About Peggy Reiff Miller

I grew up on a small dairy farm in northwestern Illinois, went to a small country church, attended a small high school, then a small church-related college before venturing out into the big, wide world. I applied my liberal arts education to a number of jobs and careers for 35 years before hitting my stride as the writer and caretaker of the seagoing cowboy history. This calling has kept me well occupied since 2002.

In Memoriam

Once again, on this 5th Friday, we remember seagoing cowboys who have departed from us.

Brightbill, Richard Ray, September 3, 2022, Weston, West Virginia. S. S. Gainesville Victory to Poland, June 4, 1946.

Julius, John J., September 11, 2022, York, Pennsylvania. S. S. William S. Halsted to Greece, January 11, 1946; S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, November 30, 1946.

Silvius, Wayne, September 3, 2022, Ashton, Illinois. S. S. Battle Creek Victory to Greece, June 29, 1946.

Vernon, Charles L., December 12, 2016, Huntington, Indiana. S. S. F. J. Luckenbach to Poland, August 28, 1946.

Warner, Ralph Myers, August 15, 2022, Broadway, Virginia. Heifer Project shipment to Germany, December 7, 1956.

Rest in peace, dear seagoing friends.

The Longest Ride – Part X: Revisiting Durban

What was meant to be a 2½-month journey, now entered its fourth month as the S. S. Carroll Victory pulled into Durban, South Africa, a second time on Saturday, February 8, 1947. Add the time spent in Newport News waiting out a maritime strike, and Charlie Lord had been away from his wife for nearly half a year and was itching to get home, as she was to have him home. Responding to six letters he received from her on arrival in Durban, he said, “The shipping business is apparently the most uncertain business in the world. When a freighter leaves on a trip they never know how long the trip will take. . . . Yes, it was rather unfair for BSC to estimate this trip at 2½ months, because they should have known it would be longer. Of course they didn’t know we would pick up cargo at Haifa and unload it at Beira (2 weeks) and Durban (2-3 days). . . .

“I’m not the only one that’s ‘fouled up by the fickle finger of fate’ as Sesser says. Half a dozen of our cowboys were planning to start college terms in the first days of February. They have one by one seen the opening days of their colleges come and go. It means missing a term of college for them.”

Lord took advantage of the unloading and reloading time in Durban to dig further into the mix of cultures there. When he learned there was to be a Zulu dance Sunday afternoon, he grabbed his cameras to photograph it. “It was interesting but not nearly as much as the dance at Beira,” he said.

Zulu dance, Durban, South Africa, February 9, 1947. © Charles Lord

The next night, four of the cowboys went to the International Club for a demonstration on portrait photography. Lord took his camera and flash gun along, wanting “to take a shot of Europeans, natives and Indians sitting side by side at a meeting – a tiny spot of democracy in the middle of South Africa.”

The wife of the editor of an Indian newspaper in Durban, South Africa, poses for a demonstration on portrait photography at Durban’s International Club, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

Lord spent another day immersed in Indian culture, guided by contacts made during his first stop in Durban. He and three other of the cowboy photographers toured Sastri College, a high school and teachers college for Indians, and were taken into homes to photograph families and the Hindu temple where they worshipped.

An Indian woman cooks for her family in Durban, South Africa, February 12, 1947. © Charles Lord

An Indian farmer in Durban, South Africa, sorting egg plants, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

“We came home feeling that this day we had accomplished something really worthwhile,” Lord said, “had got a pretty representative picture of an Indian family on film, instead of snaps shooting monument and tourist spots.”

A desire Lord had on his first stop in Durban came to fruition this time. Through his Quaker contacts, he and two others had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Adams College about 20 miles outside Durban, a Christian mission school for natives, as well as the Adams Mission day school.

The boys’ dormitory at Adams College, Amanzimtoti, South Africa, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

An 8th grade boy and 9th grade girl students at Adams College, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

Children marching in to Adams Mission Day School, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

They visited natives in their huts, some where students of Adams Mission Day School lived. “It was a very interesting hut on the inside. The floor was hard and smooth made by mixing cow dung and black earth from ant hills. It is hygienic and durable. The ceiling was shiny black, almost dripping from the smoke from fires in the hearth in the center.”

The grandmother of one of the Adams Mission Day School students in their hut. © Charles Lord

Quite a contrast to the Adams College buildings.

