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Book details
  • SubGenre:Personal Memoirs
  • Language:English
  • Pages:200
  • Format:Paperback
  • eBook ISBN:9781631924941
  • Paperback ISBN:9781631924934

The Bush Devil Ate Sam

And Other Tales of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa

by Curtis Mekemson

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Scruffy soldiers with guns pointed in all directions were scattered around my yard when I returned from teaching. “What’s up?” I asked in a shaky voice. Liberian soldiers were scary.

“Your dog ate one of the Superintendent’s guinea fowl,” the sergeant growled. The Superintendent was the governor of Bong County and quite fond of his fowl birds. But Boy, the perpetrator of the crime, didn’t belong to me, and he regarded my cat Rasputin as dinner.

“Why don’t you arrest him,” I suggested helpfully. “Not him. You!” the sergeant roared. “You are coming with us.”

In 1965 I left the chaotic world of UC Berkeley and the student revolution of the mid-60s to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in the even stranger world of Liberia, West Africa. The Bush Devil Ate Sam is the story of my experience. When I arrived, descendants of freed slaves from America ruled the country with an iron grip while the tribal people were caught in a struggle between modern culture and ancient Africa.

I quickly discovered that being a Peace Corps Volunteer was anything but dull. Army ants invaded our house. Students strolled into class with cans of squirming termites for breakfast, and the young man who worked for me, calmly announced that the scars running down his chest were the teeth marks of the Poro Bush Devil.

On the teaching front, my seniors took top national honors in social studies, but the national government determined a student government I created to teach democracy was a threat to Liberia’s one party state. My students were to be arrested; I was told to pack my bags.

Half of the profits from this book will be donated to Friends of Liberia, a nonprofit organization. The goal of the organization is “to positively affect Liberia by supporting education, social, economic and humanitarian programs.” For more information check my blog at:


The Bush Devil Ate Sam is the story of my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa from 1965-67— four years after President John Kennedy created the organization. Join me as I make the decision to sign up, go through training in San Francisco, fly off to West Africa, and spend two years teaching second graders and high school students.

A wandering gene passed down by ancestors— reinforced by my experiences as a student at the University of California, Berkeley— led me to sign up for the Peace Corps. You will meet some of the ancestors. As for Berkeley, the 60s were turbulent, divisive and very interesting times on campus. I joined the Free Speech Movement, sat-in at Sproul Hall, and gave a speech while standing on the Dean’s desk. The FBI was watching.

Just how do you prepare people to leave their friends, family and culture to spend two years of living and working in a dramatically different culture? The Peace Corps was still struggling with this question in 1965. Did camping our group in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and introducing a crate of clucking chickens for dinner help?

My story is about the challenges of teaching in a third world country. But it is also about how the history, politics, and culture of Liberia impacted the job we were brought in to perform. Why, for example, was an elementary school reader I wrote featuring African folk tales and Liberian children considered a revolutionary tract by the government?

Mainly, The Bush Devil Ate Sam is about everyday life, African style. Do-Your-Part the Dog adopts me and then causes a mini-riot when she sneaks in behind me to the grand opening of a mosque. Rasputin the Cat and the rooster next door take turns waking me up at 5 a.m. A tribal chief offers to lend me a Lightning Man who can make lightning strike whomever stole my $50.

I conclude with an epilogue that covers Liberian history from the 1970s up to the present, including Liberia’s civil wars and Ebola.

About the author

Curt was raised in the small foothill town of Diamond Springs, California. He grew up wandering through the woods and communing with nature. It was a great life. But he also learned a lot about transparency. Everybody knew everything about everybody else, which was more than he wanted to know.

So he escaped the confines of his universe in the mid-60s and headed off to UC Berkeley where he learned that integration was good, war was bad, and that young people who held such views should be bashed on the head and thrown in jail.

He was waiting for his turn with the Oakland police while sitting on the floor of the UC administration building and singing We Shall Overcome with Joan Baez when he had an epiphany: he should make America a better place and leave the country; he would join the Peace Corps.

Berkeley and the Peace Corps ruined Curt for living the American Dream. “If you would only make babies and take up photography,” his father had grumbled. Instead, Curt became an environmentalist and a health advocate, happily making war on polluters and the tobacco industry. For variety, he became a wilderness guide, leading one hundred mile backpack treks up and down the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California for twenty years.

Today Curt and his wife, Peggy, live on five wooded acres in Southern Oregon where he pursues yet another career, this time in writing. Visit him at his blog: and travel the world with him. He’d love to hear from you. Or you can Email him at [email protected]

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