Account of Life on Yom


Editor’s note: Indira Hodara, 70, a founder and trustee board member of the University of Praetolia and Chairman of its Department of History and Anthropology, presents a brief account of life on Yom. Indira has written two books on the care and use of trups that have become standard references on the subject. Also, she has edited a scholarly history of Yom’s first 30 years. At age 28, Indira and her husband immigrated with the third shipload of pioneers to arrive on the planet. Although she held a doctorate in anthropology from the prestigious Oxford University, she and her husband began their life on Yom as farmers. Indira became interested in a colony of trups that lived in the nearby woods and began to use them as domestic helpers around the farm. Within ten years she had learned so much about these useful animals that she wrote a scientific, yet practical book that would help other people to understand them.

By the time she reached age 54, Indira and her husband had succeeded so well at farming that she left the farm and moved to Praetolia to help found the planet’s first university. Amidst this busy career, Indira raised five children and taught all of them herself in the local cooperative school. Indira Hodara’s involvement with all aspects of life on her burgeoning new world, as well as her accomplishments as a writer and a scholar, make her extremely qualified to write of life on Yom.

We inserted into final orbit during the sleep shift, but from the moment I awoke, I knew we had arrived at last! The ship felt different, strangely quiet. The daily bustling routine of life in space had ended. I shook Satish, my husband, from a deep sleep. “We’re here!” I cried like a child on Christmas morning who can’t wait to open the presents. “Please can we take a look?” I dragged Satish, still groggy with sleep, to the closed viewport and waited a long moment before pressing the button that opened the shutters. As the covers rolled back, we looked out upon what seemed to be a cold forbidding little world. Three-fourths of the planet appeared in full sunlight. Its most prominent feature, an enormous ice cap, seemed to stretch to its equator. Clear weather over most of the planet’s surface let me pick out three of the major continents as if they lay on a map, but frozen ocean around the northernmost continent of Triomn masked its shape.

I shivered and instinctively reached for my husband’s arm. Was this the promised land for which we had traveled so far? It looked more like a replica of Earth’s ice age! As I studied the surface I noticed the warm ground, a large, brown blotch in the snow, looking as if someone had pressed a finger against a frosty window pane and left a thawed spot. As the ship gradually orbited the planet warm areas came into view. I learned later, that the high inclination of our orbit from the equator made the ice cap look much larger than it is, and I saw, as we orbited the southern hemisphere hours later, that the ice cap there had shrunk to a tiny spot. This first fast trip gave me a memorable introduction to the highly seasonal nature of my adopted world.

We spent most of the “day” in orbit, packing and stowing both the ship’s equipment and our own personal belongings for the landing. After we departed from Earth, the daily cycle of activities on board had been increased a few minutes each day until now we lived on a 27-hour wake/sleep cycle. (I actually like this better than Earth’s 24- hour cycle because I sleep no more than I ever did and I have three extra hours each day!) By this time the crew had disconnected the great passenger spires from the ship and they floated freely in space. The great space tug lowered the spires one by one during our sleep period. The viewports stayed shuttered to protect against accidental damage during descent.

The spire touched down in the early morning, and we opened the shutters for our first view of the surface. The spire stood on a broad plain of yellow grass that sloped gently toward a white, sandy beach. On the inland side, the plain ended at the edge of a forest unlike any I had ever seen.

A dense blanket of red, orange, and yellow leaves shrouded the trees, reminiscent of an Earthly forest in autumn, but unmistakably different. It gave the impression of a holovision set whose color adjustment is way off. Yet nature did paint Yom’s foliage in these strange colors. Green can only be seen on farms and orchards filled with plants from Earth. In the year we arrived, Praetolia consisted of nothing but a cluster of spires and a few low, freestanding buildings. One of these served as an office building and community center, the other as a fabrication shop. A small powerhouse supplied power to the cluster using deuterium from a small separating plant set up in a cove a few miles down the shoreline.