When Lord arrived back at the ship the evening of February 15, he wrote his wife, “The news is heart-breaking. They are to pull the Carroll out into the stream tomorrow and bring us in Tuesday to be loaded. 4 more days delay! No one knows why.” His frustrations grew four days later. “The dad-blamed UNRRA officials are putting only 555 horses on our ship, and the Creighton Victory which is also here now. And the one of them will have to come back.”

Everyone was on pins and needles until the Carroll Victory pulled out for Greece with their cargo of mules and horses February 21 with the welcome news that the Creighton Victory would be making the return trip to Durban. “It sure feels good to be out at sea again,” Lord told his wife, “especially since every mile is one mile closer to you.”

to be continued

Special Post: International Day of Peace

On this International Day of Peace, I honor the Seagoing Cowboys
who helped usher in peace after World War II.

A seagoing cowboy reflects on visiting the memorial being built where the first shots of World War II had been fired. Gdansk, Poland, July 1946. Photo by Charles Shenk.

Seagoing cowboy Guy Buch, fluent in German, is being interviewed by German media. Buch was part of a special crew of Church of the Brethren seminary and college students intent on having dialogue with German Christians. Bremen, West Germany, July 1946. Photo courtesy of Guy Buch.

Another special crew tested whether black and white seagoing cowboys could work together on the same ship. The cowboys pray together on their return from Poland to the United States. July 1946. Photo by Ben Kaneda.

On this International Day of Peace,
I also honor the Brethren Service Committee and the Heifer Project
whose mission it was to build peace in a war-torn world.

Seagoing cowboy Martin Strate shakes the hand of a Japanese official after a ceremony to celebrate Heifer Project’s shipment of 25 bulls to Japan, May 1947. Photo by Norman Hostetler.

A “Campaign for Peace Action” brochure of the Church of the Brethren Peace Education Department, circa late 1940s. Courtesy of Heifer International archives.

May peace prevail in these troubled times.

~ Peggy Reiff Miller


The Longest Ride – Part IX: Vignettes from Mozambique, 1947

Beira, Mozambique awaits, January 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

The S. S. Carroll Victory arrived at the port city of Beira, Mozambique, on January 24, 1947. The ship remained anchored to a buoy in the harbor for a week before a berth opened up on the docks, where it spent another week for the unloading of the tons of phosphate aboard. For 50 cents round trip each, the seagoing cowboys could hire a launch to take them to shore during the first week, which many did.

Seagoing cowboys board a launch to take them to shore, January 1947. © Charles Lord

The tropical heat enticed the cowboys to move mattresses into the empty horse stalls.

Beating the heat, until rain chased them inside on occasion. © Charles Lord

It also heated up the ship’s water tanks. By the 11th day, Charlie Lord wrote home, “The water that comes out of the ‘cold’ faucet is too hot to wash your face in comfortably. I took a shower tonight and it was like a steam bath, I couldn’t stay under it for more than a few seconds at a time. I checked with a thermometer tonight, and the water from cold taps is 114º. . . . The hottest it got was 132º.”

Two days before docking, the entire cowboy crew hired a large launch to take them up the Pungwe River to view wildlife, mostly several hippopotami bobbing up and down spurting water and monkeys running along the river.

Seeing the sites on the Pungwe River, January 29, 1947. © Charles Lord

“We passed thatch villages,” said Lord, “met natives in dugout canoes, and stopped at a village where there was a sugar refinery.” They came back down river and turned up the Buzi River across the bay from Beira. In the town of Buzi, they feasted on bananas, papayas, bread fruit, melons, coconuts, and other tropical fruits.

Paul Beard took the challenge and successfully climbed a coconut tree, tossing three down. © Charles Lord

Other cowboys, including Charlie Lord, bought bunches of green bananas for 40 cents a bundle. Photo by Paul Beard.

On their second full day docked in Beira, Lord and two of his camera buddies decided to walk into the countryside to see what they could find.

A native hut by an ant hill outside Beira, Mozambique, February 2, 1947. © Charles Lord

They passed through several native villages, and then, Lord said, “We noticed a rhythmic beating sound that seemed to come from a village to our left.” They followed the sound. “The beating and pounding grew louder and louder. My heart was in my throat – hoping, hoping. We emerged from the buildings into a clearing among the trees to see hundreds of people packed around a crude stockade. In the stockade a native dance was going on.” For the equivalent of 60 cents, Lord got permission from the chief to take photos.

