Afghanistan Central:

August 21st, 2011

Afghanistan Central:

Qala Bist.com Reconstruction:

Qala Bist.com has grown a lot as a website since this post on October 6, 2007 was written.   A lot has been written here about Afghanistan and about my experiences in Afghanistan and those of my family and others in Afghanistan, with emphasis on the years 1958 through 1960.

It is anticipated that more will be written, more information will be posted and that more documents and more pictures will be posted too.

The most ambitious project so far has been the effort to post my parents letters to and from Afghanistan.  The series is entitled “Going to Afghanistan“, a Qala Bist.com Category.

The “Going to Afghanistan” series of posts contains not only letters, but also observations, explanations and commentary of my own.  In addition, pictures (photographs) of Afghanistan, documents regarding Afghanistan and various lists and timelines (Tepplines) have been added to the “topic Afghanistan” content.

A Category approach is the best way to meet the needs of a wide diversity of readers, and of readers interests.  In order to read the “Going to Afghanistan” posts sequentially one should scroll down to Post #1, read it, and then work their way forward through time.  It takes time, but every post is sequentially there.

Donald Clayton. 

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Format, Dates and Times:

Various variations of format have been used at Qala Bist.com over the years.  Afghanistan information will be progressively updated to reflect the current format and usage conventions, hopefully misspellings will be corrected.  Usage conventions prefer the avoidance of abbreviations.  Generally, dates given are the dates of the locality of where the letter or information originated at the time.  Qala Bist.com post dates reflect Albuquerque local time.  When a time and date appear at the bottom of a post the date and time are UTC time, based on the minute of the upload to the web.

Copyright and Links:

The content on this website is copyrighted based on the actual date of posting unless there is a specific statement that the specific item or specific content is a part of the Public Domain.  All “old” letters and photographs published on this site have not been previously published unless a specific statement to the contrary is made.  All rights are reserved by the author of this site.  Some content is designated “Qala Bist Blue“.  Qala Bist Blue content is either a part of the public domain or is dedicated to the public domain with certain provisions that include credit (source attribution), non-religious usage of portrait type photographic content, and a prohibition of any sale or attempted sale of the Qala Bist.com image.

Links to this site, “Qala Bist.com”, or to an individual page are always welcome.

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List of American Nationals in Afghanistan in 1958 through 1960

The “List of Americans in Kabul, Afghanistan 1958 – 1960” is a comprehensive and growing list of “all” Americans and others that were in Afghanistan from 1958 through 1960.  The list may contain additional information or links regarding the people referenced in documents, photographs or letters.

The list also contains the names of various nationals of other nations who were closely involved with Americans or American affairs in Afghanistan.  This second category is and will be incomplete, but expresses the international diversity of the times.

Access the “List of American Nationals in Afghanistan in 1958 through 1960HERE.

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2011.08.26 – 19:34.

December 1, 1958

December 1st, 1958

This is Post #50 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

~ The roots of a $1 Trillion Dollar “discovery” and a little about oil from the gulf.

I know you probably find it a little hard sometimes to see things “my way”.  A little documentation is always nice.  You can get your own copy of this from the Agency for International Development (AID) (archives – it was ICA in 1958) if you don’t believe me; if you think I photo-shop things myself.  These documents are real.

So I am posting a few “family mementos” – papers from the past to show that “what’s new” is maybe not so new.

Exhibit ‘A’ is a simple list from Fred’s Division (not military, but maybe a little like military just the same) – maybe like the first American Invasion of Afghanistan (circa 1958; not the 2001 one at all).

I didn’t see it as an invasion then; I saw it more like “doing good”, like “a trip”, like “my life” in Afghanistan – a nice place (then).  But looking back on the documents (from now) makes them seem a little more disconcerting.  The projects, but more – the priorities – are clear.  You don’t need it spelled out with big numbers, starting with “one”, to make the point.  You don’t need a document deliberately without a date to make the point.  But here it IS and it is so abundantly clear (now).

10 of the Projects of ICA in Afghanistan – circa 1958.

Clayton Family Document from the Donald Clayton collection – This image is contributed to the Public Domain under the parameters of Qala Bist Blue.

This list shows the project ID numbers and the ICA USOM/A person in charge of the specific project.  Actually, several projects often fell within the parameters suggested by this list; and as you will see by subsequent documents the “scope” of the parameters was often changing.

Projects pertinent to the identification of and development of (exploitation of) Mineral Resources and coal production in Afghanistan was in the hands of Robert Davis in 1958.  This is perhaps interesting to consider in light of the release two days ago of the U.S. Military assessment of the potential (in 2010) of the Mineral Resources of Afghanistan.

This thing goes a long way back folks!

In case it is not as clear to YOU as it is to me let’s look at this list a bit with fresh eyes.  The exploitation of Afghanistan’s natural resources is #1.  #2 is reconnaissance and mapping; there were no satellite surveillance systems then, no ground penetrating radar; but a good geologist (like Fred) could see things just the same (and did; and so did many others).

The Helmand Valley was first about electric power (not agriculture, more the ruse).  Fred was an engineer that built dams and airports; irrigation was act two – “power” always precedes food on THIS planet.  Which brings us to “industry” and Industrial Districts (in Kandahar); industry needs power (back to #3).

#5 is “Educational Facilities” the battle for the “hearts and minds”.  Kabul University (an American project) was not about philosophy, theory, religion and good government – it was there to teach science (nuclear engineering, chemistry – things like that).  #6 brings us finally to “food”; but not food in the old way (old ways) – this is “new food” folks, maybe not genetic engineering “GM” (yet, but not too far from it.  Lashkar Gah was an American community (per design), tractors and chemicals all made in the U.S.S.A. – Whoray!

#7 is the “Air Power” thing.  KIA was the first “Jet Port”; Bagram came close behind; then the Russians built Kabul (International Airport) and the war was on.  #8 is of course about the OIL!  Roads to replace camel trails and caravans, trucks burning fossil fuels always coming in; you’ve seen the pictures, the trucks – Fred’s car; all the other “American” cars there (mostly just for show) – a real CAR SHOW with all the American models and the model of America – America using Oil!

#9 – always “number nine” – more oil folks.  Oil for asphalt, oil for trucks, oil for cars – make Afghanistan dependent on oil.   And then we have the “Code 10” “Ten code” #10.  It means everything from “fight in progress” to “bomb threat” to “off-duty”.  You take your pick, we’re talking “Afghan regional transit” here; sounds like a roadside bomb to me; or maybe just neglected infrastructure – this country ain’t going nowhere under the Americans baby (not maybe).

Let me make it CLEAR.  I never saw all of this this way until today!  This list was made before Fred came along; Fred (my father) did not make this list.  He was given this list by someone “higher up” the chain.  I’m not convinced he even understood at the time “the plan”, the “stakes”; what someone was really after.  He loved Afghanistan and the people; but too – he had a job to do – let’s put that job to an end – a real end – like let’s stop that JOB right now!

