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Ranch of the French Repression, meteorites, X-files, The Thing? + other border-X-ings into no-man's land


[9 Feb 2021—flashing back to February 1997 in AZ + across the border into northern Mexico, picking up from from Jan 1997.]

February 4, 1997 — Tucson (Dragoon)

The last day in Globe was the hardest. Access was better going in Dripping Springs road down by Winkelman. The previous day Chuck was down there and this rancher told us we wouldn't be able to get in. But we went to the Government Springs ranch anyway. This guy Keith manages the ranch. What a character. Didn't look like he had shaved, bathed or performed any grooming or toilet in months, if not years. He had these dogs that he had locked in his van. When we pulled up he was brandishing a 22. After a few minutes I realized he was off his rocker but Chuck was buying everything he said. The important thing was that he let us through the gate. Chuck offered to employ him, luckily I split off to do a long walk-in that everybody was doubting I could do. The night before Chuck called Jim and they were discussing getting horses and stuff, even though I told them I could get back in there. And when we told this Keith guy what I was up to he asked me if I was packing a gun. "For what?" —I asked.
     "For Cougars. For pigs." 
     I had to laugh at him. He was also telling me that I wouldn't be able to find my way around and that there were lots of catclaw. Finally I politely told him that I'd be OK, that I could manage (without a gun even!)
     Chuck dropped me off and I worked around this old steep and rocky drill road for about 8 or 10 miles, collecting samples as I went. Then I looped back trying to take advantage of topography. I thought I would be able to follow this drainage back but it was so overgrown and chocked with boulders it was unbearable. So I went up on this ridge which wasn't much better. It was made worth it by coming into little hidden valleys that seemed like humans had never set foot in. It was very rugged and beautiful. But the going was hard, jumping boulders, crashing through thick brush. I was thinking of all the possibilities there was for hurting myself and if I did what I would do. It's not like anybody would find me. I ended up in this other canyon which started out nice and easy. Just like in the Devil's Canyon area, there was running water everywhere and dammed up ponds for cattle. I followed this one drainage that took me by sample sites. It got narrower and narrower and was soon lined with steep polished rock. At some points I had to wade through the water, because the canyon walls rose straight up out of the water. I climbed down some pretty dicey moves. Then I got to a drop-off of about a hundred feet and there was no way down. I could see the drill road I was trying to meet up with. It was getting to be past four. I had to climb back up the sides of the canyon until I could make my way along the sides and then back in. Towards the opening of the canyon I saw a family of about 20 Javelinas, grunting with their hair standing on end. They smelled. Anyways, we finished that map and are done for now in the Superior area.
     Saturday we did 6 or 8 loads of laundry and I had the Trooper checked out. Sunday we went climbing at the Ridgeline. It was a beautiful sunny day. When we got there it was a little cold and there was snow on the ground. It was magnificent. The moment was ruined when we got there and there were already people there. And then more came and we could hear dogs barking for more to come. It became a zoo. We climbed two 5.7's which were actually pretty good routes, even though they were "sport". Then Our bedder-½ was willing to try this 5.9 so I led that and it was a little challenging. Our bedder-½ was able to do it. Then we did this easy 5.6. A good mellow day of climbing enjoying the view of the backside and the spires covered with snow. Amongst the masses was Harold and some woman that looked like Yoko Ono.
     This week I have been working near "The Thing?". That's right, out by the Dragoons. It's totally mellow and flat. Lot of it is grassland though there are thick strands of nasty catclaw at times. I'm working a different map than Chuck. We meet in the morning at the Safeway in Benson, but otherwise I just work by my lonesome. Saw more Javelina yesterday and 5 deer today. Great views of the Chiricahuas, the Dragoons and up into the Santa Teresas. Maybe I'll uncover the Thing?
     Did our taxes and was depressed to find that, while I do get a refund, our bedder-½ owes almost $800. And filing jointly only makes matters worse. I made almost $30K last year and Our bedder-½ made another $15K. Where does it all go to?
     Clinton just made his State of the Union Address and they gave the guilty Simpson civil verdict. Both happened at the same time. It seemed kind of historic, but also anti-climactic. What are the people going to do without O.J.?  I almost thought they were going to interrupt the state of the union address to give the verdict. I'm so glad, I'm sick of hearing about O.J.

