Susan C. Anthony

Muddy footprints on Brian at Six-Mile BeachNew Year's Eve

December 31, 1987

We spent a week on Six-Mile Beach in Cameroon between Christmas and New Year's.  It was a great beach in most respects, but instead of sand there was mud.  One member of our group, Brian, let us decorate him as he sunbathed.

When the trip leader announced that we were to prepare a skit for New Year's Eve, I had my normal reaction to such ideas—a sinking feeling in the stomach and a desire to take a very long walk.

As Dennis and I started brainstorming, however, we hit on a good idea. Nearly everyone on the truck had suffered from some kind of stomach bug, and we'd heard terrifying stories about local African doctors. Why not a doctor skit?

Dennis suggested doing it in silhouette—back-lit behind a screen. Henrick, a mild-mannered and sincere young engineer from Denmark, said he'd play the patient. I would be Henrick's friend and Dennis would be the doctor.

The skit started with Henrick complaining of stomach pain. I urged him to visit a village doctor, discounting the stories we'd heard as just rumors.

"Come right in," said Doctor Dennis in a heavily accented voice. "I can help you. Hee, hee, hee...."

Doctor D ordered me to wait outside and had Henrick lie on a low camp bed.

"We'll start with anesthetic," said Doctor D as he poured a bottle of liquid into Henrick's mouth from two feet high (at least it looked that way in silhouette). He finished with a few swigs for himself.

"Hmm, let's see now. I think I shall have to operate!" He poised a huge knife above Henrick's stomach.

"No, no!" Henrick, not yet unconscious, started to rise up in protest. Doctor D bonked him on the head with a mallet, then plunged the knife in and sawed him open from neck to stomach.

"Let's see. What could be the trouble here?" Doctor D began pulling out rope and fishing net (guts), then various items that had been lost along the trip: dishes, tent stakes, and an American passport. He pulled out a coconut (heart) with the comment, "I've always wanted to try open heart surgery."

"At last, there's the bug!" he shouted, pulling out a dead crab and dangling it close to the screen so it looked huge in silhouette.

Guitar hanging out to dryHenrick groaned and started to rise up. "Not yet, not yet!" cried Doctor D, bonking him again with the mallet.

"He's coming to. I'd better hurry!" said Doctor D to himself. He quickly stuffed the heart and guts back in, then sewed up the cut with a pencil to which we'd attached a string.

At last, Doctor D helped Henrick to his feet and brought him outside to me.

"How are you?" I asked anxiously.

"My stomach feels better," he responded. "But my head...."

Later, we experienced a real honest-to-goodness tropical downpour at Six-Mile Beach, after which we had to hang everything out to dry, even the guitar.

Go on to Goats
Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony