Buzzards:

My sister, Cris: “Gawd Steve, I am in hysterics...I remember that leg...I was fascinated by it....don't forget the buzzard claw that you hung from the fan which mesmerized me......it would move with the breeze and I had fears of it coming down and latching on to me.”

Cris, “That claw was from a huge hawk that I shot out of a tree out on the Tia Juana golf course. It took 5 shots from the pellet gun.”

Speaking of buzzards, there were always buzzards because there was always something dead and rotting down there. If it wasn't road kill out on the main highway which never, never was picked up, but instead was picked clean by the buzzards.

On our trips to and from Lagunillas I used to watch the roadside cattle corpses slowly but surely be picked clean and then the hide which was all that was left on the skeleton would shrink and in about a month or so there would only be the skeleton remaining.

During the annual dry season the local free range, tick infested, starving cattle would drop dead out behind the camp and the buzzards were constantly feeding -- thank God we had buzzards.

Anyway, Bill and I used to go out into the school playground with newspaper at noontime and we would lie down with the paper over our heads to cut out the sun glare and with a small hole poked through the paper watch the buzzards slowly but surely circle around us. Of course there was no rotten corpse to verify what they saw, but they were curious enough to come into pellet gun range and we would do our best to knock down any that came low enough into range for a shot. They would put the brakes on and frantically beat their wings to get out of range. We bored of that pretty quickly.

Grasshoppers:

There were the red and green HUMONGOUS grasshoppers in the palm trees and also the black and orange striped young ones. The large ones were about five inches long and when they flew they made a loud whirring sound and resembled some sort of bird. We had them in the palm trees adjacent to our house in Tia Juana. My brother and I tied fire crackers to the big ones and threw them into the air and as they fluttered off they would be blasted apart.

Golf:

Speaking of golf and I invite the old-timers to chime in. There was a golf course south of the La Salina camp which was kind of barren. This is in the early '40s. The club really amounted to a shack where you could get a Polar and that's about it. You played on a course that had oil wells whose pumping units were connected by steel rods that ran from one well to another and which drove the pumping units -- remember. And then before the Tia Juana golf course there was the Lagunillas Creole course. My parents played golf at both courses. The Lagunillas course lacked one thing comment to all modern golf courses -- grass. The greens were of oiled sand and after you played the "green" you walked around the green dragging a board with a rope to smooth the sand and then you played on. The club house also was a shack and it had and ice cooler with Polar. The course had obstacles -- goats and snakes.

The goats ate everything that they could reach and it is true they ate the paper off tin cans. My parents would play religiously and my brother and I would tag along -- caddies.

Well, later--Tia Juana built nine holes and then ten holes and my brother and I used to drive out into the course at night in my Dad's jeep after rains and do spins and whatever with the jeep in the mud. Later, Dad received a letter from the camp boss, Bill Brown I believe, informing him that he had to do something about his boys.

Anyway, when Tia Juana built the 9 holes I learned something from the Venezuelan kids who use to caddie for the men. A new word that was similar to something I knew, “sansabiche”, because that is what they would direct at us when we had a run in with them – not infrequent.

And that was golf.

Fireworks:

I remember “triki-trakis” These were composed of a material which resembled a gob of snot. They could be purchased in sheets of paper for a “locha” (12½ centavos) and they were glued to the paper -- about ½ inch in diameter. You could activate them by rubbing them vigorously across your jeans or any rough surface and then throw them and the would sputter and crackle with sparks and smoke. Well, we had a tap dancing class in Tia Juana (you know where I am going) and I did not tap dance because it was for sissies. The class used to dance on the stage at the Tia Juana Staff School. I used to watch and when the mood stuck me I would peal off half dozen of the TTs and toss them out on the stage and as the “whimps” danced their routines they could hit the TTs with their steel taps and then the dance would pickup in tempo which did not coincide with the music

Bats & Such:

Using tennis rackets to swat butterflies brings other applications of the racket to mind. We used to have bats in the attic of one of our houses in Tia Juana and in the evening the things would drop out of a slit near the front steps on their way to hunt.

One time we had a bat in the house and Mom said that was it. I think it appeared in my sister's room. Anyway, I got the tennis racket and stood on the railing and swatted each bat as it dropped out. The end of the bats.