Stop the drilling Take down the walls and dams and damn walls!  Let the people free!

Note:  For more documents and documentation check the monthly posts under 1958; the document list is growing.  I will try to make a “click here” list; but you know that I’m still looking for pictures of two old cars and columns east of Beirut (so don’t hold your breath).  Maybe I should create a new catagory “Documents” and make it real(ly) easy.

[First posted  2010.06.16 / Wednesday ]  11:35 P.M. Mountain War Time

Photographic update:

November 20th, 1958

This is Post #49 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

Well, this is NOT really a post so much.  It is a notice about Qala Bist, the Arch at Qala Bist, Qala Bist about Afghanistan and Qala Bist (.com) and all those other good things that search engines Google.

So now that that is covered.  The NEWS is that there are New Pictures recently posted in the Afghanistan in Pictures series.

So click on the Catagory to the left, or click here to work your way back to the October 20 new stuff (and points in-between).  Or click here to get directly to Istalif, Afghanistan.

AIR LETTER – AEROGRAMME – PAR AVION; maybe not, but with Bagram we’re getting up speed.

[First posted:  2010.05.28 / Saturday  Photographic Update:]

Back in Kabul

November 18th, 1958

This is Post #48 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

November 18, 1958

AIR LETTER
If anything is enclosed this letter will be sent by ordinary mail
Red, green, and black aviation letter outline – 5 Af stamp of DC-3 over Kabul (blue)

Addressed to:
Mrs. Fred W. Clayton
405 N. Roop St.
Carson City,
Nevada U.S.A.

Senders name and address:
F. W. Clayton
USOM / A
Kabul, Afghanistan

Kabul
18 Nov. ‘58

My Beloved,

Just a note for today.  Back in Kabul at 9:30 A.M. yesterday with meetings most of the day.  Too tired to write last night.

Two meetings this morning.  One with the Ambassador.

No mail today so far.  Hope to get some letter in the day.

The rope tow is underway.

All my love
Your Fred.

Notes:  This letter sets a new record, 48 words.  Even Heinlein thought he could fit 68 words on a post card.  But post cards did not qualify as light weight air mail so Fred uses his rare and precious stamps on brevity of thought, or at least a brevity of expression.

I wonder if the American experience in Afghanistan is today like Fred’s two days.  Meetings, more meetings; talks with the Ambassador; skiing (or is it just skating, thin ice, the rope tow is “underway” – not finished yet).  Can it pull everyone “up the hill” to Kabul when it’s finished?

The news from Kabul yesterday was not good.  Another 48 words (about) about the officers that died; not the Ambassador of course, but the Taliban is working its way up through the ranks – crested eagles do make such good targets – am I sounding like Tokyo Rose?

Tokyo Rose (actually there were several, I’m talking the main one here) was from Hawaii.  Probably had a Hawaiian “Certificate of Live Birth”; nothing about being Japanese, the Japanese records part were in Japan (like she was) when she was caught (or captured) and encouraged to go on the radio and talk to the troops and play music from like You Tube but earlier.

Anyway, the woman who’s daughter opened Disneyland (cut the ribbon circa 1955) was a very good friend of “Miss Rose” (not her real Hawaiian name).  So was Disney (Walt) cavorting with aliens, or friends of aliens, or aliens with friends?  Maybe Ronald Reagan should have turned Walt in like he turned others in to the good Senator Joseph McCarthy and Joseph’s good friend and aide Robert F. Kennedy.  “Trust no one”, is the watch phrase of the X Files (series, and the movie).

Maybe.  The point again is that the history that you don’t know IS the history that will kill you; it’s the cosmic efficiency thing, smart parents don’t like to teach every lesson twice; it gets boring, is a bore, makes people wonder why children think it is so cool to act so dumb.  “You heard me the first time, now didn’t you?”  A pause, a look, an honest, “Yes, mam.”, or  “Yes, mom.”  “NOW, be on your way.”

So “be on your way” today.  Look back, remember – learn once, not twice.  More tomorrow.

[Post originally written:  2010.05.21 / Back in Kabul]

That reservoir reminds me of Lake Mead

November 16th, 1958

This is Post #47 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

AIR LETTER – AEROGRAMME – PAR AVION
Pre-stamped U.S. Postage 10c (with four engine propeller plane pictured)

Addressed to:
Mr. Fred W. Clayton
American Embassy – USOM Kabul
Department of State Mail Room
Washington 25, D.C.

Return Address:
Lloydine Clayton
405 No. Roop St.
Carson City, Nevada
U.S.A.

November 16, 1958
Sunday noon.

(1)
My Darling, Fred,

I love you so much and miss you.  Well, it finally happened – winter came!  Our world is white and blue with snow in the trees and icicles bedecking the bushes on the south.  It is a distinct change from as recently as Wednesday when I went up to Slide Mountain on a road that had only a few icy patches.  Yesterday chains were required to get out of Carson City every direction in the morning.  Now the restrictions are lifted, but things remain icy.  I am surely glad we had our ice and snow tires on and going.  Tonight’s prediction is from -10 to +8.  Night before last it was +7 in Reno.  I think we had more snow than Reno; they claim two inches.  Ours must have been 3-4.  I wish we had our storm covers for the windows.  Incidentally, do you want me to bring plastic storm covers for the windows there?  This will end the Indian summer that we have been enjoying for so long.

This morning there was talk of reconditioning skis, and they were even brought in for an inspection.  Now they are out again.

I have a chameleon on my arm right now trying to turn yellow, but not really succeeding.  The tough season has come as we can’t find any critters for her to eat.  Finally bought some fish worms, but she doesn’t care for those serpents; seems scared.  She has a small fish bowl home with some plants.

It was a hard decision to make but I finally decided not to go to Phoenix.  There was nothing I wanted to do more, but I think this is best.  It seems that not only are Bob Allen and Chet Newell going but both of their wives.  Noel and I talked about it and agreed that Mrs. Allen could make mountains out of mole hills much too easily and it might not do you, me or Noel any good for me to be there alone.  This particularly applies do to the political situation now and Noel does want to stay on the Commission, while Bob could quite likely make a change.  I had written Tanner and he said I would be welcome.  The social program would be very nice, but Noel thought the technical program a bit blah.

I am enjoying the fireplace finally.  It may break me up buying presto logs but they give such nice steady heat with so little watching.  The kitchen becomes very cozy nights and mornings.  Right now I have a small 4 x 6 rug in front of the fireplace, the cabinet moved back, and the yellow chair here to sit in.  I have the card table to write on, placed as close as I want it.  I think I may leave things this way quite a while.  They got this way on account of the living room rug.  I am very disgusted.  We had it cleaned so nicely, then when I asked the men to clean the 4×6 pink one they did it on top of the gray and the machine ran over the edges, this left brownish irregular areas.  Friday they came to reclean the living room rug and scrubbed for about 4 hours on it and now the whole center of it is a great big brownish area.  Apparently getting it wet causes some reaction from the back to come up and this is the result.  Keeping off it when it was wet was what put us into the kitchen.  I don’t intend to let them scrub on the rug any more for a while.  I’ll give them a piece and they can figure out what to do before applying any more brushes to the main rug.

