The Sixth Year (1976): Farmers and Teachers Again

February 4: Last night we were awakened about 2am by a trembling of the house, which lasted about 15 seconds, with the windows tinkling. No damage. These were waves all the way from Guatemala, where we hear from the radio was the center of the earthquake. Adolfo and his family, ducks and chickens included, all ran out of their house. Now I know what an earthquake feels like - very spooky!

When he is good he is very, very good … yesterday he helped me all day working on the truck. We removed the camper and fixed a few things in preparation for our trip to Ocotal tomorrow. Last night he said: "Now I'll tell you a story … Once upon a time there was an egg who sat on a wall and fell off, and all the King's men and horses couldn't fix Humpty Dumpty because he was an egg and he was dead." Then he continued, "and once upon a time there was a little boy" and so on for about ten minutes. Today when we finished making his sandbox, at about 8 o'clock, and very chilly, he ran into the house and reappeared wearing only his shorts (his Corn Island outfit!). And today after silently watching me work at fertilizing the coffee for about 2 minutes, he said, "Dad, I like you!"

And when he is bad!!! He can fuss, whine, pout, cry. One day he buried 3 eggs instead of bringing them back to the house. The next day he broke twelve of a setters eggs (needless to say he lost his job as egg carrier). Today he got spanked for digging up a section of the garden - he knows ALL weeds from vegetables and coffee and trees.

Another interesting behavior - he hates dirty clothes (unlike his father!). One spot of dirt or water and he must have a change. Actually he loves clothes. One day he got into his clothes chest and put on three pairs of pants and five shirts. He knows that these shoes came from Grandma and this shirt's from Joel and these socks from Ocotal. He likes pretty colors and designs and generally his "best" clothes are the most liked. He still loves to ride the horse and to chase the cows and calves.

The other little member of our family had his first illness two day ago - a fever. Mama took good care of him and he's back to his demanding, babbling, smiling ways. He can almost sit up unattended and loves to try to walk. Lately he's been spending quite a few happy hours bouncing on his mommy's back while she's working in the garden, hunting eggs, etc.

Our garden is the prettiest ever and the fields the cleanest. We're now moving into the dry summer but so far it's been quite cool (actually cold) and plenty of showers. Animals all fine - we're very proud of our pretty herd of cattle. Adolfo and I are going to kill and butcher one this Saturday and see how we do selling meat to coffee workers, neighbors and others. We've been having plenty of rabbit and chicken lately, but we're ready for a steak!

Mom and I are doing fine. We've been working quite hard on the homestead lately. We harvested 100 pounds of coffee! Looks like coffee is going to be one of our main crops. Boy, is the fresh roasted delicious. We now drink our strong, black coffee in the morning and noon and, in the evening, a tea of ginger and clove.

We got as far as San Fernando and noticed measles spots on Machua. We're on our way back home where it's cool for him!

February 25: Events here the last few weeks have been very interesting, exciting, complex, invigorating and depressing too. For one thing, I'm a butcher! I can stick a cow; skin it (and make raw hide); cut and price all the local pieces right down to the udder, stomach, feet and kidneys. We've now butchered 3 of our least liked heifers and have come out better (by 50 to 100%) than having sold them outright and had a wonderful time doing it.

Now comes the hard part. Vilchez was my partner. The first time he got falling down drunk. I told him I didn't care about his drinking as long as it didn't get in the way of our business. Second time around, drunk again and mad. I told him he couldn't help me drunk. He said O.K. We parted. Later the kids came over to get me to come and keep him from killing his wife. It's a long story but eventually he pulled out his machete and started swearing at me but hacking at trees. He was so drunk I could have whipped him with a stick and I also had a gun in my pocket and indeed felt like killing him. But instead calmly watched him hack on the trees.

Since his recovery he's been his old self - but I'm changed. I don't trust him to be my partner again.

Sunday we hauled a truckload of pine to market - which we cut and loaded by hand. And Sunday night we partied in Santa Clara. Monday I rigged up and worked a bit with a two-horse team for pulling logs. We are all fine and making money! Machua is a fine baby and Teo, my sidekick.

March 4: We just finished two days of celebrating Teo's third birthday! On Tuesday we were in Ocotal eating hotdogs, ice cream, soda pop and suckers. On our return through Santa Clara, Teo received birthday presents from Grandma Martie and Dick and Beth. He was thrilled with everything. His cards are pinned up and he slept Tuesday night in his new clothes. Yesterday we had rabbit, '76 Sangarro wine (80 bottles are in the cellar!) and a big chocolate-coffee, white-icing birthday cake. He got an ABC book, sketchpad colored pencils, raisons and his own small sized machete (from Mom and Dad). He went on being thrilled with everything (oh yes, and some new, refitted clothes from Mom - Osh Kosh engineer overalls). He is a sight! At least for now he's moved out of his terrible two's even fed birthday cake to Machua. Meanwhile Machua is sitting alone, wide-eyed and grabbing for everything.

