October 19, 1938
Dear Mom, Dad, and All,
Just a chance that you may get this letter before very long, so I'll take the chance. A native is leaving here tomorrow for the city, and from there, he is taking the first boat to Papeete. He may get to Tahiti before the 30th and if he does, it (this letter) will catch that boat. If he doesn't, then I don't know when you will receive it; I'll chance it.
I have been here in Hikueru a week now. We aren't at the "city" but across the lagoon about 12 miles at the pearl-shell diving grounds. There are people here from the adjacent Islands and from all over the Tuomotus. The season closes right soon now so everyone will go home. When the people from Marokau go, we will go with them. That is our next Island.
It will be in Marokau probably that I will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas... the wildest Island around according to Elder Wilde. The Marokau people we have met here seem just as good as the rest of them. I guess the reason it will be harder is because boats stop there only maybe once every two months, food is very, very scarce, and homes are only niaus. Shucks! I'm looking forward to going there though.
As for the food proposition: I bought a big supply in Tahiti to take out with us in case we need it. A sack of flour from one of the ships will last us quite awhile along with hand-outs from natives.
Here, we have to buy our own food and do all cooking ourselves. It's a little more expensive living than Takaroa was. Jam 15¢ a can, milk, same, beef 15¢ can, bread 6¢ loaf, butter, we do without (60¢ 12 ounces) and with rice now and then, we get by. Fish aren't brought to us very often, and we haven't time, material and means of going after them.
Elder Asay is my new companion. Gee, I surely got a break. He is just entirely different than Teneta was and we get along fine. He likes exercise the same as I do, so we take a weekly swim, play with his football, go for walks, and go listen to the radio... all in our spare time.
I'm still grinding away at this language. It isn't coming easy, but I still have hopes. It's just as backwards as our language could be, so you surely have to think. By Christmas I hope to be able to understand fairly well even though I won't be able to spill it out fast. Seven months won't be so bad if I know it by then. The usual average runs eight, so if by Xmas I can say I get by good, I'll be satisfied. I'm working to that end.
My trip out here took six days, and as usual it seemed a century. As yet I haven't cast food over the rail of a ship while in the South Seas, but I've used a can twice. This last trip I never missed a meal (I shouldn't, as the trip cost 300 F (about $9.00) and I got up a few times to look around. However I still don't like the boat rides.
We surely are "camping out" now, but I guess that is all this Mission is unless you go to the right Islands. Our shack is just a lean-to built against a tin side of someone else's place. Our own eaves furnish the drinking water... when it ever rains, otherwise we get by either by borrowing, begging, or helping ourselves from other people, or else sometimes we have to be content with "hole" water, seepage. That water is so hard it has to be taken out of the hole by ice-tongs... almost. Soap won't work it into the lather at all. Even dishes wash better in the ocean than in hole water.
Mosquitos and flies help keep up the activity. All night we swat away at mosquitos and all day at both flies and mosquitos. (I bet I'm loosing weight by blood and wasted energy)
I expect mail on the next boat out here, but I won't get it until after the boat leaves again with this letter.
If you get to see Mrs Miller's map again, you maybe can follow my journeys up until April. At least this is the way we think it will turn out. Just like everything else, it's uncertain:" First we are here in Hikueru. About the middle of November we will go to Marokau, where we may stay until about the middle of January (maybe 1st). From Marokau to Amanu for the month of January. From Amanu to Hao for awhile (maybe) and maybe to Tauere for a visit and then the rest of the time before April Conference in Aana (near Tahiti). We all hope for a big Conference in Tahiti in April, but the Pres may change his mind.
I may get a Junior Elder in April. Pres mentioned it to me, and I hope there is a chance. But that's a long way off. I've got to learn the language myself before I think of ever taking over responsibilities of a Junior. I'm surely looking forward to the day, though, that I can feel I know the language well enough to handle the duties of Senior Elder. April is really too early to hope for. That would be giving me only 11 months training. (Bet I could do it though.)
Elder Asay (pronounced A.C.) is 24 years old, from Lovell Wyoming, and has been here fifteen months. He hasn't a very good knowledge of the language, but what he does know is good Tahitian. He talks slow and plain so I can just about get all he says. He's surely a swell fellow. I may get back a few manners from him that I have lost other places. He's polite and very willing to help me. (We both eat fish with our fingers though.)
This pearl shell diving business surely is unprofitable to the natives. They work day after day, diving as deep as 100, 115, and very few go 120 feet down. The usual distance is around 50 & 60 feet. All they average for a days labor is around fifty cents or maybe as high as a dollar. The business is just on the rocks. What few pearls they find, they hold the price so high that they very seldom ever get money for them. However some American buyers buy a few from them now and then. They won't sell only small ones to Missionaries. They would rather give them away to us than sell them to us, but just try to find one that will. I would like to get a small good one if possible, but darned if I'll pay what they ask and I'm sure they won't give them away. 100 F can buy some little ones, but they aren't up to much. I'll be satisfied with the three pipis I found in Takaroa and the few pipis that were given me there.
Well, I've written just about all I know of to write now. I might say I'm still enjoying it, and wouldn't care to give up the work for anything. One never grows tired of seeing the palm trees, Tahitian moon, and sunsets, and all the other beauties of the tropics. Surely I haven't grown tired of my religious work; I don't get any chance to study that, because of I have to read Tahitian all the time. I can't read a page of Tahitian yet and get anything out of it at all either.
Well, once again I'll close on this short note. Enjoy yourselves half as much as I am, and you'll be happy.
P.S. I haven't seen a newspaper from Ogden yet that hasn't had someone I know getting married. Is anyone going to be single when I get home???
