to the top my engine stopped without warning. The truck began to roll back down the hill. I tried to find the emergency brake as I looked out of the back window guiding the truck backwards. I could not find it and drive too, so we went all the way to the bottom of the hill and part way up the hill we had just come down. I managed to keep it in the road and when it rocked back to the lowest ebb. I got out of the vehicle to see if I could find out what happened and noticed the old couple hugging each other for dear life. This was their first time to ride in a truck. I expected them to hop out and hoof it the rest of the way but they did not and I managed to get the truck going and completed the journey, dropping off the old couple in town. They acted as if nothing had happened. 

We moved on when it was not practical to stay near Gewani any longer moving about 45 minutes away. The place where we stopped was non-descriptive but was chosen because it was flat and had only a few trees and scrub. We broke a hub on one of the old 4 wheel drive trucks (all we had were old). We parked it and called in for a replacement part. We place an oil drum horizontally on the ground and drove the truck to the rim and raised the drum to vertical position holding the truck up in the air. We were not impeded by this and waited until they could fly out the part and a mechanic to do the repairs since we did not have the tools. We certainly could not leave it there once we had finished this particular project but really was not in a bind. One day on the short-wave radio I got a call saying that Thompson, a fixed wing pilot, was coming to our camp. Then a bit later Thompson came on our frequency and told us he had spotted our camp. I radioed him and requested he land at Gewane and we would meet him there but explained that it would take about 45 minutes to get there. He did not want to wait and ask if we would clear away some of the rocks and make a short landing strip. We did that post fast. He landed and had Chase the truck mechanic on board to do the repairs.

 I had met Chase when we were in Mustahil. He actually replaced me so I could start surveying. I had been making native work assignments and water treatment for the camp of about 30 Americans and 30 Ethiopians. I got the water from the Wabe Shebele; pumping water to 1000 gallon settling tanks and treated it with chemicals, then ran it through a diatomaceous earth 0.05-micron filer and adding chlorine The idea was that Chase could maintain the vehicle repair as well as treat water for the camp. I began surveying and Chase took over the water filtration task.

Also on board was David Huffine, my boss, Huff the Magic Dragon was his nickname and was a straight shooter type guy. He informed me that he was going to take Mesfin Kacheto with him to the town of Jimma. Mesfin was an Ethi worker used as a rod man. Mesfin was very frightened and came to me with great concern about flying. He said, “Rich-ard I’ve never flown and I don’t want to go”. I explained I did not want him to go either but the boss had spoken, besides, you’ll love flying and will have a ball. So he packed his trunk and we helped him load it on the plane. As he boarded the plane he was obviously nervous. Thompson took the plane to the end of the hastily cleared runway. (We had cleared more of the volcano rock away while the crew was there and Thompson thought the length would be long enough for take off.) He revved up the engine and started the take-off getting air borne just in time. Suddenly he turned the plane left and the tip of the wing struck the ground and the plane crashed, flipping over and landing on it’s top. 

L - R

Abe, Haile,   Taye, and Delene

LATRINE

Cook Tent Mohammad in the middle The village workers loved the peanut butter and jelly and ran though a large can each day they worked. There were only 5 or 6 workers from the village in the clearing detail.

A warrant officer, his name long gone from memory, joined the Mustahil party and was taking his survey crew to work one morning. He came upon an Ethi army truck ahead and he decided to pass the slow moving truck. As he pushed the accelerator to pass the Ethi truck was approaching one of the small bridges move to the left causing the Mapping Mission truck to crash into the stone bridge abutment. Two Ethiopian army guards were standing up in the back of the 4 X 4 were hurled over the top of the truck cab. They had serious head injuries. The warrant officer who was driving ended up with his arm in a sling (he may have broken it but now I’m not sure) and the rest of the party members had fewer injuries. We had no medical personnel in the camp; a call to Addis via radio revealed no aircraft was available. The small fixed wings were in Jimma and could not fly directly to Mustahil. In the meantime the two Ethi soldiers were in excruciating pain and moaned constantly seemly in a semiconscious state. In an effort to provide some type of medical help there was a call to another field party for a fellow named Ray Larson. From Rome Georgia, Ray had studied veterinarian science before entering the service.  He arrived in our camp without any analgesic except APC, not even a Darvon. He bandaged the wounded but there was little he could do. Finally a plane came to the rescue but I never knew the outcome of the Ethi soldiers with head trauma.

