An evening phone call sent me back to that July 1971's shocking call from the other side of the world; actually, Ahwaz, Iran and some KDS officials. Seems my 49 year old father-in-law had experienced a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. No, we are not Iranians, just East Tennesseeans creating a dam system similar to TVA bringing power to the southern part of that country. Well, memories are funny things .... like walking through a strange house opening this door and that one; you never know what's behind the next door and then the "Oh, Yes". So, by 3 a.m., the floodgate was wide open and memories spilled all over my consciousness. It had taken 5 weeks to get him home for burial. Mary [mother-in-law] had stayed for an extended visit and now would be required to return to pack and vacate their house. This is where unsuspectingly I was headed ..... she could not go alone!! Remember, women were considered chattel, have no rights and cannot own property. The companion check list was very short and no one was able to accompany her. We had a 1 year old son, I couldn't leave him and his father.
August 23rd, first passport in hand, I found myself headed to the middle east for 4 weeks .... well actually, it would be 4 months; returning November 18th. I had been no further from home than Ruidoso, NM; now, I'm headed for a place that my grasp of the language is laughable at best.... phrases for beer, tomorrow, wait a minute, or go with God. Heaven only knows what he taught me that was made up. Wow, good to go ..... Enshaallah!!
Having experienced the grieving widow personally, Mary wasn't it. We stopped in Rome and a bit of shopping to lessen her grief. She found 3 pieces of red leather luggage and a few other "essential" items. Repacked, we journeyed on thru Beirut, Lebanon to Abadan, Iran. I thought I had come to the end of the world. Our escort and friend, Colonel Ray Caldwell, helped us through "entry" at 10 p.m. What a nightmare; dark, disorienting and gas fires everywhere. With the morning light, "breakfast" and a walk for some local color and "getting my feet wet" so to speak. Nothing in my life lessons had prepared me for this culture. BREAKFAST, are you kidding me ... "just a cup of tea please". Mary finally joined us and off to Ahwaz. The passing view was harsh beige tones and flat. The cradle of civilization could not have been more austere and forbidding. Women, in long black robes with bundles of "camel brush" on their heads, walked barefoot in the oppressive midday heat. My education had only begun.
Upon arrival, her neighbors and friends had prepared a lovely welcome buffet as we "waited". As a very time oriented person, appointment at 1 p.m. means 1 p.m. Silly me. They have a word, "far-ta", meaning later, tomorrow or sometime in the future yet to be determined. So at their leisure some hours later, 3 very "important" city officials arrived. With great attention to papers, passports and many questions of intent, they allowed these lowly females admission and the keys were handed to Col. Caldwell. [We take our liberties for granted here.] Nonetheless, we're in and I'm exhausted. It has been a long three days with a difficult, self centered, spoiled woman with whom my only relationship is "I'm married to her son". This whole thing cannot possibly end well. Grrrreat!!
Our social calendar was filled from dawn to well past dust nearly everyday. I had been prepared, before leaving, that I would be presented as the number one man's "only" son's wife. Apparently being a blue eyed Anglo-Saxon type [an actual description of me] is highly honored. No miss step would be acceptable. So, on September 5 at 8 :oo p.m. dinner, Doctor and Mrs. Moesaid introduced me. Traditionally, the whole lamb was roasted with all the accompaniments ..... and joy of joys, I have the privilege of eating the eyeball .... wow, lucky me.
Amid the social whirl, we actually measured for 11 crates. You could not run down to the U-Haul for packing boxes. They had to be built. Remember "far-ta", 14 days worth of waiting. What do you do - read, shop in the bizarre, play bridge, hunt ? Hunt! when, what .... can we go now?? Big Russian Boar root up the gardens at night .... so we got to fix that problem. Big means a 300 pounder with hurtful tusks digging up cucumbers, squash and melons.
The first time out was a true adventure into the wild. To my knowledge, the only other woman to hunt or shoot in the Khuzestan was my mother-in-law. So, off we go about 4 p.m. in a large Mercedes Benz truck. I felt like a mushroom. But, was told we will get dinner on the way. We ran up some Duraz [a pheasant type] which would be prepared for us at a village along the way. Well, they were expecting us with a feast that also included Gazelle, grilled onions, fresh bread, goat butter, our birds and wine. We sat on beautiful carpets strewn about with pillows for leaning. The Arabian Nights were alive. Yep, I was the show for the evening. They had never seen a white woman, much less one that was a hunter; so, was presented by the Sheik to his wives and shown his prized horses. Finally escaping all the pairs of eyes, we were headed for game. Braced in a corner over the truck cab and the roadless desert spreading before us, we must have resembled a half crazed, stumbling, drunken white elephant. Then, there in the light was a wall of meat trotting across our beams ..... don't miss, don't miss. Considering that the farmers had multiple problems, I was told to sit with mine and they would be back later. Right, of course, why not! There I was with an enormous animal to keep safe from the Jackals and Hyenas. While sitting out in the dark desert, the sky filled with the most incredible stars; then, the moon had the audacity to fill the entire horizon as it slowly rose. Engrossed with this visual , you could hear Porcupines quills rattling as they waddled along reflected in the moon light; as well as, the eerie sounds of the others. I'm not about to say I wasn't unsettled and the sight of headlights moving towards me wasn't a relief. I won't belabor my secret thoughts and fears. Aaaah, but what memories..... horses we rode and raced .... clouds of white wing doves .... copper by the pound .... fur coats ..... red swede boots ..... Kudha Villa .... Queen's Golf Tournament, Tehran .... the train trip ..... Ibex ..... trip home .... the faces of my two fellas ... one spills over into another; too much to recall at one time. Hummmmmm, 1971, that really was me; another time; we'll talk again.