PROLOGUE: In my travels chasing after the big iron boats I have celebrated Christmas at a Waffle House in the Carolinas, on board an Italian tanker lightering crude oil off Sabine Pass and with an old classmate, his bride, their infant and a Chilean naval officer at a Chinese restaurant in Baltimore. Birthdays have been spent at a Hooters in Savannah, on an asphalt tanker in the Great Lakes and on chemical tankers in Texas City. I mention only the occasions that come readily to mind – there have been dozens of others including family occasions of every description. It was something I learned from my father that came with the territory – the old joke about HESS OIL used to be that the name was an acronym for holidays, evenings, Saturdays and Sundays – and although you counted it a victory when you were home for anything the other events you wrote off as part of making a living.
Not every missed occasion was a time for gloom and doom and quite often the people you are with – who may well be far from home also – join in making the time good fun for all. I get this impression from Bill Leach’s account of what must have been his 31st birthday. There may not have been cake and party hats, there probably weren’t any presents – these things are of dwindling importance as the years go by – but there was comradeship and well-wishing from friends happy to mark the day. Enjoy his birthday – I am sure he did!
April 3rd and here it is my birthday again. Mr. and Mrs. Gray, Mr. and Mrs. Pinkerton, Don Bancroft, George Johnson, C. Mireau, and myself rode to the Port of Tabasca from where we took the motor launch and rode down the Rio Uracoa and thence toward the Rio Manamo. Most of the ride found us under a consistent light shower and after riding downstream for a number of miles we decided to return. After finding a decent place to stop the launch we partook in some of the groceries that we brought along with us. Had a great time feeding the scraps of our meal to the fish that abound by the thousands. Some of them may have been the “Caripi” which is the flesh-eating type but no one had a piece of his or her hand chewed at.
After finishing the meal we proceeded up the rio and then branched off into one of the canos and with our trusty guns started to take pot shots at the alligators and birds that came in our path. By this time the skies had cleared considerably and the rest of the day was fine. I acquired a mighty fine sunburn since I did not wear any hat. The banks of the canos were covered with sunning alligators, and the trees and the savannahs were decked with monkeys and birds respectively.
Peon huts were spread here and there along the shores of the canos and the naked kids were romping around and not paying much attention to the fool Americanos who were riding in the boat. The guns we brought along were constantly used at the alligators and it was fun to see them waddle into the waters after a shot had struck home or close to home.
On the long grassy savannahs were thousands upon thousands of galzas, flamingoes, guacharacas, and a variety of kingfishers, countless of other birds, horses, cattle, goats and hogs. It reminded me of the usual scene around Times Square when some important event comes along.
After riding some distance upstream we returned to the wharf at the loading platform and proceeded to have our native coffee. We were then invited to visit the Frank Seamans a Norwegian Tanker which had come for a load of oil for Aruba. Had a bottle of Amsterdam beer which tasted mighty fine after the long boat ride. After visiting a short while we decided to return to Temblador for we had a long ride before us.
The week of April 13 through 19 was what one in this country would call a “PAN GRANDE” or a “JUAN BIMBA”, in other words it was a snap as far as work is concerned. We had holidays on the 14, 15, and the 19th. Did plenty of riding around just to get away from the camp; rode over the vast savannahs down to the old port, to the new camp, and in the general direction of EL SALTO. Some of the fellows went southward to the Orinoco, across the river to San Felice and thence to the Caroni Falls. I did not plan on taking the trip until I received my camera and there is no telling just when it will arrive.