Though Satish and I met while pursuing advanced degrees at Oxford, we both came from farming families. A few years after graduating, we grew tired of playing bureaucratic games at the college where we served as-instructors. We longed for honest, straightforward work in a world less bound by tradition. We applied to GAILE’s colonial program and requested Yom, then the most recently discovered planet, as our first choice. We knew that our degrees in philosophy and anthropology would be of little use on an unsettled planet, so we emphasized our farming experience in our applications. Shortly after our arrival, we found ourselves solely responsible for operating a farm in an unpredictable climate on alien soil with little knowledge of the pests or diseases that might attack our crops. We faced these difficulties with little modern machinery and few of the chemicals that had become an integral part of farming on Earth.

Vehicles cost their weight in gold in those early years, so during the first few weeks of our stay, we went out each day with a group of new farmers to look for farm sites. With so much land available, we had little problem choosing hectarage for all, but we then faced the formidable task of clearing the forest. The colony had just one demolition unit suitable for clearing farmland, so all the new farmers helped each other with the tedious job. Each day, we commuted together in our own levitruck from apartments in the spires to one of the farm sites. The clearing took most of the summer.

When winter came we worked in the fabrication plant prefabricating our farmhouses and the other structures needed by the colony’s growing industries. During this time we lived mainly on imported food supplemented by the meager crops produced by the farmers who had begun a year before us. At night we attended lectures to learn what little others knew about farming on Yom. After the prepared talk, the experienced farmers held an open discussion of the problems they had encountered and of any solutions they had found to them. This information sharing continued on a more or less weekly basis for twenty years and did much to make Yom’s farm industry a rapid success. The following spring before the snows had melted, we set our farmhouse and tool shed and began to make preparations for the spring planting.

Our buildings had been completely preassembled in one- or two-room sections during the previous winter, and a large, specially-designed levitruck lowered them in place. The rooms rested on special self-leveling jacks that allowed us to compensate for settling each year and let us add more rooms one at a time. Our original farmhouse contained just three tiny rooms. Satish called it a glorified lunch box. Over the years it has grown with our family until now it is quite spacious and comfortable.

Immediately after the spring thaw we plowed our fields and began to plant. Because farm machinery cost so much, we shared a single cultivating machine with a cooperative of nine other farmers. During the plowing season it worked around the clock. Our first year we planted wheat, corn, soybeans, and a truck garden of a dozen vegetables. Farming on Yom took more hard work than I ever imagined; yet I felt immense satisfaction when the plants began to grow.

After the planting, the hectic pace slackened. We still had tools to fix, bins and sheds to erect, and we had to maintain constant surveillance over the crops so that we would be aware of attacks by pests, diseases, or predators in time to take action. No fences or protective fields surrounded our land, and we planted to within three meters of the forest’s edge.

One day as I walked along the perimeter strip checking the crops, I was startled to see a creature watching me from beneath the trees. It stood erect, a little shorter than I, and looked at me through two large green eyes. Its head seemed much larger in proportion to its body than a Human’s, and a turned-up nose with a single nostril in the center gave its “face” an appealingly cute appearance. A soft coating of reddish brown hair covered its body from head to foot. Except for the action of its three hands, which picked over its fur for flea-like parasites, it stood motionless on three round, flat feet. This was my first encounter with a live trup, and I would have felt quite scared if I hadn’t seen pictures of them during shipboard lectures.

For several minutes the trup and I stood still, watching each other. Then I slowly approached it, one hand outstretched in front of me. The trup let me get within one or two meters, then began to move off into the forest. It didn’t turn around but simply began to walk. As it moved, it turned its head slightly, and I could see that it had a second “face” in the back of its head! In fact, trups have three “faces” formed by their three eyes and noses. Their bodies have no “front” or “back”; they just scuttle in any direction they wish using their leading arm to push brush or branches out of the way. On impulse, I followed the trup into the forest. It appeared to show no apprehension, since it could keep one eye on me and still use the other two to guide itself.

Less than a kilometer from the spot where we entered the forest, we came upon a group of trups. They were engaged in a variety of activities as I approached. Some broke limbs of trees to build a makeshift lean-to; others approached with armloads of grass that would later be used for a crude thatch covering. Still others dug up the fat roots of native marjom bushes using crude stone axes and pointed sticks. A “nursemaid” trup presided over four tiny young trups, feeding them bits of marjom root from time to time and not allowing them to stray too far.

