Just then our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. King, came along. They had to watch where they stepped or they would step on a frog. Mr. King was all of six foot tall and it was fun to watch him skipping one way and then the other, sometimes almost falling over. He not only didn't want to step on them, he was actually afraid of them.
Then Philip's eyes were filled with mischief. He caught two or three frogs in his hand and slipped up to Mr. King and put them in his pocket. "Philip, Philip," cried Mr. King, "Take those things out of my pocket!" He was dancing all over the place and Philip and Betty Ann were doubled up laughing. After a moment Philip went up to him and reached in and pulled out his handkerchief and with it came the frogs. Only then did Mr. King stop dancing. He turned and sternly said, "Philip, don't you ever do that again! I might have a heart attack." Philip and Betty Ann had big grins on their faces as the Kings walked away.
Some weeks later, Philip and I went to Nagpur by bus and the Kings went with us. And that is almost another story. It began this way.
Some months before, the head teacher of the Teacher Training College, Zillah Soule, talked with me. "I have to have a new bus for my girls at the school. I need someone to draw up plans for the bus. Will you do it?" I had never done anything like that before but I said I would try. She said, "It must have 24 seats in it." Then she said it was going to be made in Nagpur, a city 170 miles away. They built busses there. She hoped I could do the plans right away.
To make the story short, Zillah Soule sent my plans to the bus builders in Nagpur and they built the bus just as I had planned it. One day Miss Soule got a letter from them saying,"Your bus is ready."
The other part of the story is that Mrs. King was trying to grow larger chickens. Many of the local chickens were skinny. They didn't have much meat on them and the hens didn't lay many eggs. There was a large chicken farm in Nagpur, where they raised large chickens and the hens were good egg layers. Mrs. King had ordered 100 eggs so she could put them in what was called an incubator. The incubator keeps the eggs at a certain temperature for 21 days and then the eggs hatch and the incubator is filled with little chirping chickens. Mrs. King asked, "Can we go with you to Nagpur when you go for the bus? That way I could get my eggs." And that was what happened.
Sure enough when we got to Nagpur the bus looked wonderful. But we had one problem. It was soon after the war and no person could have more than four gallons of gasoline each month. I needed more than that for the trip back to Jabalpur. When I went to the Gasoline Ration Officer I said, "Will you let me have enough gasoline so I can drive this new school bus to Jabalpur?" He asked, "How many gallons will you need?" I didn't rightly know but I made a guess, "Twenty gallons." "That is too much," he said, and he wrote out a permit for 18 gallons.
Mrs. King was ready with her two baskets of eggs, so Philip, the Kings, and I started out late in the afternoon. To drive a big bus was quite different than driving a car, but I soon found that it was really fun to drive. We hadn't gone far before Mrs. King said, "My, the road is rough. I'm afraid my eggs will break." I did my best to miss the bad spots in the road but the bus was new and stiff and it didn't ride very smoothly.
It was almost dark when we saw the lights of Jabalpur off in the distance. Suddenly the bus coughed a couple of times and stopped. "We are out of gasoline," I said. I put the brake on so the bus would not roll back down the little hill we were climbing. Then Philip and I got out and walked to the back of the bus. Philip stood behind it. Then he reached up, put both hands on it and said, "Get in Dad. I think I can push it." He looked so small behind that big bus. He really thought he could, but I knew it would take a dozen men to push it very far.
There wasn't much traffic on the road and we were wondering what we could do when Philip said, "I hear a car coming." Sure enough from behind us there came a truck very slowly. It drove past and I was afraid it wasn't going to stop, but it went only a little ways before it stopped. Then the driver got out and came back. He could talk only in the Indian language but I could understand what he said, "What's the matter?" he asked. Then I told him we were out of gasoline. He thought for a moment and then said, "I may be able to help you."
During the war they had built some truck with a little furnace on the side. The furnace burned charcoal, which made gas, and the gas was used to run the truck. The driver said, "We have a load of green bananas and I am on my way to Jabalpur. We always carry some gasoline because the charcoal gas isn't good enough to get us over the mountains. I have some gasoline and can let you have enough to get you to Jabalpur." "That would be very kind," I said. "I have some gasoline in Jabalpur. I will be glad to meet you tomorrow and give it to you."
He went back to his truck and brought a large can of gasoline. He poured the gasoline into the bus. I took out a sheet from my notebook and began writing my name and address to give to him. He said, "You are a missionary, aren't you?" I said I was. He said, "I don't need the paper. I will be at the fountain in the city at noon tomorrow. Bring the gasoline to me there." And then he went back to his truck.
"Come, Philip, get on the bus" I stepped on the starter and the engine didn't start. I stepped again and there was a little cough in the engine. The third time the engine purred and I began to drive the bus again. When we drove into our driveway at home and stopped I breathed a sigh of relief. The Kings got out, carefully carrying their baskets of eggs. In a few days she put the eggs into the incubator. Twenty one days later we saw the first eggs hatch and soon there were a number of fuzzy little chicks running around. Many of the eggs did not hatch. Mrs. King always said it was because the road was so rough.
The next day I did two things. I took my gasoline and went to the fountain in the center of the city. Sure enough the truck driver was there. He had unloaded his bananas and put them in what he called the banana ovens. They were really only enclosed basements where it was hot and the bananas would soon ripen. Then I took the bus to the Teacher's College. They were delighted with it and all had smiles on their faces. Miss Soule and some of the students said, "Thank you." And when I returned home I found that all the little frogs were gone. I don't know where they went and I never did find out where they came from. [by James E. McEldowney, Spring 1997]
Back to the top
Return to James E. McEldowney's Writings page