Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cheery Countenance

Life’s a Blast!

*This story is posted with permission from Richard Hill.

The mission children in Nigeria, also referred to as missionary kids or mk’s, attended the boarding school called Newton Memorial School. Mk’s were home schooled until the 5th grade when Newton began. Newton offered classes for 5th – 10th grades, after which the mk’s either went back to the states to finish high school or to another boarding school in the northern Nigerian city of Jos, called Hillcrest. There are numerous stories from Newton and Hillcrest - most are good.

This story is true. It happened to a fellow mk named Richard, but I remember it well. Richard’s family, like mine served in Nigeria during the Biafran war. At that time, the night watchmen or “magardi” also had another job selling gunpowder. He sold to soldiers and whoever else would buy gunpowder by day and kept watch over the sleeping mk’s at the boarding school by night.

Well, not all of the boys slept like they were supposed to at night. While the girl’s dorm stayed mostly quiet, many of the boys snuck out and roamed the campus. There wasn’t much to do at night but sneaking past the house parents was an adventure in itself. Richard was one of the worst offenders. Oh, there were others…some other names definitely come to mind (Kevin, are you reading this? Phil?...) But Richard in particular, was all over the place at night when he was supposed to be sleeping.

The magardi knew of Richard’s antics but kept the secret under one condition – Richard had to buy a small amount of gunpowder whenever he was caught. Mk”s had a little money given to them each week to purchase snacks at the school’s canteen. So, that was the deal: Richard bought the margardi’s silence by purchasing some of his wares, which just happened to be gunpowder!

Consequently, Richard had a growing supply of gunpowder in his room.

What was an 8th grader to do with gunpowder?? Richard stored it in a metal coffee tin he had gotten his hands on and played a little game with it. Every day during rest period when the mk’s were required to be in their rooms in order to keep them out of the tropical sun in the heat of the day, Richard would spill out a small teaspoon of gunpowder onto the concrete floor of his room. Then, sitting on his bed, he would light a match, and throw it on the gunpowder – a few feet away. The gunpowder would ignite and make a very small, controlled explosion on the floor. Richard and his roommate watched the gunpowder make a little puff as it was consumed and the smoke ascended, then dispersed, in the room until it was gone. Richard did this nearly everyday.

But one day…things went a little wrong. That day, when Richard threw the match onto the small amount of gunpowder in the middle of his floor, a spark flew back and landed in the metal coffee can. BOOM!! The tin, full of gunpowder, acted like a small bomb. The explosion shook the dormitory, rattling the louvered glass window on one side of the building. But the only casualties were Richard’s eyebrows and the hair off of his right arm.

For years, no one knew what caused the explosion. The school was thoroughly inspected by the missionaries and nothing was ever found.

Now that he’s an adult, Richard has confessed and everyone has had a good laugh out of an adventure we all knew about but to quote Paul Harvey, “Now we know the rest of the story!” 

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