I enjoyed your pictures so much.  It was nice to find the one with you in it, in your blue shirt and jeans.  You look like quite a powerful man, and with the Afghani friends it was nice.  I do hope you will make every effort to lose considerable pounds.  I am enjoying my 130 lb. Self so much, both for looks and for the vim and vigor which I feel, along with the lithesome feeling making me want to exercise and dance – no draggy feeling.  I find the best way is to eat moderately, nibble on non-fattening things and continue to feel so much pride in my appearance that I get more pleasure from that time than from eating more.  You have an extra problem with the parties and the alcohol, but please try.  I love you so much and am so proud of you, but with the svelte way I feel, I couldn’t help but feel some annoyance if you look fat around the chin.  We could make such a beautiful couple together if you were better consolidated too, and I do love people to admire us as a couple.  People still comment on our picture on the front hall.  It is nice!  Anyway, I did enjoy seeing you in your Afghan habitat.  Now I want to see that new hat in use.  I should say I loved seeing you in the picture – it made you seem closer.  Sometimes I need you so badly to recharge my battery.  I miss the chance to get dressed up and go out with a purpose.  You have too much social life; I not enough.  Things have their ups and downs, but not much flavor or savor anywhere.  I pray for strength to complete this most difficult of all assignments.

(2)
I think you have something in using this part of the paper.  I had forgotten it could be done.

Tuesday noon I go to Sparks for a lunch with ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) wives who are getting together to plan for the 1960 national convention to be held in Reno.  I can no doubt bolster their scared hearts and have some fun doing it.  Rose Meredith called me.

Going back to pictures.  I got the ones of your vacation.  We have some very interesting ones of Blackwater Falls , including one of me that I will send you.  Our flower close-ups did not come out too well in focus.  You surely got a load of airplanes while left in Washington with the camera.  As subject matter they always seem so dull to me.  We got a vague indication on the breakfast picture, but not complete.  I got some quite nice shots of Indians in the Admission Day parade.  This was gratifying because it was getting very dark and I had all the light I could get, not a shadow is visible – that dark.

(3)
Your pictures of Kabul from the hill are very clear.  I don’t know why but hardly any of your trees look green.  In one sequence I can tell this is because the pictures were taken in the late afternoon by the shadows – the results are a general yellow glow of sameness over everything.  Indoors in the pottery place came out clear, but indoors in the mill was a little too dark, but can see something.  The staff house looks nice and the musical group is interesting.  Maybe a little too many pictures of them.  Is that a cement kiln?  Your pictures of the river are delightful, so very clear.  The nomad camps are nice – what no dogs charging you!  That reservoir reminds me of Lake Mead.  Your pictures are very nice.  I’ll get Newells over after they return from Phoenix and see them projected, then keep the projector and study them for my own satisfaction.

All my love, darling.  Keep up the good work.  I appreciate the little letters as well as the big ones.  We’ll do our best for Afghanistan.

Sweet dreams and happy wishes.
Lloydine, Kenneth, Donald.

Notes:  We’ll start from the last.  “We’ll do our best for Afghanistan.”  A promise made more than 50 years ago and a promise I intend to keep.  My mother’s not around anymore to do it; nor my brother Ken, too.  That leaves me, and that’s why I’m posting.  But there are my mother’s words of illustration too, “I pray for strength to complete this most difficult of all assignments.” – a call to prayer for peace.

Sometimes it’s hard to read these letters; most of them I haven’t read for years.  They’re so truthful, so direct; Lloydine (my mother) just picks up the pen and goes – typewriter for her, keyboard for me – I come by this stuff honestly; you can hear it in her words.   Like in her description of the rug, “when it was wet was what”; even I can’t go on with five words like that, strung together in poetry and meaning.

But I too learn things from these letters; like my chameleon was not really dead!  I thought it died at the Lynchs (it almost died).  Now I remember that it did recover; over the pale and returned; like Kandahar coming back from the dead; like peace in Qala Bist; an end to war on war because war has ended.  The chameleon was last left working so hard to change colors; the flies were dead, wouldn’t eat the serpents.  I don’t make any of this stuff up.  (I will however change my posts to reflect the new reality – the chameleon lives!)

So Fred is a bit like Gordo (recent post).  But there’s a lot too to be said for fat; Michael Oher, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Buddha maybe.  But do those guys drink, eat at all the parties, fly to Kandahar instead of walking there like the Afghans and Pakistanis and all of their friends do?  How are the coalition forces getting to Kandahar; inquiring minds want to know.

My mother WAS always on Fred about his weight.  Is this perfect?  No.  Is she wrong?  I’m not so sure.  Sure she sounds at one point like an ad for Metrical (also recently linked within a post), but Metrical WAS all the rage then, “diets do this, diets do that – drink this and you will be thinner, slimmer”, get exercise, eat right, join REI or the Marines; let’s get America walking!  Maybe the gulf oil (spill) will get America walking, or riding bicycles like the Afghans; would make Lloydine happy – slim down, spend less.

Presto logs too are back; forget the great oak stakes, sawdust is what makes it; maybe it was the Dick Tracy thing, the comic strip within a strip, the power of subliminal suggestion in the ’50’s.  “Wrist watch radio”, by any other name a cell phone (at hand and in your ear).  The future is not invented; it just jumps off every page.

I was going to do a whole post on Fred and his Nikon camera; Kodachrome were his colors.  Beat Paul Simon by maybe 20 years.  If you saw the link to the Paul Simon song you saw many things were missing.  The old slide projectors maybe number one; the old slide boxes number two.  The third thing missing in the video were the hand-held slide viewers; the ones like Lloydine had to use.

The projectors (slide projectors) were expensive, had unreliable bulbs.  The bulbs were hard to buy (except maybe in New York City) and hard to replace once you found one.  A fan could keep them cool, but every fan made a lot of noise, “want to see Fred’s slides?”; “maybe; but I think I hear my job calling; Phoenix calling, gotta run.”  “Gee Lloydine, that was great; too bad about the projector; too bad about the fan; it would have been nice to hear what you had to say.”

So why not wait 50 years?  The future has now “flown off the page”.  It’s all so quiet now; so still – so easy to listen to this woman’s words now and not to have to listen over the sound of vacuums and vacuuming and dish water boiling over and the men with their machine destroying the rug.  But in the silence the sounds still come through.  Like Lloydine would have wanted.