February 10, 1997 — Tucson

Finished up "The Thing?" map. Easy going, working by myself. The last day I was near the train tracks and heard the rails singing so I laid a penny on the rail and went to dig my sample. The train came by as I was digging. I went back up to the tracks to find my penny but I couldn't find it. I was thinking how ironic it was, here I was looking for copper, wishing I could use the methods to find my smooshed penny. I was projecting a lot of value into this penny and wouldn't give up looking. I was in a daze when a pick-up creeped up and it scared the shit out of me because I was pacing around on the tracks and I thought it was a train. The guy asked me if I was okay. I'm sure he thought I was a freak. I took the car in again to the dealership and they found an oxygen sensor not hooked up. There's more to come. 
     Saturday Jim Sell threw a party inviting all the CAP-II crew. Our bedder-½ came with. Everybody was older and a lot of racial slurs and such were thrown around. On the menu was T-bone steaks, cottage cheese and chili with a lot of meat in it. It was disgusting. The most interesting person was Mark, Jim's 35-year old son with Downs syndrome. He ranted abour his favorite wrestlers and would change his shirt like every 5 minutes to show off different ones. At some point he asked our bedder-½ to marry him. Actually Chuck's wife Gwynn was interesting and so is David Brown and his wife. I met this guy Bill who I am to go to Mexico with. Kind of a cocky guy, should be fun.
     Sunday we moped around and went to some museums and hung out in coffee shops and that kind of thing. Went to the Center for Creative Photography, they had an exhibit of various famous people and their favorite photographs (and why). People from G. Gordon Liddy to David Byrne to Naomi Campbell to Jesse Jackson to Isabelle Allende. And of course they had some of Ansel Adam's work in the lobby. The majority of his original negatives are supposedly housed here. Then we went to the U of A museum of art. They had this exhibit on mail art, "faux post", which fascinates me. Maybe it's because stamps are used to send things or I don't know, just the whole postal system fascinates me to begin with. If I was an artist I would probably be into Faux Post.
      Windy as hell though for a few days. Everything was blowing away and raising dust and it was insane. Then we saw Gridlock'd which sucked. Another movie about heroin addicts trying to kick. I thought it might be interesting just because it had Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur.
     Today I was supposed to be getting arrangements done for Mexico. I made it up to the northside to pick up some maps from Bill and talk about his angle on this project. Then I went to Geotemps and gave my "rusty trailer hitch" to Terri being that her brother, Bobby, is the meteorite expert. She had a little more hope than I did (though she was still skeptical). She was thinking it might even be an old cannonball. Then I went to Bob's Bargain Barn and that's when I noticed things were amiss with the Trooper. It was losing acceleration and acting strange. I pulled into Fry's to buy more stuff and deciding what to do. I was supposed to meet Jim and David but I figured I should take the car in to have it looked at. When I tried to start it, it solved my dilemma anyway because it wouldn't start at all. I was getting sick to my stomach [we had just paid $1000 to fix it the month before]. I couldn't believe it. Called a tow truck, then called Jim and David to tell them I couldn't make it. Some taxi driver was driving by when I was trying to start it. He loitered around while I was waiting for the tow truck and said it sounded like the timing belt dropped. When I finally got it towed to the dealership that's what it was. They asked me if I wanted to take it to Mark since it was under warranty and I said no way. I didn't want that guy touching my car. Besides the timing belt falling off (and the oxygen sensor not being hooked up), I also noticed that the exhaust manifold wasn't hooked up to the head. 
