The time has come for the truth to be told concerning the events that occurred at Binkolo, Sierra Leone, West Africa on the night of September 3, 1969. The preservation for posterity of a true account of that night is important for several reasons. First, the recounting of this story has often led to distortion. Various exaggerated apochryphal versions of legendary proportion have gained credibility. Second, the true account will establish the fact that I was an innocent victim of the embarrassing events that occurred that night. Furthermore, after more than forty-four years, Rosa and I are the only two surviving witnesses. Thus, with her by my side, I am endeavoring to write a true an accurate account, which will be of interest to all persons concerned with the history of the American Wesleyan Mission in Sierra Leone.
It is necessary for me to give you a certain amount of background information in order to put that infamous night in proper context. Rosa and I had been married on August 15 of that year. On the second of September we arrived in Sierra Leone for what would be my first three-year term of service. Rosa had already completed one three-year stint. We were met in Freetown by two respected single lady missionaries, Dr. Marilyn Birch and Miss Lois Sheridan (later Miss Lois Sheridan Ellis). We remember awaking the next morning in the mission rest house, affectionately known as Summer Hill Villa, and hearing some children outside saying, “they done come from the United States of America.”
After some business in Freetown, we headed up country arriving in Binkolo about 10:00 pm. Binkolo, as most of you know, was an old mission station. The house, with high ceilings, dark wood paneling, overhanging eves, and large shuttered screen windows, had often been enlarged. It had numerous rooms and a total of thirteen outside doors. At this time Marion and Marge Birch lived there. Marion was Mission Director. We were to spend the night with the Birches. Another single lady, Marie Lind, was also present. Marie was writing a history of the American Wesleyan Mission and the Sierra Leone Wesleyan Church.
Dr. Marily Birch (Marion’s sister), Lois Sheridan, Rosa, and I got out of our van and began walking toward the dark house. One or two feeble flashlights lit our pathway. The women, who were wearing skirts, began to complain of driver ant bites. As many of you know, driver ants march in columns. They do not inject a toxin, but their pinchers are very painful. I felt no driver ants.
The three women and I climbed the steps to the veranda and entered the living room of the house. Marge and Marie were there to welcome us. There was one small candle. Its feeble light disappeared in the shadowy recesses of the ceiling. The rest of this mysterious house was enveloped in darkness. The women were busy picking of the biting ants. Suddenly, I, too, began to feel the sharp bites. As I began to squirm, Dr. Marilyn Birch, in her quiet way, said, “The only thing you can do is drop your pants.” So, since the doctor had spoken, I loosened my belt and let my pants fall. Immediately, the four-foot florescent bulb overhead burst into light. Marion, Marge’s husband, was not there because he had slipped out to start the generator. There I stood with my pants down in front of five women—three of whom were single and one of whom was my wife of two weeks. You have heard of people rolling with laughter. Rosa was literally on the floor doubled up and shaking uncontrollably.
This event had numerous after effects. Once when I was telling it in Dr. Marilyn’s presence, she said softly, “Well, what else could you do but drop your pants?” When new people came to Sierra Leone they, too, first went through Binkolo. When they got to Kamakwie, they would often look at me with a wry smile and say something like, “So, are you the one . . .” Marion had already told his version of the story. Once several years after we had returned from Sierra Leone Carol Earl, who had served as a nurse at Kamakwie Hospital, asked me for a true account. There were many distortions. Some thought this embarrassing incident happened at Gbendembu or Kamakwie. What I have here written, however, is a true and faithful narrative. You now know how, at the very beginning of my missionary career, I was caught “with my pants down.”