STORIES and MEMORIES

I must interject that the Afar, the testicle hunters, were a group of people to fear. They attacked a group of white explorers as they navigated a river (in another location) and killed everyone in the party-some fourteen in number. If a guy was wearing an ostrich feather in his hair this signified that he had killed one person and if he had a decorated scimitar he and killed many and if he had an iron bracelet he was suppose to have killed ten men.

 Meanwhile, there came another episode one afternoon when a man and woman appeared out of the blue. The man wanted us to look at the woman’s eyes. She was full breasted with a bundle of firewood or sticks on her naked back. She never talked but stepped forward for me to look at her eyes. The cornea had a transparent white film covering most of the eyes. I had seen Trachoma before and knew this was her problem. It was called by most “Egyptian Eye Disease” and can be treated by penicillin salve, which cost one dollar to purchase. We did not have any penicillin salve but told the old man to go to the clinic to get some or else she would loose her eyesight.

Before we could get across the bridge Ethi soldiers jumped out from behind the columns with rifles aimed me. At the same time one dude yelled” toe” and stuck a Tommy gun through the rolled down window. The barrel of the gun was only inches from my nose. I had no idea what was happening. The native workers quickly explained our situation and by this time I began to chew-out the guy with the Tommy gun for sticking it in my face. They explained why they were on the bridge and they had no idea who we were. 

I never gave it much thought afterwards but later it hit me, they could have shot first and ask questions later. 

The soldiers had a paramount problem with neighboring Somalia for they would raid sometimes and on one occasion had killed a group of German oil surveyors. I was told the number was eight men; evidence of this atrocity still remained on a road outside the village. A new looking green truck was shot full of holes killing was left for everyone to see. It was by all accounts just a senseless killing of innocent men for the perpetrators took nothing from the truck or the men. 

When I first arrived in the field, I reported to Dennis Kapperman and a Moses Lipscomb. This was in the desert and I think the little place was near Dolo. It was so hot there that during the middle of the day the survey parties had to stop working. The temperature would rise to 50 degrees Celsius or more and the rods would lose calibration. The heat waves would limit vision at a distance and it was here I saw my first mirage. The distortion in vision caused the rods to appear serpentine and jumbled the numbers on the face at any distance. So by 11 or 12 work was over. 

I was placed with a guy named Marshall from Chicago. Marshall’s duty was to keep the camp in water. I was told to find out how he got the water and how he treated the water for when he left Africa I would be in charge of water procurement. We traveled across county to a river that took something like four hours. It was not that far from camp but the terrain was rugged and slow going in places and there was no road. I was warned and Marshall already knew, that we were not to be out after dark or the Shifta might kill us. Marshall had a rifle behind the seat of the water tanker I, at the time, did not have a weapon. 

When we arrived at the river (around 11 in the morning) we found what looked more like a creek than a river due to dereliction and the long spells between rains. Camels, cattle, donkeys, and goats were standing in the river drinking the water. Several herdsmen were on the shore and maybe three women were doing laundry. The river barely moved; there was a menagerie of dung, some sank and great qualities lay half submerged on the surface. The indigenous people were not about to leave. Marshall and I waited and waited for the water to clear but it did not. The continued presence of the herd animals continued to contribute to the repulsive situation. I took the rife and walked down the riverbank to see if I could shoot a crocodile just to kill some time. We could only access the so-called river at this point having little room to maneuver due to limited clearance of vegetation. Marshall declared the time had come to suck up the water regardless, time constraints dictated action then. So, dung and all was pumped into the tanker.Marshall threw in an entire can of chlorine in the tanker and said that much chlorine would kill anything in the water. The bounty we hauled back to camp was not much better than a honey wagon. 

The camp cook, a guy from Missouri, tried to camouflage the smell and taste of the water by making Kool-Aid in a large kettle but it was a futile effort. The camp had a generator that supplied electricity for lighting the tents, refrigerator, freezer and water cooler. The water cooler was filled with water and strains of suspended dung accounted for a great deal of the jug’s volume. When someone pulled water from the cooler it stirred up the dung and presented a cloudy mess. I went to a dry riverbed not far from the camp where I found a native dry well. I thought perhaps I could dig down a few more feet and find water. I found water and it was a putrid, stagnant green and unfit to process. 

