Fifteen letters
[ Fifteen Letters ][ Introduction ]
1954: [ June 5 ][ June 15 ][ June 26 ][ July 10 ][ July 27 ][ Aug. 1 ][ Aug. 11 ]
[ Sept. 18 ][ Sept. 30 ][ Oct. 29 ][ Nov. 3 ][ Nov. 11 ][ Dec. 13 ]
1955: [ Jan. 23 ][ Feb. 20 ]
[ Epilogue ]

11 Nov '54

Hi Everybody

Holiday today for US forces. Maybe the States celebrated too. Good food tonite. Had steak, baked potatoes, string beans, water, roll (1), butter, jelly, peaches, and cake w/ chocolate frosting. That was supper. Dinner - well, it was stew. Plain, old, ordinary, everyday, crumby stew! But we had ice cream - and pickles. I don't know why so, but every time the army serves ice cream - which is about daily here, they also serve pickles. I just never eat the blamed things. Ah yes, Gail. They often serve fried onions - by the 40 quart cooker full - wouldn't you have fun?

Winnowing riceJust wrote a letter to Barbette describing my trip with 3 other fellows today up the mountain out back here. Just after noon chow the four of us got our cameras and bugged out. Out the gate, around the corner of the compound, across the culvert, past the mamasans in their washing-place, up the knowl by school, down thru the rice paddies, and back past a few peasants houses over past a reforestation (scrub pine) project along the dirt road made for oxes and wagons, and on a large dike-like paddy-wall across the little valley thru a village. There we stopped to watch a papasan winnow rice. He was well equipped. One old mamasan was letting the wind winnow her rice as it fell on the matt she had on the ground. Papasan in his yard had no matt. He took it in his scoop-shaped straw "basket" and winnowed it directly from his 5-foot high pile of seed and chaff onto the ground. But he did have a wind machine. A boy cranked a home-made fan to create a breeze.

Sketch of home made fanIt had a simple small to large gear drive on a couple of machined axles which he apparently stole or bought. The frame was hand welded and the blades hand-riveted to the shaft. But it did the trick. We posed for shots, shot them (cameras naturally) and thanked papasan profusely, gave him a cigarette and left. Then up to the temple way up in a grove of trees (in the noble game of war, funny the places untouched by shells, by fire, and by bombs) contrasting with the naked, eroded soil of the rest of the mountain. Looking in, taking a flash shot black and white, and then looking around a bit before moving on. Climbing up, up, over rocks, around boulders, exuberant in the fresh, clean air, the warm dry lighted sky and of course, we had to get to the summit. After all, we are still young. Plunging on, halting to catch our breath, to turn and look and awe at the beauty spread out below us. And on up to the top. There to rest and see and shoot a bit. Over there to the North, across the wide blue Han river with its great sand flood-bar, under them haze lay Seoul. From this side of Seoul a train came chugging along under a white tail of smoke. Following the tracks we came thru Yongsan, past 8th Army headquarters, on the long trestle over the Han, into Yongdong Po.

Interior of the Buddhist temple Vista from atop the hillAnd on South out of sight. Then leaving the railroad following out of the haze up a valley, skipping from terrace wall to terrace wall over the stubble-rows in the paddies, between the naked, eroded, weeping hills or knowls, past peasants' huts, among the mounds of the dead, pausing to look at the life-size stone images, to the foot of the mountain, following up the side of the hill, over the stones, around the rocks, back down thru a village nestling under weather-beaten pine trees, down a valley of paddies and back to the 121 in the distance. Our eyes wandered far, and our cameras occasionally recorded a bit of it. As the PM wore on we became cool and the four of us decided to head back for chow. Being in that sort of a mood, we picked the steepest descent and started down, around the boulders, sliding in the gravel that had washed and lay loose on the slope, avoiding the little foot-high pine seedlings that were trying to hold Korea together, laughing and really enjoying our freedom, we tumbled on down to the grassy lower levels. There we paused to snap the mounds and figures there and to look at various ones around. Then plunging on we came back to the pine-sheltered village and walked thru back yards, stopping to watch a mamasan making socks, huddling around a little place in the garden, about a foot square where a little girl had made a model of a room, complete with mats, fire pit, low squatting tables, and windows with drapes, a round hassock-like chopping table, and whatnot all in a square foot toy-house-like bit of garden.

