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Flying doves
Childhood memories of an American in Iran

By Jim Culp
March 14, 2000
The Iranian

That is the only writing on Iran I have done except to share some emails with a surveyor friend here in the U.S. about my engineering work as a land surveyor in the desert lands near Shahabad not too far from Kermanshah. It was in Kurdish country and I got to know and work with many Kurds and ride their Arabian horses and bought some melons and cucumbers from local vendors carrying the treats thru our dry area on their donkeys backs. I watched the beautiful orange red dustdevils blow thru almost every day I was there, which was all summer long in 1958 on the high desert plateau overlooking Shahabad.

I really enjoyed and appreciated our family's two years in Iran. It was a wonderful mind-expanding experience to see and meet the peoples of the seat of an ancient civilization and ponder its mysteries of time and place and culture and conquests and faiths and revolutions. I was an American teenager then, but learned some use of the language on the streets at the chaie khoneh and sweet shop and bike shop or chark khoneh and bread shops , all of which I went to almost daily to say hello to my friends the business owners there .

I went to the American School in Tehran and lived in a home with my family. My father was a U.S. Army Lt Col assigned to DaneshGa Jang (Iranian Imperial War College) and other training assignments for the Armed Forces of Iran. Dad learned Farsi at Presidio of Monterey in California, Army Language School. We were there with him too and we had chelo kabob cooked by the Iranian language professors there. It was so good.

In Iran, we lived in northwest Tehran up toward Shemran, at Meydun-e Golhak, but i have forgotten the name of the kucheh. Amazingly such small things come back to me now from time to time. Our landlord was an Iranian Colonel (retired). It was a nice two-story, four-bedroom brick-and-gatch, flat-roofed home with a little pool in the front and a fruit garden within the high walls. Our home had a big gate with a drive up to the house. We had a gardener and a houseboy to help with the household duties and my dad had a sergeant assigned to him as driver of our 1957 four-door green Army Staff car.

I raised kabootars (doves) and kept them in a box home which I built on top of the outbuilding where we kept our 50-gallon naft (kerosene) drums, with which we fueled our stove and did home heating in the cold winters. I loved to feed and to fly the doves; they loved to fly. When I whistled and clapped they would always come back even when they flew with other doves . They were fun and beautiful to watch and they would change course in flight or do a tumble or loop if I would clap my hands loudly and call to them. We had a green house at our home too so we could keep blooming flowers for use in the home all year round.

I remember one time there was a bitch dog in there raising pups and she was tolerated by all as she was otherwise a guard doggie (but not very fierce) yellow and longish haired, an Iranian big mixed breed. Our gardener's wife had had a baby. They lived in a room at the front of the compound. One day I saw her going into the greenhouse and she stayed there awhile and came out holding a glass of white liquid. I came out and nicely asked her what it was. She replied that it was milk. I confirmed it was from the dog. She said it was for her baby and she had no milk. Well, I went and explained to Mom what the situation was. We never knew the problem until then, as the gardener had not told us nor had she. We gave her boxes of the same dried milk which we used, and showed her how to mix it up with water. From then on her baby had milk.

We had real cherry trees in our compound and I loved to eat the cherries fresh from the trees. I could hardly wait for them to ripen and oh so good when they were ready.

There are many memories of a life and people gone by. Qom, Isfahan, American kids, Iranian friends, trips, experiences on the streets in fun and normal daily life and even of danger.

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