“What,” the practical American stockman will ask, “in a nutshell is there in owning and operating these great estancias in Uruguay?” To those men who bought their land cheap many years ago there is the largest profit in operating estancias today, and the profit increases year by year, as prices for meats advance. With the advent of the North American packers and their up-to-date methods, I look to see fat cattle and sheep sell for much more money than they do today. Market quotations for August, 1912, in Montevideo, are as follows : Oxen, “especiales,” $40 to $45; fat and heavy, $32 to $34; common to fat, $28 to $30. Steers, “mestizos” (of improved breeding), “especiales,” $32 to $34; fat and of good weight, $26 to $30; fat, $20 to $24. Calves, “especiales,” $12 to $14; fat, $10 to $12; common, $6 to 8. Steers, natives (“criollas”), “especiales,” $24 to $26; fat and heavy, $20 to $22; common, $18 to $20; inferior, $24 to $16.
I think it safe to say that these cattle would have brought about double these prices, perhaps more, in Chicago. Prices for sheep show even a greater discrepancy, selling at the estancias as low as $1.50 each, and ranging up to several times that price for the best fat wethers delivered at the frigorificos, but always below prices in the United States. -Europe is the market for the enormous surplus produced in this country. There seems now an enormous margin between what the estanciero receives for his fat steer or wether and what the consumer must pay for it in England. I surmise that the killers and exporters of Uruguayan meats are making large fortunes in the process.
The Uruguayan government with what seems commendable wisdom is endeavoring to move the European consumers to Uruguay, by means of a protective tariff designed to stimulate Uruguayan industries. Let us hope they may have a fair measure of success.
As to wools, in April, 1912, market quotations in Montevideo were, for fine Merinos, 17 to 18 cents, ranging thence down to 15 cents for “common, good,” while cross-bred wools sold for 15 to 17 cents. I quote from my journal:
“July 5: Yesterday was a busy Fourth and there were enough Americans in Montevideo to celebrate it right well, albeit quietly. Our minister, Mr: Morgan, gave us a reception for one thing and we met many who were great, some who were good and possibly one or two who were both good and great. I walked in the old town then to where I could see the sea and the waves dancing in the winter’s sunlight. They looked friendly to me, seeming to say, `I am your way home.’ I had never be-fore seen the sea when it had to, me a friendly look. I saw ships out at sea and wished devoutly that my own good Ionic might speedily come to bear me away northward, toward loved ones and familiar scenes and toward warmth.
“It is midwinter here now. A peon was in the plane trees of the park, plucking off one by one the remaining leaves that had not sense enough to fall. At the great park, the Prado, it looks wintry; the geraniums, although not killed, are ill, but still the strange eucalypts bloom, unreal and unearthly trees. There has been a chilling fog all day; to-night the cheery fire in the English Club will be like a bit of heaven. There is in this town the best restaurant, all things considered, that I have ever seen. It is quite large, and kept of course by Italians.. The food is of the best, the prices are moderate, the service is good and there is excellent music every evening.”
A GOVERNMENT DINNER
My work in Uruguay was ended; I was ready to go as soon as the steamer came, but before I went a happy surprise awaited me. The Government gave a dinner in honor of my Government, our President Mr. Taft, whom I represented, and my-self. The dinner was in the best hotel in the town and in the finest dining-room. A long table was piled with flowers, great luscious roses, violets, ferns and waxy camellia Japonica in many sorts, assuredly the loveliest lot of flowers that I had ever seen on a table. There were present a number of high Government officials, including the very helpful Minister of Industries, many great estancieros and a few Americans and Englishmen; but, following a Latin custom, there were no women present. It deeply touched me to see what had been done in honor of the United States, a country doubly dear to me from my long absence. It was a good dinner, for I remember it. That is a test.