When the other trups saw me, they stopped their work and stood erect and motionless, watching me. I felt more than a little nervous at this point; though a trup stands shorter than a Human it weighs about the same. The group had ten adults in it, and they could have made short work of me if they wished. I worried about how they might react to an alien intruder their size and what they might do to protect their young. After a long moment in which no one moved, the largest of the adults walked toward me and appeared to ask the first trup a short question to which it gave an equally short reply. The trups spoke with strange chirping voices reminiscent of an Earthly songbird trying to talk. The sound they made put me somewhat at ease. After all, I illogically reasoned, how could any creature with such a voice be dangerous? The larger trup continued to look at me for a few minutes, but as I made no threatening gestures, he chirped a word to the others, and all resumed their tasks without paying further attention to me.

I watched the trups for the rest of the afternoon, my attention riveted to their every move. Although most people might not have found their mundane tasks interesting, they seemed to me the most exciting anthropological study ever! Their behavior patterns looked very complex, and, for the first time, I ceased to wonder how Zenon Benon had mistaken the trups for advanceable life forms in an early stage of development. I didn’t realize how late it was until it started growing dark. Jumping to my feet I ran most of the way home, knowing Satish would be worried about me. He seemed relieved though still angry when I returned, but I so bubbled with news of my discovery that his temper cooled. He agreed to go with me to see the trup colony the next day.

The trups remained in the nearby forest during the spring and summer, and I spent what little free time I had left after the farm chores observing them. I kept careful notes and filed a Volunteer Observer’s application with GAILE so I could get a camera to photograph them. During the summer, the trups continued to build lean-to huts and to store marjom root. They seemed to have little interest in the crops Satish and I were growing. Satish admonished me not to feed them lest they develop a taste for Earthly foods.

As autumn and harvest time approached, the trups stopped storing marjom root and began to eat what they dug on the spot. Their normally industrious behavior deteriorated and they spend most of their days wandering aimlessly about in the forest looking at things. I had little time to study them, as we were in the midst of harvest and working from before sunup to after sundown. Occasionally the younger trups would come to the forest’s edge to watch us work. We got the corn, wheat, and soybeans in without incident, but disaster nearly struck as we tried to harvest our largest crop-tomatoes. We planned to cryofreeze these for sale during the winter. The cooperative’s one tomato-picking machine, a cantankerous piece of equipment at best, broke down. The machine shop couldn’t deliver parts for several weeks and by that time the tomatoes would have spoiled.

Since other farmers had their own harvests to worry about, we could count on no help. With a hectare of tomatoes before us, Satish and I bravely began to salvage what we could by hand picking. As we worked, the trups watched us from the field’s edge. We picked tomatoes and put them into chemical drums which we had cut in half and sonically cleaned. The next day, when our turn came to use the truck, we planned to carry them to the freezing plant and empty them. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, one of the trups stepped into the field and began to pick tomatoes and place them in the barrels! This was no instinctive behavior; it had learned by watching us! The others soon joined in and together the four of us picked twice the tomatoes we had planned that day.

As we worked, Satish and I would occasionally clean and eat a tomato. After doing this several times, we offered some to the trups, in hope that, if fed, they might return to help us the next day. The trups appeared to like tomatoes and ate several as they worked, though they made no attempt to stuff themselves. The following day, four trups returned and continued with the harvesting. All of them worked -steadily, except for occasional pauses to eat tomatoes. The number of trups working increased gradually each day until we had a total of eight, and within a week we had all of the tomatoes harvested. The other members of the coop couldn’t believe it when they heard our crop was in, and they were incredulous when we told them how we did it.

Even now I’m not sure why the young trups began to imitate us that day. They had never eaten tomatoes before, and they hadn’t previously shown any desire to help me or any other Human beings. Regardless of the reasons, I knew the behavior we witnessed would ultimately revolutionize Yom’s farming industry. Suddenly the trup studies that I previously regarded as a hobby had gained considerable economic value.

