August 4, 1940

 

 

 

 

Sun Aug 4, 1940


I sleep fitfully when I have a night shift coming up. The breeze had changed so Sat. night the "pobre animilitas" - mosquitoes - had a feast. I was it. I couldn't have felt more chewed up if I had been pulled thru a cow. The fact that during the rainy season you can expect rain every afternoon or night assures you the certainty of abundance of mosquitoes.

The buzzer woke me at 1:00 AM. The night was rather warm - for Mex. With a wool shirt & wool sweater I wasn't cold, i.e. not immediately. The local Mexican comrade, a different one each night, has the 7 PM to 1 AM shift, was walking in the yard. Almost as broad as tall, carrying the 10 gauge riot gun - his general build, smiling features, short moustache, making him almost a popular counterpart of Pancho Villa.

I have some butter bread rolls & hot milk & go on duty. I relieve the Mexican who greets me cordially with a dozen

 

 

 

Spanish pleasantries. He goes to the tower to get the mauser rifle he keeps with him until he leaves in the AM. He sleeps in the Library - "Biblioteca" - until about 5:30 then goes back to the city.

I take a comfortable chair on the back porch in a dark spot beside a large cabinet, (a) fine bulletproof waist high wall in front. (The) door to the main tower on my right, (a) nice 5' x 5/8" steel plate alongside it. The door incidentally has been repaired. When its standing open only one bullet hole is visible. The wall alongside is still pock marked from an assault, about a dozen holes made by Thompson .45 slugs.

Everything is at peace. The night is black, the stars bright, the yard well lighted, the "conejos" - rabbits - frisk in their pens. I lean back, and listen to the electric piano in the next block play "Oh Johnny".

Promptly at 2:00 AM that stops too. Only the chirping of the water in the toilet & the occasional sleepy coo of a pigeon…


 

 

I stroll thru the patio. Here they're adding another story to the guard's quarters, expecting to put on about 3 or 4 more men. I pass Seva's, Charley's and Walter's doors - each doorway has white patches at waist height where recent repairs have been made. One side of Walter's isn't complete. Here a whole corner 8" high and 6" wide was shot off by a burst of machine gun fire. The tower over Jake's room is a recent addition. It was right in front of his door, behind the huge eucalyptus tree, that one machine gunner stood.

I go over to the guard house & look at the schedule. Wake Walter & Munis at 4:00. I sneak a piece of chocolate from a bag left by one of the boys. Its poor quality - but I take another. Before going back to my post I step in the kitchen, hastily fix a boiled ham sandwich and have hardly taken my chair & 3 bites when I see Charley's flashlight cut thru the tree in front of me. I step outside. "Joe is at the door," he whispers. Getting the correct keys, they are dozens there, I snatch another

 

 

 

piece of candy and unlock the first door. I hear Joe talking to the police outside but I lock the first door behind me (automatically), hold my revolver in "ready" position and unlocking the second door permit him to enter. It's 2:30 AM.

Joe goes to the Guard House & looks at the schedule. The new one isn't up. He goes to Charley's room & gets his suit. I snap off the light over the tower door & settle down. I finish the ham sandwich and about the same time Joe goes on the roof to see Charley about some thing. The electric piano starts again, plays one number & stops. Ten minutes later it starts again, this time it's a nice melody popular in '26 or '27 very familiar. I hum it several times but can't recall the name. Something has set the world of dogs barking and for long minutes the canine population tells the world & one another all the news, hopes, aspirations etc that affect their lives. One is possibly a lover. He goes on & on.

The church bells toll 3 AM.


 

 

A policeman's whistle wails. They're on duty 24 hrs, then off 24 hrs. They're obliged to blow their whistle every 15 min. to let chief of guard know they're not asleep. One blows his whistle & each man at his post answers. Four posts, besides the main station outside our control tower.

Again the piano starts up for two short Mex. Numbers. I wonder what's going on there, somebody must be making a night of it.

The roosters of the region are all sounding off. Someone is blowing his auto horn continuously for five minutes. The police seem interested in serenading us with their whistles and continue in desultory fashion for 5 min. each, whereupon the first one starts up again.

Suddenly as at a signal something possibly disturbed their sense of quiet or perhaps their general resentment vs. peace & rest, the dogs start in a hundred tones & keys, the roosters each straining his neck to

 

 

 

bursting, the police falsetto chorus burst into full song, two opposite churches add their disharmonious din. I slap at a mosquito who's eating my leg off, look at my watch - It's 3:30 AM.

The water is still dripping in the bathroom. The other noises continue as before except that now the younger dogs, having had several hours sleep, add their immature voices to the swelling chorus. Our Rhode Island Red rooster, just recovering from chicken pox, tries to outdo the white leghorn who's in solitary for misbehavior. He fights continually, then beating his wings off tells the world about it in song. The Rhode Island Red is calling him a liar to which one or two hens sleepily agree.

Dew shimmers on the electric light wires. Insects, invisible until they cross the beam of the floodlights, suddenly loom up as large as dollars (dollars to me are

 

 

 

plenty large). Dancing before the spotlight briefly they disappear to go on with their more important problems of living.

The fellow who's been blowing his auto horn stops sometime for 2 or 3 min. intervals. Otherwise the noise goes on unabated. The neighbor across the wall has pigs though they're 100 yds removed from us. Whatever is disturbing them adds to the confusion. Maybe they're killing a few or possibly feeding them. Charley coughs on the roof, perhaps he has T.B. My toes are numb with cold. I rub my legs & scratch the million skeeter bites on my ankles & calves. Someone goes to the toilet & that noise shatters the stillness of our immediate surrounding. A light flashes in the yard ahead, then on the side porch. I step outside. Charley overhead whispers " Put on the coffee & wake Walter and Otto. Munis isn't here tonight".

In due time both appear dressed in leather jackets & scarf or overcoat. I'm thereby reminded that I'm cold & wipe a dewdrop off the end of my nose. Walter relieves me shortly and

 

 

 

I cross the lower floor of the tower which is strewn with steel reinforcing rod in preparation for pouring a concrete floor. Climb a steel stairway, creep thru a 2 ft hole in the floor above, pass the steel door to main defense room, go up another steel ladder to my room high in the tower. Mosquitoes whine about my ears, so before retiring I spray my bed again with flit. The bells at this time of the day are jangling constantly. It won't be daylight until 6:15 but I hear laughing voices across the little river. I lay my revolver within easy reach, look at my watch - 4:37 - lay the flashlight beside the gun & try to start in with my dream where I stopped at 1:00 AM.