Saturday, April 7, 2012


Morning... a lone star still  visible in the west, it was bitter cold.  Gradually the rolling desert cast off its robe of deep purple, turned mauve, pink, golden brown, and soon, all  too soon, the plain became a shimmering sea of heat dancing on the horizon.  Shivers turned to sweat, the dust caked, the motor seemed to glow white hot, slowly an hour, about ten miles, labored by.  Dust a foot deep, churned by the wheels  into billowing, choking, clouds, lapped at each side like lazy waves thrown clear by the blunt prow of  a wallowing  freighter.  Dust a foot deep on which there was never an atom of dew, never a weed, no cactus, no drop of water. Surely no living thing could be found in such a land.  Yet finally  a little village rose on the skyline.
      As always the  native women rushed to hide while the boys and men came running to form a circle around the stranger astride his strange contrivance.  The sign language was of course  the only form of communication in  such a place.  My entire Turkish vocabulary consisted of terms  meaning "straight ahead," to the  right " and "to the left"  But the sign language was easy since gesticulations, a few drawings in sand, and some names read from a map usually sufficed to tell the story.  The  little  boys of the village were always the first to catch on to what it was all about.
      The natives had all the time in he world. They were in no hurry.  And they were curious.  Damned curious...always.

      In the flickering  lamplight they made an unforgettable sight, crowded into the little room, a rising wall of heads to the very roof corners .   Here and there the smooth skin of youth shone in sharp contrast to the weather-beaten grooved face of age.  A dozen pairs of curious eyes, softened by the glaring sun and flying dirt, peered from twelve ragged caps and unruly hair.  Bare legs and feet hard as leather protruded  from tattered cloth.  They were poor all right--poor in money, poor in material, but far from poor in heart.  There  was a kindliness and understanding about them which never comes with  fighting for money but which comes only in living with the elements, the sun, sky and earth, adapting ones philosophy to the elemental, unaccountable ways.

The court below was full of lamp-light activity.  A thousand shadows of man and beast danced wildly up and down the walls.  Little did those gray haired patriarchs and small boys even consider sleeping under any roof but of the stars.  They are the roving Arabs, members of that great human clan that devotes its life to transportation whether via ships  of the land or sea.  These men are but a cut above the nomad and  they bring with them their age old horror of any roof but the heavens. To this day their motto is "Only cowards live in towers!" and they have nought but disdain for all who dwell in town or city.  To the Arab who has turned to the soil for a livelihood, these men of the caravans have the same disdain.  In him the one who tills the soil and hides his head in the night in a mud hut, they see not a man but an animal, fit only to be a beast of burden lashed to the wheel of things. Strong proud and scornful are these men of the  caravans.  They are anxious when they enter a town only to find another cargo which will take them again over the hills and deserts, far from the filth,which surrounds the city  dweller,far from those weaklings who dwell beneath a roof .  Was not their leader a camel boy, a nomad, a dweller under the stars?

            robert edison fulton jr

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