Impressions Of Trinidad
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Trinidad is a large town with a fine plaza, all aflood with sunshine. From our hotel windows I could see a fine old church and a large and rather artistic castle or fort filled with soldiers. As it was Sunday morning, I slipped into the old church for a prayer, in which Samuel, as a loyal Methodist, would not join me. Then I walked in the old town, coming presently to the jail. First we entered a large jail yard where paced sentries with muskets. Along one side of the yard was a high iron fence and back about thirty feet the jail proper, consisting of a row of rather large one-storied rooms. The yard in front of the rooms was divided by the high iron fence into little yards about thirty feet square and in each yard were cots on which slept the prisoners, wisely preferring the outdoors to the company that I assume would be in their stone-walled rooms. That morning the prisoners were out at the fence conversing with friends; often there would be women and children who had come to say "buenos dias" to their husbands and fathers, and perchance to bring them some small articles of comfort. Meanwhile, the guards discreetly turned their backs on the conversing groups, being much too polite to spy upon them and perhaps having some sympathy with the imprisoned as well as with the imprisoned's gentle friends.
I can not say that the faces of the "penados" or imprisoned ones favored the thought of their being turned loose on a sorrowing world. Spanish justice is, I think, fairly shrewd and just. While it may be unduly lenient to some, it shrewdly grasps the idea of which man ought, on general principles, to be kept imprisoned.
We realized some of the disadvantages of revolutions when we came to hire a man with horses and carriages to take us on to an estancia that we wished to visit, the great Tidemann place. We had to pay him enough hire to have bought his horses and "coach," and the horses, hitched four abreast, had been afflicted with revolutions, locusts, drouth, famine and, I think, some of the plagues of Egypt beside. However, thanks to the liberal use of the driver's whip, they bore us along right rapidly. The distance was some ten leagues, more or less.
We left the tidy little city of Trinidad, a city far from "the madding crowd," never yet having heard the shriek of the locomotive, though it has heard the horn of the automobile; we left the town and its nearby small farms and orchards, and soon in a little valley through which flowed a small stream, carne to such a scene that I rubbed my eyes in wonder. There was the cornfield in shock, just as at home, in part unhusked; there were green fields of wheat or oats (mind you, this was in June, mid-winter) ; there were willows by the stream; there was a farmhouse and farmyard. Though the house was South American, it had about it a homely tang of the North and the cocks crowing in the farmyard and oxen munching cornstalks completed the interesting picture. But it was not Iowa or Ohio, for the next rise brought us to the open pasture lands, with only in the far distance the clumps of trees that betokened estancia houses or puestos of the laborers or peons.
THE LIFE OF THE CAMP
We watched the life of the camp as we rode along together. Owls sat gravely on the fence posts. Samuel told me of the Englishman who demanded "lechusa fresca con aceite" at the restaurant; that is, he asked for "owl, fresh, with oil" when he really wished "lechuga" or lettuce. He was indignant when after a long wait the willing moso brought from the bird market nearby a small owl in a tiny wooden cage. Many small birds flitted about; hares as large as our jack rabbits coursed in the pastures, and the roadside was dotted with small flowers. Along the way we passed many flocks of sheep of various breeding. Some flocks lacked much in uniformity, as was natural with careless or shifting owners. At last, in the distance, lifted a dark belt of trees in full leaf, eucalypts. "Estancia Tidemann !" exclaimed our driver. Looking back, we saw Trinidad in full view, though many miles away, and we were yet more than an hour from the estancia.
"Whoa," and the driver drew in the horses, while Samuel sprang to the ground and pounced on a little animal, cowering under a shrub. At once the little beastie curled up in his hands resignedly, tucking its queer, wedge-shaped head between two bony wing-like parts of its shell, its horny tail over its hairy abdomen and covering its stomach with four strong feet, armed with claws. It was an armadillo or "mu-lita" (little mule). It had a shell like a turtle only jointed so that it could move it about in one way and another. A curious little animal this, meek when captured, yet resisting with all its might any touch on its front; the back cares for itself. This one had been caught and ear-marked by some playful boy. It "played possum" with us, yet now and then made a vigorous effort to escape. That night it entered into its eternal rest, in the stomach of our cochero.
We turned into a charming avenue of trees that led to the estancia house. The winter sunlight filtered down through the interlaced branches of great eucalypts. All were in leaf and many in flower. It was a place of hush and mystery, apparently of great age, yet only twenty-five years planted. We turned down a side-road and came to the great stone-built estancia houses, and there met us that grave and genial Otto Steinich, the manager. So we gave the horses to the cochero with much money of the land, and with gladness followed our host into the house where a real fire bloomed in a real stove of iron and all the house gave out that unmistakable air of cheer that comes from Germany, mother or grandmother to all of us Anglo-Saxons.