Water became a gravamen in the camp; consumption caused a burning sensation when urinating due to the high concentration of chlorine (7 parts/million). Beer consumption was great in the camp because the fecal water was so repugnant. . There was a sheet of paper on the refrigerator and each time someone took out a beer or soda, we made a slash mark beside our name and paid his account when due at fifteen or twenty cents per can. Due to the putrid water soda and beer sale tripled. 

 I went to WO Kapperman and sergeant Lipscomb and discussed the water problem and stated I was willing to distill the water if I could obtain the needed utensils. As this had to be the worse water ever, there was no argument that something had to be done. I was sent back to Addis on the Charlie 47 to be trained in water treatment. Headquarters had an Ethiopia fellow who treated water for the MappingMission. He walked me through the process of treating water, which included additives of limestone and a brown acid etc. The limestone would take metal traces to the bottom of the sedimentation tank, the acid (for effluents?); I don’t remember what its role was or the other additives. The process in the field would be to erect two sedimentation tanks, which allowed the solids to fall the bottom of the first tank and then transfer that water to the next tank for chemical treatment. From there the water was pumped into an elutriator with a fine mesh filter coated with diatomaceous earth and into a water trailer.  This method was far better than just adding chlorine for chlorine alone would not destroy protozoa [cryptosporidium] critters in the water.  When I went through the process out came some mighty good tasting water and clear as “city water” as we called it back in the hills of Tennessee. Chlorine was added to at least 3 parts/million if I remember correctly and a pH of 6.0 I think was ideal, but that was so long ago I’m not sure now. When being trained in water treatment information as to what this did or what that additive did was not a part of the training; more like a formula. I would use this skill not only for our consumption but would propitiate the ladies of the village of Mustahil. The ladies of Mustahil had several crock jugs and would fill them from the muddy Wabe Shebele River. They would carry the jugs home and allow the mud to settle to the bottom of the jug before using. I was surprised to see so much mud in the bottom of the crock jugs after the water settled. I would guess there was as much as 3 or 4 cups of mud in one jug. The villagers welcomed the clear, clean water I gave them.

Later supplies and food were flown to our camp. Included in the provisions were the gallon containers of ice cream. Several guys rifled through the ice cream and complained that someone had sent strawberry. No one wanted it and questioned who was the DA that sent this *%@!.  I said hey, I’ll take it to the village and feed it to the kids, they’ve never had ice cream. So I cabbaged on the ice cream gathered up some cups and spoons and drove to the village. I rounded up the little guys that help me with water filtration and some that just watched perhaps about eight of them and served the cuz-cuza (cold) dessert. I must say I did not expect it but when they began to eat the ice cream brain freeze happen to almost everyone simultaneously. Spoons dropped and both hands went up to the eyes and head and they began to moan with pain because they had eaten this frozen delight too fast. I had to laugh and they thought it funny too after the pain subsided. 

Mustahil is located about 5 degrees latitude and 45 degrees longitude. This quaint little village sets in narrow valley in the Gode Zone of Ethiopia. This valley runs east southeast towards the Somali border. I’m not certain of the date, May of ’67 I think, the rains came north of the village and flooded the valley. Fields near Mustahil were for a short time one enormous lake and the overflow necked down to an Old Italian bridge between Mustahil and Ferfer. Water gushed through the banks under the bridge with immeasurable force. We decided that his would be a great place to frolic and holding onto the bridge we allowed the channeled water to suspend our bodies horizontally as we would hand-walk across the bridge. This type of entertainment was enjoyed more than once and on one occasion one of the MM guys lost his grip and was swept downstream. He began to yell my name to help him but I was on the other side of the bridge and by the time I got to the other side someone jumped in to help him. It was Dick Waisbrot coming to the rescue.  I was relieved and grateful because I was not a great swimmer. Even after the water tamed down we went to the bridge after work to swim.

FLYING WITH JACK MILLER

I had been in Addis for some business reason, the reason now a faded memory. I had been working in Assab previously. The return flight back to Assab however, I still remember. Why we took the DC-3, I don’t know for sure now, but it could have been to transport needed supplies or could have been the only bird available. Jack was the lone pilot and aboard was two souls, a Sergeant Lamb and I. I had listened to some of the pilots tell stories of how great Jack Miller was as a pilot, that and the fact he was a fellow Tennessean gave me a good feeling as I boarded the craft. 