You may have noticed her imitation, a paraphrase, of Fred’s description of HIS room.  Lloydine will never miss a beat; she’s perceptive and competitive – compares his pictures with hers; holds no punches; tears Fred apart sometimes, but loves him (dearly) just the same.  It was probably easier to be Lloydine’s son than her wife; but the son part was no easy walk to freedom.  Freedom is a hard road and a high road.  It takes no prisoners.  One better be absolutely right or should go home.

I could write all night about just this one letter (this “post”).  I could point out things like Lloydine still thought Afghans (people) were Afghanis (money).  I could write about the fact that that confusion still seems to exist.  But I won’t.  There will be more letters, more time; other days to make my points.  Life is so circular (not linear); we keep returning to where we’ve been before; sometimes a little higher – but it’s the same plan as the floor below, same living room, same presto logs in the fireplace to keep one warm.

I know you want to see more pictures.  I know you want more (the Series) posts.  But I will leave you with just this one thought – from John Fowles and the Magus – “you will return there like the first time, like in the first moment that there ever was.”  And if you remember; in that first moment of Afghanistan EVERYTHING was ahead.

What does not lie ahead for Lloydine is the Public Service Commissions conclave in Phoenix.  Maybe Arizona too is not for you.  Her excuse (reason) was her reputation, Fred’s reputation, the reputation of others.  It’s so fifties to worry about “reputations”.  People now get slammed and slandered all the time; America has become “the land of the rude”, the “in your face”, the “he said, she said thing totally out of control”.  Mountains out of mole hills?  You would think Arizona was the home of Mount Everest, K-2, and the Big Island of Hawaii all rolled into one.  Mrs. Allen was maybe not wrong; just way ahead of her time.

[First posted: 2010.05.19 / Wednesday   That reservoir reminds me of Lake Mead]

The Battle for Kandahar

November 16th, 1958

This is Post #46 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

The complete series can now be read (or reviewed) from the beginning – beginning from Post #1 by clicking on “Going to Afghanistan Series” on the sidebar.  It is a “read down” format.  The only important point is to remember to select “Previous entries” not “Next entries” when you reach the bottom of a page.

Most of the more recent posts have pictures.  These posts can be most quickly accessed by the Afghanistan in Pictures” catagory on the sidebar. 

This is the Ides of May.  It has been ten (10) days since my last post on Afghanistan, where we last left Fred, in Kandahar, talking about New York mail and Christmas; Spin Baldak and Lashkar Gah.

We have needed time to let things happen, needed time to attend to other things before they happen, needed time to get ones house in order before meddling in others affairs.  I thank you for your patience.  It is patience and endurance that the Afghans know best; I know – the Afghans (when I was young) they taught me; they taught me a thing or two.

You are (meaning me) impressionable when you’re young.  It is the time when lessons stick; when mistakes stick out; when lessons can hurt when one is scolded, punished without reward, punished unjustly.  When you are young you never forget.  You carry the images (often the hurts) to old age, with each new year they fester until you forgive because otherwise you can’t forget.

America has never asked for forgiveness.  America is too young.  Without forgiveness America cannot be forgiven, will never be forgiven, the rest of the world (much older) will never forget.  This is the message of the Battle for Kandahar, now forming, people deciding and taking sides.  I fear it will be an epic battle; a battle for the desert – in the worst time to fight; in the heat of summer when one lives underground or ends up in it (meaning underground).

It is the battle of our (meaning the U.S. of A.) choosing.  We had the choice – fight or flight.  The airports were ready; we could have “pulled out”, but we chose to stay in.  In Vietnam (at the end) they called it “fuc*ing” as in “That Fuc*ing war”.  After My Lai and Tet, after Cambodia and all the bombing, after all the wasted money and wasted lives; after the drugs brought home to roost – you think some might remember and say, “Never again!”  They did not!  They (meaning the military, the Congress, the Labor Unions, the daily people) have not remembered; so it MUST happen again.

We know how this will end.  I wish it otherwise.  100,000 (about) U.S. troops have invaded and occupied my (almost) native land.  The invasion was based on lies and based on broken promises and based on treaties never kept.  It is as predictable as Antietam, as the Peloponnesian wars, as Alexander entering Kandahar and leaving his name still on the map.  What history do they teach at West Point if the point of history is never made?  You carefully choose your battles, the place, the time; or you can (and will) loose your whole country, the whole reason for the war.

But hubris has taken over.  We think we can not really lose this thing.  We think that the friendlies have got our back, that we have friends; that everyone else too always forgets.  President Karsai went to Washington, he flew.  He met the President (the new one), shook hands, ate meals, had a few words to say – smiled for the cameras; it’s nice to smile for the cameras.

But I know what Karsai was thinking.  With Washington he was NOT impressed.  Obama does not impress him.  He’s seen it all before.  He knows a loser when he sees one – harsh words that must be said; save our self from “soft power” that is getting softer everyday.

At best it will be a Pyrrhic Victory.  Like the Alamo in Texas (Afghanistan is always being compared with Texas) all the defenders (of Texas) dead; but we will remember (this time) “The Alamo” and all the bloody loss there in and will change history, or at least change how it is remembered.

Kandahar will be no John Wayne movie.  Of this I am sure.  There will be no heroes, no fond memories, no looking back on “colors that don’t run”.  One can remember the run in Korea, the Marine Corps “advance to the rear” at the Chosin Reservoir (Qala Bist always remembers the water – that awful noise – Mother Country).

Fight or flight or flights or both.  Fred built the airport; he built it to get out or to get in.  We’ll try to get back to Fred before all of Kandahar is a ruin, like Qala Bist, more a part of the past than the present; but we’re rebuilding brick by brick.  Save Kandahar!  Save Kandahar?  I don’t know.  The last time I was there I was leaving; flying OUT on a plane; fifty (50) years ago this summer, July, I’ll mark the date.  It was a long hot summer.  Sometimes the world seems to just stand still.

[First posted: 2010.05.15 / Saturday  The Battle for Kandahar]

A week and a day from now.

November 16th, 1958

This is Post #45 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

The complete series can now be read (or reviewed) from the beginning – beginning from Post #1 by clicking on “Going to Afghanistan Series” on the sidebar.  It is a “read down” format.  The only important point is to remember to select “Previous entries” not “Next entries” when you reach the bottom of a page. 

Note:  I realize that the number of posts in the Going to Afghanistan Series makes it difficult to access photographic updates – like the new photographs at “21 years” and “Information on rope tows”.  The solution is an index that links Post Names to Posts, alas WordPress for not auto-generating one.  Alas, another project.  I should start with Posts with pictures – aha!, I can make a new catagory – “Afghanistan in Pictures”.

LETTER

Addressed to:
Mrs. Fred W. Clayton
405 N. Roop St.
Carson City,
Nevada U.S.A.

Senders name and address:
F. W. Clayton
USOM / A
Kabul, Afghanistan

Kandahar
Sunday night
16 Nov. ’58

My Darlings,

Today I wrote a note at the airport and asked a friend to mail it in New York.

