An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – Finding Gold in Small Veins


PROLOGUE: When you are working with original source material the veins of gold may be hard to see from time to time. This week’s entry is about the relatively pedestrian pursuits of an American worker in a foreign land on a brief leave from the oil fields. Judging from the last entry he may have had all of the excitement he could enjoy and may have needed a few days off. Our only illustration this week is a picture of a piece quartz with a little gold running through it which reinforces our original point. Bill sent the sample to the School of Mines just as he left his diary for me. I think I came out ahead and hope you enjoy my sharing his story with you.

The are various types of tales of travel. There is the travel of the immigrant who reaches a destination and builds a new life there. The stories of Maurice Coffey and John Young in post Civil War America that are related here may exemplify this type of journey. There are commercial expeditions that have an element of adventure to them as the traveller finds himself in unfamiliar and uncertain territory. The trip to China by Johnny Young in the early days of the twentieth century yet to be related here – is a tale of this sort. There is travel that was meant to complete a liberal education – more tour than adventure although in a time where travel was not accomplished by suspended animation, as it is today – there was certainly something of substance in the coming and going. The Grand Tour of Margaret Edythe Young that is the connecting thread of this blog gives us a glimpse of this.

Finally, we have the story of Bill Leach who travels to Venezuela and all of the strangeness of a foreign culture still half-submerged in a jungle but who did so for the purpose of work. He comes into contact with the native people, with the Hispanic elements that had superimposed themselves on the people and the environment for some four hundred years, with the environment itself that is still untamed after those four centuries but while he is in Venezuela he is not of Venezuela. He is surrounded by his fellow expatriates and the Standard Oil Villages that he lives in are as American – if probably a little tidier – than the towns he has lived in back home.

While there are stories of rebellion, oil well blowouts and men driven to self-destruction by the terror of having been very nearly crushed by a boa constrictor there are also stories of the gang going on holiday to the cities and doing the same things they would have done in Schenectady or Socorro. We sincerely doubt that a life where each page turned reveals some new hazard or accomplishment exists outside of fiction or political biography and while this entry proves our point it is none the less worthwhile  as a picture of the pedestrian events that make up the course of everyday life. Enjoy the rest, take comfort in the fact that your grandfather and great-grandfather was not Frank Buck and that you have no obligation – and should feel no compulsion – to be like him either.

The specimen is identified as coming from the Tumeremo Mine, Bolivar area, Venezuela. The specimen measures: 3.5 x 3 x 1.5 cm. Many thanks to Virgil W. Lueth, Ph.D., New Mexico Tech for the picture

The specimen is identified as coming from the Tumeremo Mine, Bolivar area, Venezuela. The specimen measures: 3.5 x 3 x 1.5 cm. Many thanks to Virgil W. Lueth, Ph.D., New Mexico Tech for the picture

Here it is the 2nd of July and nothing has happened to comment on. Today Harry Himlic, myself and a number of the follows are going to spend the holidays in Caripito.  We are planning to take the Caripiteno from the Boca then stop at Pedernales where we expect to pick some more who are planning to spend the holidays at Caripito. Left the camp at 9 o’clock by auto and then proceeded to the Port of Tabasca where we will take a company launch and proceed to the Boca.
Here we will get aboard the Caripiteno and will head for Pedernales via the Rio Manamo.  Left the Boca at 2 p.m. and got a rather early start.  Rode all day and arrived in Pedernales about 10 p.m. where everyone proceeded to have a good time.  Finally left Pedernales about midnight and arrived at the wharf at Caripito about 8:30 a.m. tired but still looking forward to a good time.
To make a long story short had a pretty good time in Caripito in the way of a dance, show, and a friendly meeting.  Started back for the camp on the 5th, went back to Pedernales and thence back to Temblador.  Had a good trip but must admit that I came back one tired hombre.  Who wouldn’t with such little rest as I had.  Sleeping accommodations were very limited and I had to sleep on a bench. Am now rested and will plan on looking forward to a return trip around the Xmas holidays – and then home,

Rains are coming down oftener and heavier.  The water at the Port of Tabasca is getting higher and higher each day, in fact practically all of our material is under water at that place.  We cannot get, by auto, within 5 miles of where we ordinarily go – and water is still coming up. The Orinoco River is coming up more and more each day and at present is about 37 to 40 feet above the level when I was there in June; it is still rising and can be expected to flood out Ciudad Bolivar.

August 16 and 17, at night, delivered us plenty of rain and everything is a mess in all directions.  Some parts of the road are under water; the savannahs are water-logged, and one is only safe from being stuck only by sticking to the established roads. Tonight the 17th lightning hit a power line and cut off all of the electricity at the new camp.

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