The rhythm section and leader of the native dance in a Mozambique village, February 2, 1947. © Charles Lord

“For a few minutes, they were self-conscious and stiff,” Lord said, “then the rhythm got into their blood and they forgot all about me. The line’s left wing was composed of people shaking boxes with sand, pebbles and other things back and forth in rhythm. Each box had its own tone. There were castanet-like instruments, and sticks, women who sang and chanted and on the right the drum section. Five or six men sat on the ground with tom toms between their knees. They were hollowed out tree trunks with skins stretched tightly over the ends. The big tom tom, about five feet long, had the most beautiful tone of any drum or tympani I have ever heard, bar none. It’s tone was uniquely bell-like. And did those people have rhythm!!! It just took you and shook you. They completely lost themselves in the ecstasy of the dance, their faces glowed with complete joy.”

As always, Lord talked with a variety of people to get a feel for the culture of the place. Mozambique at the time was a Portuguese colony in which only the Portuguese could vote, he was told. On their walk through the countryside, Lord and his buddies had come to a Chinese settlement. He reflected to his wife, “The social scale can be illustrated thusly in rough simplicity – Portuguese ride cars, Chinese bicycles, natives walk. The Portuguese do absolutely no work. The Chinese do work but almost entirely shop keeping, I think. Even they have the natives do their menial tasks. . . . The Greeks and other whites are in the Portuguese class, Indians are about on a par with the bicycle class, I think.” The natives did not think kindly of the Portuguese. Lord found the natives to be the friendliest people of all he had met on his trip.

~ to be continued

The Longest Ride – Part VIII: Havoc in Haifa

In January of 1947, a second stop in Haifa, Palestine, gave the seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Carroll Victory a chance to further explore this country of unrest under British control in which Jews were being resettled after World War II.

On arrival, the cowboys walked around and shopped in upper or “New Haifa” which Charlie Lord described as “the beautiful Jewish section on top of Mt. Carmel.” Some made a trip the second day to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee.

New Jewish office building, upper Haifa, Palestine, January 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

Arab mosque beside the Sea of Galilee, January 11, 1947. © Charles Lord

Maynard Garber and a friend chose instead to hike up Mt. Carmel that day, meeting two English-speaking young Arab men on the way. “They were much disturbed over the problems arising over the Jews,” Garber noted in his journal. “They admitted that the Jews were smart people and could help Palestine a lot, but they said the Jews wouldn’t want them once they got control. . . . Young Arabs here with an education are very brilliant, but they say we will soon be fighting the Jews for this country.”

The next night, January 12, Lord wrote a lengthy letter to his wife. “Today has been a hundred days, a book condensed into one page.” It began with a tour by several of the cowboys of the Jewish HaZore’a kibbutz, a 45-minute bus ride out of Haifa.

HaZore’a kibbutz near Nazareth, January 12, 1947. © Charles Lord

“All eat together, share everything in this commune,” Lord said, describing the tour in detail. “Doesn’t sound very exciting yet, does it,” he said. “It still didn’t when we came back on the ship and sat down to supper. I had just started on my jellitin [sic] dessert when there was a loud boom and the 7500 ton ship shook beneath us.” Two blocks away from the ship’s berth – at 5:20 p.m. according to two cowboy diaries – a truck full of bombs exploded at the Northern Palestine police compound. The New York Times the next day headlined an article, “Haifa Blast Ends Palestine Truce: Kills 4, Injures 142.”

The blast set off a scurry of activity for the seagoing cowboys. Some of them were in town near the compound when the bombs went off. Fortunately, none were seriously hurt. Lord and others on the ship grabbed their coats and cameras and headed into the city. “The guards let us thru much to our surprise,” Lord said.” The cowboys witnessed plate glass from the store fronts covering the sidewalks on lower Haifa’s main street Kingsway, shopkeepers frantically picking up contents from their stores, firemen fighting the fire in the police compound, and the wounded being carried out on stretchers. When attempting to take pictures of the broken glass, an Arabian Palestine policeman grabbed Lord by the coat and dragged him into an office in the shattered building and through a narrow alleyway of barbed wire to find a British authority to whom to turn Lord over. Fortunately for Lord, and much to the disdain of the policeman, the Britisher let him go when Lord explained who he was and what he was doing.