As Tues. 11 Nov. was a holiday they sent the pouch on Monday and I missed getting a note to you Monday.  As I was here Saturday I missed the pouch again so now I’m in a “crash program” to get a letter to you.

Jack Bennett and Ray Burrus are carrying this to New York where they will mail it next Friday.  You should receive it by Monday, a week and a day from now.

Ray and Jack are also bringing your Christmas presents, Lloydine.  I bought them only after I knew they would reach you in time.  There are three stones – perhaps for a ring and ear rings or anything else you want.  I hope the other items will be enjoyable this winter.  Things for the boys are not as easily shipped so you’ll have to take care of their Christmas as well as for the rest of the family as originally agreed.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday were spent in meetings on the airport problem.  Wednesday and Thursday we met with M. K. (Morrison Knudsen) in Kabul – Mr. Greenleaf, Vice-President came out from San Francisco.  Friday morning we transferred the meetings here to Kandahar – the construction site.  The details of this problem could fill a book which I don’t have time to write now.

Friday afternoon I went from Kandahar to Spin Baldak and return in order to look at the road.  It was an interesting trip and coming home after dark we saw several foxes with beautiful tails!

Saturday afternoon I took a drive and went to Lashkar Gah and stayed overnight.  While there I looked at the Helmand River Bridge problem.

Another problem here is the Kandahar electric supply and distribution.  Again I’m in the middle of this.  Progress is being made however.

As stated before I think your Christmas plans are excellent and hope you could include New Years on Market Street.

I thoroughly enjoyed your three letters covering your Nevada Day activities.  I lived every minute of it as I read it.  Wish I could have seen it and been there.

I have been invited to the Shooks for Thanksgiving.  Mr. Shook went to school and worked for Jim Jennison!  Jim’s wife is Mrs. Shook’s best girl friend!  This is my latest “Small World Story”.

For Christmas I’ve been invited to the house of Mr. Rafique (sp?), a member of the R.G.A. Foreign Office.  I consider this a great compliment.

Boys, congratulations on your excellent report cards.  Keep up the good work.

I’ll try to answer a few of your questions.

The pictures of the Taxi Stand and the Tonga Stand were taken at the railway station at Amritsar, India.

The Hong Kong suit is beautifully done.  The tailor was Chinese trained in San Francisco about 1911 and has his certificate on the wall.  He took complete measurements and never wrote anything down while doing it.  He memorized everything as he went along.  Later I asked about ordering clothes by mail and was told that I could as they had all my measurements recorded.

I’ll try to review the Amritsar incident in toto later as it is very detailed.  We finally flew into Kabul from Amritsar arriving about 3:30 P.M. Kabul time.

The enclosures are for your records to aid in filing the income tax.

I must close now and get to bed.  Tomorrow morning at 7:00 A.M. I’ll go back to Kabul.

Good night
Beloved Darlings,
All my love
Your Fred
and
Father

Notes:  Fred has been a month and a half in Afghanistan and he is still writing about Hong Kong and Amritsar.  Time seems not to be moving, the consciousness is now thinly stretched across half the world; but wait, Bennett and Burris are on their way (the other way round) to New York, with Christmas presents – so the consciousness is clearly stretched all around the world.  It’s Christmas in May, Afghanistan in April; do you really know where your parents are?

Fred was always buying stones.  It started in Burma; exotic lands, exotic rocks.  He bought rubies and sapphires, perhaps a bloodstone or two.  They sold them on the “black market”, he did not believe in such things, but he did believe in geology which he knew a thing or two about.  Hemme (Lloydine’s mother) was a gemologist, a Rock Hound, a maker of jewelry of sorts.  We’re not talking diamonds here; we’re also not talking glass.  Hemme’s forte was semi-precious stones, big samples of Chalcedony, sulphur, sometimes silver – the kind of rocks that rock rockhounds – trips to the desert, that sort of thing.

Hemme discovered a whole petrified forest once, on her own, never noticed before; or at least there was no record.  So Fred had a hard act to follow, he had to find rocks and stones that Hemme had never found, halite after “whatever” crystals, arguments with the experts at the Smithsonian and Stanford, synthetic diamonds when they were new, that was the life of Hemme – like Fred said, he was sending a few rocks.

The rocks (the stones) from Afghanistan were lapis lazuli, blue birthstones of the gods.  The blue is as blue as blue can get without being the cobalt blue of Nevada skies (and Nevada cobalt rocks).  The blue stones are flecked with gold, gold embedded in the blue rocks midst.  The rocks are as old as the mists of time, mined (then) in the small mines of Afghanistan, legendary stones carrying legends of all time.  The legends are all caught up in the origins of all things, the birth of worlds, the beauty and purity of God.  Lapis lazuli as a stone is not just a rock – it’s history;  it too carries with it a part of the history of Afghanistan.  Rings, pendants, earrings – you decide what to do with these stones now – just as Lloydine had to once.  Dig them out, cut them, carve them, polish them, wear them – or just leave the rocks and stones alone.  Mining in Afghanistan?  Mining for what?

This post might have been called “The Foxes of Afghanistan” (allusion to women maybe, with beautiful tails) the sex factor, the smut factor, the sexualization of all things American.  But Fred was not interested in foxes, he was noticing the real animal life; foxes, hyenas, bald eagles, snow leopards – where are they all now.  Aren’t you glad that Fred could see them (in Afghanistan in the wild, not just a zoo).  Don’t you wish you could “go there” too?

This post might have been entitled “The problems of Afghanistan” (illusions of winning over the Afghan people, giving them everything they need, getting out someday in better shape than when one went in).  It’s not going to happen.  It didn’t happen 50 years ago and it isn’t going to happen now.  America can spend 500 years in Afghanistan, it will never make a difference.  Afghanistan is older, wiser, more knowledgeable and educated about what it is in life that really matters.  The Afghans may not get everything right, but there is so much that they don’t always get wrong – like America does with its intervention;  America has never gotten it right even once.

The point is made by the fact that you didn’t know what the R.G.A. was.  It was the Royal Government of Afghanistan; the kings men, if not too, the kings horses.  When did you last have a Muslim man over to your house for a Muslim holiday (assuming you are Christian)?  That is the point here.  It is why Afghanistan is strong and America is weak.  America (as a country) lacks the courage to embrace things that are foreign, to honor foreign perspectives and customs in the sanctity of ones own home – “my house is your house”, but in Afghanistan it means to tolerate all your guests prejudices and predilections to the point where the “my” is no longer part of the equation.  Then (and only then) the whole thing snaps shut.

It is like the seat at the Christian table, the guest that forgets they are a guest is lost.  The parable too has been lost on most all “Christians”, so why post about it on another day?

Finally, Fred reminds us that America is NOT the nation of all aspirations and all dreams.  It is the parable of the tailor from Hong Kong, came to America, learned something, then went back.  He lived happily ever after in Hong Kong, not in America – in China, not in the U.S.A.  The “stop the emigrants” campaign is a sign of our hubris, our self love for the country that “we got”.  It does not address the needs of others; it does not address the fact that most of the “others” do not want to live (or stay) in America at all.  It is an American dream to build walls to keep people out that don’t even want in.