We have a new piglet, 3 new ducklings, 30 new chicks and 30 more being sat upon. Monday, with two helpers, I'm going to start seriously cutting and hauling pine trees to Ocotal for about one month. In April Dick and Beth are coming up for a week and we'll be building a new damn and duck pond.

March 19: Things here are going great! We're real lumberjacks, cutting trees, rolling them into position, loading them on trucks (on Sundays). I have a good man working with me during the week. His wife was with him last week and she and Elizabeth made pots from a clay deposit. They have also helped us load logs! On Sunday we use a couple extra men. Doesn't look like we'll get rich, but it's a good income.

Boys are great. Machua's crawling and happy. Teo out of his terrible two's - a real little man - and a good one. He's my companion today, sitting here eating a doughnut and orange and looking at the sites of the city. Elizabeth is back at the farm. Tomorrow we're celebrating her birthday.

March 27: That old, blue, slush-pump Ford truck that we bought in Omaha is still running strong. We've hauled sand, brick, logs, posts, feed, people, provisions, lumber and coffee up and down the mountain. On a trip yesterday, Teo and I got stuck in a sandy spot in a river. We were stuck for seven hours with water running over the floorboards and the truck starting to tilt down-river. I thought maybe we were going to loose it; when, finally, a lumber truck passed by and pulled us out just as night fell. Maybe tomorrow the truck will blow up, but in the meantime, I think I'll keep it at least through another rainy season.

April 6: About 3 weeks ago Teo and I were out rounding up some cows and a helicopter buzzed over us a few times and landed on the hill in the front pasture! We galloped over to find out who it was. Three fellows on a government project "taking soil samples." They saw our hexagonal house and thought it an interesting place to get a sample. I said we'd trade them a sample for a spin around the mountain in their helicopter. They agreed! So Teo and me got a ten-minute ride! Elizabeth declined. It was fun. Everything looked real pretty from the sky - especially the people running out of their houses to look up and the chickens and cows running wild for cover.

April 7: Yesterday afternoon Vilchez and wife and a mutual friend came by. To make the long story short, the Vilchez family moved! We paid them for their down payment plus their work on the land and thus terminated one of the roughest experiences we've had with folks here. No one got hurt and I believe I can pass Vilchez on the trail with a mutual friendly "Hello." All the blame for our fight was laid on the "demon rum." Elizabeth is really glad they moved on. Me too.

Today we finished our wood cutting venture - successfully! We hauled out 14 loads, 80 trees, 140 logs - made about $1,000. -- $500 profit. We learned a lot. How to cut, assemble, and hardest of all, how to load a truck. Imagine a log 3 feet wide, 14 feet long, weighing who knows how many tons. The problem, to get it on a truck without a crane. One day, in the beginning, it took us four hours to load one log. Today we loaded 33. We've never worked harder in our lives - and probably for less money - but it's our first real income here and was quite a nice challenge. We cut about 3% of our trees. However, we did cut the trees that are the easiest to get at without a caterpillar tractor.

Elizabeth started working at the loading, but as we expanded the crew, she retreated to the kitchen to keep the beans, salad, rice, bread, biscuits, coffee, etc, coming. She had help with tortillas by one of the worker's wives. She's as tired as I am and ready for Easter week with Dick and Beth.

The most fun of this venture, especially after our horrible experience with Vilchez, was working with a nice crew of people. One couple from San Fenrando and three brothers, 17, 18 and 19 years old whose parents are caretakers for a farm a mile away. All of these boys play the guitar and sing and one plays the fiddle! Two weeks ago I bought a gorgeous guitar from a passing American. Elizabeth's final and best birthday present. So about every night our house is filled with Spanish folk music, easy chatter, laughter and "Vino Sangarro". Fun for us, and Teo too, as one of the boys is his special friend. Right now he's looking at a fairy tale book with him and chattering in Spanish!

April 20: We spent a fine Easter week at the farm with dick and Beth - built a new dam and duck pond - real pretty - a real swimming hole. Elizabeth and Beth cooked cakes, pies, cookies, and casseroles. We ate to our heart's content and our stomach's capacity. The boys loved our friends and the puppy and cat they brought us.

