Coconuts and Cactus

Just one mere month after writing to his family about his new job working as a blacksmith, Willy gets the disappointing news he has been laid off. Feeling discouraged by the news, he doesn’t know what to do next. He is in a new country with confusing laws and a vastly different culture. However, the bad news turns out to be a blessing in disguise:

September 19, 1923

Dear Parents and Siblings,

In my previous letter, I told you I was working for a German blacksmith, but he didn’t pay what he promised and then we ran out of work. There was nothing I could do, because Brazilian laws are different than at home and there are no guilds to protect the workers. Here a person can have another thrown in jail for months or years, even if he hasn’t done anything. This country has crazy laws. But being laid off by this fellow was a stroke of luck for me. At first, I didn’t know where to turn. But, thank God, I was lucky, and after a week, I found a smith that would hire me at good pay and I will try to send money home.

There are a lot of Germans here in Pelotas, but it is a pity that they forget their origin so fast. Everyone travels by horse and cart, and you rarely meet a pedestrian. There are mostly two-wheeled carts but also four-wheeled carts. They are all just as we know them, like Schmid’s small field cart. Three to six horses are yoked, and they go at a trot. The roads are worn out and full of holes. Today I saw a dead horse and a dead cow lying on the roadside. The land is flat and sandy, and only corn and vegetables are grown here on small fields. All the rest is pastureland with horses and cows running around all day and night. There are no forests, only cactuses that get as big as trees. Winter is here now, and it is beautiful weather with sunshine, only a little cool at night and from time to time rain.

I have enclosed a photo that we had taken on the second day of a holiday. I’m holding a coconut that I bought. You can see that the four of us are not suffering any deprivations. The man next to me is a grinder from Solingen, Germany and the other two are our mechanics. The one with the cap is a special friend of mine. He is married, but his wife lives far from here. The four of us visited the sights in the city. In the evening, we went to the cinema to see a German movie that was filmed in Hamburg. Please save this photo for me, because it is the only copy that I have.

Your loving son and brother, Willy


About The Book

This is a story told through the descriptive journals and letters written by ordinary people living through extraordinary times. In their own words, the Geheb family share their adventures. heartaches, love, and passions from 1914 to 1947 in Germany and America. You will be inspired by the strength and perseverance of the German Gehebs and the never-ending love and devotion that Willy Oswald Geheb had for his family.

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