In the very divisive ’60’s the patriots said, “America, love it or leave it”.  Since then many millions (of Americans) have done just that.  They’ve left there “precious” country, left all the “freedoms and the rights” , left the long gone wide open spaces, the factory towns, the bullsh** and the grief.  There are a million blogs from the ex-pats in every nation; happier now than they ever were then (or before).  Americans in Afghanistan; it’s not just the troops, real Americans live there too – but now they think of themselves as more the Afghan.  I could have easily been one of them too.

[First posted: 2010.05.04 / A week and a day from now.]

21 years later

November 16th, 1958

This is Post #44 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

LETTER

Addressed to:
Mrs. Fred W. Clayton
405 N. Roop St.
Carson City, Nevada
U.S.A.

Senders name and address:
Fred W. Clayton
c/o USOM / Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan

Kandahar,
Sunday 16 Nov. ’58

My Darlings,

Here I am in Kandahar.  I came down on Friday.  Since Tues. 11th was a holiday they sent the mail Monday.  So I missed the pouch.  I also missed the pouch yesterday since I was down here.  I hope to have this mailed in New York by a friend.

I like your Christmas idea.  Maybe you should show the boys New Years on Market Street too! – 21 years later!

I have another “Small World” story to write to you.

Must close now.

All my love,
Your Fred.

Notes:  The letter did get carried by a friend.  The postmark is “Long Island City NY – Nov 20 ’58” – four days after the letter was written in Afghanistan.  The friend must not have tarried long in Europe, in fact not have tarried at all.

I think Fred is down to a letter with just 87 words.  Thank goodness for yesterdays post (report); but in real time not yet written.  But now you do know what Fred was doing in Kandahar, in Lashkar Gah, at the airport and half way to Spin Baldak.  I CAN write like my father, write about writing and not write about what is new – “Just a note this time to tell you that I will  tell you something new next time”.  It’s not evasion, it’s in the genes.  Maybe I should apologize, but like Fred, I won’t.

The reference to “21 years later” refers to his first New Years with Lloydine.  They stopped in San Francisco on the way back from meeting Fred’s parents in Atascadero, California where they lived.  It was a long drive down (from Sacramento) and a long drive back (especially in those cars and on the roads that they had then), maybe better than Afghanistan had now, but not that much better – it was Market Street in San Francisco that had the punch; had night-life during the Great Depression, walking arm in arm on the streets for New Years was free.  One can remember “free”.

If Fred were inclined to looking forward and not back he would be speculating about the world 21 years from now (which in real time was 1979, so it is still not “forward”, but is really still “back”).  What would Market Street look like then?  Whatever it was, it doesn’t look that way now.  I was there almost then (in 1978, not “9”; 20 years exactly, just married, Market Street re-visited with MY new wife.  So there is a point of history; it keeps revolving like an open door; you wander out, you wander in.  Make a note about the date, your date – time passes very quickly now.

We tarry when everything is about to change; the words become “small talk”, just words enough to get one by, to hang and carry on, to not let go, to keep company with the company you keep – one more word, one more thought; anything not to say goodbye, to let go, to promise to write again soon, “Love Fred”.  But each letter and posting must have an end; not like the “Linger Longer Lodge” (in Oregon), filled with words and hours just whiled away, Trout Fishing in America (Brautigan) or was it near the Klamath River?

OK, let me say it – “Love Fred”; but not “Goodbye”.

you free?

Kandahar, Afghanistan – Kandahar International Airport construction – 1958.

Photograph taken by Fred W. Clayton – This photographic image is copyrighted by Donald Clayton, all rights reserved – first published 2010 on QalaBist.com.

Kandahar, Afghanistan – Camel passing near Airport construction – 1958.

Photograph taken by Fred W. Clayton – This photographic image is copyrighted by Donald Clayton, all rights reserved – first published 2010 on QalaBist.com.

Near Kandahar, Afghanistan – Domed village in the desert – 1958.

Photograph taken by Fred W. Clayton – This photographic image is copyrighted by Donald Clayton, all rights reserved – first published 2010 on QalaBist.com.

Pagman River in Kabul, Afghanistan – The fort (cannon platform) is up the hill to the right, Afghan children tending sheep – 1958.

Photograph taken by Fred W. Clayton – This photographic image is copyrighted by Donald Clayton, all rights reserved – first published 2010 on QalaBist.com.

[Post originally written:  2010.05.02  Sunday / 21 years later]

Left for Kandahar – 6:45 a.m.

November 14th, 1958

This is Post #43 in the new Series “Going to Afghanistan”.

We have learned little of Fred’s actual work in Afghanistan.  There has been no day-to-day details in the letters.  He is busy; too busy perhaps to write.

So we turn to his official reports for a few answers, for clues as to what might be going on.  Did he write this all himself?  Probably not.  He had a secretary.  You will see her soon as photographed on the side of a hill investigating sites for skiing, but not yet.  Today we will just see her typing; the type of typing that Fred must complete for government reports on each official trip for I.C.A. outside of Kabul.

It’s the 14th of November, 1958.  The time is 6:45 a.m.  Fred leaves for Kandahar:

FRIDAY – November 14, 1958

LEFT FOR KANDAHAR – 6:45 a.m.

Upon arrival Mr. Greene, Mr. Meguire and Mr. Clayton conferred with Morgan Holmes, preliminary to meeting with M. K. at the International Airport job site at 11:00 o’clock.

We met with all parties for about an hour and the Mr. Meguire, Greene, Greenleaf and Mr. Clayton retired from the meeting and left the operating people to discuss their problems and four of us did a visual inspection of the Airport Project.  We then met with the rest of the group at a luncheon conference where the decision was reached that by and large there was no problem which could not be settled easily and the job would continue with proper liaison between the client’s resident engineer, Mr. Holmes, and the M. K. General Superintendent Mr. Greene.  I then inspected the Kandahar Spin-Baldak Road with Mr. Greene, leaving Manzel Bah about 3 p.m. on Friday and returning to Kandahar about 7 p.m., having looked over the road and inspected a number of the drainage structures.

Friday evening, Mr. Holmes, Mr. Bob Greene, Mr. Meguire and Mr. Clayton conferred with regard to Mr.  Holmes’ signing the Completion Certificate on the Air project for October.  The final decision on whether or not Mr. Holmes would sign the Certificate was deferred until Saturday.

SATURDAY – November 15, 1958

On Saturday morning Mr. Weiss, Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. Clayton, Mr. Bob Greene and Mr. Meguire  met for the final breakfast conference prior to Mr. Greenleaf’s departure for Europe at 10 a.m.