I came back to Managua with Dick and Beth to check out the teaching jobs at the University. We've been offered positions and we begin in two weeks! I guess they were impressed by our degrees and by the book on teaching we published while at the University of Texas. Amazingly enough the book has been translated into Spanish. I'm on my way back to the farm to get things organized. We will live on Dick and Beth's farm. Hopefully every few weeks we can get back to Sangarro.

May 4: We are really professors again at the Universidad Centro Americana in Managua. We teach in a Master's Degree Program. Our courses are Introduction to Teaching, Theories of Learning, and Experimental Design and Statistics. Elizabeth also teaches English.

One thing that has really helped is living with Dick and Beth. We constructed a bedroom in their garage and cook and eat together. We bought two gorgeous beds and sponge rubber mattresses. We are having a good time together. I am the chief dishwasher, Elizabeth the cook, Dick the mechanic and Beth the goat herder and milker. Needless to say, Teo loves being on a little farm and is relocating well to the whole situation. Machua too - he's crawling all over now and a delightful baby.

The farm is being cared for by our friend Filimon - he hired a new caretaker. He is like our farm manager. Hopefully, all is well. I'm going back in two weeks to supervise the Spring planting.

May 21: Last week I spent delightful days on the farm getting fields plowed, animals sprayed and generally keeping the farm going. Elizabeth stayed in Managua - took care of the children and taught our Friday class. I brought back 80 eggs, 4 rabbits and sacks of fruits and vegetables!

Our truck broke down in Santa Clara. Next time back, I will take parts and with luck Bing will put it back together.

May 27: We're planning a whole family trip back to the farm about next week - maybe for about 5 days, and with luck, we'll get the truck running and have it to drive back. I have purchased all the parts to repair it - hopefully.

For about 6 months Teo has been carrying on a fantasy about a jeep, and motor scooter, and caterpillar tractor and horse. He gets them all organized and goes on a trip and out to do work and to make money. And he's always putting his various cousins into the picture but his most constant fantasy companion is Joel in Denver. Like I mean about once or more a day he'll start this little conversation about what he and Joel are going to do tomorrow or when they get big. We get a huge kick out of it and often help him elaborate his plans. And he's so dead serious. He can understand almost all spoken English now and speaks amazingly complex sentences.

Meanwhile Machua is crawling all over and standing up to things. He has big smiles and a very sweet personality.

June 7: Sangarro was beautiful. Green, cool, corn up and new colt (a little female mule!). We spent four days there relaxing and working. Had a fine time. Teo and Machua were happy to be back on their Sangarro farm too, yet ready to take off for Managua. A good piece of luck - Bing got the truck repaired. That was quite a complex job of rebuilding the automatic transmission. I bought $150 worth of parts here in Managua and took them to him. Last night we left Santa Clara about 5:30pm and arrived here in Managua at 11pm. A perfect trip. We even stopped in Ocotal at the "Hotel Fronterra" for a steak dinner with fried potatoes.

July 8: Our trip to Sangarro was most relaxing mainly because we worked our butts off. Things had fallen behind and we got them caught up and hopefully our caretaker better organized. All roads were washed out so we had to walk in and back out. That was quite an experience for our two visiting friends. We fertilized corn; cleaned the gardens; transplanted coffee and bathed the cattle. By packhorse we brought out 4 bunches of bananas, 7 chickens, 80 eggs and fruits and vegetables.

July 15: We've moved to a larger place down the road from Dick and Beth's. Yesterday Teo started playing with the 5-year old neighbor boy by the name of Ronald, and it's been non-stop ever since … tricycles, balls, hikes, books, and flower picking. This is his intensive Spanish course. Today he told me, "Daddy no hay agua here." And Ronald was yelling "Come!" to the dog.

August 3: Here things are moving along rapidly. We've become settled in our new house - and have taken an unprecedented step - we hired the girl next door (who has one six-year old son, Teo's near constant companion) to be our full-time helper - washing, cleaning, babysitting - whatever. So far we're delighted with her and it has taken quite a weight off both Elizabeth and I. We're almost finished with the first semester already.

Machua is taking his first steps and Teo is having an intensive Spanish lesson every day from Ronald and he can already communicate just about everything a 3-year old wants to say to a 6-year old.

August 30: This weekend we drove to the farm for a day and a night and back for a restful day yesterday. The farm is in great shape. We are happy with our Raphael, the caretaker. We brought back 14 cooking rabbits, 200 bananas, 100 oranges, lemons and avocados, tomatoes and other vegetables.

September 11: Yesterday we traded the old Ford and most of our savings for a 1974 Land Rover, 4-wheel drive pick-up. A gorgeous truck - we love it. In ten minutes we're taking off for Sangarro to test our new truck and to spend four days - this week is "semana de la patria" with no classes until Thursday.

Our birthdays were great. Mach took his first steps!!! -- (8 in all) -- to celebrate his first year. We had a party with friends, cake and ice cream, presents and games. We had a ball. Machua mostly gazed on in be wonderment.

For my birthday the Masters class had a party after class at school -- Pinata, food, dancing and games. We had a good time.

September 15: We are just home from a four-day trip to Sangarro. Took along a teaching friend, Dan, and he was good company and help. Rode our two-year olds; worked with the coffee; "operated" on a cow; took in a birthday party in Santa Clara at Bing's and had a ball with our new Land Rover truck. The road just happened to be impassable 7 miles from the farm and it was 11 o'clock at night. We just switched into low range, 4-wheel drive and held on, while we lurched over the piles of sand and through a narrow gorge - arrived elated at the farm. Today we went part way overland, out a back way, then caught a logging road and arrived 35 minutes later at Abran Vilchez's house.

From Abran's it was seven hours getting back to Managua. We stopped for a Big Mac and fries and an ice cream cone! And now we're settled in at home - showered and ready for bed.

Raphael got a two-day vacation while we were home. He has the farm progressing and looking in great shape - it's quite a relief to be able to visit the farm every two weeks - enjoy it and keep things going. Tomorrow we start teaching again.

September 20: Teo can really carry on a conversation with Ronald and often will talk Spanish to himself when playing alone. He has a very good concept of the separation of the two languages, though he can mix them up.

October 5: We're back from a quick trip to the farm - although a very nice one. The farm is in top shape and the Raphael and his wife, Licha, and baby are happy. The ants had a war with our bees and won. Damn' em. We still got 10 quarts of honey and about 100 quarts over the last 5 years, but now we will have to buy a new colony and start over.

The truck ran great getting us to the farm by vehicle for the first time in October (the rainiest month). However, this year it's not so rainy - the worst drought in many years -- thousands of people on relief and no cotton crop (a big export crop of the rich and lots of jobs for the poor).

Strange world we live in. Here at the University things go on as usual! Our students like their courses and us as professors. We are interacting more now with other professors and with students. We're enjoying ourselves - quite comfortable at the University and at our home.

Teo comes with us to school every morning! He reads, plays, goes to meetings, studies in the English class! Machua is walking, all over the place, and just delighted with himself. He's a really happy child and happy with his nursemaid too.

October 11: Yesterday we took a days vacation to the Pacific Ocean. The boys loved it. Machua had no fear. Breakers actually rolled him up the beach and he kept going in for more. We all got nice color but no bad burns. We pulled out two cars stuck in the sand - the tide was coming in and one car was actually in the water with waves breaking over the back end! Boy was he glad to have help.

November 23: We're finishing our classes. We'll be going back to Sangarro soon. Today I decided Machua was getting old enough for his own vehicle having watched him yesterday enviously following Teo's speeding tricycle around (Teo has a 2-wheeler he can ride too!). So today Teo and me bought a little ride-on, push-with-your-feet blue mule. We're waiting now for him to wake up to see his reaction.

Last weekend we had a marvelous time sightseeing in Nicaragua. We took a train to Granada, about 50 miles away. Granada is strictly old Spanish Colonial - much older than Boston - back to the 1500's and situated on Lake Nicaragua. In Granada we met friends (wife is a student in the Master's Program). We had drinks and lunch with them and went out for a horse drawn carriage ride around the city (this is a normal form of taxi!). Then we went back for a swim and food. In the afternoon we went in a small boat out into the lake into the area known as The Islands. About 500 small islands, which you motor around and in between. Really picturesque. Not a single tourist facility but about 200 homes on separate islands of the super rich. Many of the homes were like castles.

December 16: Today we finished our classwork. Saturday we're butchering a young bull and preparing wine for our going away fiesta for all of our students and everyone we know. Sunday we will load the truck and head North!!! Dick and Beth and another friend are going to join us at Sangarro for Christmas.

Meanwhile the boys are great. Teo is a toy freak and a half. Up until a few weeks ago he was only dazzled by toy stores. Unfortunately he picked up the idea that money buys toys and that we have money.

Machua is a happy, happy little smiley fellow. Very affectionate and now demands that he feed himself and hold his own glass. He can often be seen hauling his little blue mule from one end of the house to the other.

Last day of 1976: We've been back at the farm about ten days and today all of us are in Ocotal on a buying trip. Being back on the farm is great. Every day is a series of adventures. There's much more to write about here than in Managua. Elizabeth mentioned that to me the same day I was thinking about it.