Fellow cowboy Robert Richter got pulled into the action in a much more poignant way. While standing near an ambulance, a British soldier said to him, “Help me bring my buddy down, will you?” Richter did. Filled with emotion, he slowly shared the gory details with his shipmates back on the ship. Richter also learned from the guards the details of the bombing, which pretty well match this account found online.

The driveway at the Haifa police compound where the truck full of bombs parked. The force of the bomb bowed out the heavy wire screens. January 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

Store owner sweeping up glass broken from the force of the blast. Haifa, Palestine, January 13, 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

Another shopkeeper cleaning up after the bombing. Haifa, Palestine, January 13, 1947. Photo by Paul Beard.

Lord and others were able to take their photos of the aftermath the next morning before the Carroll Victory departed with 5,000 tons of phosphate, per Garber’s account, for Mozambique.

~ to be continued


The Longest Ride – Part VII: Post-war Life in Athens, Greece

After a long, hot ride over the Christmas holiday from Durban, South Africa, back up to Greece with a load of horses and mules, the S. S. Carroll Victory pulled into port at Piraeus on New Year’s Day 1947. “We reached the harbor about 12 noon,” Charlie Lord wrote his wife, “were finally snubbed tight to the dock by 2 PM. The dock further down is a bombed out shambles. This is the first place we have seen considerable bomb damage.”

World War II bomb damage, Piraeus, Greece. January 1, 1947. © Charles Lord

With Piraeus being the port for Athens, the cowboys took advantage of the inexpensive commuter train into the city. The cost: 300 drachma, equal to 6 cents American money). Lord and fellow cowboy Maynard Garber explored the Acropolis their first full day in port.

The Acropolis as seen from Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul preached. January 2, 1947. © Charles Lord

The next day, “We wanted to shop some,” Lord said, “but the stores were closed because of a strike against a government 100% tax on some commodities.” Instead, Lord spent some time at the National University of Athens, where he hoped to find a copy in the library of the most recent issue of Consumer’s Report.

Lord struck up a conversation there with a “homely, short dark girl” who could speak French (which Lord, although not fluent, could also speak) “She is a graduate of the University,” Lord said, “teaches in a school in the city. She gets 100,000 drachma a month, or the equivalent of about $17 in the States. That’s standard pay for teachers, and while telling about how poor and hungry the Greek people are, she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a crust of bread about 2 inches square. The professors even at the National University receive only about $30 a month. They have 30,000 students. Many of the students have scarcely enough money for books and food.”

A woman and her daughter dig for roots for food on the side of the Acropolis, January 1947. © Charles Lord

In the library, the girl introduced Lord to a male student who could speak a little English and some French. “We had a long discussion,” Lord said. “I explained the beliefs of the Quakers to them for one thing. She told me their attitude toward the English, don’t like them. There are some Communists in Greece they said, and they are growing because so many people are hungry. They were all praise for UNRRA and the United States. Several other boys talked some with us from time to time. Most of them had thread-bare clothes, with grayed edges, some were obviously sewn up.

A home below the Acropolis, January 1947. © Charles Lord

“I didn’t find the magazine at the library, or any magazines. The poor students – looked to me like the newest books on the shelves were 10 or 20 years old. They tried to get me to take a novel to read, written by an Englishman, published 1899. . . . The library was unheated, students sat reading in overcoats. I had my tan shirt, heavy flannel shirt and raincoat on, and I was slowly freezing to death, so I said I must go.”

After his return to the ship, Lord said, “I helped Trostle and others in doghouse [Lord’s nickname for their quarters] shame Kohn out of taking a sheet ashore to sell. People really beg for sheets ashore, will pay high prices. Crew members sell them in every port. Three cattlemen sold some yesterday, which gave Kohn the idea. He needed the money.”

After four days in port, Garber said, “our ship was moved out in the stream to unload manure. All that rich manure was thrown in the bay. It was a pity to waste it but there seemed no other way of getting rid of it.” The next afternoon, the ship departed for a second trip to South Africa with stops in Haifa, Palestine, and Beira, Mozambique. “We started scraping and washing the floors and boards down,” Garber said. “The ship had to be finished before we get to Haifa so it will be ready to take on hemp and phosphate.”

Cleaning stalls on the S. S. Carroll Victory, January 1947. © Charles Lord

Little did the cowboys know what havoc awaited them in Haifa.

~ to be continued

In Memoriam

Another Fifth Friday has rolled around, and it’s time to remember the seagoing cowboys who have recently passed from this life.

Donohoe, James B., June 12, 2022, Hampton, New Hampshire. S. S. Virginian to Poland, June 27, 1946.

Groff, Robert C., May 7, 2022, Quarryville, Pennsylvania. S.S. Henry Dearborn to Czechoslovakia (docking in Bremen, Germany), December 12, 1945.

Grubb, Daniel B., May 17, 2022, Palmyra, Pennsylvania. S. S. Zona Gale to Yugoslavia (docking in Trieste, Italy).

Huber, Earl Eshleman, May 21, 2022, Conestoga, Pennsylvania. S. S. Charles W. Wooster to Czechoslovakia (docking in Bremen, Germany), January 7, 1946.

Norris, Philip E., May 2, 2022, Lititz, Pennsylvania. S. S. Adrian Victory to Poland, July 18, 1946.

Owen, Joseph K., June 14, 2022, Washington Boro, Pennsylvania. S. S. Mexican to Yugoslavia (docking in Trieste, Italy), June 28, 1945.

Rest in peace, dear seagoing friends.


The Longest Ride – Part VI: Exploring Segregated Pre-Apartheid South Africa

The Brethren Service Committee accepted the job of recruiting UNRRA’s cattle tenders with the motivation of providing “an unusually broadening and educational experience” for the men who served. The S. S. Carroll Victory‘s stop in Durban, South Africa, to pick up horses for Greece in December 1946 most certainly provided that opportunity for Charlie Lord. His eight days in Durban gave him a window into the racial situation in South Africa that led to the creation of the “Apartheid” laws and system only months later in 1948.

Durban, South Africa, December 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

On his first full day in port, Lord looked up two fellow Quakers who helped arrange some visits for the Carroll Victory seagoing cowboys. The first tour took them to the McCord Hospital for Natives, located, not without objection, in the fashionable white Berea section of Durban. “Twenty-one cattlemen took the bus,” Lord said. “We rode thru miles of a beautiful city. . . .They have 325 beds, are forced to turn away people all the time. Short of money, help and equipment. Very, very interesting!”

Children at the McCord Hospital for Natives, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord

That evening, Lord went with one of his Quaker contacts to a meeting of the Joint Council of Europeans and Natives to hear Mr. Barrett, the Chief Magistrate of Durban, speak. “His talk was interesting,” Lord said, “but the discussion afterwards was much much more fascinating. Intelligent natives really put Barrett on the spot. He was obviously on the defensive all the time. After the meeting ended, several cattlemen talked with 3 or 4 of the Negroes for about half an hour, and learned an awful lot.”

The next day, Lord and some other cowboys spent time with Lord’s other Quaker contact. “Maurice told us the origin and nature of the Indian problem in S. Africa,” Lord said, “the background of the present Passive Resistance movement. We all found it fascinating.

“When we first arrived I wondered why everything is marked European or non-European, why they divided it that way. I can understand now. That is the easiest way to separate the white from all the other groups when you have four distinct castes. They are:
–White European – about 25% of the Union of SA maybe
–Indian – 20% or less of Natal [the province where Durban is located] (not the Union)
–Native – 50 to 75% in both Natal and the whole Union
–Colored – small % of mulattos
The Indian men tend to be intelligent, good businessmen, but women uneducated. Many of the men own shops, make lots of money, which is probably one of the reasons for white hatred of them – economic.”

The next afternoon, cameras in tow, Lord set out on his own to explore the Indian quarter. He fortunately was taken under the wings of a couple of honest young Indian men who took him around. “Without them I would have been sunk,” Lord said, “might even have been in real danger.” The men took him through the Indian and native barracks, separated by a wire fence and built and owned by the city of Durban for city employees. “Some of them are very bad,” Lord said, “but many are quite nice. The native barracks were significantly better constructed and planned than the Indian ones.”

Native barracks, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord

Barracks in the Indian quarter, Durban, South Africa, December 1946. © Charles Lord.

Lord’s “good-will ambassadors” took him into Indian homes, to a Hindu temple, and into an off-the-beaten-path basement pool hall, all the while explaining to Lord Indian customs and grievances. When back uptown, reminiscent of his experience in Virginia, Lord noted, “We couldn’t go in a restaurant to eat together. I bought a sack of candy and shared it with them.”