After the breakfast conference on the airport, Mr. Greenleaf, Mr. Weiss and Mr. Clayton visited the site of the construction of the auxiliary generators for Kandahar.  This project is being carried out with ICA funds under a contract between the Helmand Valley Authority and M. K.  It was verbally mutually agreed that the present site was untenantable in the light of the protests from the Kandahar Electric Company, the Mayor and the Governor of Kandahar, the Planning Ministry and the Ministry of Mines and Industries.  It has been reported that the site on which the project was being constructed had been given by the Prime Minister to the new hotel which is being constructed on the Main Street side of the same property.  It was verbally agreed that the work would stop at this site and that it would not continue for a week.  If a site decision is made within a week, the project will be continued at the new site.  If not, M. K., asked permission to withdraw from this contract and include the work in conjunction with a later contract.  Mr. Bob Greene, Mr. Meguire, Mr. Clayton and Mr. Holmes conferred just before noon on Saturday wherein I was informed that Mr. Holmes would sign the Completion Certificate for the month of October with the reservation that in completing the work satisfactorily, extra work and consequently, extra expense, had been incurred by the contractor which was subject to adjustment in the final accounting for the job.  Upon learning that it was Impossible to return to Kabul on Saturday and not until Sunday p.m., I made arrangements to go to Lashkar-Gah in order to inform the Deputy -Director Mr. Peterson of the development so far on the Air Project and to make a first hand inspection of the Lashkar-Gah Bridge site across the Helmand River.  Departed Kandahar at 1 o’clock and reached Lashkar-Gah at 3:30, having had only one flat tire.  Saturday afternoon and evening conferred with Mr. Patterson and Sunday morning I made a hurried inspection of the Lashkar-Gah Bridge site and the problems of bridging the Helmand River.  Mr. Patterson handed me a report that had been made my Mr. H. H. Tarazzin, Bridge Engineer for USOM, Pakistan.  I departed Lashkar-Gah 9 a.m., reached Kandahar at 11:40 a.m. without incident and Kabul.  I learned that the Sunday afternoon plane had been cancelled and that a plane had departed for Kabul at 11:00 a.m.  At 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, in company with most of the Kandahar Staff of Continental-Allied, I met Mr. Bennett and Burrus upon their arrival from Kabul.  I spent the afternoon conferring with Mr. Bennett and Mr. Burris with regard to the various aspects of their study on the Kandahar Industrial District Project.  On Saturday I had visited the site of the Kandahar Industrial District Projects and also the site of the Kandahar Work Shops.  The plans for the Kandahar Industrial District are going very nicely and it was reported that the financial people and all interested individuals around Kandahar are very enthusiastic about the Industrial District Development.

Monday – November 17, 1958

On Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., we departed Kandahar Airport for Kabul arriving at 9:30 a.m.

Notes:  Both of the airfields, Kandahar and Kabul, were still just that – air fields.  They had dirt runways, susceptible to windstorm dust as well as snow and rain.  There were other reasons the planes did not fly, or flew when they could; the biggest reason was mechanical.  The issue was not so often mechanical breakdowns as the frequent maintenance necessary to keep the planes from mechanically breaking down – in the air.

You notice that when the DC-3’s are flying that the trip from Kandahar to Kabul takes two hours.  It is about 300 miles between Kandahar and Kabul (or Kabul and Kandahar).  That means an air-speed of about 150 MPH – the DC-3 was not a jet.  But this figure is mis-leading.  The distance referred to is “statute miles”, not the nautical miles by which air and water speeds and distances are usually given.  A nautical mile is more (has more feet); it is 6,080 feet in length, not the 5,280 feet of a statute (land) mile.  But it gets harder still; add the word “international” and the distance changes a bit – an international air mile is 6.076.1155 feet.  I don’t make this stuff up.  That 3 feet and about 1 inch difference in a mile must be important, something for scientists and politicians and engineers to argue about.  It might take days to resolve the argument about the distance in landing speeds and runway lengths because one party didn’t know that the word “international” had been slipped in to the airport contract specifications.  Being very specific is always the secret to real success.  It doesn’t pay to “wing it” when one really has to wing it.

So is an international air mile MPH faster?  Hope you can do the math.  The bottom line is that since the air mile is longer (by about 15%) the distance is shorter (by about 45 miles) so since the time it takes is constant the plane is down to flying at about 122 MPH, not the 150 we thought before.  Isn’t math and science fun?  In reality (it seems) flying is always slower than say driving, or taking a train even though the air miles are longer, but the distance seems shorter if you count the real miles; and know what in each case a “real” mile is.

The larger point (for all of us now) is how happy everyone was about the development of Kandahar, 50 years ago and more – US aid was pouring in, the future looked bright, that was what the aid was for – a brighter future for Kandahar.  Now flash forward 50 years.  You get the meaning of these posts.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Sometimes 600 words is worth a thousand pictures.  That is what this letter seems like now.  It isn’t even really a letter, it’s a report, carefully written notes, a document to document a special place in time.  It mentions all the familiar places, not so familiar then.  It illustrates the conflict inherent in familiar themes; it was Fred then, it’s all of us now.  But now, back to the letter:

It always seems about a bridge; a bridge too far, the bridge over the River Kwai (in Burma), the Marco Polo Bridge in Kabul, the bridge over the Carson near Fort Churchill that Sam Buckland and Warren Shelton Clayton built (the first bridge built in Nevada).  Bridges always change things, open up new possibilities, put an end to old ones.

The bridge at Lashkar Gah was no different.  Lashkar Gah was (is) on the east side of the river (the Helmand River).  The target for new development was west (across the river).  M. & K.. (Morrison and Knudsen) wanted to use heavy equipment for their projects, like making more in Marja.  Their graders, their bulldozers, their trucks and tractors could not swim, could not wade like camels or ford like donkeys, or swim like horses if they had to.  The “heavy” equipment was heavy, needed modern bridges to get their load across (the Helmand).  So things were bottled up in Lashkar Gah.  Notice the interest from Pakistan.  I don’t make this stuff up.  Has Fred come to the rescue?  Can he build the bridge?  Can he get this job done before every contractor works off every job?

Does Kandahar need this hotel?  It’s power versus power.  On one hand maybe there should be hotels near airports.  On the other hand maybe electrical back-up is good.  The Prime Minister obviously has a lot of friends (much more about him later).  His power is more with (certain) people, not so much the electric or electro-magnetic kind; at least if the generation site is American.  Is this the first incident that makes him really mad?  Can’t we go back, just say no, move the site to someplace better in the first place so Fred would not have to get involved?  Unless you really know your Afghan history this digression isn’t making sense.  It will.  History always leaves a trail, and you’re reading about the trail here.

So now we have worked our way back to the trail called the Kandahar Spin-Baldak Road.  This is the fastest, shortest way (by land) into Afghanistan, through Pakistan.  It is almost a straight shot from the railhead at Chaman (Pakistan side) to Kandahar; next stop (deeper into Pakistan) is Quetta (in a country where they use the “U’s” – it would be “Quala Bist” if it were in Pakistan).  I think I’ve made my point.