The winter months passed quietly during Yom’s early years. We had little to do but repair and service the equipment we used during the growing season, attend Grange meetings, and fix up the house with little personal touches to make it seem like home. Every day I managed to steal a few hours to bundle up in my winter clothes and go out to observe the trup colony. Winter created a difficult time for the trups. They spent most of it huddled together in their huts, living off the roots they stored during the summer months. They had no fire to keep them warm, and their grass and twig shelters made poor defenses against the damp cold and winter winds. The first winter, two older adults died, and the other trups carried their bodies into the forest and buried them in shallow graves they scratched in the frozen soil with sharpened stones. Watching their pathetic labors brought tears to my eyes, for it appeared as great a tragedy as death in any Human family.

During this time I spent many hours musing about how we could encourage the trup colony to stay near our farm. They had dug up most of the marjom root in the area and I suspected that they would move to a new place in the spring. I finally hit upon an idea, perhaps we could encourage the trups to stay by teaching them to eat our crops: carrots, turnips, or potatoes. We could also build them little houses of titanalum sheet, or even wood, which would keep them warmer and drier than their thatch-covered huts. When I told Satish, he seemed very enthusiastic about the idea and began to work on a design for the trup house at once. Nobody could get titanalum sheet or any other essential building material that winter unless they had ordered it months before. We did have a universal w-field cutter able to cut literally any substance with high precision, and we had an abundance of wood in the large trees that surrounded our farm. Using natural materials, Satish fashioned a three by five-meter hut at the edge of the forest near the trups’ camp. Meanwhile, I obtained a detailed chemical and nutritional analysis of marjom root and began to compare it with crops from Earth in an attempt to formulate a balanced trup diet.

Convincing the trups to live in their new home took considerably more effort than its construction. Trups have rigid habits and strong instincts, so they weren’t about to forsake their painstakingly constructed huts or their piles of marjom root for some unorthodox scheme. Though they will imitate many actions, in this case we could offer no clear example for them to follow. We tried a variety of lures including digging marjom root out of the frozen ground and placing it in the shed. Nothing worked until one very cold night when Satish went to the trup camp carrying a small, portable space heater. The trups came out of their huts to crowd around the warmth, and when they all had gathered about him, Satish slowly walked to the new shelter. The trups followed him all the way there and stayed clustered inside with the heater even after he left them. Satish and I then returned to the trup camp, loaded our antigrav sled with marjom root and carried it back to the shelter. We mixed this food with carefully selected proportions of many root vegetables: carrots, potatoes, sun chokes, turnips, and radishes. With warm shelter and a supply of food, the trups no longer desired to return to their huts. Throughout the winter, we gradually thinned all the marjom root out of their food mixture as the trups became used to the imported vegetables.

Since that day, the trup colony has remained a permanent part of our farm and now numbers about 40 individuals. Although we have built them modern houses with titanalum-sandwich walls, concrete floors, radiant heating, and windows, we have earned this modest investment back a hundredfold by the work the trups have done for us. The year after their arrival, we expanded the vegetable hectarage under cultivation and began an apple orchard. Trups have been helpful not only in picking, but in sorting, weeding, and cultivating these labor-intensive crops as well. Trups have also reduced our need for expensive farm machinery by harvesting our fruits and vegetables by hand. During the first decade that the trups lived with us I learned much about their dietary, mating, and territorial habits, as well as some basic trup medicine. Though I can’t really speak their language I learned to understand it very well. We have developed a sort of pidgin-trup dialect that allows us to communicate with them very effectively.

When our fellow farmers saw the trups at work, they too wanted to use them. I dispensed a lot of free advice about trups in exchange for a good deal of help with our horticultural problems. While I was pregnant, Satish and the trups took over a lot of the physical labor that I wasn’t able to do so production continued to rise. In our fifth year, an infestation of macaws, small reptile-like flying creatures, threatened to decimate all crops. Satish and I fashioned great broom-like flyswatters. With these in hand, the trups guarded the fields night and day to keep the macaws away.