Another full day followed, with a regular bus tour for the cowboys into Zululand and the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a place where they could not have gone on their own. “You have to have a pass to enter the territory,” Lord said.

Cooke’s Tour Bus in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa, December 17, 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

“We saw lots of wonderful photographic material but breezed right past most of it. We did stop at one native village, fairly typical I guess, except for commercialization.”

Zula huts in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa, December 17, 1946. The white-walled hut is the Chief’s. © Charles Lord.

A tall Zulu lad, December 17, 1946, Valley of a Thousand Hills, South Africa. © Charles Lord.

Lord’s stop in Durban was rounded out by viewing movies taken by a friend of one of his Quaker contacts showing “extraordinary” footage of Indian yearly festival customs, native war dances, and native religious ceremonies, capped off with “quite a discussion on politics” with a young Afrikaner of Dutch descent who was there.

Lord’s eight days in Durban had indeed provided a truly “educational and broadening experience”.

~ to be continued

Once again, my deep appreciation to Charlie Lord for granting me permission to share his photos and accounts from his letters.

The Longest Ride – Part V: Bumboats in Port Said

Getting from Greece to South Africa meant going through the Suez Canal for the seagoing cowboys on the S. S. Carroll Victory. When they arrived in Port Said, Egypt, they had hoped the ship would take long enough to get its orders to enter the Canal that they would have time to explore this modern city and do some shopping for souvenirs. 

Port Said, Egypt, November 30, 1946. © Charles Lord

A short four hours in the harbor, however, did not allow time for shore leave. But they needn’t have worried—the shopping came to them. The bumboats that bustle around many Mediterranean ports teemed around the Carroll Victory after the ship anchored in the bay.

The S. S. Carroll Victory attracted bumboats like a magnet in Port Said harbor, November 30, 1946. © Charles Lord

Charlie Lord describes the scene in a letter to his wife: “Egyptians immediately swarmed over the sides from row boats and motorboats like the pirates of yore. They threw ropes up from the boats and began pulling up all kinds of trinkets and goods to sell and trade.

Bumboat activity, Port Said, Egypt, November 30, 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

“They had leather goods of all sorts including suitcases, hassocks, billfolds, handbags and blackjacks. They had inlaid-wood boxes, knives, rings and bottles of Spanish fly. You know what that is don’t you? Very handy for sailors when in port to give young girls. They had copper rings with glass or quartz, something which would cut glass anyhow, which they sold for gold with 3 diamonds. One cattleman gave 2 shirts and a pair of pants for one. Harry says he gave a sports coat, 2 shirts, and 6 pair of socks for his, worth about five cents perhaps. One of the stones fell out at lunch. I looked at a suede leather woman’s handbag, the Egyptian asked a lot, I said less and got it. So please don’t buy a new handbag.

Seagoing cowboys barter with Egyptians for souvenirs on the S. S. Carroll Victory, November 30, 1946. © Charles Lord

With camera bag in hand, Charlie Lord looks longing to shore in his newly purchased Egyptian fez. Photo courtesy of Charles Lord.

“The ‘pirates’ stole everything they could lay their hands on,” Lord said. “We had our portholes locked and door locked all the time thank goodness. Lots of seamen lost clothing. The third junior mate said the men bring all their stuff aboard just so they can get on to steal things.”

The sailboats in port captivated the seagoing cowboys. “There was a line of hundreds of sailboats, with the longest curving masts,” Lord said. “They made a dramatic picture.”

Sailboats lining the harbor at Port Said, Egypt, November 30, 1946. Photo by Paul Beard.

Lord’s shipmate Harold Jennings noted in his diary, “Entered the Suez Canal at about 1 o’clock today. Weather supposed to get warmer from now on out.” And that it did.

One day out of Port Said, Lord wrote home, “Cattlemen and crewmen busied themselves making hammocks and swings in which to enjoy the warm sun. Men peeled to polo shirts and shorts or just shorts. The weather is wonderful so far.” His tune changed two days later. “Yesterday was very hot,” he said. “A head wind blows smoke from the stacks back on the aft part of the boat and every single thing is covered with the fine black grit. If you pick up a book, the cover feels like sandpaper.”

