National Geographic : 1951 Aug
279 A Gold Coast "Mammy Wagon" Carries the Driver's Favorite Slogan in Boxcar Letters An ordinary pickup truck fitted the West African mammy wagon. of space. Knowing no speed limit, but he solaces his victims with signs (page 272). with mahogany-plank seats and attached to a two-wheel trailer becomes Humanity and its baggage, including caged chickens, pack every inch recognizing no curves, the driver is more dangerous than the leopard, such as "Fear not; death comes suddenly," or, "Who knows the end?" drowned out by high cries of astonishment and simple joy at the miracle. Then chants and drums took up again at redoubled tempo, with changing rhythms merging and parting in the individualism of jungle bebop. Hours later, when the singing had reached a peak of intensity, the chief, who had been taking the celebration calmly enough, sud denly stood and pointed dramatically at the moon. Those devils were back again! As the earth's shadow swiftly put out the light of the moon, there were, first, awed silence, then a few scattered wails and shouts and, finally, when the bright crescent of the moon reappeared, a rush of exultant rhythm that marked final triumph over the spirits of evil. In this nightlong jamboree we and our potently magic music box were on the side of the angels, equaling and duplicating the polyrhythmic drumming, chants, and exhorta tions. All in all, it was truly an exhibition of powerful juju. We, too, were beginning to be plagued by evil spirits. Several days before, pushing our way along a particularly desolate and espe cially brutal section of bush trail, one of our tortured rear springs suddenly gave up the ghost. A brief inspection showed us heeled over like a sinking ship. The nearest village that might produce a mechanic of sorts was 50 miles to the north. It was mid-morning. By nursing the jeep along, we got there by dark. The lone white man in Toumodi was French. More important, he was a profes sional mechanic. In his open-air garage, which he shared with a group of native coffee bean sorters, he looked over the damage. His low whistle was eloquent. Plainly, nothing could be done that night. Could we spend the night in the village? But yes, there was a government resthouse. Borrowed Lodgings A quick visit revealed that no one could sleep in the resthouse except the snakes, bats, and vermin with which it was infested. Was there, perhaps, a mission in the village? But of course! Only, the missionary had gone with his wife and children two weeks before to Kankan, across the world in French Guinea. Although the front doors of the mission house were locked, the back was not. It seemed like a big improvement over native thatch and airless mud walls. A host in ab sentia would be better than no host at all.