Along about 1958, three characters were killing time on the verandah of Kiambogo Building in the late evening.
Now, we must put the setting together for you. In 1909 Theodore Roosevelt, after two amazing terms as President of the United States of America, was on a hunting trip to Kenya. He was invited to visit Kijabe where the Africa Inland Mission had a large mission station and a school for missionary's kids.
Teddy Roosevelt was asked to lay the corner stone for a huge sandstone building about to be built. He did so, and our story takes place in that building many years later and about 60 feet from the corner stone on a verandah that ran the full length of the building.
In 1954 the school was blessed (or some of the staff might say cursed) by the addition of myself into fifth grade. As part of the survival process of any student at Rift Valley Academy, one soon learned that comic relief and other distractions were absolutely necessary to keep from feeling horribly homesick and generally running down mentally and physically.
One culprit, yours truly, gives his perspective:
In this sporting spirit, on the evening in question, Karl Uline, Phlly Skoda, and myself were contemplating how to end the day with some diversion. Not wanting to repeat other pranks and show a lack of creativity, we came up with the idea that one of the school donkey's was sorely in need of prayer.
Now, the girls dorm was the upstairs of the Kiambogo building. In the evening, about nine o'clock, we boys were allowed to join the girls and listen to the news from the BBC (discussed elsewhere in these yarns). After the news, we had to leave, and the girls were then joined by their dorm mother, Mrs. Senoff, for devotions before going off to bed.
We were supposed to trip off to our dorm on the hill like good boys and go to bed. Not tonight though.
So, Karl Uline went looking for one of the donkey's. The two donkeys only had one duty. They pulled a donkey cart up on the hill about two miles above the school to a dairy where three of four huge cans of milk were collected and brought back for our meals. The donkey driver was a cheerful bandy legged fellow named Shege.
Karl found one of the donkeys. They grazed around the school grounds all day and night and brayed at the most amusing times. The donkey we decided to bring to prayer was driven down the verandah by Karl and Philly. They made a terrible racket, but the girls did not hear it. The donkey had never been on the verandah, nor had he ever been invited to evening devotions before, so he was terrified and did not want to go along. Just a hardened sinner I gather.
Finally, the donkey was pointed nose first at the front door into the girls' sitting room. Elizabeth will tell you below what was going on inside. It was supposed to be very personal and quiet and special. The door into the room had a tensioner that closed it after anyone walked through.
We followed a well rehearsed plan. I stood at the donkey's side, I kicked the door open wildly, and Karl and Philly whacked the donkey mightily on the rump. The donkey lunged through the door and stopped half way. The door closer brought the door closed against the donkey's flank, and the donkey was trapped and desperately trying to back out.
The whole time the donkey was braying wildly.
And now, Elizabeth will tell you how this all looked from inside the room while the girls were in the midst of their devotions.
Elizabeth's description of the excitement from inside the girls' sitting room:
We were having the Bible reading and it was very quiet in the room when all of a sudden the door was flung open and in trotted the donkey. We could tell it didn't want to come in but was forced by somebody behind him. At first we thought it would come all the way in when it stopped and then got caught by the door closing and catching it right behind the ribs.
Then it really made a ruckus. Some of us started giggling and some were scared. Mrs. Senoff had figured out that some boys were behind the donkey. She called "Sam, Sam" in her high pitched call. Her husband Sam came running down the stairs, opened the door and pushed the donkey out. Our devotions were totally disrupted and it was hard to get our minds back on the Bible reading. Besides, Mrs. Senoff had gone out on the porch and most of us sat there laughing until she came back. I think later she saw the funny side to it, too. I never knew who the culprits were until after Steve and I were married.
AFTERWARD: Steve here for the ending.
Mrs. Senoff came running out on the verandah, and we jumped over the railing into the flowering bushes below. We bent over and tried to look like bushes in the dark, but we were shaking and snickering out of control. Mrs. Senoff cried out, "Arty, Steve, Karl, Paul" and so on. We realized she was guessing and trying to think of all the rascals that might do something like that. So, we kept still. She went around to the stairs that went down from the middle of the verandah, and we ran the other way.
We did not tell anyone of our efforts to teach donkeys to pray for a long time. But, here is another conspiracy uncovered for my readers at Blessed Quietness Journal. You cannot accuse us here of hiding the really important events from past history.