We took off from Addis Ababa with a bit of overcast skies unaware of what lay ahead. We had leveled off and had flown a few minutes when the electrical storm began. We were in the soup and the clouds portrayed nighttime. Soon it looked like WWIII had started with wind turbulences tearing at the fuselage as we bobbed up and down and were tossed from side to side. Lighting strikes never ceased with the purple zigzagging monsters all around us and as far as the eye could see. Lamb and I sat near the cabin door and held on to our seats. The storm did not relinquish its fury and remained full strength the entire flight of some 800km. Jack was doing all he could do to fly above the storm but there was no way to escape it. I will confess that I was frightened, and the creaking sound of metal added to the concern. 

Port Assab was on the Red Sea and volcanic mountains paralleled the shoreline for the most part, some jutting high into the sky. Jack told us that we were over Assab as best as he could tell. The airstrip lay north of the town as I recall, but we could not see anything but black clouds. Jack said we should prepare ourselves for what could be a perilous landing. He picked up the radio signal from the airstrip and said he planned to fly east of the signal and hopefully drop down below the clouds and above the sea. He intended to fly under the clouds and above the sea to the airstrip and if he were wrong we would smack a mountain head on. I may have sweated at that point even though the cabin was pretty cold. It seems as though we flew east about ten minutes before the descent. Jack told us to hold on as he took the plane downward through the clouds of darkness. What we saw as we popped through the last layer of the storm was a beautiful bluish green sea and not a mountain in sight. We were about 200 feet above the water and flew at that altitude until we reach the airstrip. I don’t know if we hugged Jack when we landed but we should have. It was the most horrifying flight of my life. We had survived the thousands of lighting strikes, unbelievable turbulences and had a chance of crashing into mountains but we were on the ground safe and sound. All we had to do now was get to the hotel and change our underwear. 

Dennis Richards

Smoke was poring out of the engine and I know I was thinking this thing could catch on fire any second. I yelled to everyone to grab a fire extinguisher from the trucks. I ran to one of the doors and could not open it. It was jammed tight. Webb on the other side got that door open and the plane was cleared while others used the fire extinguishers on the engine.  Everyone hanging upside down when we reached the plane and the seatbelts were hard to un-latch. When Mesfin emerged from the wreckage he could not talk and shook violently with a hypnotic stare in his eyes. We removed his trunk from the plane and had him to sit down on the trunk. It was four hours before he could move or speak and it was the first time I every saw a pale Ethiopian. 

All of the Americans gathered around the short wave radio as I tried to contact Addis Ababa. They could not understand me and I had to spell out the word Charlie, Romeo, Alpha, Sierra, Hotel, Echo, and Delta! They could barely hear me but eventually came back and said, “Are you saying the plane crashed?” Yes. I must give Slim credit; he did not give up on us for I would think the situation was as exasperating to him as it was to us.

We will get someone out there they assured us. Someone (Huff?) looked at the radio and it was not in the transmit mode and once it was turned to the correct position everything was clear as a bell to Addis.  I had been frantically shouting in the microphone for almost an hour until then. I had tried to contact Addis several times in the past and was not successful, thinking that it was a radio problem. However, we could hear Johannesburg South Africa and the BBC radio and used it as a source of entertainment at night and could hear Addis transmitting during the day too. Anyway, Thompson gave Addis approximate coordinates after he and Whitmel studied a map from the plane. I had no idea since we had no maps at all. After ascertaining that there were no injuries Addis would send out a plane with barrels of gasoline in order for the choppers to refuel.

 Whit and one of the native workers took a duce and a half to the airstrip in Gewani to await the Charlie 47. In the village there was some kind of dancing going on and after a couple of beers Whit jump in the middle of the circle to join the townsfolk. This was a big rut row! A few of the villagers literally threw Whit out of the fenced-in area. This was a religious ritual not a square dance and they were really upset with Whit. He did get the petrol and returned to camp. When the coppers neared our camp they could be heard but not seen flying around us. They were several miles away. We got on the radio and told them we could hear them. Whit and I got out mirrors and began to flash them in the direction of the aircraft noise and finally one of the pilots saw the flash of light. 

