The Life and Experiences of a Layman by Charles Boller

Pages 88 - 82


"Now August, was your pastor here?" I asked him, to which he replied: "Yes, twice already. I thank you with my whole heart, Mr. Boller. You do so much for me and it is right that you sent for my pastor." At the end of August, 1908 he found his eternal rest.

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The Devout Chinese Man

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It was the end of February 1907 that I and my daughter traveled to Florida due to my weakened health. We lived for over three months in the Colledge Arms Hotel. The city of Daland has between 18,000 and 20,000 residents and it is a very lovely city. The Baptists have a large university here. Half of the residents are negros. In the entire state of Florida there are no more beautiful orange groves than those around Daland. Not only do the best oranges grow here but in the forests there are dangerous rattlesnakes, thus people and cattle cannot live there. I heard from a professional man, who worked with a number of the men in the forest, that the rattlesnakes will not bite the black people.


But if he hires white men within a short time they are bitten by the snakes. The color of these snakes is similar to dry grass and it is very difficult to see them until someone has stepped on one and then it is too late for man and cattle.

Hunters wear high leather boots when they hunt in the forests. The snakes could spring anywhere from five to six feet and they always bite under the knee; then they repeat the spring and at that moment they are usually shot dead.

All this was communicated to me as we went through the forest.

We were often asked by the guests if we already completed a visit to the Chinaman. I asked them: "What is there to see?" They answered: "That's what you'll find out when you go there. Just tell the coachman. He knows where he lives." After a ride of six miles we were taken before a garden door. A very clean and courteous Chinese man came to greet us. He was about fifty years old. He bade us a hearty welcome and led us to his home where he lived quite alone in the company of his


horse, a dog and a proud rooster. He told us that he had lived here for many years and he seemed to speak good English. After asking all manner of questions I said to him: "As I see it, you are a rich man, in which case I would not want to live all alone in solitude here and mope around." Then he began to speak with great earnestness and said: "When I was a younger man I also had a beloved. In my land six people must give their approval for a marriage, namely the parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, and the couple, who are to be brothed. One of the parents of the bride did not give approval for the union and according to the laws of our land the groom may still marry the bride if he convinces the person to change his mind and give his approval. Unfortunately this person died." As he was telling us this, tears flowed over his cheeks and we could do nothing other than sympathize with him. "I would have preferred to die but the loving God at that time led my very honored Foster Mother to China and she needed an interpreter. Travelers complain that they cannot find a good and true interpreter for a reasonable wage.


Thus I traveled with the household through all Asian lands and did my best to keep them happy. They brought me back with them to America. Here we traveled to all the major cities and finally we arrived here in Daland. My Foster Mother bought a working orange grove as well as the beautiful woods on the other side of the street and after several years she also died. I have cried and prayed a great deal. She had no children and thus she left me the entire estate. "O, my dear Foster Mother, she was so good to me." I then asked him how much the estate was worth. He gave the answer: "Between $60,000 and $70,000." I further said: "You live a true hermit's existence here." He answered: "O, I have many comforts here. Each day I have many visitors. If I call to my children, they come to me. He took the bell and rang it a couple of times. Immediately they came. The horse was named Billy. He asked Billy,"What would you like? Are you hungry?" The proud, fat horse had never worked and had a tail like silk, which fanned to the ground. It sparkled like a mirror. Now the proud rooster came to him. "Come here, Jack. Do you want something to eat?"


The Chinaman took a handful of corn and held it to the rooster. But the rooster didn't reach for it. "Of course, you must pray first," said the Chinaman. Then the rooster knelt. His beak reached the ground silently and respectfully. "Now you may eat the corn from you Papa's hand. You are a good lad." To his dog Budy, which came at the chiming of the bell, he gave the command to go back to his cottage for he wanted to pick oranges and flowers with his visitors. Then he showed us to his rooster's house after he led us through the densely growing orange trees. In the center a small ladder was constructed to act as a spiral staircase leading to the top where there was a perch. "That's where the rooser sits and sleeps at night," the Chinaman said, and then he added, "Last week there was a cold night and I thought I heard him calling to me around 3 o'clock, 'Papai, Papai, I'm cold. Come and take me to the house.' I went out and brought him into the house."

He then took us to his room, laden with flowers and oranges. He opened a large book in which we were to write down all our names. He prayed for all who visited him. He had to have the names of everyone before him


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Text provided by Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo, BX8080.B65

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks