The Fifth Year (1975): Machua is Born
We made it to the U.S. and my daughter Kim journeyed with us from Austin to Omaha for Christmas with my Mother. Kim and I made a few bucks shoveling snow. Elizabeth, Kim and I also did some firewood cutting in Iowa. Kim returned to Austin and Elizabeth, Teo and I moved into a small basement apartment in my Dad's old Physician's Clinic at 3610 Dodge Street in Omaha. For the next six month's I worked in the shipping department at Dultmier Sales (the farm supply family business of my old high school friend Phil Hanson). Toward the end of our stay, a tornado ripped up 72nd St., tearing down the garage of my Mother's apartment, and almost every other home and business for a solid mile. We made some extra money working with the clean up of this area. Then we bought a Ford pick-up truck and two-wheeled trailer, drove to Austin where Kim joined us, and headed back to Nicaragua. Elizabeth was six month pregnant!
June 10: We have not yet made it to the farm, but we are in Nicaragua! We are waiting for the customs paperwork in Managua. The truck and trailer made it these 3,194 miles, with only two flat tires and twelve quarts of oil. We had two very nice rest days - one on the Gulf Coast beach near Vera Cruz, Mexico, the other on a Pacific beach near Libertad, Salvador. The ocean scenery and the swimming were beautiful.
Kim is a good traveler and we are very happy having her with us. Teo is a good traveler too, especially for a two-year old. He spends hours with his toys on the dash of the truck. Mom and Dad are holding up well too.
The trip has been long but the worst part has been crossing international frontiers. It is so difficult that I doubt we will ever make the trip by land again. You have nine stops to make with 4 stations at each stop. Few officials are pleasant and all want money - regular fees, special fees, extra fees "for a whisky". All the way through Guatemala and Honduras, and from the border to the customs house in Nicaragua, we have been accompanied by 3 different armed guards (to make sure we don't sell anything). Just another "rip off" as you have to pay for the guard. Now we will hassle for a while here, pay our import fees and be off to the farm. Despite the hassle, we are happy to be here with all of our goodies.
June 14: We made it to the farm. We spent one day in the customs
house - paid $200 for our truck and $75 for all our stuff. Stopped to
see our Mormon friends on the way back. In the valley, Don Filimon, who
was keeping an eye on the place, hooked the trailer on his jeep and we
came all the way to the farm with the truck. The road was terrible - all
bridges out -- but the truck ran beautifully. We unloaded all the stuff.
I took the truck back out and parked it in the valley near Abran and Christina's
place (about 5 miles from here and then I came back to the farm on horseback
(Adolfo met me with the horse).
We had a fun time giving them the box of shoes and clothes. What a delighted scramble that was. At first the kids didn't even try shoes on - just lined them up, shouting "these are mine." In time Benita took charge of distribution.
We have been moving in and planting gardens. The rototiller works beautifully.
Note from Kim: Maya my pony is beautiful. She's now a yearling. Almost every day I play with her, petting her and brushing her. She smells me and rubs her head against me. I've gotten to where I can run my hand down her foreleg. She's gotten much calmer and tamer, but I still watch her hind feet. Yesterday dad put a rope around her neck. She was pretty good.
June 30: All is well at Sangarro. We are cultivating and planting coffee. Adolfo and family are staying with us so we have a good caretaker whenever we leave, a permanent "Spanish" influence on the farm and a worker to help us put the farm on a profitable basis. We sold them a small piece of land to develop as their homestead!
We bought a new milk cow and calf to give us more milk and a 2-year old heifer because we got a good deal. Counting our orphan calf (which is drinking most of the milk) we have 18 head of cattle. That's a pretty little herd as you bring them across the front pasture into the corral.
Kim is doing fine. Misses her friends and finds always hearing Spanish difficult, but she's learning Spanish rapidly and enjoying her visit, She plays a lot with Teo and the animals and also helps us with the work. She's still a voracious reader and if she has nothing else to do, she's reading a book. She's also made friends with Adolfo's daughters Elijia and Rosa.
Yesterday Kim and Elijia rode to Santa Clara for some needed supplies. Elijia knows the trial very well, but still it was quite the adventure for two twelve-year old girls. Just before they left I took Kim aside and gave her our small pistol. She took a couple shots, got on the horse and off they went. They arrived safely back in the evening with many stories to tell, including meeting two men on the trail. The men had kidded them a bit and then on they went, but Kim said that having the pistol was a very good feeling.
Teo is very happy. Loves the freedom to roam and seems to enjoy every aspect of the farm. Last night we went to a small time "big top" circus down in the valley. He was all eyes!!!
Note from Kim: The rabbit that Chepe brought me died. We have put a saddle on my filly and she is much tamer now. I am learning quite a lot of Spanish. Rosa, Elijia and I are quite good friends. I have made a net to catch butterflies to take back to KayKay for a birthday present. I have caught five but one got away. I hope to catch more.
July 23: Kim is working pretty hard and she is growing rather fond of the place. She's quite the friend of Elijia, the 12-year old girl. Teo follows me like a doggy and copies me to the letter. Yesterday and today he spent ALL day in the field, half the time working - hoeing, putting weeds in buckets, supervising my chopping of stumps and half the time playing - building a little fence out of sticks and playing with the other children. This evening he went with Adolfo out to get the horses and now he is down at the barn with the Vilchez family! Here he comes now, up the path on his tricycle and eating a tortilla.
This weekend we had three American visitors - a Peace Corp forester and a couple who are teachers and goat raisers in Managua. We had a fine time communicating with them.
And on Monday old cow "Mom" came in for water with the umbilical cord hanging out her rear. We ran to the front pasture and started a search and there he was - a little bull calf, just as husky as a calf can be. That's the first calf from our young bull. He tagged that old cow when he was just under 1 and ½ years old!
Our new milk cow is a doll too. As I head down the path at 6am, I give a good yell, and by the time the chickens are fed, she's in the corral. She's been giving three quarts of milk a day. We give one to the Vilchez family, one for cereal and one for cheese. Our farm is clean and growing and Adolfo's land is fenced.
August 10: We are now on our way to Managua to bring our papers up to date and to put Kim on a plane for the U.S.! She has had an interesting time with us, but she is ready to go to Austin - misses her friends and is anxious for school to start.
Elizabeth is in good health - walked the five miles to the truck this morning! Mateo walked 2 and ½! We had two horses for cargo and riding but walking was easier for Elizabeth. She's planning to move to Abran and Christina's the 1st of September to be next to the highway. I'll probably stay at the farm and visit every few days.
Work on the farm is going great. It's never been prettier or more productive. La Familia Vilchez is happy with us and us with them. All 19 head of cattle are good too!
The only bad thing is that we are a bit of an oasis in a sea of misery. The drought in the valley is bad and the country has run out of corn. Most poor people are now eating mostly bananas. Also we hear that some folks are being shot by the army for subversive activities. (Note: first mention of anything related to the revolution!) We just hope the food situation will improve.
Last Sunday I rode with Adolfo to Honduras. What an up and down journey that is. We bought a couple of turkeys and collected fruit. Had a nice day and the turkeys add quite a new sound to the farm. Other new sounds include Mateo taking off on his bicycle saying, "Bye. Going to Omaha to visit Grandma!" Also, "Adios, venga aqui!"
August 15: We are staying the night in Matagalpa and should be back home by tomorrow evening. We have had a marvelous trip. On Thursday at 7pm Kim left - bound for New Orleans and Austin by 6:30 that night. On Wednesday all of her luggage was stolen out of the truck! So she traveled light. Her patched up overalls and butterfly collection were a loss to her - nothing else mattered much or was worth much.
On Friday we got our papers up to date with Immigration with no hassle and only $30. The rest of the time we have spent visiting, learning about coffee growing and reading. Three days we spent with Managua friends, Dick and Beth, on a little farm near Managua. They're both University teachers - him English, her in animal nutrition, especially goats. On their farm they have 30 goats. We had a marvelous time with them. We even spent some time interviewing for University teaching jobs for ourselves. We've decided that we want to do our next work trip away from the farm, right here in Nicaragua!
The truck is still running great. We bought 500 pounds of chicken food, 50 pounds of whole-wheat flour, 12 pounds of wheat germ and we're also carrying a cat and a little white goat! The goat is a gift from Beth.
Well, it shouldn't be too long and we'll have a new little baby - we're ready!