Thompson told Addis via radio right after the crash that the crash was pilot error. I felt deplored. Thompson was a good pilot. I had flown with him before and I was impressed as to how he could get airborne in a skinny minute. 

Once Thompson picked me up, when I had to return to Addis on business. I was working in the Harrar Province. He had a big shot on board from Italy sitting the co-pilot’s seat and I got in directly behind the pilot. He had to pick up one of the mapping mission guy in Jigjigga who had a screwworm in his arm and would most likely require surgery to remove it. (Screwworm can bore into the head and into the brain and sometimes does in antelope causing them to turn around and around in a crazy frenzy before dying, thus the name screwworm.) Anyway we ended up with a plane loaded with passengers and mail. One guy had to ride in the mail boot at the back of the plane, the guy with the screwworm infestation. As we flew over the game reserve, a savanna near Dire Dawa, Thompson spotted some zebras and swooped down to show our visitor. Then looped over to shop him a heard of Oryx.  Then he was banking and seeing a group of gazelles headed in their direction diving down for a better look. By this time everyone on the plane was motion sick and throwing up except Thompson and me.  There were no barf bags on board either and soon the repugnant odor filled the cabin causing me to become nauseous. I did not toss my cookies but had to crack the window and suck in the outside air. The flips, dido’s, rolls and tour of the wild animals ended and we headed to the capital. Meanwhile back to the crash. 

I don’t remember now but seems that Huff and Thompson flew back to Addis on the choppers. We took Mesfin and Chase back to Gewani for a DC-3 pick-up the next day. Mesfin was still scared and did not want to fly but felt some better that this was a larger plane. A flat bed came and retrieved the crashed plane a few days later. We were told later that NDT testing showed over two hundred cracks in the engine so it was a total loss. 

We went back to having routine days of surveying when the DC bosses came out to stay a few days with us. This was Winston Davis and Gus Badem. They were Government Service Employees stationed in Washington DC housed in the Pentagon.

The photo above is of my water filtration set-up and below the women of the village drawing water from Wabe Shebele.

The people of Mustahil were friendly. Momma’s Pub (officially it had no name, just what we called it) was a place where we enjoyed the proprietor’s camaraderie. She had been married to an Italian soldier during the Italian occupation (in this area for about ten years) and the country went from Abyssinia to Africa Orientale Italiana. Seems that her husband, being a soldier, was force to leave when Ethiopia was liberated in 1941. Anyway, “Momma” always had a smile. When I took this photograph she said don’t take my picture for American women would see it and say look at that poor woman. I assured her my friends would not look at her that way.  

The Ferfer road was a good paved road built by the Italians during their occupation. Along the way there were stone bridges over gullies and dry streambeds. The road narrowed some across the small bridges making it a tight squeeze for two vehicles.

Some of the girls her age were already married. I met a couple of kids about 13 near the village and the girl was wearing a black headscarf. I quizzed them as to why this kid was wearing the scarf. The young boy told me that she was in fact his wife. Well he may not have been the husband but she did have a husband. 

One morning, I suppose it was our third of fourth day there, some Bedouins came out of the bush into our campsite with a man on a litter. He had a gunshot wound from a rifle that had passed through his buttocks. He was an Afar and had been shot by someone in the Issa tribe. {These sanguinary tribes were constantly feuding and bullets would fly. The Issa would steal the Afar’s cattle and the Afar’s killed them for their testicles, which in turned proved them man enough to take a wife.}   Gangrene had begun in the surrounding flesh of the wound. They demanded we give him medical treatment declaring we were white doctors and had medicine. There was a clinic about 6K’s from the village and I offered to take him there in the truck. The party that had brought in the wounded man refused the offer saying those at the clinic would charge them for medicine. We must be trying to charge them too, one alleged. I was getting a little put off by the jokers and told them we had no medicine and we were not doctors. We had waited around that morning because Addis was flying out some supplies and mail otherwise we would have most likely been away and missed the wounded man and his family.  When the plane arrived, Slim, (John Stokes) the radio operator from headquarters was on board. He wanted to get away for the day and see the county. One of the Detroit members told Slim to go over to the man on the litter get a peek of his injury. The injured man’s family kept a sheet over the man to keep the “Zims” or flies away from the wound.  Slim did and quickly got away from the ghastly sight dry heaving, he may have even tossed his cookies, I cannot remember now. Well, I suppose it was not the proper thing to do but I had to laugh at Slim. 

We unloaded the plane and read the mail and took off to work. We returned late that afternoon and these people had not moved. I could be wrong, I never talked to them but I think someone in my party may have told them that we were missionaries. This word generally caused many of the natives to move on in a hurry since they were of sorts, of the Muslim religion. As a matter of fact, we greeted them with “Salaam A’ Lakem”. They in turn would respond, “A Lakem Salaam”.

 One morning an Afar man came into our camp, his little finger was dangling by a thread. He reported that he and his wife had gotten into a fight and she bit him on the finger. The Danakil or Afar people filed their teeth to points and used them when fighting as a means of defense. We bandaged his finger; afraid it would fall off at any time, and told him too that this was only a temporary fix.  We all were concerned about his finger and yet amused that his wife had inflected such damage. He was strongly advised to seek medical attention at the nearby clinic. Whether he fully understood, I’ll never know, but he left the campsite seemly pleased.

Mustahil was a Paesino or small village along the Wabe Shebele River. Wabe Shebele is a Somali name meaning Leopard River; it runs from the highlands of Ethiopia to the sea at the Somali town ofKismaayo.  The Italians had settled in the village when they conquered Ethiopia. They had built the fort on the mesa, built a paved road from the village to the Somali border (Ferfer and beyond), and married some of the native women. Some of words used in the village from time to time were Italian.

 
The river always was muddy in appearance but one of the village teenagers fished the river and caught large catfish. So with a stroke of genius I decided that if I had a fishing pole and some meat I could catch a golly whopper too and perhaps the camp cooks would welcome some fresh fish. I ask the teen to get me a hook and some fishing line. I don’t know if I ever knew his name so instead of referring to him as the “teen” I shall give him an Amharic name although he’s Somali. Since he was the largest child in the village I will give him the name Lemma that means growing better. Lemma came back and said there was only one hook in the entire village and it cost him a quarter. I paid him for the hook and he furnished some line. 

 The hook did not have an eye where the eye should have been was a flat; how would I tie it?  Lemma tied it for me and what a great tie it was.  I had never tied anything like that so neat and it held the hook well. Now I needed some bait and Lemma was off to find some. A taneish leach had some meat he was carrying in a pan to his parents. When Lemma grabbed a hunk and the little kid started to cry. Lemma tried to console him but to no avail. He explained why we wanted it and the little guy explained why he better not have any missing meat when he got home. I gave the kid some money for the dab of meat and he was well paid at that. His crying stopped immediately and we were off to the river to fish. After only about four casts my hook hung on a palm tree root under the water; I could not free it no matter what I tried. Lemma and another youngster about 12 years of age came to my rescue. Lemma ask me to hold the line tight, the younger guy waded out into the river waist high and began to flail hell out of the water with a palm tree branch. This was a brilliant diversion tactic to draw the man- eating crocodiles away from my hung fishing line long enough for Lemma to dive down and free my line. After about six wops with this palm branch and Lemma dove down into the muddy river and in about a minute came to the top holding up my hook in his hand. He swam to shore and presented me with my hook still attached to my line. Well, hello John that ended my fishing forever right then and there. I handed the fishing rig to the kids and said “bocka, finito or enough, finished. I tried to tell them that this twenty-five cent hook was not worth the risk they took. The entire time he was underwater I envisioned crocs eating him and the kid beating the water to be snatched before my eyes only to be pulled apart by several more crocks. I left them on the riverbank and returned to camp shaken knowing this benevolent act could have cost both their lives.

 While we were in Mustahil a crocodile had eaten a calf as it stood a couple of feet into the river as it took its last drink. The villagers made an arch shaped picket fence out of sticks in order to continue to use this spot where they filled their jars. This was the same spot too where I set my pump to draw water for filtration.

Ogaden Desert:  We pronounced it Org- a- don and it is vast. 