October 24, 1938
Hello! again. See how much you can go by what you hear? A few days ago I thought this letter would be on the ocean now, but things have changed again. The "Aito" arrived yesterday and won't call back to this Island before Thursday the 27th, so I guess we won't make the 30th boat. My letter was all sealed and given to a native to take in for me, but since the latest news I decided to write more.
The "Aito" brought me two letters from you dated September 1, and 25th or 21st, one from Vern dated August 31, three from Barbara way back August 13, 17, & 21 and none for the whole month of September, one from Lucille Nelson, and another from a native pal in Takaroa.
I was surely satisfied with the news your swell letters brought. When you quoted the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi Chapt. 3 verse 7, I couldn't help but feel so very thankful for this privilege I have, and for all your blessing too. I'm so glad to hear, Dad, that you have plenty to do to keep you busy. I know you're happier working than when not. Just don't hurt yourself working too hard. You needn't think you must because of me, because I'm sure the Lord will prepare a way without you injuring yourself. Take it easy, and try to get your home in such a shape that you can retire afterwhile and live comfortably; you've certainly earned it.
Gee, Mom, how I could use some of your fruit this year! Yesterday we celebrated the Sabbath and the arrival of our mail by opening a can of pineapple, the first fruit I have eaten since leaving Tahiti with the exception of a few dried apricots and some of the cured bananas, such as you might have received from Ralph Taylor (?). I sent a few home by him. I hope he didn't forget you.
Very sorry to hear of the Bishop's sickness. This is the first time I've heard anything was wrong. If my prayers will help, he will certainly receive it. I surely think the world of that fellow. Give him my best regards.
About one more month before Thanksgiving. I'm kind of looking forward to it 'cause then we will celebrate by having another can of fruit to open maybe. We are living on split peas (dried), canned beef, (horse, I bet), once in awhile Pork & beans, but mostly our food consists of hot water, bread and jam. Still gaining weight, I think. Why? I don't know. I believe it's because of my teeth being in good condition.
Maybe in my letter to you while I was alone in Niau I told you about an old lady there named Hutia. She was living with her son, and due to some quarrel over nothing, he refused to supply her with any kind of food suitable to a human. She was about 70 years old, and due to a bent, disabled leg, she could hardly move around. Her food consisted of rice, dough and water, and a little bread. I noticed the last two days I was there that she was sick and could hardly move out of the house. She hadn't eaten at all one day and I ask her the reason. Her reply was "E taata ino roa Etara; aita oia e afai mai ta maa ia'u ." Which translates, "A very bad person, Etara (her son). He won't bring me any food." Well, I went to Katupu, the lady that was keeping me, and told her to see that the old lady was fed. I gave her a little money to buy rice, sugar, bread, and a few things she might need for the old lady until Missionaries get there as I thought it wouldn't be but a few weeks.
Yesterday word came that the old lady had died about a month ago. (not quite.) Surely too bad, but surely she's happier now than living there. She was a good old Saint and I'm sure she will be taken care of now.
(Just an incident to let you know how some conditions are here... there surely isn't much love between husband, wife, mother, daughter, son, etc. We certainly learn to appreciate our loved parents, friends and relatives.)
Her son here is going to Niau first chance he gets just to find out conditions there. He wants me to write a full description of what I saw and heard there. If I do, it will cause trouble between he and his brother probably. I figure it best to keep out as much as possible. He's really a nice fellow (the one here) and certainly is broken up over her death. I'll help him what I can but not to cause trouble.
Language is still hard. I'm trying to do my share of our work by writing lessons (questions & answers) in English and Elder Asay translates them and gives most of them. I know a short prayer which I use, blessing on food, can read either Sacrament blessing, and read off a talk once in awhile.
Wednesday, coming, I have a Haapiiraa to give. I ask questions and it's up to the people to answer them. This time I'll know whether or not the answer is correct because it's mostly on names and dates. Getting used to using what words I do know is the hardest task. I can understand nearly half of what is said, but I can't speak half what I'd like to. I can pick out practically every word said, and if I take them one at a time I know the meaning of each, but when they are all put into sentence construction, darned if I get the thought. I've still hopes.
My reading is quite good now. I can read without mistakes and if I go slow and analyze each word I can usually get the meaning of sentences. Well, Xmas is still two months away.
I'll write to Bro Newman today and thank him for the money. I don't expect a reply from the letter I wrote Le Moyne for quite some time so maybe you better thank Petersons for me. I'm behind on quite a number of my letters and it's hard to take time to answer.
Glad to hear Dean Palmer got home safely and that you got to meet him.
I wish you'd have given that scarf to Mark and Helen if you would have liked to. I could maybe get another some other day in my visit to Papeete, but as it is, I'll try to remember them with some token someday. Maybe when I return they will have use for something else. Of course I can't promise anything.
Now I guess I can close once again feeling a little more satisfied with the size of this letter. Really, I haven't much to write anymore. The newness has worn off, and I am quite settled down. Still I haven't felt what you would call homesickness, but believe me I would like to go to a dance, or car-riding, or show, or something. My hours are 9:00 P.M. at night until 5:00 A.M. in the morning for sleep. We take turns cooking every other day so each time I get in plenty of work... dishes and all. Oh Well! Warming beef and slicing bread is easy to do. A walk and swim is our sole amusement. Each day quite a lot of time is spent in visiting families, caring for the sick, etc.
Just one question. Why did you send that clipping of Chugg fellow dying? I know no one except this Elder down here by that name. What's the connection?
All I can think to ask for is just keep writing. There seems to be nothing I need at this time. News, mostly.
As for money, I seem to be holding my own. I don't know just how it will be after two or three months. I'll let you know.
Again, Love, Dean
Don't mind my writing. I really could do better, but shucks! I really have to hurry even though I do like to take the time to write you. When I get this lesson Wednesday off my mind, I'll feel better. I have that to prepare today.