National Geographic : 1938 Jan
MAGYAR MIRTH AND MELANCHOLY rnutograpn uy Jonn ratrlc "HOW MUST I LIVE," ASKS THE COUNTESS, "TO BE 104, LIKE YOU?" Replied Mrs. George Wolf, born in 1832, "Be regular in everything, and fall in love but once." The centenarian likes to sit in the taverns, munch bread, and listen to gypsy music. Her teeth have been gone for decades; now her gums are hard enough for chewing (page 27). "They catch in our nets," he said, cutting the tough shell with his jackknife. Pure white kernels tasted like hard lumps of laundry starch I had liked as a child, with traces here of some rare spice. BOOTLEG TOBACCO He led me into a brush shanty, unslung a pair of boots from the cross-pole where corn was drying. "Have some of my own tobacco." He extended a bootleg tightly packed with unstemmed natural leaf. Since to bacco is a closely controlled, high-profit government monopoly, possession of un processed leaf by unrecognized growers is akin to running a distillery in the attic. Revenue men are at war with rugged in dividuals who persist in raising their own in backyards or quiet glades. Landward of the dikes we visited the trim, plastered, three-room house of a richer farmer. Its thick walls were "peasant brick," sun-baked mud and straw (page 29). Near it a modern little gristmill ground out flour; two fat horses walking in a circle provided power. We entered a snug, neat, low-roofed barn of mud brick. Windows were few and small. We opened the tightly fitting door; a cloud of fog seemed to rush ahead as freezing outdoor air condensed warm humidity within. Bodies and breath of 40 head of livestock were the source of a moist temperature I estimated to be 70 degrees. A boy, 24, slept in that warm barn, as peasant men do in Hungary. He earned 190 peng6 and his keep-$38 a year. He saved most of it. Some day he, too, hoped to become a proprietor. Hungarian plainsmen preserve the inde pendence of nomad forefathers. As we drove westward, I recalled a story. Emperor Franz Josef walked in a Buda pest park, pleased at bows and awed greet ings of urban subjects. A plainsman on a bench neither rose nor spoke. "Who are you? Where do you live?" asked the ruler, seating himself. "I raise horses in Debrecen," replied the man, between puffs on a long pipe. "That's fine. Do you know me?" "No."