An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – Routine and Change


Going to Venezuela was not Bill’s first job after graduating from the New Mexico School of Mines in 1935. That summer he started out by prospecting in the Durango – Silverton area of Colorado, living rough in the hills and finding nothing. The Depression was still at full throttle and the more New Deal programs that sought to solve it the worse it would become but he did spend some time with the CCC working on projects in New Mexico and picking up what work he could. His brother, Steven, who had graduated from the School of Mines as well worked for the New Mexico Highway Department after his first job in a mine ended by climbing out an emergency exit after the mine began to flood and would eventually go to work for Humble Oil. One of Bill’s classmates, George Wiegand, went go to work for Standard Oil signing on for a better paying job by going to Venezuela and Bill would follow the dollars as well.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Class of 1935 - Leach is bottom row far right and Wiegand is second row far left.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Class of 1935 – Leach is bottom row far right and Wiegand is second row far left.

A professor once warned us that not everything we wrote would be deathless prose. This is especially true most of the young, a large number of the middle-aged and a fair sampling of the elderly. This episode proves that Bill had a long way to go but we continue to reproduce his words faithfully as a source document. This episode is about his time at the Standard Oil Village at Caripito and although no one could recognize the place from this account and his photographs today they do capture a moment in time.

One of two ways to get there. La savanah de Cachipo - Pan American airport for Caripito

One of two ways to get there. La savannah de Cachipo – Pan American airport for Caripito

Here it is March 6 th. and I have been gone since January 2nd, and what have I done to make myself useful!  Time really does fly by without one thinking of just where it goes and what one has done; practically all the days are the same consequently one does not pay any attention to the days going by. Routine work, if one cares to call it that, for all one does is to get up about 6 in the morning,  go to breakfast before 7, then to work until 11:30. After dinner one takes the noon hour siesta until 1:00 at which time we start in to work; the work continues until 4:00 if one has the desire to feel towards working. After 4:00 a good share of the fellows meander to the club for a drink or to the bowling alleys to work up an appetite for supper or a sweat for a shower. Then comes supper from 6:00 to 7:30. After supper the fellows meander to the clubhouse to read the latest papers or magazines.

The main highway - the river - with the village in the background

The main highway – the river – with the village in the background

Oftentimes I go up to the bowling alleys where I dash off a few games to keep fit for it really pays for one to keep fit in this type of country. Only a few nights ago I rolled a 255 game bunched with 192, 184 and 158.
On Sundays 1 usually have breakfast about 8:30 and then take walk around the golf course.  Sunday is a day for throwing the bull and sometimes the bull flies thick and fast — in this case one usually takes it all in with  a grain of salt, depending, on the source of the bull.  In the afternoon one usually goes to the club for a drink, or to watch the swimmers, or to watch the softball game. I.. the evening about everyone goes to the show for there is no other place to go.

Looking toward the 8th green at the golf course.

Looking toward the 8th green at the golf course.

On other evenings I spend my time studying either Spanish or Russian, the latter I found in. the club library. Believe you me I find that the Russian language in not so easy to grasp. Other times I go sit around the room musing aud trying to reason why I ever came down here into this country. This is certainly the place to really study yourself out and try to figure for the future and in my case the future is so darn far ahead that I hate to even think of it.

The "extranjeros" shopping by daylight

The “extranjeros” shopping by daylight

At times I can go down to the town of Caripito, but what is there to see or smell except the vile and putrid smells of the native villagers and they are an awfully foul smelly lot. It is funny to take a stroll down to the village at night and to smile inwardly at the way the native girls try to  make  any of the new comers, “extranjeros” as they refer to them. It is too darn unwise to go down the town and mix with the natives for there is no telling just what one can pick up in the way of disease and it is a known fact that fully 90 percent of the people in any of these villages have about any form of disease known and the worst part of it is that they are contagious.  After one is initiated into his or her first trip to this or any other village one usually feels like kicking ones self for making an ass of ones self — and if one makes the trip a second time he or she ought to get a good kick in the most sensitive spot, especially where it hurts the most.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road And be a friend to man

Let me live in a house by the side of the road And be a friend to man

Received letters from Steve, Mary, Tillie, Arline and I replied promptly for I want to hear from them again. Letters surely are a God send for the imbeciles who have the nerve to plant themselves here for three years.

Andy Wiegand arrived here from Pedernales on Monday, March 15th. and it sure did do me good to see him a good-sized chinfest about things in general.

Washday at Rio Caripi

Washday at Rio Caripi

Yesterday, March 16th. I found that I was scheduled to go to Temblador  which is about 200 kilometers south of here, in the “Savannah” country and which I understand is similar to West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. However I’ll soon find out in short, order for I am to leave on Saturday 20th. I hope that the place will come up to expectations but I have my doubts, One consolation is that I’ll go there with the idea in mind that I started with the field – by that I mean I’ll be considered as being brought up with the field

Sunset looking west from Caripito

Sunset looking west from Caripito

Caripito now has around 50,000 inhabitants. It is the third largest city in the state of Monagas, Venezuela and hosts both the Universidad Nacional Abierta and Instituto Universitario Tecnológico de Caripito.

 

 

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