Soon we were out to see what we could before night the trees, first, the farm and men cutting lush oats, knee-high, to be fed to milking ewes or horses or bulls thin in flesh. We saw the orchard and the piles of bitter maize. They have there now a type of maize called "maize amargo" that will not be eaten by locusts, though the grain is good and the "bueys" or working cattle eat the forage when it is dry.
THE MANAGEMENT OF AN ESTANCIA
In the evening we talked of the problems of management, here and elsewhere. Mr. Steinich told me the astounding thing that they had not dipped their 55,000 sheep in fifteen years, save that some-times they had dipped some small band that had been accidentally exposed to scab. We talked of stomach worms, too, and of footrot, and of type in sheep, and I learned that he had what he called the "German Merinos," of Negretti type, very nearly approaching our Rambouillet type. His simple method of eradicating stomach worms was adopted after trying many other things. Brine, as strong as it can be made, is the cure. It is administered thus: the sheep are fasted for twenty-four hours, or at least deprived of water, then let go to the salt water and allowed to drink all that they like of it. Then they are kept for six hours from fresh water, and afterward are allowed to drink. Only about two in 1,000 die from the treatment, which is ad-ministered in time of need, to 55,000 sheep. It is plain that there is merit in a remedy that does not depend on catching and drenching each individual.
The cure for footrot is the result of years of trial, as well. They take 10 pounds of flour of arsenic, 15 pounds of crystallized soda and 55 pounds of water, boiling together for two hours. They carefully refill the kettle from time to time, so that the solution does not become too concentrated from evaporation. After the horn is carefully trimmed away, all the suspected sheep are run through a shallow trough, containing no more than two inches of this liquor. Care is taken that the sheep do not at once go to pasture, as their feet would poison the grass.
The flocks were worth studying. Some of the sheep were in the barns. It was a fine type of wool that the big Delaine-like ewes carried. It was white, clean, "opening like a book," with enough oil and not commonly too much. The estancia comprises 42,500 acres and the land is appraised as worth $32 per acre. It is rich and black only where the granite rock sticks up through it. It is divided into many pastures of from twenty to 500 acres. The flocks are from 250 to 1,500 together, seldom more. They are classified according to ages, more or less, and according to character, when it is advisable. Of the 55,000 sheep, there are really no more than two or three types, not widely differing. They were feeling well, already in good flesh, and yet only a few weeks back they were dying sadly. Within the year just past 10,000 had died of the effects of drouth and locusts together, though it is said that the drouth had been so bad that even the locusts died for lack of feed. Now with the green and fairly abundant grass loss would cease.
ESTANCIA METHODS AND PRACTICES
What of management? The fences were of splendid construction, with stone posts and tightly strained wires. Lambing is in September and October; the lambs are castrated and tails docked, as seems the way the world over. Shearing is by machines, forty of them in use; the pay is four cents each to the shearer, besides his food. Thirty-seven men work on the place with one English capitaz and several Uruguayans. That is less than one man to 1,000 sheep, but so good are the fences, so strong the gates, so well systematized the work that these men do it all beautifully. There are also 5,500 cattle and 200 horses on the place. The peons have $13 per month and their food; that costs about $100 per year. What does it cost to operate a big place like this? Charging five per cent interest on the total investment, the cost was some $73,026 per year. The receipts from sheep were $78,890; from wool, $71,222. The sheep averaged 7.04 pounds of wool. For the wethers they received only $1.50 each. They were not very fat. It is not a type of sheep producing a wether of the highest class. Counting interest on investment the wool cost to "produce 16 cents per pound. It sold for a little more than 18 cents.
Samuel and I stayed two nights at the Tidemann estancia. The place was a delight, with its trees and flowers, the life of its pastures, the orderly and business-like administration of its affairs, far excelling anything that I have seen in North America, and the quaint, rambling old house with its great corridors in which I got lost. I loved its sunny porches, bath, books and beds. Here one could not but reflect what a paradise Uruguay might be when revolutions ceased and men went there to upbuild and beautify. Some months later in Germany, at Oschatz in Saxony, I saw on the farm of Otto Gadegast the source whence came some of these splendid German Merinos of the Tidemann estancia. The type is excellent, where the object is to produce exquisitely fine, soft, wool for clothing women and children. Unhappily, it does not seem to pay very well to produce the finest wools, they are not grown on the backs of big, robust, easily-fattened sheep and the hungry world demands fat mutton and coarser wools, paying nearly as much for the one as for the other.