Then my brother and I and a few of our friends used to take rides in back in the monte behind the camp in the evenings -- just passing time and there used to be a fly catcher bird that we called a one-eyed-bat that sat on the edge of the road and you could catch its eye in the headlights of the jeep as you approached it. The bird would fly up just as you got on top of it and low and behold another form of entertainment was developed where first we tried to hit the things by sticking our legs out of the side of the jeep as be bore down on the bird and tried to hit it with our shoes as it lifted off, but that was too difficult and there was some risk to leg damage and that brings us back to the tennis racket which we used
with great success.

They Stole My Bike:

Reminds me that my brother, Bill, had received a brand new English racing bike for his birthday and he came home from a ride and instead of putting it away in the maid's room left it parked in the driveway. Not more than 15 minutes went by and the bike disappeared with the whole family in the house. Dad and he got in the jeep and drove about the camp looking for it, but it vanished.

On one of our vacations when we lived in one of the two houses in Tia Juana adjacent to the dike, thieves crawled under the fence at a drainage ditch near the house and broke into the maid's room and stole many of my father's precious tools. He was extremely angry as over the years, he had helped himself to them from Creole -- white collar crime. I still have tools with Creole etched on them. That's another story.

The next vacation Dad hammered 2/4's across all the doors and the windows to the maid's room before we went on vacation. That deterred any further thefts of his stolen tools.

Earthquake & Other Happenings:

I remember one hail storm, the earthquake and the guy who would drop by the club selling shrunken heads, bows-'n-arrows and blowguns with poison-tipped darts.

One of the walls in our house cracked from the earthquake. Dad was in the shower when it struck and it knocked him off his feet. He said he was lathered with soap and consequently spun around on the bathroom floor. He was prone to exaggerate a bit at times.

What about water spouts that would come into camp and blow things around?

Then there were the blowouts and the oil would be carried over the camp by the winds and you, clothes, cars and anything left outside would be covered with black spots.

Once oil intruded into the intakes of the fresh water wells in Tia Juana and the water from the taps in the house was loaded with black oil. It took quite a while for the oil to be flushed from the lines. I remember the black oil stains left in the bathroom sinks in the morning if the faucet dripped over night.

We lived in Tia Juana at the time of the occurrences.

4-Way Stop:

During Perez Jimenez's rule as dictator, the use of car horns was banned throughout Venezuela. The reason why, well, one of the Dictators cronies, a General, had purchased a freighter load of rubber-bulbed “ugah” horns from Italy and he wanted to sell them at a premium. So the government passed the no car-horn regulation.

I remember Dad had his “Ugah” horn attached to left-hand mirror of our jeep and he would squeeze the rubber horn when he wanted to pass, etc. I loved the old “Ugah” horn.

We used to pound the side of the jeep and I recall as people pounded the sides and tops of their cars.

Kind of surreal when you think of it now.

DDT:
I recall in the late '40s and early '50s going to the movies in Tia Juana and carrying your personal pump flit gun to fend off the mosquitoes and that was what almost everyone did - adults and children. The flit guns were loaded with DDT.

During the rainy season, you could hear the flit guns going throughout the movies. I was one of those who ran behind the "DDT" foggers and I know it was DDT because my father knew it was DDT and he would advise us to stay out of the fog. So much for his advice.

I also recall seeing the numbers on the native shacks which had been sprayed. The numbers were preceded with DDT.

Hallacas:

Hallacas were considered a delicacy in our house. Each Christmas season Mom and Dad would find a local woman who had a good reputation of preparing “safe-to-eat” local foods and who would prepare the most mouth-watering hallcas.

It was kind of a ceremony at the dinner table to place a steaming hallaca on your dinner plate, cut the string and then unwrap the banana leaves revealing the little masa filled treat. Oh, were they just mouth watering. Dad would make a ceremony of opening the banana leaves and placing his fists on the table while holding his knife and fork, say YUUUUUMMMMM!!!!

Mom used to fix any leftovers with fried eggs on top and I can visualize them as I write this and somehow the smell of the boiled banna leaves wafts gently through the room and I think I hear Mom call, “Everyone come to the table now,...dinner's ready!”...

 

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