Teaser 219: Shilling and Shamelessly Too

I recorded the addition to our appeal with Jeremy in his tent. He had it up on the web site the next morning and ads of fifteen, thirty and sixty second lengths for Will to pull. Since I didn't have the time, nor did any of us, to call around begging for free PSA time from networks world-wide, I entrusted it to Will, who was already getting a trickle from some of the networks for his Africa Partnership. Of course he let us piggyback on his pleas at no charge and, of course, it worked. My little non-profit fund, Intercontinental Cooperative, received donations totaling more than two million dollars in three days. It helped. I was learning the game for shilling, which is exactly what I was doing, and shamelessly too. I noted in my appeal all we had accomplished, and we showed what we had accomplished, including the size of the site, which looked huge on the screen, thanks to Jeremy's excellent camera eye, the prayer facility, which attracted Muslim donations all over the world, the cropland being dug and sifted, the sheep already in their enclosed pen, the solar tables and electric facility already operational, and all of it due first to your belief in me from the two movies in which I participated, giving me the independent wealth to begin something like this, the time to work on it personally, which gives me tremendous satisfaction, and now your individual donations allow us to build something in Africa which may remain a permanent fixture in Mali potentially forever. As I reminded you, the viewer, our little garden in Gossi would be the largest independent agricultural operation within one hundred miles, due mostly to the fact we took up three of those miles in most any direction. It was so damned exciting shilling like this when I next talked to John, who shills for an American brewery, and Serena, who shills for her own make-up products and other commercial interests, I could say, “Now that I've joined you in the shill game, I completely understand why you do it. You're shilling for things you believe in. So am I.”

We only used the backhoe, on loan from the government at no charge—though we paid for the operator and the gas to run it—into the middle of the following week. This was because the Caterpillar tractor I ordered, with subsidies I arranged with folks in the U.S. government, arrived by truck, hauled some thousands of miles from a U.S. controlled facility deep down in the continent. I had to perform research on it, not for the specs of the equipment because we knew what we needed. The research I performed was finding it in the bowels of the U.S. government's list of operational equipment, which is available if you know where to look. Since I knew where to look—I had made a few friends in my rise of modest prominence over the previous two years—I simply made calls, shilling about my previous shilling, which made some headway in the consciousness of many well-meaning members of the public scattered all over the world and whose combined voices were extremely difficult for even the most hardened bureaucrat to ignore, and got what I wanted, though I must admit you, the taxpayers of America, paid for some of it. Thank you. We put it to immediate good use, you'll be happy to know, since it came with attachments on a separate truck for dozing and digging, with two shovel sizes, the smaller digging at a width of one foot, perfect for backhoe use. You should also note the particular tractor we arranged for purchase with a subsidy covering some of the cost sat in the U.S. facility unused for six months. A replacement was purchased and was still sitting unused when I left the garden permanently the following year. Thus, your tax money for a subsidy went to immediate use. Your tax money for the replacement purchase languished unused for more than a year. Thank you, America. It was your tax money at work which actually performed work.

It was Saturday morning and everyone was up early. The Gao crew had scooped out more than half the cropland area, doing all of it competently without any of us supervising. They just worked, taking their appropriate breaks for prayer. We already had mounds of clay, constantly fitted into over a hundred molds, pulled out and set on fired charcoal so the bricks were hardened in minutes instead of hours or days. Some of the bricks were built, all of this by N'golo's crew, into housing for the charcoal fire, and there were trucks regularly being stacked with hardened clay brick and driven to the prayer facility and mortared into place. Before daylight passed into darkness, the entire prayer facility was surrounded by clay brick to a man's chest, with each angle of the eight-sided structure butting tightly. That's how precise these guys built their molds. Nassira was so excited her bubbly energy infected everyone. She pointed to the holes in the surrounding structure, intended for the electric cables and water pipe, and literally shouted at me, despite my being a mere few feet away, “Just like my drawings, Gregory! Everything so far is just like I imagined it!” Nassira's enthusiasm was so high because the prayer facility represented the largest building she had ever designed which was actually being constructed. She had designed and seen built other structures, a handful of homes and very small business facilities, but nothing compared to this. It was fun watching the interaction between Nassira and N'golo. She would gush with verbal appreciation directed to him, he would smile his big grin, spout some calm but decisive orders to his men, he and the men together would jump on the next bit of work to be done, look over to Nassira, who is watching intently, and grin his big grin, and she had no alternative but to grin back just as big.

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-SevenLost on the Dark Continent” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com