I suppose it was the middle of February when I was assigned to a field survey party. I had the task of driving a new 1967 four-wheel, Ford pick-up truck out to join Dennis Kapperman’s party of some thirty American surveyors and about that many Ethies, We left Addis Ababa and drove until late in the afternoon and stopped along the side of the highway to sleep for the night. It was my first time to hear a hyena whoop. I incorporated this whooping in my dream until the whooping woke me. 

To make a long story short we were to join a convoy of Ethiopian merchants traveling though the desert under the protection of the Ethi Army. When we met up with them our trucks and theirs numbered 105 plus or minus a couple. Those from the Mapping Mission were: Major Bill Hardin, from Kentucky, a guy named Bailey, Murphy from Alabama, Johnny Vann a Cherokee from Oklahoma was a mechanic, Ernie from California. I am not sure the location where we joined the convoy but it was a hellish endeavor. The trucks were of different vintages and were packed with goods several feet high and on top of the stack were people and sometimes goats. We would travel only a few miles say five miles and someone would have a flat tire. The whole shebang would stop, then someone would have to pee and the whole shebang would stop, or a truck broke down or one would over heat, or whatever, you get the picture. It was torturously slow and the trip from Addis to final destination was twenty-three days.

The Ethiopian Army ran up and down the line of trucks in their vehicles as we moved forward. For my protection they had placed an old vet in the truck with me a sergeant who served in the Congolese War of the Congo Rebellion.  I had read about this barbaric up rising when the natives overthrew the Portuguese rulers in the Congo. The Congolese had killed indiscriminately missionaries, priests, nuns, children and so on. If you never heard of it I suggest you read the spine tingling history of the rebellion.

One book and movie released in 1966 was Africa Addio by Jacopetti and Prosperi. It is a notorious documentary, (Farewell Africa). Shot over two years while colonialism was in its finial days. It documents a continent in chaos and turmoil with their cameras following mercenaries, revolutionaries, and tribes people and come up with some of their most graphic and disturbing footage ever. One sees people actually shot and killed on camera which was a first in those days. It was these sequences that caused a big uproar back in the 1960s as the filmmakers were accused of having these people murdered specifically for their film. The episode in reference was to a boy about 12 years old was shot and killed as he ran from right to left in front of them. But when the soldier drew aim on him a cameraman said wait until I get him on camera before you shoot. They proclaimed that the shooter was going to kill the kid regardless or whether on film or not.  While they were eventually acquitted, the accusation stained their reputations forever. The movie is 139 minutes long and there is or was a paperback book. Of course it was not staged and it actually happened and 139 minutes cannot tell the all of it.

Sitting in my truck each day of our journey was a soldier who had seen some of this gore in person. I had not been there long enough to pick up on the Amharic language, if I had, I suppose I could have learned a lot about him and his duties while assigned in the UN. I had learned some words (taught by Bill Rebich from Montana who worked in the mail room) like: Toe for stop, Yellem for No, Lemon for why, Leach for kid, hit for go away, gonsup for money and men-da-no for what’s happening. I would sleep in my truck at night and the Sergeant would sleep beside the truck. Each morning he would wake up before I did and would have some shy made. Shy was tea, which is so close to the Chinese pronunciation chi. I never drank the tea but offered him C-ration cigarettes in return which he generally accepted. 

What few words Bill Rebich taught me may have saved a young goat herder’s life when I first went to the field. I was being escorted by two Ethi soldiers for my protection when one of the yelled “stop there is a shifta. I stopped the truck and saw a lad circa fourteen or fifteen years old with a flock of goats. The lad had a stick in his hand that would be called a staff as I saw it. As I surmised the actual situation one of the soldiers drew down on him with a rifle and the lad began to run for his life. I was not going to see a shepherd killed if I could stop it. The guard declared him a shifta and was going to kill him, but I jumped out of the truck and shouted Yellum! Yellum! Yellum! I knocked the barrel of the rifle down and said yellum shifta, leach, but the soldier insisted the kid was shifta. I won out and the kid left the area in a trail of dust. (I too had said no incorrectly, I later learned it was Eye instead of yellum.) The two soldiers picked out one large goat to take to the camp and started to load it in the back of the pickup. I would not let them take it and made them get a smaller one. I did not know at the time soldiers could pretty take what they wanted when it came to food. Phil Bloom met me and led me to the camp near Dolo. This camp was in a God forsaken place three feet from hell. 

DENNIS RICHARDS