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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

by lyle e davis

Lots of interesting people here in North County. Lots of interesting stories to tell. We’ve barely scratched the surface.

Take, for example, a fella named Larry Flora.

Larry’s parents were Lutheran missionaries and accepted an assignment to go to Liberia, West Africa, of all places. Larry, only two years old at the time, was not consulted on the matter. He just tagged along with mom and dad and discovered a whole new world. A world not without a certain amount of danger . . . and not without some strange history.

They traveled there by freighter to the shores of Monrovia, then by car to the end of the car road, and then by foot, or by hammock. A hammock is a seating arrangement on a pole with two men on either end. Sounds luxurious. It wasn’t. It was utilitarian.

It was 45 miles from the end of the car road, into a community called Zorzor (pronounced ZaZa). That was home from 1938 to 1950.

The welcome was less than, shall we say, warm. When they arrived in Zorzor, the witch doctor said, “they are strangers, kill them.”

“But the people were afraid to kill us,” said Flora, “because we had more powerful magic and medicine than they had. We had little round things about 8” long and we could push a button in it and shine a fire on the wall. They had never seen such a thing. You and I know them as flashlights . . . to the people it was magic.”

Another piece of “magic” kept the natives in line. “Whenever my dad left home, the men would ask them to request something for mother, dad would take a notepad and write on it - a banana, a shoe, an umbrella, whatever; the man would run a mile to my mother. My mom would read the note and send back the requested item with the man to his original point. Those notes were clearly magic; so they wound up being posted on the doors of the natives to keep the evil spirits from entering the home.” The natives could neither read nor write - so the scribbling of a note from one person to another was simply “magic.”

“We also had a battery operated tape recorder; with that we could steal the spirits out of other people’s bodies and then play it back for them. The natives would wonder at this.”

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