      Jim and Dave ended up coming to the dealership to go over the maps and what not. We just found a table and laid everything out. They thought I would be there longer than Bill had anticipated. They didn't plot out the X's but showed me the geology and the target zone and what kind of spacing's they wanted in particular areas. This whole thing is kind of thrown together. I have no working permit or permission to be bringing soil samples across the border, etc. But at that point I was just worried about my car. The damage was $260. I went over to Mark's and he wasn't there. Had one of those pimply faced adolescent rednecks hook up my exhaust manifold while I waited. Still no Mark, so I left and came back. He was there. I chewed his head off and demanded he foot the $260. We argued back and forth. He called the dealership to verify that the work they did was due to his negligence. In the end he agreed to pay, towing, parts and labor on hooking the oxygen sensor up, but not the labor on the timing belt because I should have brought it to him (as the warranty specifies). "Would you want to bring your car back here after all I've been through with you guys? You guys should be out of business, etc.. ."    But I was sick of arguing and $137 was better than nothing, and legally who knows what I would get besides a fucking migraine. I told him fine, that I didn't care much about the money, it's just the principal, that I felt sorry for clients to come that would have to go through this shit. This whole car ordeal will give me ulcers.
     So now I'm trying to throw everything together for this Mexico trip. It's not that far into Mexico, just across the border past Sasabe. But it's a camp job so I've got to get all the food and stuff together and I have yet to get Insurance and all that. Now I hear our bedder-½'s keys scraping in the lock and I just want to enjoy my last night with her.

February 17, 1997 — Tucson (northern Mexico)

Monday I did last minute prep for Mexico. When I was getting my Mexican insurance I asked if my current policy had towing insurance and it does. So not only did I get reimbursed by that evil Mark guy but it's covered by insurance. I don't have any moral problem with that. Life treats me unfairly to begin with. Had lunch with our bedder-½ than went over to Jim's to wait for Bill. No one was there so I waited outside after going to a payphone and trying to get a hold of Bill. He showed up over an hour late. Then we had to stop for various stupid errands. And then in Nogales we stopped more while he found insurance that suited him. Then we drove across the border to KM 21 and discovered that the "Only Sonora" deal was too restrictive so we went through the trouble of having our cars bonded. We had planned to go to Saric that night, but no chance. Stayed in some creepy hotel in Nogales that rumor has it, was a drug-money laundromat. I believe it to. It was really nice and fancy but it wasn't really kept up and it was virtually abandoned. There were thug-looking guys eating in the restaurant. I had to share a room with Bill, because well, ends up he's sort of a control freak. It was a good thing we weren't camping out anyway cuz it was cold and wet and on the verge of snowing.
     The next day we set out on this shitty dirt road from Nogales to Saric. I should call it a "rock" road as it was built directly on bedrock. From Saric it was another hour on another "rock" road to the job site. we checked in at the ranch. Met Álvaro and Miguel. Nice ranch house they have. They offered to let us stay there, and although Bill was adamant about camping out, I suggested we take them up on it. At least it would be a base camp of operations of sorts. 
     We split up, Bill went up into the hills to do his rock sampling and I started in on soil. Took whatever road I could find. Stopping every half kilometer or kilometer to take a sample and GPS the site. I was being a little too anal the first day, trying to cover every inch of the map, but that just wasn't going to happen or I would be there for weeks. Plus I was stuck between what Jim and David told me to do and what Bill was telling me to do. He was telling me to skip areas and not take so many samples. Saw what possibly could have been a Mexican Wolf. Large and dark for a coyote and just had a demeanor that was different than a coyote. Came across some old prospects that were just out of Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I even found prospects that had the pick and screens still lying there like they were still being worked so I left them as they were. There's a group of placer gold miners working this one area that were friendly and told me I could sample on their claim. I was taking every major and minor road and up any drivable wash, which were many. The washes are wide flat sandy stretches that make perfect roads side from the power required to push through the sand. 
     We did stay at the ranch that night. I don't know where Álvaro and Miguel stayed. We used this outside barbecue area to cook and ended up sleeping in the courtyard. Random people showed up at odd hours of the night. Roosters were crowing before dawn and dogs licking our faces. People were showing up at dawn (do these guys ever sleep? I mean what's up with this "lazy" Mexican stereotype? These guys are up at the crack of dawn and coming home late at night, every day of the week... though I'm not quite sure what they do.)  It was a cold night sleep, but it was made worth it by the clear skies and the stars. Besides a separate outhouse building, there's a little building housing the shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe that had candles burning in it all night. 
