LIVING LEGENDS

VIDA MCCLELLAN – PART 4

Continued from previous issue

That part of the country where they lived had been unreached with the Gospel. This new mission station was to contact the Aari tribe and other tribes around there for the Lord. Bill and Dick were sent there to build two houses, a clinic and later a school. Bill did the cooking whilst Dick took some local boys into the forest to cut down trees for timber for building the houses and clinic. Then enough timber had to be carried up the mountain to build the houses. This was all done with hand tools. It was a mammoth task. They had very little language and the boys who helped knew no English.

After Dick and Bill had been in Bako for nine months it was time for them to make the long trek back to Addis Ababa. They rode mules for three days over mountains and through awful mud and rain to Bulki. They rested there for a couple of days waiting for the first trucks to arrive in Bulki to transport them to a small town called Soddo. They were glad when three trucks arrived. The Italian truck owner, Pisani, his drivers and workers had taken over a week to come 160 kilometres.

They had to repair the road its they went. Pisani’s truck was a Unimog often he hooked his truck on to the others to haul them across the rivers and out of mud holes. The goods for the traders were quickly unloaded and the trucks were filled with bags of coffee for the return journey. Pisani spent a lot of time checking over the trucks as they had taken a battering. Some oil was dripping on to the ground. Pisani was glad to give Dick and Bill a ride in the second truck. They were in the cabin. There were about a dozen or so other passengers sitting on the top of the truck as well as the workers. They came slowly down the steep Bulki Mountain before dark and camped in a little village called Yela. When it rained they crawled under the truck and tried to eat some food. Next morning the sun shone brightly and they headed down the Gofa valley. Then at a difficult ravine disaster struck the convoy. The truck behind stopped with a broken differential and lost all its oil.

The owner then loaded all the passengers onto the other trucks, leaving the driver and some workers to repair the truck. Then an hour later at another rocky ravine further on down the valley disaster struck again. The same thing happened to the truck Dick and Bill were on. The old trucks were all overloaded and the differential on their truck broke, they were stranded too. Pisani, the truck owner, took the load of coffee in his Unimog across the valley. He promised to unload the coffee in a safe place and return to take all the passengers to Soddo. As the hot sun beat down they waited and waited and waited, but in vain. Pisani did not return. He had some mechanical trouble with his own truck also, so drove on very slowly to Soddo. Days went by as they waited him to come back. Their food was all gone and they sweated in the hot sun. What had happened? Would he ever come? The Ethiopian passengers were hungry too. And they grumbled and complained. They didn’t know what to do.

One group of the passengers decided to walk up the mountains to find food. Another group went along the road back to the other truck hoping that they had some food, Dick and Bill decided to walk toward Soddo as they knew that was where Pisani would come from with food. A young Ethiopian boy who worked for Dick and Bill, followed the tracks of Pisani’s truck.

What a walk they had. They set out on Sunday evening when It was cooler to walk at night. As could be expected Bill took only his precious kettle, tea leaves and a box of matches. Dick had a torch, a water canteen and a banana. Fortunately there was a full moon to light the way. One behind the other they hurried through the tall grass along the tracks. They could hear lions and hyenas nearby so they made a lot of noise as they walked, occasionally shining the torch and shouting. At every river and creek they lit a fire and boiled the kettle to make tea. After each brief rest, Dick filled the kettle and canteen, as the next stream might be hours away. They became ever so tired, but they kept going, hour after hour through the chaka (bush). They walked all night stumbling into mud holes and out again, pushing through tall grass and falling over logs, stumps and rocks. Thorn hushes ripped their clothes and scratched their faces and hands. Fire ants, mosquitoes and tsetse flies stung repeatedly adding to their misery. They hoped that around the next bend there would be a village, but they were all far away up on the mountains. They were getting weaker, but just had to keep going. The boy with them asked if he could run ahead to Soddo and get help. They reluctantly agreed to let him go. Dick was concerned for Bill. Even on the flat ground he was stumbling and falling more often.

The midday sun was so hot and burned them badly. They drank the last of the water, but they were a long way from the next stream. Then Bill stopped and said he could not go any further – not another step. He was completely exhausted. Dick didn’t feel much better either. He got Bill to lie down and rest in the shade of a low bush while he walked back to a dry but sandy creek. Digging in the sand with his hands, he was able to get a little water, but it was not very nice. He had a mouth full and got half a canteen full. As he walked back in the: heat of the sun his legs felt as heavy as lead. Then in the grass beside the track he found a lime. Miles from anywhere, out in the wilderness there was a shiny yellow lime. Where had it come from? Had it fallen off Pisani’s truck a week earlier? He didn’t know, but it seemed like a special gift from God. Gratefully he squeezed the juice into the canteen.

Bill had slept whilst Dick was away and said he was feeling better. He took Dick’s canteen and swallowed all the water. There was none left for Dick. Bill didn’t know there was so little. Then he got up to go. He walked around the bush three times, and then started back the way they had come. He was so disorientated and Dick had quite a struggle to get him going in the right direction. When the sun went down it became much cooler. In the distance they could see the rising plateau land of Wolaitta. They knew there were villages there and the people would help them. As they crossed the Gogara River they soaked themselves and drank all the water they could. They rested awhile, filled the canteen, then started up the slope. Soon it became dark again, but they knew they had to keep going. They prayed many times for strength. Hours went by as they struggled over rocky ground, getting higher and into cooler temperatures. Their stops to rest became more frequent, but they kept going slowly.

It was after midnight when they reached the first Wolaitta village. It was a small cluster of grass thatched houses. What a relief. They could hear talking. Some people were still awake. They shouted out the greeting, “Sera. Sero.” (“Peace. Peace.”) A man answered and asked who they were. Soon a bunch of grass was lit and they helped Dick and Bill into a house. They slumped onto the three legged stools.

To be continued…