Seagoing cowboy Maynard Garber beats the tropical heat with a book, December 1946. © Charles Lord

Four days after crossing the Equator and after enduring 11 days of heat with little to do, the sight of Durban, South Africa, on December 11, 1946, lifted the spirits of the restless cowboys. Another foreign world awaited them.

(to be continued)

The Longest Ride – Part IV: Risking Danger to Tour the Holy Lands

On its way from Greece to South Africa to pick up a load of UNRRA horses, the S. S. Carroll Victory docked in Haifa, Palestine, for boiler repairs. The ship arrived in the harbor the night of November 26, 1946, during a volatile time of unrest between the Jewish underground and the British who had ruled the country since 1918. The seagoing cowboys, eager to see Jerusalem, wanted to get to shore. The Carroll Victory waited for hours, however, before a pilot finally got the clearance to move the ship into port around 2:00 p.m. the next day.

“We went gradually into the harbor, between the long breakwater with its machine-gun nests and the shore,” Charlie Lord said. “Rumors began to fly as to when and if we would get shore leave. Supper came and went, and we became more and more anxious. We heard we might not get ashore because of the shooting between British and Jews the night before. At 7:00 Mr. Roth sent out word that the passes had arrived.”

The ship’s departure was set for 6 p.m. the next day. The cowboys debated whether to go ashore that night or wait until the next morning, as a curfew was in effect from 6 or 7 p.m. They decided to go by night so they would have more daylight hours to see the sights. “British soldiers told us it was very dangerous to take a truck ride to Jerusalem because of possible land mines or thrown bombs,” Lord said. They hired a truck anyway, as no buses or trains were running after curfew. After some time in Haifa, twenty-seven of the crew met at 10 p.m. and “squeezed into the truck and sat down on the wooden floor packed like sardines.”

Carroll Victory cowboys touring the Holy Lands, packed in the back of a truck, November 28, 1946. © Charles Lord

They arrived in Jerusalem around 5 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and found a restaurant where they had breakfast. At dawn, they made the short drive to Bethlehem. A guide took them on a quick tour to the site of the oldest Christian church in the world, the site of the manger where Jesus was born, and the spot where Herod had all the two-year-old babies of Palestine killed. “Most of the village looks modern,” Lord said.

A star in the floor marks the spot where Jesus was thought to have been born. © Charles Lord

The cowboys met at the appointed time and made it back to Jerusalem by 9 a.m. “We rolled past the countless building projects of Jerusalem, the barbed wire rolls and British soldiers, the railway station with smashed windows and cement from a Jewish bomb,” Lord said. “We stopped near the center of the city, set our departure time at 12:30.” Some of the group engaged a guide who “knew how fast we would have to go to finish by 12 o’clock.” He set a whirlwind pace through the temple area and old Jerusalem, with Lord shooting pictures as he walked—up and down long flights of steps, through heavy traffic and subterranean tunnels “for three solid hours,” he said. “If you stopped for an instant it meant running to catch up.”

Viewing the Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, November 28, 1946. © Charles Lord

A woman at the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, November 28, 1946. © Charles Lord

On their daylight drive back to Haifa, “the scenes along the way were lovely,” shipmate Harold Jennings said. “Arabic tents everywhere, desert lands, camel caravans . . . then banana trees and orange groves with modern irrigation systems.” It was a land of contrasts.

Camels have their front legs tied until loading is complete says Carroll Victory cowboy Paul Beard. Photo by Paul Beard.

The cowboy crew made it back to the ship by 5:15, only to learn that departure had been delayed until 4 p.m. the next day. This gave the cowboys the opportunity to go to Nazareth, as well, and for some to the Yagur Kibbutz near Haifa.

A street in Nazareth, November 29, 1946. © Charles Lord

A Bedouin tent village in Palestine, November 29, 1946. Lord coaxed the bus driver to stop on the way back to Haifa so he could get some photos. © Charles Lord

As Lord, back on board the Carroll Victory after his first excursion, wrote of his experiences in Palestine to his wife, he noted, “A depth charge just shook the ship under us. They are to keep Jewish frog-men from putting mines under English ships.” Not a very consoling thing for his wife to hear, I’m sure. For the seagoing cowboys involved, their excitement about touring the Holy Lands overrode any concern about the potential dangers facing them on their travels. They safely departed Haifa at midnight November 29 and headed for Port Said, the Suez Canal, and Africa.