Dolly Parton

I suppose that I should have turned left at the second mountain?

I envy the workers that go overseas today; armed with cell phones, GPS, and electronic gadgets that help them to find the most remote places while also aiding them in finding their way home.

Not so in Malawi, East Africa in 1985.  I had agreed to take some lady and her family from the hospital to their home village.  When I asked them where the village was located they all said in unison, “Not far!”  I was young enough and inexperienced in this cross-cultural stuff so I did not understand that any place, anywhere in a vehicle was “not far!”  I should have remembered the time when our family was driving down another mountain when a man frantically waved us down and begged for ride.  We squeezed him into the truck and drove for some time.  I kept glancing at him from the corner of my eyes, waiting for him to tell me when we had arrived at his village?  Finally I asked him straight out where he lived.  He looked at me, smiled and said,

“Oh I live in a village not far from where you picked me up.  I just wanted to ride in an automobile for the first time.  Let me out and I’ll walk back home.”

So here I was, having dropped off the family after their stay in the hospital.  And somewhere in the mountains of Malawi I was hopelessly lost with petrol stations, towns, and bathrooms, seemingly nonexistent.  Almost without warning I came over the top of a mountain and there was a small one-horse town.  As I went to the only shop that seemed to be open I couldn’t place the music that was coming out of a speaker so loud that you could hear from one end of the town to the other.

Finally it dawned on me that I was hearing Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing a duet!

Wondering how those country singers found their way on top of this mountain and in this town, I went into the store asking God in his mercy to provide me with the rare opportunity of purchasing a Coca-Cola or Pepsi.  When I asked the shop owner concerning the possibility of this miracle he just pointed to an old gas-powered fridge at the back of the store.  Opening the door of this ancient fridge, that must’ve come on the ark with Moses, I discovered two Pepsi Colas totally encased in ice.  Walking back to my truck, I got a hammer and screwdriver out of my toolbox and went back into the store and chiseled those two Pepsis out of the ice.  Going to the porch of the store I sat with my back to a termite infested post, pried the bottle caps off those colas, and leaned back and listened to Dolly and Porter wail their country song. It felt like I was back home in Kentucky.

About an hour later a man came to the town who could point me toward the right mountain pass I needed to find my way home.  30 years later I can still picture myself sitting on the wooden porch, covered with the dust of Africa, sipping a Pepsi, and listening to Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing the same song over and over and over again.

Life was good.