There is no gorge to go through to infiltrate the country from Pakistan if one goes north from Quetta, no deep snows, no high passes.  All it takes is a better Kandahar Spin-Baldak Road and all of Pakistan can easily flow in (or at least everything one needs from Pakistan, in this case the M&K equipment – maybe more equipment, more Pakistani people later, make it easy to move arms later).  The question of course is arms for which side?  But how was Fred to know how history would turn; who would use this road and why?   Was it the Taliban that we built this new road for?  Fred would say it was more for trucks.

Our story continues tomorrow.

[First posted: 2010.04.30 / Friday – Left for Kandahar]

Spring skiing in April

November 12th, 1958

This is Post #42 in the Series “Going to Afghanistan”

AIR LETTER – AEROGRAMME – PAR AVION
Pre-stamped U.S. Postage 10c (with a four engine prop plane pictured)

Addressed to:
Mr. Fred W. Clayton
American Embassy – USOM Kabul
Department of State Mail Room
Washington 25, D.C.

Return Address:
Lloydine Clayton
405 No. Roop St.
Carson City, Nevada
U.S.A.

November 12, 1958

Dearest Fred,

Your assignments are a challenge and I particularly like the one on ski lifts, so this letter is devoted to that subject.  I contacted Warren Hart for the information.  He is at Reno Ski Bowl now.  He sends his best regards and greetings to you; says he hasn’t seen you for a long time.  Van Evers is in S.F.

A jeep should offer adequate power for a rope tow, something about a rear end lock.  Maximum length would be about 1000’ of tow – twice that much rope.  In manila rope of 1” diameter you would have about 10% stretch, so remember that in placing the lower end of the lift.  1” diameter is best for a lift used by adults, altho he has ½” on a 200’ tow used for the beginners, kids.  The newest and best is polyethylene rope, although expensive – no moisture pick-up, no glove wear, no sudden grip effect, lighter weight, longer wear etc. etc.

Slope is determined by those using it and their ability to stand up with the pull.

I talked with him yesterday and this morning and drove up and took quite a few pictures, which I will send tomorrow if they come out.

Your power should be at the top, although it can be at the bottom if you have a way to take up the slack that would build up behind the skier.  He uses rubber lined wheels with 3 grooves on the drive and 2 grooves on the idler.  18” – 20” diameter is all right, although nothing against a larger size.  One suggestion is a large truck tire of 3’ diameter with the tire, cut a groove in the ply if it is thick enough and presto a rubber lined wheel.

For the overhead return wheels wheelbarrow wheels are dandy.

On the short lift he has the lower end standing free, but on a longer one it has a steel cable fastened to a pole to take in the slack with.  The lower wheel is inside the frame which rides free so it can slide on the snow, and can be lifted up to the snow surface at each successive fall, the framework protects hands if someone inadvertently grabs the wrong rope and gets dragged towards the wheel.

The power source is on a wooden platform, high enough for anticipated snow, or almost, it seems.

The return support poles are not in a straight line, but 5’ out in a 200’ and 11’ out in his longer lift.  This is a safety measure to assure people not falling into them.  The return wheels have a little horizontal bar to keep the rope from jumping out of the groove.  These poles are steel with climbers on them, well above snow line and 2’ in concrete.  Small support ropes on pulleys hook under the lower rope to hold it out of the snow when the tow is not in use, or even higher in the off season.  Cash cost of the smaller tow with all new materials and hired labor would be about $600, but self help saves a lot.

I was going to draw a picture, but think my words suffice for the time being.

I wasn’t so successful on the drug store.  McDonald says he is too old and settled and evidently his son couldn’t go it alone.  Ike Cochran is working for Shrine top in 3 years and won’t make a move until after that in any circumstances.  Lonnie Truell was most interested, but I did not encourage him as he is not an experienced business man, just a pharmacist with Ike.  I’m going to talk with Homer on Friday.

Did you get to stop at Mingaladon?  You have never said.

I notice moist places on the hills above the Kabul river in your pictures – not exploited yet!

I want a snow leopard for a pet.

Did I tell you at Board of Trustees meeting I asked for a street light for an old lady at a dead end street and got it, and two more were volunteered for other places too.  I am getting Harbin opened for the Lynchs.  I end up with the zoning map because I volunteered to color it.  More fun!  I wish I could run for Trustee.

Confidentially!  Little Valley will probably go to Wittle (sale) for a very exclusive country club.  Curtis Wright is trying to buy large acreage there also (nearby) to get more watershed protection.

I love you so dearly.  Sweet dreams, beloved.  Lloydine

Notes:  It is spring now (in Albuquerque), but it was fall in Reno-Carson, Reno-Tahoe and in Kabul when Lloydine wrote this letter.  But skiing is skiing all the same.  Warren Hart was at Sky Tavern, I rode his rope tows there and can appreciate all the problems.  A 1” manila rope is hard to hold when one is five or six or even seven.  I skied a lot back then, preferred the lift to the top; what is Reno Ski Bowl now, new then in 1958, far better than Sky Tavern.

But like rope tows, Sky Tavern was the beginning, 40’s skiing, big leather boots, heavy wool sweaters with all those nifty forties designs, wood fire in a real rock fireplace when the day was over.  A bar nearby in case the bar on the T-bar got you low, or did not give the proper lift.  By today’s standards skiing then was a bit fly by night, seat of your pants, home-made type thing.  This letter documents the transition from then to now.  New ropes, new lifts; who knows now what a T-bar is anyhow?  Leather boots, wood skis, no safety bindings – who would ski in Afghanistan under those conditions?  And a “rope tow”; OMG.

But Lloydine makes it sound so easy.  It was Ken’s assignment if you remember, but “Mom” did it, found out what would work and what would not.  Fred built it of course.  You’ll get to see the pictures later.  It was more like Sky Tavern than the Reno Ski Bowl place, I skied there once or twice; my father built it after all; I’m talking about spring skiing in Afghanistan, in the mountains and in the snow.  Is the rope tow still there now?

Lloydine’s pictures have been lost, probably went to Kabul, got passed around; got used up making drawings for the real thing.  It may have been that Jeep in the gorge that powered the first ski lift near Kabul.  I’m not sure.  People should record these things, realize they’re making history not just killing time, know when a first is a first so others who follow know they’re second at the time.  Lloydine does not get her snow leopard (thought you should know).  Curtis Wright in Nevada?  To test jet engines and rocket motors of course, which brings us to the country club.  Maybe just what Kabul needs?  Golf courses, green lawns and fairways; what a use for the ever scarce water.  Is everyone going mad?

The real question is, “How many street lights can you buy with the money it costs for just one hour of war?”  I will not stop until this war is over.

[First posted: 2010.04.26 / Thursday – Spring skiing in April]

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