Afterward there were speeches. At the end there was a general call that I should speak. I tried to beg off, for my Spanish was lame, but they insisted that I might speak in English and that it would be translated by a young man who had come especially for that purpose, so with many misgivings I accepted the honor. I began by telling them how beautiful a land I had found Uruguay; how from granitic soils had come the strongest men; how, in fact, the men of Uruguay had impressed me as being well-born, brave, manly and intelligent. I praised their cattle, sheep and horses, and then I did a very daring act. “Will you pardon me, señors, if I now speak of another matter? It is this : I had for some days driven from one estancia to another. I had admired the beautiful white walled estancia houses, the fine wool; sheds and shearing sheds. On a hill at last I espied a long, low building with brown, unpainted walls and a roof of straw. I drew near to this building. Many children emerged therefrom, and behold, it was a school. I entered the school. I found a beautiful and lovely señorita, the teacher of the school. Her building had walls of rough boards, ceiling of straw and a floor of earth. It was in the midst of the winter season and the air was very cold, yet there was no place for fire, and no place where the niños or the señorita could warm their chilled hands. They were fine niños. Tell me, señors, is it fair to the niños, is it fair to the señorita, that the sheep should be better housed than they”
As I spoke I could see a rising tide of anger and resentment among my hearers. I grew more and more frightened at the unkind and almost uncourteous thing that I had done. However, the Minister of Industries had been before the Minis-ter of Education and he followed me with keen interest. When I had finished, he sprang to his feet. `”Let me speak, señors; let me answer Mr. Wing. I am glad that he has told you this. He has done us a service. Let me tell him that the fault is with my countrymen who would rather spend money for cannon and powder with which to kill one another, than to spend it for the education of their children. This condition will not endure forever. You have not seen all, Mr. Wing. If I could have directed you, if I could have known that schools were of interest to you, I could have shown you twenty fine, new schools erected this year, each one with stone walls and floors of marble or of tile. Education is coming to our camps, Mr. Wing, as well as to our cities, but we lag; we need awakening; therefore, I thank you for telling us this.”
I quote from my journal: “Down here no sun, no cheer; in the United States, too much sun, too much heat, baking clods, ruined harvests, and many dying of heat, while the same condition prevails in Europe. What a strange world it is. The Ionic is in touch with us by wireless; my South American visit draws to a close.”
BOUND FOR GREAT BRITAIN
I fear my readers can not understand the fever of impatience that possesses one who has for some months been in a strange land and at last finds himself turned homeward. He is like the bird at the time of migration; he can not be still an instant; he longs to stretch his wings and fly and fly and fly until at last he can drop down in fields that he knows. The Ionic is a good ship that runs from London to New Zealand, thence by way of Cape Horn and Montevideo to London again. She had for her commander Captain E. C. Roberts, one of the finest captains of the big White Star fleet, and one of the most interesting men I have ever known. Our consul at Montevideo, F. W. Goding, was a chum of Capt. Roberts’ and received a wireless message from him asking him to come aboard for a day at Montevideo.. This he was happy to do and those two men spent a hard day of earnest conversation, ranging from the atomic theory and old Egyptian civilization down to socialism and the Mendelian laws. Two more evenly matched men I never knew. Mr. Goding was of great help to me in Montevideo. He– is one of the newer type of consulseducated, tremendously in earnest, with a big brain and a big fund of common-sense. I found the passenger list a small, one; there were only some seventy-five people beside those of the second and third-class, but there were many interesting ones among them. Some were from New Zealand, some from Australia and others who took the ship with me and coming from Argentina or Uruguay. On the whole, we made a companionable ship’s company and if I ever was unhappy rest assured that it was my own fault.
As we left Montevideo and plunged out into the big ocean, we were met by a tremendous storm. Huge seas drenched the decks, but we were all old sailors and did not much care. The next day after sailing, the air grew warmer; the second day saw a very comfortable atmosphere indeed. We approached Rio de Janeiro and all was delightful anticipation. We were coming so quickly up from winter into warmth, not into summer exactly, nor even spring, but at least into warmth. – It was a supremely happy day. I quote from my journal:
AT RIO DE JANEIRO
“What a happy day it has been. We were up early and had an eager, excited breakfast. What a lovely ride it was ashore on the launch, dancing over the blue waves past the bright and gay buildings on the islands of the harbor. When ashore, we walked a little way, and after posting letters, we began to inquire where ran the tram lines that led to a suburb called Tijuca. It is high up in the mountains. We found that the Portuguese under-stood our Spanish quite well. Then we boarded a trolley car and set off. We admired as we went along one thing after anotherthe palms, the tree ferns on the mountain sides and the quaint and sometimes pretty houses with their pretty gables and tiled roofs. There is but little Spanish architecture; there are only a few of the typical square buildings with patios that one sees in Argentina. The tendency is to set buildings in gardens and to give them roofs, almost Swiss sometimes.