After ten years of living and working with the trups I decided that my knowledge of these amazing animals might be valuable to fellow pioneers. Pregnant with my last child and with lots of time on my hands, I began to write my first book about trups. Though it is a serious work, filled with many well-documented, vital facts, in a lighthearted moment I gave it a rather flippant title, Raising Trups for Fun and Profit. The book became more popular than I had ever imagined. Today I am preparing the sixth edition with added emphasis on new medical discoveries and the use of trups in industrial as well as farming economies.

The use of trups as workers raised many sticky legal and ethical problems for Yom’s pioneers. Our claim to the planet, authorized by GAIL, prohibits mistreatment of trups. As their use became widespread Yomites had to devise laws for their protection. Though trups may be kept by people they may not be owned in a legal sense, nor may they be restrained from leaving when they wish. In practice, trups tend to remain in the same place when given proper care. We regard our forty trups almost as family members, and we have given each of them names to which they answer. Less than ten percent of all the trups we have kept ever wandered off.

Some pioneers make a business of rounding up trups for use by others, but they cannot legally be “sold,” nor can their “keepers” legally manacle or incarcerate them. Physical or mental abuse of trups threatens the rights of the entire Human population. Yom law dispenses harsh judgments for mistreatment of trups, including stiff fines, loss of the privilege of keeping trups, and ultimately deportation. My years on the farm watching our children and our enterprise grow to maturity seemed the happiest of my life. During that time we saw our planet grow too and felt great satisfaction at having been part of the tremendous venture that took a primitive world and made it a good place to live. Yet by the time I reached 54, my children had grown into adults or teenagers with activities and interests of their own. The farm had grown as large as we wanted it to, and it ran so smoothly that the challenges it offered in the early years had disappeared.

My scholarly work with the trups revived my interest in history and anthropology again. Because of my education in the humanities and because I took an active interest in my children’s education, I worked as a teacher in our regional cooperative school. At the school, I met and became close friends with Mary Roberts, a teacher of chemistry and general science. At that time, my youngest and her eldest children were reaching maturity, and we thought they and the generations that followed them should be able to continue their educations beyond the basics offered by the current system.

Neither of us pursued this idea until we met Harold Bartholome, a Doctor of Physical Science, at a teaching workshop in Praetolia. He also wished for a university on Yom but didn’t feel up to the task of starting one alone. The three of us formed, in Harry’s words, “a critical mass.” We began our campaign to continue the tradition of higher education on Yom. None of us knew exactly how to begin to found a university. On Earth such institutions had existed for centuries, having amassed huge pools of capital which supported them in perpetuity. We found numerous books in the planetary computer library on Earth’s history of education, but most of these dreary things gave little practical advice on how universities actually begin.

After mulling the problem over, we decided we needed three ingredients: students, teachers, and a place to teach them. Getting the three together at once became a “chicken-or-the egg” type question. Without teachers we couldn’t attract students, and without both we certainly couldn’t afford a campus. We decided to go after the faculty first and began by contacting every person-we-could find who possessed a doctoral degree from a university on Earth. We had concocted a list of specialties for which we needed faculty members, and our plan consisted of trying to obtain teaching commitments from one or two qualified people in each field. These people were to remain in their current jobs until the college opened, then assume their teaching duties as we needed them.

While looking for faculty, we filed a special land claim for a university campus of 150 hectares near Praetolia. We chose this site because it would enable the university to avail itself of Praetolia’s facilities, such as housing, stores, and services. It would also provide us with a pool of part-time students whose tuitions would provide much needed revenue. We asked for a five-year extension of our claim’s development provisions because we didn’t know how long it might take to get our project off the ground. Though this required a vote of the Council of Governors, we secured approval without much debate.