August 27: Yesterday Elizabeth awoke with little pains! We put plan #3 into action. She went down the mountain in a jeep that passed by, and I rode for the truck and met her at the crossroads in the valley. We made it to Ocotal and the pain subsided! The doctor said she looked good, big baby, down in place and ready to go - when ready! Right now Elizabeth is feeling fine with no pains. So, no baby, but at least Elizabeth is not in the mountains but living with her friend Christina, next to the road and the truck! I'll commute to visit her.
September 4: Today Machua was born in the Ocotal hospital with Dr. Moncado attending. I arrived soon after the birth. Mom and babe are doing great!
October 3: Tomorrow is Machua's lst month birthday. He's in fine shape -- fat, alert, starting to hold his head up. Mom is good too - been on her feet since the first day back and all bleeding has stopped.
Here on the farm things are fine. As poor as we are, we are supporting a family of 6! Plenty of beans, corn, bananas and vegetables for all of us and the animals. And lately we've been treating the Vilchez family for worms, infection (Benita's foot) and colds. They are a good family and good workers and they love their little acreage - which is all planted to corn, beans, garden and fruit trees.
Lately I've been on quite a wild goose chase. I've decided to build a school in a centrally located place in our mountain area. I'm going to try to get six prospective teachers, five from other remote areas, and one from here, and make the first year a teacher training for remote areas project. I'll see if I can get support from the Ministry of Education, the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps! Looks like my old interests are popping up again. Maybe I'm tired of hoeing beans although I do still love the farm.
October 15: I'm on a trip to Santa Clara for gasoline. We are all fine. Teo is a fine little boy. Machua is a good baby too. Moving his head around now, likes to be held by his Dad, and a good sleeper too. Elizabeth is keeping a good house - scrumptious meals and finding time to get back into the farm work. She milks one cow every morning and I milk the other.
Last week I made a two-day horse trip over the mountains into Honduras with Adolfo. It's very rugged country populated by very isolated people.
We're thinking about a December trip to the East coast of Nicarauga - Bluefields and Corn Island. We've become great friends with a black family from Corn Island. They live here in Santa Clara, are very interesting people, and speak English. The man, Bing, is a very skilled mechanic who does work on his own and also works for the lumber mill repairing everything from trucks to Caterpillar tractors. His wife Lydia has four children and they live in a two-story house constructed of wood, as contrasted with the usual adobe houses. We're planning to travel with them to the coast. It will be a whole new world opening up and we're very excited. Not only is it a new and very different culture, it will be a whole new climate complete with ocean, fish and sailing.
Meanwhile we're working hard on the farm, which has never been prettier or more productive.
Day after Thanksgiving: Elizabeth spent most of last night in pain - ulcers again. So we came in today for some Maalox. She is much better now. The boys are in perfect health but Elizabeth and I seem to have developed a staff infection and run low fevers and break out here and there with sores that don't heal well.
The truck is still running and making the trip up and down the mountain. We're planning to drive it, with Bing and family, the 20th of December to Rama. From there we'll go by boat on the river to Bluefields, from there by boat to Corn Island (in the Caribbean) and from there by boat to Little Corn Island where his family lives. We're pretty excited about this trip. After the trip I may sell the truck.
We sold a cow for 100 bucks! She was too bossy and not calving well. Our other 18 cattle and 7 horses are all fine.
Tonight we're going to Santa Clara to visit Bing and family.
Machua is 11 ½ pounds and got his shots today.
December: The trip to the Caribbean was a dream vacation! All travel went well until the last boat ride from Corn Island to Little Corn Island in a little boat on very choppy water. We learned what seasickness is all about - it can get so bad that you just want to die. Even Bing and Lydia were sick. Finally on land, it took us about an hour to regain our normal health. We just lay on the beach and walked around until the sickness had passed.
Purging our systems with the seasickness and two days of the sun and saltwater seems to have cured our staff infections.
We lived with Bing's clan on the island and enjoyed their lifestyle. They live from the sea and the coconut trees and earn spending money by catching and selling lobsters. They are the healthiest, strongest people I have ever seen. Teo loves the sand and warm water and swimming. Machua enjoys the water too. Everyday I go snorkeling and spear-fishing out near a reef about 200 yards from shore. The only scary thing is when barracuda start following me. The say they're not dangerous but that look in their eyes sure scares me. Whenever they appear I go slowly back to the island.
They are very isolated. The Dad says that their only knowledge of World War Two was one day when a German U-boat appeared and the crew came on shore for a one-day rest.