When I got out of the US Army in 1964 I was a confused young man. I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but initially I felt some urgency to get started doing it. My first thought was to buy a farm in the vicinity of Portales, New Mexico, where I’d spent most of my youth and done a lot of farm labor. That area was in the process of the subtle change from hardscrabble family farms to agribusiness farms, though I didn’t recognize it.
Although my granddad had a small farm a few miles from town, and although the main revenue for the population was farm-related, most non-farmers didn’t hold farmers in high regard. Including my granddad, with reasons he considered adequate.
The result was that my granddad, my mom and my step-dad took active measures, once I found a 160 acre irrigated farm I could swing for, to make certain with the local bank that I didn’t get financing to buy it. They each pronounced separately to me that I was destined for ‘better things’ than farming, which I bitterly resented.
Someone mentioned to me the Peace Corps was a place where young people at loose ends were volunteering to go off and set the world right. Relatively new at the time, I’d never heard of it, but I applied.
Then, as I’d done numerous times before, I hitch-hiked out of that town. The World Fair was going on in New York, and I headed that direction, and spent the summer in Greenwich Village simulating being a beatnik.
I might talk more about all this in future posts, but I’ve digressed from my original intentions for this one.
I began my Peace Corps training in Hilo, Hawaii. India X Peace Corps Project, intended to send bright young Americans off to Gujarat, India, to teach the locals how to raise chickens. Sometime I’ll probably wax poetic about all that, but I’m trying to limit my digressions.
Training was intended to be a time of intense learning, but it was also clear, we were cautioned from the beginning, it also served as a filter to remove the great percentage of the trainees through observation, psychological testing, peer ratings, and voluntary withdrawals. A sort of basic training with the emphasis on washing out all trainees with potential shortcomings. About 2/3 of India X washed out of training before the end, including me.
But I’m having a lot of trouble getting to the point of this post because of all the background material. Enough!
One of the methods of screening trainees was the Minnesota Multi-Phase Personality Test. Most of the trainees were well-enough educated to be familiar with it. The MMPP was reputed to be ‘unbeatable’, and we were each acutely aware of our personal shortcomings. Most of us agreed if the Peace Corps had any idea what was going on in our heads they’d faint, revive themselves, and deselect us without further ado.
During the week prior to the test we’d gather at night to discuss the best strategy for foiling the Peace Corps cadre and the MMPP. The two obvious approaches were, a] Tell the truth and suffer the consequences, and hope to be forgiven, or, b] Lie consistently.
By reputation, the MMPP wasn’t capable of being lied to consistently without catching you out.
Most of us viewed ourselves as the cream of US youth. The Peace Corps told us that’s what we were from the first day of acceptance for training. We’d been picked from hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants.
So we’d already fooled them that much.
Our consensus as a group was to lie consistently. Some of us succeeded.
This is getting lengthy, so I’ll use it as a launchpad, most likely, for some future posts.
John Prine– Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian