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Morton writes in his book, 'In The Footsteps of Saint Paul', that to see Turkey one must see it through the eyes of a Turk. I have just returned from a 2,000 mile circuit of Turkey in the company of an ardent Turkish citizen, Ali Fuat Icel : artist, historian, philosopher and friend. The trip was more than just viewing one ancient ruins after another but rather was a confrontation with history for it truly is a new country in an old land that many will recall as Asia Minor. It is a place where the New Testament reads like a travelogue.
This nation of some 45 million people in an area about the size of Texas and Louisana combined is basically an agricultural economy that has a history beginning before 3,000 BC and which, only in recent times, has it moved into the twentieth century.
One day while visiting Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, and specifically the well of the ancient city, I wandered through a market street looking into shops only to be approached by a merchant. I thought, 'Oh, no, not another rug salesman.' He smiled broadly and said, 'You American?' I nodded affirmatively and with that he grabbed my hand in his and started shaking it vigorously all the while repeating, 'Good, good!' At least here was one Turkish national who appreciated what the United States has done in its aid programs.
After World War II, t and other subsequent aid programs were not always appreciated fully throughout Europe. A British friend once remarked to me, 'Your American aid really is a subsidy of your own industry,' for what was happening was that our aid money was used to buy American products-... machines and supplies. I wondered, as I noticed such names as John Deere, which they pronounce 'John Deere', just how far and how long that had continued. This is what brought me to observing the farm scene and the tractors now replacing the donkey, the horse and camel.
The high Anatolian Plateau is the breadbasket of Turkey and here was my introduction to the Turkish version of the ubiquitous pick-up truck. Here, the modern farmer owns a tractor that is a machine of many uses.
First and foremost, by attaching a two wheel trailer behind, it is his pick-up in which the family rides to the village or in which he transports his farm needs. Depending upon the size of the tractor, it will pull a two, three, or even a four gang plow. Its PTO energizes the separator he borrows from his co-op, for though Deere are introducing combines, mostly the separator, which we now see only at shows and reunions, handles the wheat and barley harvest.
My first chance to examine one the tractors closely came while visiting Psidian Antioch Yalvac where St. Paul said, 'Lo, we turn to the Gentiles' thus opening Christianity to the world. A Massey-Ferguson with trailer attached was parked on a street and I stopped to study it more closely. No sooner had I done so than I had a crowd around me. A boy of about 18 years said, 'Do you speak English?' 'Yes,' I said, 'can you understand me?' And with that I had an interpreter and one who wanted to practice the English he was learning in school.
I told him that it was an American company but that I wanted to know where this particular machine had been manufactured. Together, and with the help of the crowd to whom he had given a translation, we found the nameplate.
We are part way, it seems, to cutting off the flow of aid money back to America for Massey-Ferguson has a Spanish affiliate, Motor Iberia, that had built this particular machine. Incidently, it must be a minority interest since Spanish law will not permit foreign majority (50 plus %) interest. John Deere has a German affiliate building a full line of farm machinery. Therefore, the aid to Turkey was siphoned off to European industry and only a profit 'cut' would find its way home.
Massey-Ferguson was far and away the most popular tractor seen throughout the trip. Ford was another popular machine along with a smattering of International Harvesters. The British were there with their Morris-Leland. The Italian automobile builder, Fiat, has formed a joint venture with the Turks to build the Turk-Fiat at a new plant in Turkey.
Anatolia, where the majority of the large scale farms are located, is an arid central region bonded by the Taurus Mountains through which Alexander of Macedonia (some say, Great) passed in 334 BC via the Cilician Gate. Even in a good year only about 10 inches of rain falls here and irrigation is necessary. Some of the flumes go back to the time of the Ottoman Empire. It is here that the majority of the nation's 501,000 tractors serve the people. Here they produce wheat at about 30 bushels per acre on 22 million acres. These are broad flat arces typical of our far west, Montana for example. However, they are family owned in not very large parcels but one has difficulty determining where one family's domain ends and another's begin for, uniquely, there are absolutely no fences just small cairns to mark the boundaries. It is ideally suited to large scale machine farming.
In order to better equip themselves, the farmers have formed marketing and machine co-operatives. Most can plow, harrow and fertilize with their own machines. But when it comes to harvesting then they resort to co-op ownership of the combines or threshing machines. Being the fall harvest season, I saw a number of separators being hauled down the highway behind a tractor enroute to the next threshing action.
Although labor saving machines have been introduced in large numbers in the past ten years (tractors increased 900%) there still remains much back breaking labor. Cotton, for example, is picked a boll at a time by hordes of peasants moving like locust across a field reminiscent of ante-bellum days in our own southland.
As with any nation, its future is with its children. One day while visiting Bulbul Dag, the traditional site where the Virgin Mary spent her last days after the death of St. John, I interviewed a group of teenage girls off on holiday from school. A particularly comely and articulate girl of probably 16 years was their spokesman. Afterwards, I thought, how many of our teen-agers could speak so fluently in a foreign language? Not since Egypt have I found, broadly speaking, so many people friendly and open with us Americans. It's nice to know that Turkey is the eastern anchor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense establishment.