PILGRIMS IN PARAGUAY
January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 1
Texans Face Savage Peril With Bible, Rifle, Pistol
By BERNARD MURPHY
Every man of Camp Beulah group has a Bible. He also has a rifle, as well as a six-shooter at his side.
As Brother Jack Wood of Houston put it, “Every man will have to take his life in his own hands. Here it’s a case of praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”
The 76 pilgrims from Texas, who are seeking a new life in the wilderness of Paraguay, find that defense is one of the problems in their goal setting up a self-sufficient community.
APART FROM the jaguars, pumas, snakes and crocodiles, Wood said that on the back of adjoining land bought by McRoberts lives the Moro tribe – the most savage tribe in all Paraguay.
They‘ve killed three missionary families in the last four years,” he said.
Brother St. John’s predecessor, the former manager of Del Sol, also died with his boots on.
He was an American, a native of Virginia, named Letcher Winthrow.
WINTHROW, a strange, hermit-like man, had lived in Paraguay for about eight years. He finally took a Guarani woman to live with him as a common law wife. They had a baby daughter, a pretty little girl who is now going to school in Asuncion. Fortunately, Winthrow, shortly before he died, acknowledged that he was the father of the child. Thus his common law wife and baby were able to inherit his estate.
One night at the very place where we stayed, Winthrow found some rustlers, as he called them. He said they were stealing two of his cows. When it ended one of the alleged rustlers was dead.
WINTHROW SAID that he did not know he had killed one of the men. He went back to his shack and went to sleep.
Later, the dead man’s body was found. There was a bullet wound in the man’s back. Relatives started a hue [sic] and cry.
Meanwhile, Winthrow had decided to go to the settlement at Olimpo, the nearest village,
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PILGRIMS IN PARAGUAY
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January 1, 1964, Section 1, Page 15
and report the incident. When he got there he discovered that the police were looking for him to arrest him for murder.
Winthrow told his story. He was tried at Asuncion on a charge of murder. The court decided that he was justified in killing the rustler and he was acquitted.
A BROTHER of the dead man warned Winthrow: “I’m going to kill you.”
Despite the warning, Winthrow returned to Del Sol. Hr had sold some cattle and had about $2,000 on him.
With complete disregard for his safety, Winthrow went riding in the dusk. He was bush-whacked near a water hole and shot dead.
The $2,000 vanished. Winthrow’s killer is believed to have taken it and fled across the river into Brazil. The rustler’s brother has not been seen since. Winthrow, whose body was not found until two after he was shot, is buried where he fell. His grave marked by a pile of stones.
RUSTLING IN Paraguay, said McRoberts, is not a serious problem. He said there are no bands of rustlers running off large numbers of cows. If people are hungry, they sometimes kill a cow, cut it up, and take away the carcass. The rustler’s are hard to apprehend. They live little evidence and it is hard to tell whether the animal has been killed by humans or a jaguar.
Many of the cattle ranches in the Chaco are of immense size and cowhands only see the animals, at most, once a week.
One ranch about 40 miles from Del Sol covers 11 million acres.
McROBERTS believes that there are tremendous opportunities in Paraguay, although he does not expect to make any profits out of his ranching there for at least ten years.
He says that from the vast areas of rich grazing land a great meat producing industry can be built. He intends to ranch scientifically with the modern methods of the United States. Just before we arrived at Del Sol, McRoberts completed the purchase of another great tract of land adjoining this property.
Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc. is investing a vast amount of money in Paraguay.
McRoberts, a puckish man of great enthusiasm, had a personal interview with President Kennedy a $1 Million loan repayable at 9% to develop his ranches.
HIS COMPANY IS matching each United States Government-loaned dollar with its own capital.
In his view, with American know how, the rich earth of land-locked Paraguay can be developed to compete with Argentina as a source of meat supply. He has many other plans of marketing the produce of this fertile land.
The new ranch – Estancia Puerto Guarani- lies about 20 miles down the Paraguay River. It is one of the world’s largest ranching operations, occupying about 2 ¼ million acres of waist high grass. It has freshwater streams, extensive farm buildings, citrus groves, and its own deep draft docks on the river, which is almost a mile wide at this point.