The Brickmaker Sketch of brick moldAnd next to it were tufts of grass braided into pigtails about 5 inches long whose significance we didn't understand. Then on over the knowl we came upon an old papasan who was the brick-maker for the villages around. His tools were soil, water, a water bucket, a shovel, an A-frame, and a mold. The mold was a wooden, hinged box about 4x6x12, open on two sides, hinged on two corners, opening on one. Finding or making a level patch of ground, he would throw in some clay and stamp it down hard, then throw in a couple more shovel-fulls, stamp them down, and put in enough more to level the top. Then he'd wet his shovel, smooth the top, and then carry the box-full of clay (ordinary dirt & water) to the side where he'd put it in a row with all the others he had made, unhitch one corner, swing the box away and leave the clay to harden. These bricks when nearly dry (I lifted one) weigh about 60 pounds. He carried them probably 6-8 at a time on his A-frame. After 2-3 days he'd take them to the village and sell them. We saw homes built of them. Bet they're warm in winter.

The rest of our trip to the 121 was rather uneventful. We were tired anyway and probably that dulled some of it.

The animals over here are amazing in their docility. Oxen isn't the proper term for the bulls are uncut. And yet they are completely numb. A farmer can leave his beast anywhere, be it in the paddy, on the road, or wherever it is quiet, be gone half a day and find it unmoved - maybe lying down, upon his return. And one of these I saw plowing was no dope either. The bull would plod along, stop when he was tired, plod on in a minute or so, and just continue, stop-start, stop-start without a word from a man on the handles of the wooden plow.

Apparently the rice paddies now rest until Spring. A few small dry-crop plots have been seeded to a winter cover crop. The rest also lie dormant until Spring.

Recently there has been a crippling strike over here. The honey-bucket operators have refused to remove our donations. As a result our daily chores have been performed in most aromatic surroundings the ammonia sting prevailing. But fortunately business is again in swing. I must record it on film sometime.

Tonite I get my usual weekly haircut for 40 hwan (10), but had one change. The barbershop (Sam's Barbershop) now employs a semi-cute lady barber who clipped my knob. She darned near scalped me on her first day of professional business. She let Sam cut the top to get it level. The shop also has a manicurist. Guess I'll go Little Lord Fauntleroy and be manicured my feet stink!

Yesterday was a totally different day. Wow. Dynamite from start 'til stop. We were late shaving here in the lab. and the Lt. told the Sgt. to tell us we couldn't shave here anymore. He told us in a stinky way and we hit the ceiling because of the stupidity of it. "There will be no more shaving in this department." We were all so mad (it's the only place w/ electricity) we couldn't write and retreated to the latrine. In our absence, after the explosion, the Lt. & Sgt. talked it over. We returned and had a bitch session. Soon after, with everything smooth on the surface, the Lt. left for an all-day meeting in Seoul. Then the Sgt went to the front office and by 3PM he was transferred to another section of the lab. And the Lt. didn't find out until today. Boy oh boy, tempers, charges, transfers, foolish orders. What a day it was. In retrospect it is all quite amusing. But it sure was a wild one while it lasted. Another dozen grey hairs.

Got a postcard on Magazine Subscriptions. Thank you, Gail. I am looking forward to the call by the AASA representative. Who's canoe? By golly, Gail. You're a wheel. Signing papers just like General Taylor does.

Does the draft board give you any bad dreams, Lee, or are they pretty quiet at the moment.

Guess what. Got 3 letters from Beth Ann Bassett. Thump, thump, thump. Cardio muscles out of control.

Ye Gods. 10 PM. Guess I've got to quit sometime so I'll make it now about here.