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Volume 6827

or Buck Burroughs Rides Again
Written April 1943 ~ Copyright ERB, Inc.
Transcribed and Illustrated for ERBzine by Bill Hillman


Jan 18/19 ~ Old Fort and Leper Colony ~ Roadside rotting Native Lepers ~ Drive to Tontouta picking up passengers on the way
Interview Commander Burroughs ~ Dine with Aircraft Carrier Saratoga Crews ~ Downpour ~ Javanese Family

. . . hospital buildings, and a church -- quite an elaborate affair. Beside the road, off the leper reservation, we passed a boy already partially rotted away. I had seen inmates out on public highways thus before. Always natives, for only non-whites are required to live in the colony.

At 8:00 the morning of January 19, I drove out Tontouta way to find Cmdr. Burroughs and get a story from him. En route, I picked up a Fighting French courier carrying a blue denim mail sack. He was small and unbelievably filthy. Discovering during the first couple of minutes that the linguistic hurdles confronting us were insurmountable, conversation curled up and died. Each remained wrapped in his own thoughts. some of mine revolved around the possibility that things might crawl from him onto me. After a few miles, he motioned me to stop beside an old fellow working in a ditch beside the road. He handed his dispatch case, or mail bag, or whatever it was to the old man; and we drove on. I am still wondering. It might have been the old man's lunch. I finally left my passenger at "Little Old New York", the camp of a tank outfit.

Farther on, I picked up two CB's. When I stopped at the gate at Tontouta to inquire for Cmdr. Burroughs, they got out and walked on. Picked up the two CB's again, as I had been directed farther along Colonial Highway. Finally crossed the Tontouta River, where crowds of service men were bathing in their birthday suites regardless of the fact that people of both sexes were continually crossing the bridge on this main highway. I now realized that I had gone too far; so I dumped my passengers and turned around.

I now picked up two coloured men of an Engineer Corps unit. They were from Detroit. They directed me to the Carrier camp, where I found Cmdr. Burroughs and spent a pleasant half hour in his tent, including a Bourbon highball. I stayed for dinner, meeting several officers of his command, Air Group 3 of the Aircraft Carrier Saratoga. The Group consisted of four squadrons, with some hundred officers. The Sara was then in the harbour at Noumea.

While we were at mess, a torrential downpour started. It must have been a cloud-burst, for in a matter of minutes, water, inches deep, was racing through the camp. I got soaked getting to Bouncing Baby, in the bottom of which were a couple of inches of water. But this happened every time it rained; so I was used to it. There are plugs in the floorboard that I might have removed to let the water out, but I never got around to looking for a wrench. I always thought of it while the water was sloshing around my feet, and then forgot it as soon as the flood subsided.

Several miles beyond Tontouta, a Javanese boy hailed me for a ride. There were a woman, a baby, and a dog with him. It was still raining and the road was muddy. There is, I believe, a regulation that forbids one picking up other than service personnel in an army vehicle; so I stopped. The dog didn't wait for an invitation. He jumped right in. Everything, even dogs, seem to like to ride in jeeps. The woman was carrying an enormously fat baby, a tiny umbrella, and a nursing bottle. The woman was fat. I took the umbrella and the nursing bottle while mamma crawled into the seat next to me with the baby. How she managed it, I don't know.

The baby was a cute, fat, good-natured little rascal with large brown eyes. All three were immaculately clean, in marked contrast to my Fighting French passenger. The ten year old boy climbed into the back seat. They detrained after two or three miles, the last of my passengers for the day.

History of Leprosy
Leper Colony
New Caledonia
New Caledonia Cultural Artifacts
USS Saratoga


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