     We got up and made coffee and ate toasted bagels then went our separate ways. I ran a line straight down the map until I got to this large ranch called "El Represo de los Frances" ("The Repression of the French"). Strange name for a ranch. Unlike our hosts, these were not friendly natives. As I approached the main house a young man reached for his machete, almost like they'd never had visitors there. Sure it doesn't help that I have a dark blue Trooper that looks like DEA or Federales. I told him what I was doing and asked for permission to sample on the property while he stood there fondling the blade of his recently sharpened machete. Another man approached also brandishing a machete and feeling the edge as he talked. They pondered my proposition like it was a most unusual request. It would have been too easy to just let me through the gate. This was probably the most exciting thing that had happened to them in weeks and they wanted to draw it out and exercise their power. 
     The fact was they were just ranch hands and after much deliberation they called "la dueña" on a short-wave radio. The outcome being that I needed written permission to be on their land. Period. They gave me the phone number where I could la dueña and get written permission. Like there is so many phones around. I got the map out to try to clarify where exactly the boundaries of the ranch were and they said the whole map. 11,000 hectares. I didn't want to debate much more with these guys as the machetes were making me nervous. So I turned around and went back. But of course I snuck off another road and sampled more. I ended up in this clusterfuck of cat trails along fence lines, all ranch land belonging to the "Repression of the French". I believed them because I could see the tracks of the "four wheeled mule" that they had parked out front of their ranch house. They were all over these backroads. I hurried nervously, afraid I was going to have a run-in with these machete-wielding hombres or stumble across fields of weed. And I got deeper and deeper into this maze of fence-line plowed areas that I couldn't get out of except to return to where I came as fences kept blocking where I wanted to get to. I tried to steer clear of the trails that seemed well-traveled by the four-wheeled mules. But all this jittery sneaking around is good for production as I wasn't about to stop and relax for lunch. Ended up getting 50 samples done and escaping back onto the safety of the friendly native’s ranch. 
     Bill wanted to camp elsewhere that night so we drove up into this wash until we were well away from any roads. Found a nice wide-open clearing and parked our cars to block the cold wind. Made a big fire, a "white man's fire". Bill collected enough wood to power Las Vegas for a night. Canned tortellini with tortillas. Bill was telling me stories of working in the Sahara in the days before they had GPS and they had to survey using the stars. They would sleep all day and then measure angles off stars with telescopes and use charts and a short-wave radio that would give them accurate time, they would be able to pinpoint themselves to the nearest thirty feet. Something about this really strikes me. Once they used the stars to find themselves they would build little monuments out of cement, pyramids to mark that spot. Humans are a strange lot. Fixated with locating themselves on maps. That's one of the most abstract things about this life is spatial placement, not just physically but metaphorically on maps to the point where it's almost real. And now I just whip out my GPS and it tells me more-or-less exactly where I am. That's probably what keeps me going about this job. Digging holes is no fun. It's the digging in these certain places and what I might find in finding these points. Which in this area was nothing much.
     After oatmeal and coffee and breaking down camp I set to the north but was thwarted many times by this one fence line (bordering the Repression of the French). I felt it wasn't worth it tramping around on their property, even if I could get access so I set out on foot and did a big loop. I had the system down. I would walk for 10 or 12 minutes and that was a kilometer. Stop and dig and try to drink enough water to compensate the increase in weight due to another sack of soil. But they were piling up and by the end of the jaunt I had 19 sacks, each weighing a couple pounds. So I guess that means at least 20k of walking, ending up with over sixty pounds on my back. We had originally planned to go into town this night, Friday, and I had told our bedder-½ I would call her. But when I got back to the ranch (this is the first occasion where the saying "see you back at the ranch" was appropriate) Bill said he wanted to camp out another night. I was caked in sweat rime and soil and was really looking forward to a shower let alone talking to my love and a night between sheets. Walking all day with a dirty sweaty bum had given me a rash in my butt cheeks. I guess I could've at least changed my underwear. But I always think it feels weird to change clothes if you haven't showered. So I told Bill I was going into town without him and he was resistive even to do this. 
