The Dung Beetles of Liberia by Daniel V. Meier Jr. Genre: Adventure, Historical Fiction
Based on the remarkable true account of a young American who landed in Liberia in 1961. Ken Verrier is not happy, nor at peace. He is experiencing the turbulence of Ishmael and the guilt of his brother’s death. His sudden decision to drop out of college and deal with his demons shocks his family, his friends, and especially his girlfriend, soon to have been his fiancee. His destination: Liberia – The richest country in Africa both in monetary wealth and in natural resources. Nothing could have prepared Ken for the experiences he was about to live through. He quickly realizes that he has arrived in a place where he understands very little of what is considered normal, where the dignity of life has little meaning, and where he can trust no one. Flying into the interior bush as a transport pilot, Ken learns quickly. He witnesses first-hand the disparate lives of the Liberian “Country People” and the “Congo People” also known as Americo-Liberians. These descendants of President Monroe’s American Colonization Policy that sent freed slaves back to Africa in the 1800’s have set up a strict hierarchical society not unlike the antebellum South. Author Dan Meier describes Ken’s many escapades, spanning from horrifying to whimsical, with engaging and fast-moving narrative that ultimately describe a society upon which the wealthy are feeding and in which the poor are being buried. It’s a novel that will stay with you long after the last word has been read. 2019 Grand Prize Winner – Red City ReviewThe story weaves drama, dark comedy, and romance throughout a rich tapestry of narration —THE SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
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A retired Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has always had a passion for writing. During his college years, he studied History at The University of North Carolina Wilmington and American Literature at The University of Maryland Graduate School. In 1980 he was published by Leisure Books under the pen name of Vice Daniels. He also worked briefly for the Washington Business Journal as a journalist and has been a contributing writer/editor for several aviation magazines. Dan and his wife live in Owings, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Annapolis and when he’s not writing, they spend their summers sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest * Bookbub * Goodreads
Bug-a-bug and the Peace Corps
Standing in front of a bug-a-bug hill
John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961 as one of his first acts as President of the U.S. His
thinking was both idealistic and pragmatic. No one could argue against helping poorer countries combat
poverty, hunger and disease, and good deeds with volunteers’ boots on the ground with western values could
help stop the spread of communism. In 1961, the Cold War was in full force and many of its battles were in
third world countries.
The Peace Corps is one of the most cost-effective use of our foreign aid dollars to this day. And judging by
the very rudimentary conditions the Peace Corps volunteers in the Liberian settlements, it is easy to
understand why. Reading about the experiences of some Liberian Peace Corps volunteers make our hero’s
accommodations absolutely luxurious.
Below are 2 edited excerpts from “The Bush Devil Ate Sam” by Curtis Mekemson, a Peace Corps volunteer
serving in Liberia in the 1960’s:
“Americans are of course familiar with the voracious appetite of termites, but they may not be aware that
termites in turn are considered to be tasty treats by a substantial portion of the animal kingdom. (Including
humans.) The beginning of rainy season is when the “bug-a-bugs” sprout wings and fly in the millions to set
up new colonies.
“Somewhere in the middle of night, we woke up with rain pounding against our shutters. At least we thought it
was rain until we realized that it was only pounding on one shutter, the one protected by our porch roof.
Curiosity led me to go exploring. When I opened the door, the first thing I noticed was that we had left the
porch light on. The second was that the sky was alive with flying termites, all of which seemed determined to
land on the wall and shutters next to the light. Once landed, they immediately begin to move downward,
making room for more bugs. I’m sure their greedy little minds were contemplating the wood beams that held
up the porch. Whether they could get to the beams was something else. Every animal in the neighborhood
including [our dogs and cats] were scarfing up bug-a-bugs as fast as their tongues and mouths could work.
What they missed was being taken care of by a huge army of toads that ranged in size from teeny-tiny to
humongous. There were so many termites that no one was going away hungry.
The next morning I headed out to survey the damage. Not a termite was to be seen. It appeared that the
animals and toads had hung around until the last bug-a-bug had disappeared off the platter. I was eager to
get to school that morning so I could learn more about the termites swarming habits from my students.
“What I learned was that my students enjoyed eating the bug-a-bugs as much as the animals. Many of the
students, in fact, showed up in class carrying cans loaded with the still alive and squirming termites, which
they proceeded to pop into their mouths for breakfast as we went through the day’s first lesson.
The queens are best,” one of the students stated authoritatively and was immediately backed up by a chorus
of agreement. Queen termites are huge egg laying machines with fist-sized abdomens capable of popping out
30,000 kiddos a day. The Liberians caught them by tearing apart the termite mounds. Appropriate eating
etiquette involved biting off their tails and sucking out their innards. Sweet meat indeed!
“Later that day I watched as [my neighbor] spread out mats for drying dead termites. The termites were then
stored away for later feasting. Nothing edible was ever wasted in Liberia, whether it was meat flying, meat
running, meat swimming or meat crawling.”
“There was a joke that circulated among Peace Corps volunteers on how to determine whether you were
[adapting]. Stage one: you arrive ‘in country’ and a fly lands in your coffee. You throw the coffee away, wash
your cup, and pour yourself a new cup. Stage two: You’ve been there a few months and a fly lands in your
coffee. You carefully pick the fly out with your spoon and then drink the coffee. Stage three: It’s been over a
year and you have become a grizzled veteran. A fly lands in your coffee. You yank it out with your fingers,
squeeze any coffee it may have consumed back in your cup, toss the fly and then drink the coffee. Stage four:
You’ve been there too long. A fly lands in your coffee cup. You yank the fly out, pop it into your mouth and
throw the coffee away. It’s time to go home!”
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