Africa: My First Publication, May 1953

AFRICA
By Bill McCurdy
Age 15
May 1953

 

Everything has a beginning except God Himself. This afternoon I remembered that years ago I found the first thing I ever had published in a late May final school year copy of the The St. Thomas Eagle, the newspaper of St. Thomas High School here in Houston. I wasn’t writing for the paper then. I was still playing baseball and busy finishing up my freshman year of high school at age 15.

Then somebody lit up my sky. Someone on the newspaper, and I never learned who it was, had pulled an English composition poem I had written out of the student papers bin and published it in that last copy of The Eagle – and with credit to me as “Africa” by Bill McCurdy.

It may as well have been the New York Times or The New Yorker. – Who in their right mind would want to publish anything I wrote, spoke the dreamer mind of a kid from the east end. Because, even if my long dead never-met-him grandfather had been a newspaper man, and even if I always had given “journalism” as my answer to the famous “what do you want to when you grow up” question, I still figured that I was a long way off at age 15 from actually writing anything that anyone would care to print. As such, the St. Thomas Eagle looked pretty lofty to this once innocent mind at the time. I was just beside myself with joy, even if now, I see so much of the limited and naive perspective I had upon Africa and its people in those past and then present times.

Nobody ever wrote anything positive about Africa and her people that I ever read back in 1953 – and I wanted to give it a try, even if my wounded and limited thoughts on Christian history and salvation were just about all I had to offer to the poetic art form back in those getting-ready-to-heat-up times in the march for essential racial change in America. I guess sometimes we only respond to the part of truth’s light that hits us directly – and even then – the light is dimmed by the presence of an overriding cultural darkness and atmosphere of restraint that is only overcome when wisdom finally speaks loudly enough for us to hear the message that we have no good choice but to respond in the name of justice. That wisdom day came a little later for me, but, had the Eagle not published “Africa”, I most likely would have forgotten when I heard its first whispers. Then it later became a fire that will never go out.

Thank you, St. Thomas Eagle! ~ Thank you, Anonymous Editorial Rescuer! ~ Thank you, “Africa”!

**********

Africa

By Bill McCurdy, May 1953

Africa, the land of the dark-skinned people;

Some are pygmies, some tall as a steeple.

Africa, the land of the lion’s roar,

That echoes from Capetown to the Red Sea’s shore.

 

Africa, the land of the Great Pyramid;

Where the treasure of Cheops, securely is hid.

Africa, the land where the native’s drum beat,

Travels far into the torrid jungle heat.

 

Africa, the land where big game are sought;

Where many a battle twixt man and beast are fought.

Africa, the land where the River Nile,

Stretches out in gusto for many a mile.

 

Africa, the land where the Moslem horde,

Spread its religion by use of the sword.

Africa, the land where the feet of the Vandals,

Replaced the footsteps of Roman Sandals.

 

Africa, the land where the Second World War,

Left the Dark Continent with a battle scar,

Africa, the land where men want peace,

And that never again shall their freedom cease.

 

Africa, the land where the pagan mold,

Produces new fields for missionaries to hold.

Africa, the land where civilization came late;

But a few years from now, she will surely be great.

 

**********

 

**********

 

**********

 

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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7 Responses to “Africa: My First Publication, May 1953”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Nice bookends, Bill, from one Eagle (St. Thomas) to another Eagle(Pecan Park). Your byline has spanned 64 years.

  2. Jim Farge Says:

    Congratulations, Bill. That is quite a good piece of verse, especially for a ninth grader. It reminds me of another poem someone submitted at that very time to Fr. Mosteller’s English course. It began,

    “I think I shall never see,
    A poem as lovely as a tree
    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest . . .
    . . . . . . .
    I can still see Father Mostellers smile as he read that one out.
    I can’t remember whatever poem I contrived, but it did not make its way into the St. Thomas EAGLE; but I was at least aware of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem.
    Jim Farge

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Jim, I think I remember that “Tree” offering, but I don’t recall who came up with the idea of sneaking it past Father Mosteller as original stuff. – Maybe it was the same guy who failed to turn in his book report who once offered this explanation publicly to Father Mosteller in class: “Well, you told me to write down what I liked about the book I read and I’m still trying to figure out what that was. If anything ever comes to mind, I will write it down and turn it in as my book report.”

      That one didn’t fly either.

      Wow! Maybe it was Father Mosteller that got me in print with “Africa.” In that possibility, I’m now going to have to re-think my feelings about his always suddenly rising, sardonic smile.

  3. Laura Kirtley Says:

    Your writings never cease to amaze me. Keep the articles coming.

  4. strider49 Says:

    Your great story is a reminder of how little it takes – a bend of the twig, a dash of water, a ray of sun – to give us direction.

    I think that’s surprisingly true throughout life, but overwhelmingly so for a child.

    In addition to its lyric merits, your poem also shows a remarkable understanding of African geography and history.

    The world’s a better place as a result of that bit of motivation you received at just the right time.

    Surely this tale, or your revision of it, ought to be published in the current STHS Eagle, eh?

    Rob

  5. Patrick Callahan '56 Says:

    BILL –>
    It’s COOL to still be “on a roll” 51 years after graduation! Keep up the good work…..

    Callahan ’56

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Patrick,

      First of all, I thank you for being my friend.

      Next I have to break some tough math news to you. It’s been 61 years, not a mere 51 years, since we graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1956.

      McCurdy ’56

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