My grandfather once gave me, when I was too young to know enough to be interested in things far outside my little world, a Mexican peso he said his father got in Mexico when he was there in 1916. There was, it seems now, a huge story there that I missed and now can never unravel. My great grandfather, Charles Grant Rice (named after Ulysses S.), died fairly young in 1932. His farm was on a windswept hill in Perry County, PA, between two insignificant villages, so how he came to go to Mexico in the midst of its violent early 20th century revolution, a task both difficult and dangerous, is to say the least, a mystery. Like all the Rices until my grandfather, he was a farmer and builder. The homestead is fairly large, has a kitchen outbuilding, a large barn still just standing, and had a chicken house at least as large as a barn. I was told he installed the first 1-cylinder gasoline engine in the county to pump water up from the creek to the house. When brother Steve and I first visited the homestead in 2005, I saw just why this was a good move: the creek was down an extremely steep and tangled bank, and I can just imagine how wonderful it must have been to fetch water during those long and harsh winters before the pump was in place. He also during his too-brief life acquired several other properties, one of which was occupied by the third son all his life; the others went to the other brother, whose descendants seem to have prospered from over the years. My grandfather spent about a year in Iowa doing farm work in 1916; did Charles G. proceed on to Mexico after accompanying him there, for reasons unfathomable? The peso is almost a hundred years old, and tells me nothing more.
I have also been wondering for years why people who are supremely qualified by educational credentials and glorious resumes are such utter disasters. Former Supreme Court nominee Bork and politicians Alan Keyes and Phil Gramm have doctorates, and are in the first two cases, insane, and in the third, completely wrong about everything in his specialty (economics). John Soo, Yale-educated lawyer in the Dubya administration, gave the legal go-ahead to W and Cheney to violate the Constitution, the law, and all accepted American (indeed, Western) political tradition. An unknown local lawyer with a state university degree who behaved in such a manner would have been censured and disbarred. Dubya has a Yale degree and a Harvard MBA, and yet pulled a clearly and completely illegal insider-trading manoeuver to bail out of his failed oil company, which netted him millions. How do both these prestigious institutions admit and graduate someone with such a deficient character (and marginal personality disorder) who was arrested three times for redneck misdimeanors and who deserted from the National Guard in wartime? (I had several people picked up by local police while in desertion status as a case investigator for the Army. I know the law on AWOL and desertion).
As this makes my stomach hurt, I'll go back to wondering about the peso.