“It was almost too cool. To make it worse, it showered, gently, from time to time. But we were under roof. How beautifully green were the wonderful mountains, how the tree-tops lifted in the wind and the bamboos swayed. There were not so many flowers as in mid-winter, yet great masses of poinsettias flamed out here and there. The tram-way climbed up and up the narrow mountain valley, past hamlets and villas set on mountain sides and past a roaring mountain stream, and here and there we caught sight of marvelous waterfalls, hundreds of feet over cliffs. At last we reached the end of the journey, at the hamlet or village of Tijuca (tihuca). It was like being in some marvelous green-house. Bamboos actually arched across the perfect road for a long way ; it was all lovely as heaven. We met a man coming along with a great Hindu humped ox and a cart; it was big, fat and a some-what wilful ox ; the man led him with a small rope, and they seemed rather jovial companions. I asked him if the ox was a `buey nuevo’ and he replied yes, that he was that, and contrary. I think well of these Indian cattle for the tropics. The only thing that marred our joy was that rain continually threatened, and when we consulted the watch we were overjoyed to find it past twelve and we were all hungry. So we walked back to a small hotel in some very interesting grounds that were full of rare trees, spices, coffee, giant bamboos that are as yellow as gold and shine as though varnished, and many strange and adorable things.
“The dinner amused us. There was no soup, but fish, a big fish for each of us; good mutton chops and macaroni (for one; they explained that there was not enough for three, which further amused us), and ending up with fruits. There was a new fruit, like a little melon in shape, an orange in size and a Japan persimmon in taste, only there was no astringency. I rather enjoyed it and so did the ladies. We got the seeds for them to take to Tucoman. We ended with black Brazilian coffee. I drank coffee nowhere else, but always here. As we were drinking the coffee, the waiter told us of the strange sugar that they furnished us and how it was made. -It is an unrefined sugar, very white, sweet and delicious. He used fluent Spanish, and that was pleasant; he knew the peculiarities of the tongue as spoken in Cordoba, Tucoman, Buenos Aires, Paraguay, Texas, California and Spain as well. He was very interesting to talk with and to my joy, I could understand nearly all that he said. When they brought the bill our joy was complete. It had not been a sumptuous repast, but the bill was for 15,000 reis. I did not have that much money in Brazilian currency, but we managed to pay all right, and it seemed to be a fitting end. We argued that it was the highest dinner we had eaten in many a day, far up the mountain, and high in all ways. (1,000 reis = nearly thirty-five cents.)
“We walked in the garden a while and the waiter, who was not busy and who was interested in us (and in hopes of a further tip), walked with us, and told us of the things. Then we caught a car and came coasting down the mountain, around the curves and all, really exciting at times and hard to keep from swaying over against our companions. In the city we walked a way along the wonderful Avenida or wide street where there are fine shops. We walked and admired the fine things and smiled at the curious types of people (and they smiled at us, no doubt), and saw the curious fruits. We then came back to the wharf. The swell from yesterday’s storm was terrific and some lads were having such a game. Back some way from the wharf there was a round hole in the stone pavement, like a coal hole in a sidewalk, and with an iron cover to it. This connected with the sea and now and then the waves would imprison and compress air in such a way that it would make a geyser there that would throw up the lid and a stream of water twelve feet high. The lads would watch their chance, hurriedly pull the lid on again and then pile stones on it as fast as they could pile them, but sooner or later, ‘gee-wash!’ and up would go the lid, stones and all, and a deluge of water all about. It was hard getting on the launch, as the boat rose and fell so, and I had a time with one of our passengers, who was cross and unhappy, weary and disappointed. The women were brave and we all got to the ship safely:”
Capt. Roberts and I soon learned that we were kindred spirits. Neither one of us was good for much at light talk with the women; we were both awkward, more or less, and far too serious to be good company with the light-hearted. Therefore, we used to get together and take interminable hard, swift walks on deck, one of us doing all the talking always, the other only commenting or objecting. Now he would give me a lecture on Egyptology or I would tell him the history of the Mormon church. Poor old captain; if his Egyptology is no more ac-curate than his present knowledge of Mormonism, there is not much hope from history. – Curiously enough the captain could read the old Egyptian hieroglyphics like print. He was also an artist of distinction, but withal a sea captain who never neglected for an instant his great ship. The life of a sea captain makes a man strangely cynical ; he sees all sides of human nature, and not all of them are pleasant sides. Capt. Roberts is an American by birth. He told me what a long, weary way it was from New Zealand to Cape Horn, down in the twilight and the dismal cold. “I simply have to have something to study, Mr. Wing,” was his ex-planation of his Egyptology.