UNLIKE DEL SOL, Estancia Puerto Guarani has been established as a ranching community for a considerable time.
The Paraguay River, one of the world’s largest waterways, provides a means of transport all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Tributaries of the river interlace the 2.5 million acres of the ranch, making it one of the most highly irrigated regions of the country.
The ranch has its own quaint railroad, engine and machine shops, a general store, private police force, a church, school, workers’ quarters, and a population of more than 1,000 persons.
“When I first brought the Texans over,” said McRoberts, “I intended to house them at Del Sol until they could build their own permanent homes.
“I THOUGHT that with their tractors, bulldozers, and generators, they could soon make the place reasonably comfortable.
“But now that we have bought Puerto Guarani, I think I will move Saint John and his followers over there. It will be much easier for them. There is already electricity there and fine buildings and every kind of facility.
“I think they will find it less arduous until they have become thoroughly accustomed to the climate and the terrain and the language.”
After nearly a week of life in the wilderness, I found myself longing for some hot water with which to shave, a floor that wasn’t uneven mud, a bath and a cool drink.
FOR A WEEK I had lived with no more exciting drink than tepid water. I was so hungry most of the time from the excess of fresh air and heat that I wolfed oatmeal, spaghetti and noodles, rice and bread, made in the frying pan with relish. Even the Guarani rolls -almost as hard as wood- were welcome.
On Friday I packed my dusty belongings because on Friday the weekly mail plane lands on the landing strip beside the camp and I wanted to catch it.
I said goodbye to my kind hosts of Camp Beulah, Inc. Larry, Randy, and Brother Couch helped me with my gear over the rock-hard ground to the landing strip. I presented my water bottle to Larry and prepared to wait for the plane. It was due between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.
IT WAS SO HOT on the landing strip that a phonograph record I had bought on the way down in Chile curved at the edges.
It became necessary to move under a tree. Here about 10 cows and several bulls were also sheltering. For three hours the cows and I waited. I had to get up frequently from my resting place on the ground to shoo the cows away from my belongings.
About 1:30 PM Brother Saint John sent a small boy to say he didn’t think the plane was coming. So I returned, somewhat embarrassed, to join the group for lunch.
I found a few days later that the plane had not come because the cross wind on the landing strip was too strong for a safe landing.
The radio station is a small one by which McRoberts, in Ascuncion.
Two more days of life in the Chaco persuaded me to rise earlier than ever that Sunday.
It was a lovely hot morning but there was one distinctive upsetting feature to life. I noticed that none of the women had gone to the cook house, and I was hungry, even for a plate of rice and beans and river water.
LARRY MURRAY gave me the stunning news “they fast on Sundays,” he said.
When the small four-seater plane arrived I rushed across to greet McRoberts. He had with him in the plane Dr. Angel DeAldecoa, vice president of Pan-Western Enterprises, Inc, and his son, a young medical man and an English-speaking pilot who was born in China.
McRoberts took Saint John and another member of the group on a flight to his new property at Puerto Guarani.
Meanwhile, Dr. De Aldecoa, who speaks fluent French, invited me in that language to join him for ‘le petit de jeuner’.
WE WALKED together over to a native house near the camp. I had often seen men, women, and masses of native children pouring from its doors. But I had never dreamed of the good old-fashioned earthly delights it stored.
On a table covered with a neat blue tablecloth places had been laid for us. A native woman brought in our plates, each bearing a massive slice of steak topped by two fried eggs, fresh baked bread, and a pot of steaming coffee; the sort of meal I had forgotten existed.
As I savored my eggs and coffee I thought it might be a good thing if these Indians did a little missionary work among my late hosts to cap the meal and complete my restoration to civilized living, Dr. De Aldecoa with the magic aid of the Coleman ice box from the plane produced some glasses, a bottle of whisky and huge lumps of ice.
NEVER WAS A lonely sinner of the Chaco brought back to civilization more pleasantly.
Glancing round instinctively to see if any Camp Beulah non smokers were in sight, I lit a cigarette.