Dad had been transferred back to Tia Juana from Lagunillas toward the end of his career with Creole. My brother, Bill, had returned after serving three years in the Army.

After he mustered out of the Army, he stopped by and visited me at my school in Milledgeville, Georgia bringing with him a Sauer 16 gauge double barreled shotgun and a .22 Survival Rifle which he left with me before he left to return home to Tia Juana. The school let him stay at the school for several days and he and I went hunting down in the swamps below the school. It was like the old days and then he left on his way home. I had not seen him for the three years. He had changed a bit -- lean and tough.

I packed the guns in my trunk along with my uniforms and put them into storage as I prepared to return home. I was about 17 years old then. Caught a plane in Macon, Georgia to Miami and then a VIASA 707 to Maracaibo. Things had really changed -- a trip that used to take the better part of a day now took two hours. I missed the KLM flights, the free booze, the stop-over at the various islands and the cute stewardesses.

Dad had our famous jeep which was like the Duracell Bunny -- it kept running -- year after year. It had been rebuilt many times and sported a coat of red and blue paint. Bill had completely overhauled it by the time I arrived at home. We had a great time driving out into the jungles -- day or night -- didn't matter to us.

One day, we decided to drive up to Mérida. It was a long trip and we looked forward to it. So off we went, up to Pico Aguila where I took pictures of us. He in his Army fatigue jacket and me in a green cabreta leather jacket. We were stopped at several quebradas, had to drive and walk trough cow dip and paid off the Guardia National. As we walked out of the restaurant at the top of the pass it struck us that it was all down-hill from there for miles and miles. We decided that we would coast the entire way and off we went. Not a sound out of the engine -- just the whisper of the tires as we swooshed down the mountain, around the hairpin curves and then slowly through the small mountain villages and in some instances pushing the jeep past the gas stations with the old pumps that had the glass jars which showed how much gas you purchased and the Andian natives would come out to see the two strange gringos go by pushing the jeep.

The memory is etched in my mind -- 24 MILES!!! That's how far we coasted down from Pico Aguila and it was the wildest ride!!

My memory of the return trip is vague except that as we came out of the high country approaching the lake we passed through an area below Campo Carabobo with sugar cane fields and dirty little villages on each side of the road. It must have been Easter or some such event as I remember the Aloe plants outside of the huts with empty white eggs stuck on the tips of the thorns which were the only decoration. It was toward evening and the mosquitoes were so thick that I could put my hand outside the side of the jeep and fill my palm with mosquitoes. Bill occasionally ran the windshield wipers to clear the insects off the glass. The natives lived in these conditions. They would create small smoke fires in their huts and occasionally piss on them to create a smoke that drove off the swarming insects. You could smell the stench of burned ammonia from the urine as the smoke hung low over the villages and the road.

Jesus, how fortunate we were!!!!!

 

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