There were more interesting people, perhaps, forward in second cabin than in the first.
There were New Zealand sheep farmers going “home” for visits, or because they had sold their lands and flocks and were going home for good; there were artisans and artists, actresses and singers, and most interesting of them all, perhaps, a young man of good birth and Oxford training, Mr. Sedgewick. He is devoting some years of his life to helping the poor of London. He does it by forming in that town boys’ clubs, where he gathers together the most worthy and helps them in various ways, ending by taking many of them to Australia and New Zealand, and putting them in good places on farms. Each boy is farmed out by himself, so that he may the sooner shed off certain unpleasant mannerisms of London and the sooner take on the newer and brighter optimistic outlook of the new civilization. These lads do finely in their new environment.
Among the Ionic’s passengers were a few Uruguay men and women. I liked them. They were always kind, considerate and courteous. This could scarcely be said of some of the English-speaking people. What a pity it is that we allow the Latin people to excel us in courtesy, when we think that we excel them in some other things.
We came steadily northeastward, passing the equator in great comfort. In fact, there was hardly an uncomfortable day. The sun is no such terrific monster in the tropics as I had supposed. When one is at sea, it is very comfortable indeed except during occasional hours of mist or humid weather, when, one becomes sticky with perspiration That does not evaporate. We passed only a few ships. Our wireless man got some fragments of news, a part of which he gave out and a part he concealed, with true British reticence. We neared Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. I quote :
THE PEAK OF TENERIFE
“July 25: Early this morning we came in sight of the peak of Tenerife; thereafter, it was difficult to stay in one’s cabin and work. The peak is 12,090 feet high and it was wreathed in fleecy clouds. The sides of the mountain are rather barren, but there are pine forests high up.. Along the barren, cliff-walled coast the waves break hard. Up on little table lands and in the edges of great ravines or canyons, there are visible white-walled villages, very high upon the mountainside. It is a lovely sight. We can see white roads and houses with gleaming white walls, but as it is the dry season and it is a semi-arid land, we see no green trees or fields. It is a large island; we were until one o’clock coming along its shores before we made harbor and dropped our anchor to take on coal.
“The Canary Islands are in the latitude of Southern Florida, and are as near to being a sunny paradise as one can find. Many English people come here to escape British winters. The islands produce tomatoes, bananas and other fruits for Lon-don. If these islands had only been settled by the right people. The original islanders were very dark, but not negroes; later came Spanish and Moorish folk. We went ashore soon after casting our anchor, finding the old town half asleep, for it was the time of the noonday siestaprobably a wise thing to observe if one is to live long in the tropics. The narrow streets struggled up the mountain-side a little way. In the quaint old houses were wood-en shutters, tight-closed, all but little squares in their centers, as large as a moderate-sized picture frame. These little squares were open and señoras or señoritas in considerable negligee gazed out. In the market we bought figs, peaches, apricots and other fruits. In the cool patio of a hotel we had tea and gossiped with the passengers. Then with an athletic English girl I climbed clear up to the top of the town and out a little way into the surrounding barren fields, which were terraced. The view was magnificent down over the sleepy town, with its little green gardens and prized trees, the very blue water of the harbor and the sea beyond.
“We found a marvelous treesome sort of acacia covered with crimson bloom. We bribed a lad to climb and secure for us a pod with seeds, these for Tucoman. Then, laden with flowers, fruit and the treasured seeds, we came back, very happy, to the ship. In the clear, blue water of the harbor the lads of the place were diving for silver; they would not do it for copper coins. The sun blazed finely, just a fine corn day in the Ohio Valley, and a tiny field of maize near the town made me more homesick than I had yet been. The capital of the islands is a little city high up in the mountains, reached by an electric railway; in fact, here is a curious mingling of old and new. The city seems incredibly ancient, yet it is the terminus of a new network of electric lines that will develop the horticultural resources of the island. Incidentally, as is usual in the tropics, the place was lousy with beg-gars. Four more days of quiet steaming ahead brought us to the English coast. Our excitement grew, ships and birds increased in numbers, the sea was alive now and populous. We beheld it all with mixed feelings of gladness and trouble, for soon the Philistines would be upon us, and we would need to take up the burden of the daily task, shunted off during the weeks afloat. Many of us decided to go ashore at Plymouth to save time.”