August 7, 1924
Dear Brother –
[Personal portion redacted.]
Thanks for the clipping about the young doc in Angola. He seems to wear about the same boots as I – just out of school in America and knowing very little about the things that cause pains in African kiddies’ tummies. What he said about looking in the book, then in the microscope and then in the book again was quite amusing as that’s just about the game I've been playing too. We have had a few similar cases here.
A few days ago I got a hurry call from a Government official who happened to be in a village some five and a half hours away. All he said in the note was that he was very sick in the abdomen. Not knowing what to expect I gathered together a few things and hurried off as soon as my porters arrived (for the road was too rough for a bicycle) while Coralee packed up my camp equipment and a big box of medical supplies to follow me. I arrived at 7 or 8 in the evening to learn that the man had had an attack of renal colic in the morning and was not feeling much better, so that all I needed out of my box of drugs was two tiny pills. He appreciated these however as he got a good night’s rest. Next morning he was up and about again. I was glad of the opportunity because this man, who himself holds a fairly high office, happens to be a former classmate and a very good friend of the Commissar General at Stanleyville, and he said he would write to him in regard to supplying us with drugs. Promises don’t always materialize in Congo, but here’s hoping anyhow. Incidentally we just received a box from the Gov’t doctor at Niangara containing some badly needed drugs, so our hopes for some from Stanleyville are rising a little. These trips take so long that the patient is either well or dead by the time I arrive.
[Personal portion redacted.]
I wish you could help us enjoy some of our garden products. Coralee, the ex-Ozark Hick (1) is a sure enough farmer, and no joke. She has been planting all kinds of things ever since we arrived and we have been having a lot of them on the table already. Corn, beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes, cabbage, peanuts, strawberries etc., such is our Congo garden. Besides garden things we have more fruit than we can eat; many of them were strange to us at first but all are very good. Bananas, pineapples, pai-pais (2), “coeur-de-beauf (3)”, mangoes and “Congo apples” which are not apples at all – are our daily food. They cost us nothing as they grow on the concession. The food that costs the most is home stuff like flour, sugar, salt, milk, butter. Coralee’s ingenuity as a housewife has done hero’s service here too, for she makes wonderful bread and pancakes out of flour which consists mostly of manioc flour (native), mixed with wheat flour, and delicious jam from native lemons and native sugar. Sugar-making by the way is another of her many jobs. The cane grows on the concession; those hospital patients who are well enough make the sugar and for their services receive enough money to pay for most of their food, and this month and last the profits from sugar sold to missionaries has paid all hospital expenses (except drugs and dressings).
An amusing incident occurred the other night which illustrates typically the childish nature of these natives. One of the white man’s jobs here is to act as judge in the many quarrels of the natives. On this night while I was sitting up writing the boy who takes care of the hospital came over to tell me that the men in the hospital had been making a great noise quarreling so that nobody was able to sleep, and asked me to come and settle it. Going over, I found the men still quarreling as they sat in a circle around the fire, and then one man told me his story. While he was digging in our garden one of our houseboys had thrown a chicken head at him. He picked it up but said it would not be good for him to eat it because it would make his sores bad again, and so he threw it over to another fellow who kept it. Later this first chap demanded payment (1/4 cent) for the chicken head and when it was refused because he had thrown the head away he became angry and hence the quarrel. When I explained that he deserved no pay because he didn't want the head and had given to the other man without first asking pay, they all agreed and immediately the quarrel stopped, everybody happy. It seems they are always satisfied with the white man’s decision, no matter which way it goes. The usual difficulty is to decide which is the greater liar, and it’s practically always safe to assume that both are lying for all they are worth. Just two nights before I had had a great time sitting around the fire with these fellows talking over the Gospel with them, and to hear them talk and pray you’d think they were all sprouting wings.
Well it’s after 7 PM and therefore near bedtime, so goodbye for the time being.
Coralee and Ralph
(“Bwana and Mama Luka”)
P.S. Ralph has asked me to read this letter and I’m here to testify what he has said about certain things I do. Especially the food, gardens and etc. for I've not had any seeds yet but what folks out here have given me and they are mostly native seeds. If you will sometimes slip in your letter a pkg of seed, our Xmas present will be furnished. Anything – lettuce, radish or anything that grows. Much love to you all. [Personal portion redacted.] Love again – Coralee
P.P.S. Didn't use the typewriter because I have a sore finger – the typewriter (4) is still working fine. R.
- Coralee was born and raised in Thayer, Missouri.
- Possibly a soursop, Annona muricata.
- The typewriter referred to was an Underwood (very likely the Underwood model 5, in production from 1900 into the early 1930’s) that was donated by Ralph’s brother for their use on the mission field. My mother remembers that it was huge, so heavy that it constituted the entire load for one porter.