Father Lou (“Buck”) Bayless was a member of the first group of Maryknoll priests
who came to Tanzania and the only Maryknoller to live and work in Tanzania for
the first 50 years (1946-1996). Lou’s advice to a young Maryknoller just
starting out in Africa was: "Keep your mouth closed, your bowels open and your
feet dry." On driving a car or motorcycle safely he counseled: "Drive to
inspire not to expire." One wonders how well Lou takes his own advice. At
Iramba Parish a young Tanzanian priest used to drive a motorcycle very, very
fast. But the local Christians said he was only the second fastest
motorcycle driver they had ever seen. The fastest was Father Lou Bayless when
he had been a young priest.
Lou’s stories in the Maryknoll Diary Digest are classics. "One day at
Nyegina we experienced a terrific thundershower. As the rain fell on the
corrugated metal roof, it first sounded like hail. Then the noise became louder
and steadier, resembling the sound of escaping steam. It is beyond the shadow
of a doubt a most difficult task to give a sermon in church and compete with the
racket of the rain. The delivering of sermons in the refectory at Maryknoll,
New York amidst the clatter of dishes has stood us in good stead."
high mass at Nyegina everything went along smoothly until after the gospel. As
the celebrant I came to the center of the altar to intone the Credo.
There was no response from the choir. Then I turned around and sang the
Dominus Vobiscum. Still not a note from the choir. Father Collins and the
Missionaries of Africa Brother Wilfred in the sanctuary caught my eye and
motioned me to sit down and let Father Aloysius Junker begin his sermon."
As a born
storyteller Lou could go on and on describing his humorous experiences and
adventures. "One day in Nyegina in January, 1947 we had just finished our
siesta when I answered a knock at the door. Then I told the pastor Father
Junker that a lady was waiting to see him. Thinking that she was an important
visitor from Dar es Salaam, Father Junker got dressed up in his clean cassock,
shined his shoes and combed his beard and hair. Marching to the front door he
asked: "Now, where’s the lady?" I pointed to a poorly dressed Luo woman named
Maria Atieno. Greatly annoyed Junker exclaimed: "She’s not a lady. She’s one
of our ordinary flock."
recreation period after supper at Nyegina Brother Wilfred told us the story of
the missionary who went out hunting. The priest parked his motorcycle, then
went wandering about the countryside looking for antelopes. But he saw none.
At last he came upon a small bush. He stopped short, leveled his gun at what
appeared to be a pair of antlers and fired. He took two more shots to make sure
of his kill. He gingerly walked up to the spot where he expected to find the
dead antelope. To his surprise and consternation he found his motorcycle
riddled with holes and gasoline pouring out of the perforated fuel tank. The
handle bars were the antlers he had seen."
March, 1950 I was driving a four-wheel drive Jeep to Maji Moto in Iramba
Outstation in Musoma Vicariate. I came to a drift filled with water from a
flash flood. I tried to barrel through the water using my four-wheel drive.
Halfway across the cement roadbed the jeep stalled. The heavy current pushed
the jeep off the cement and it sank. Escaping from the submerged car, I grabbed
onto a small tree. A rumor circulated that I had been swept away and lost in
the Mara River. But 30 minutes later the water subsided and I took all the
equipment out of the Jeep. All our Christmas mail was soaked. My safari was
cancelled and the jeep was taken by lorry to Musoma for overhaul."