After claiming the land and getting commitments for faculty, we began to solicit both students and money. Neither seemed plentiful in Yom’s thirty-second year. Most young people preferred to become independent, claim land of their own, and begin their careers. High school graduates could obtain specialized education in a variety of fields from computer programming and electrokinetics to farming. Few desired to pursue several more years of intensive study to find themselves equipped with no specific skill, trade, or profession. Many highly intelligent young people openly questioned the purpose of studying literature, history, art, anthropology, music, or philosophy. Such things seemed irrelevant in a world so new and so full of need. We persisted in our efforts to attract students precisely because no one seemed interested. We all felt it would be terrible for Yom if all its people lost contact with its past, if they forgot how to appreciate the art and philosophy developed during 6,000 years of civilization. Perhaps reading Homer will never butter anyone’s bread or build anyone’s levicar, but it will uplift the souls of those people who read and appreciate works like Homer’s. Without a living, continuing appreciation of Human culture among a significant percentage of the population, our links to Human heritage will soon rust and break despite the fact that all the works of art, literature, and music lie at our fingertips in computer files.

Soliciting money for the University discouraged us even more than soliciting students. Few people on Yom, even wealthy people, had capital to spare in the early years. Most of those we approached questioned the value of the University, calling it an obsolete institution in an age when computers allow instant access to all information. Many told us that we should teach only “practical” subjects like engineering, law and chemistry. Still, we managed to obtain a few credits here and there for our endowment fund. We also managed to secure loans against our future tuition receipts. Our most important contribution came from a building fabricator, John Weiskoff, who donated a small office building containing six classrooms and a dozen tiny offices.

Despite these obstacles, the first classes commenced five years from the date that Harold, Mary, and I first conceived the project. It had been a harrowing five years, often separating me from my family, and had taken me over most of Yom’s inhabited areas. Had my family not wholeheartedly supported my efforts and cheerfully picked up my workload on the farm, I would have abandoned the project.

The first University of Praetolia curriculum covered eight major subjects taught through six departments: Art and Human Literature, Philosophy, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and History and Anthropology. The first year, each had only one faculty member and a handful of students, but we attempted to set standards as high as those of any university on Earth in the hope that the value of what we did would manifest itself in the quality of our graduates. Each department justified its own budgets in proportion to the number of students it had. Though we encouraged professors to do research and write, we never coerced them to do so, and all funding in support of research had to be solicited by the professors themselves.

The early years tested the dedication of the entire faculty, but the quality of the service we offered proved itself, and our student body grew. As our graduates passed on to other careers, they remembered and appreciated the value of their experience with us. Contributions, both small and substantial, began to flow in. During most of its existence, the University walked one short step ahead of the bill collectors. We channeled any spare money we had into more classrooms, laboratories, and dorms. The departments of biology, chemistry, and physics secured important research contracts from local industry, and Harry Bartholome founded a department of Astronomy and Astrophysics to augment the research undertaken by the GAILE space station.

Today, the hungry years have passed. Our University has established itself as a major and permanent educational and research organization on Yom. My History and Anthropology department, now with seven full-time professors and more than sixty students, is growing by 12 percent each year. We can’t do much original research in the field of anthropology on Yom since the Human society here is just a small transplanted version of 24th century Earth society. Largely because of my role as department chairman, however, study of trups fell to the Anthropology department and became an important source of support. Grants from the Yom Farm Bureau and the Manufacturing Institute of Yom paid for important research into the nature of trups. I am particularly pleased by our interdisciplinary study program which combines sociological, biological, and veterinary studies of these fascinating and important animals.

Today I have more time to devote to my own research, partly because I need not spend so much time out hustling students and funds, and partly because my children, now fully grown, live lives of their own. I spend weekends with my husband, who remains on the farm, and I consider that I enjoy the best of both worlds-the academic and the practical. I look forward to the next twenty years and hope to help the University grow. I enjoy working with my students as a teacher, counselor, and director of their research projects. The University now maintains a good balance between teaching and research. I hope to maintain this balance so we can serve our planet most effectively. The University must remain a lean, efficient organization, and as it grows I shall strive to prevent it from becoming the sort of bloated bureaucracy that universities became on Earth.

No Human being can hope to influence society much after her life has ended. As Yom grows and changes from a frontier society to a mature one, the values and ethics of its people will change. I can only hope to impress my values upon the generation that succeeds me and hope these values will withstand their scrutiny and be passed on by them. This personal goal is, in a sense, the goal of everyone on Yom. We build not just for ourselves today, but to create a future world better than the one from which we came.