Letter, June 14, 1975

Dear Mom, Dad & all,

Thanks much for the pictures. That one looking out over the back 40 from the machine shed is really something, and the one of the farm in winter will certainly freak out some of my Salvadoran friends. I hope you’ve finally gotten some rain up there, Jan said in her last letter you were awful dry. That’s all you need on top of the alfalfa winterkill & the atrazine carryover!

Dad, I showed that test sheet you sent me to the extensionist {meaning an agriculture expert hired by the government to work with local farmers} I live with. He was real impressed with the production of the cows & the ages of some of them. Cows don’t live as long here because of the terrific stress they undergo each year during the dry season with no green feed & often insufficient water as well. The only thing I dislike about telling people about your farming operation is that by the standards of the peasant farmers here, our farm is really big & they start thinking of me as the son of a big rich “ganadero” (cattle farmer). One guy has already hinted that he’d like to come to the States & work on my big “hacienda” {large ranch or farm}. It’s hard to convince them that one family can work that much land all alone. They are used to working with oxen & wooden plows, short-handled hoes and machetes rather than modern machinery. I never know how much of what I tell them they really believe. Let me know how the classification came out, especially Lisa, Margie & Belle. { Classification is a program of the national Holstein Association which gives a score, on a 100 point scale, to cows according to their appearance relative to an ideal established for the Holstein breed. Dad was participating in this program as part of a sire (bull) proving program through his artificial insemination cooperative. } Belle should have been in good shape for the classifier having just about time to milk the fat off her back. Hope you get a chance to buy a couple heifers at the Willard Nehls sale, maybe with the economic situation like it is they’ll go pretty reasonable. It would be good to get a couple to help fill the gap when you were getting all bulls.

Mom, in case you’ve forgotten the name, the official name for my plant is a streptocarpus, if that means anything to anyone. I wanted to ask you what ever happened to those other little plants I left at home (in the dining room window). I got a letter from Gert, the cook at DTS {Delta Theta Sigma agricultural fraternity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison}, and she said the plant of that same kind (Christmas candle) which I gave her had grown well, produced flowers & some “miniature oranges” and was blossoming again. Did you have any luck with the ones I left with you? That streptocarpus really thrived when I kept it on my sereo speaker too, so it must really be a music lover!

I realized a childhood dream last weekend. I got my first pair of genuine cowboy boots & walking around in them I felt like Roy Rogers & Gene Autry all rolled into one! I also discovered why cowboys ride horses all the time; it’s darn near impossible to walk at a good pace in cowboy boots! I had the boots hand-made by a shoemaker here and they cost me the equivalent of $24 American. A Salvadoran friend told me you can get them cheaper yet, but for me it was a steal.

I’ve been feeling awful run down lately, don’t know if it’s just the heat (& humidity, whew!) or something more. I’m not alone though most of the volunteers who live at lower altitudes & eat “campo {rural} food” are complaining too. This is a rough climate to keep up ambition & initiative in, always hot, humid in the rainy season & dusty in the dry season. My survey is progressing though, I’ve done 105 interviews with small landowners in the area of the irrigation project & have about 60 more to go. At least I have an immediate goal to work for!

June 23-26 we’re having a big get-together & series of meetings for all volunteers in the country. It is going to be held at Lago Coatepeque, a crater lake up in the mountains, so should be a nice vacation & a relief from the heat of the lower altitudes! It will be like a summer camp having about 100 Gringos {nickname for people from the U.S.} all together in cabins. That’s what we call “roughing it” in the Peace Corps.

Have you heard that the Miss Universe Pageant is going to be held right here in El Salvador this year? Yes sir, they’re going to bring all those skinny, long-legged women from all over the world right down here, with all the attendant publicity & press people. The Salvadoran tourist bureau, which is sponsoring the contest, will be trying to show only the very best side of the country of course since their big goal is to increase tourism & rake in foreign cash! Even so you may get a chance to see some of the same sights I’ve seen through the T.V. coverage in the States. The Miss Universe candidates are scheduled to visit the town where one of my friends is stationed so maybe he’ll get a chance to meet some of them. I’ll have to go to the tourist agency & see what tickets cost for the night of the coronation (July 19). Afraid it’ll be out of my price range & they’ll expect black tie & tails, but it’d be fun to know what they sell for anyway.

Speaking of Marcia (since you did in your letter), I’ve been meaning to ask you for her address for at least 3 months. Just goes to show you how well acculturated I’m becoming down here. If you send her address in your next letter maybe I’ll at least be able to send her a birthday card!

Wishing you health,


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