     Finally he consented, but he was coming with me (did he feel like he had to baby-sit me or was he scared to camp alone?)  I asked this ranch hand name Juan what the best way was to get to Altar and he said back track to Saric (half an hour) and then there was a paved road for another half an hour or so. But Bill had some stick up his ass or he's just a control freak and decided we were going via this town San Juan. We were on this rocky dirt road from hell for over an hour and a half. The town of San Juan is cool, straight out of a western. Whitewashed adobe buildings and big shady trees. Like an oasis. Once we got to the paved road that was like driving on a minefield. You had to be on the constant lookout for potholes that were big and deep, like a foot or two deep. You could probably total a car on some of them. When we got to Altar they were ripping up the main street and it was a mad house. The hotel had no water, but rather than drive another 15 minutes to the luxury of Caborca (after all we had come all this way), Bill insisted we just stay in this dive. And this tops it all. We went to a liquor store and he gets a beer for me without asking what type or even if I wanted one. And he kept insisting that I drink it. Then we got to this restaurant (a sleezy place right on the highway with overwhelming noise and smoke of his choosing, though I saw many other places that I tried to suggest). And then get this, he orders a carne asada for me without asking. I said excuse me, I don't want carne asada, thank you. I was getting fed up with this control freak and really wanted to shake him off my tail. At least he didn't insist on sharing a room with me. He did insist I drink something, a coke at least even though I wasn't thirsty. Talked to Our bedder-½ and had a good night sleep. 
     Bill was all— "wake me up at 6 and we'll get rolling."  Of course, didn't ask me what time I wanted to get going. (It didn't get light until 7). God forbid we might sleep in just a little, being that we didn't get in until 8 or 9.)  So just to give him his own medicine I pounded on his door at 5:45 a.m. Rushed him out and we went back to the site. He just had a few loose ends to wrap up and then he was on his way back to Tucson. 
     I worked this one road and started to get into more developed "French Repression" land and was dudes on horseback and stuff so I left that section unfinished. I was just getting plain fed up. Especially after Bill was telling me that this was all pointless. He knew of this project from another company he worked for. Stole the information and was now trying to pass it on to Cap II. Anyways, he ran into his ex-employer that he stole this information from working out there and Bill lied to him and said he was looking for gold. But this guy told Bill they already made a deal on the land I was working on. So even if I found something it was too late. "But don't tell anyone this. I'll tell Lowell in my own time." 
     In the meantime, I'm supposed to trespass on some angry machete-brandishing ranchers property that had a thing about the French and take it seriously knowing they probably won't even assay these bags of dirt? Even in such circumstances I can't bring myself to fill a bunch of bags from one hole and find a nice shady wash to take a nap in. I moved on to the northern end of the map to try to fill in some holes up there. I was going to try to ask at this ranch up there, "Rancho San Antonio" how to gain access to this area. But when I drove by the guy at the ranch was chatting to a federale in a Dodge ram. I drove by and waved, trying not to look to conspicuous. I wasn't about to explain what was I doing in front of this federale, being that I didn't have an FM-3. Weird thing for a tourist to be doing, digging holes out in the middle of nowhere? They stared at me as I drove by. I had to turn around and return. They were driving the other way as if to come find me. I looked in the rearview mirror but they didn't turn around. 
     I drove up a wash and parked. It was around noon. I ate a leisurely lunch and debated my next move. I was sick of this project so I just bagged it. Figured if I was going to do any more they would have to get written permission, get me an FM-3 and compensate me a little more for trashing my car on all these shitty roads. Drove to Saric and then to Magdalena on a perfect road. Which leads to another thing. Why did we take that shitty road to Saric from Nogales when we could have just gone through Magdalena in less time and a lot less damage on the vehicles?
     When I got to Magdalena none of the hotels inspired me and I wanted to check out Cananea. I had to meet this guy Luiz in Cananea because I wasn't about to bring a car full of soil across the border. I'm sure the department of agriculture would have loved that. Luiz is Cap II's contact in Mexico and he has the proper permits to be exporting soil. The only problem was that it was Saturday night and when I called his office number I got a machine. David Brown told me he was open seven days a week. I got a room. 
     Cananea is nothing what I expected. The drive was beautiful, through very rugged oak shrouded hills, kind of like the Stanford hills but on a much grander scale. But Cananea itself is a dump. The smelter is right downtown, pouring out clouds of smoke that descended upon the town. At twilight it was an eerie, science-fictionesque scene. The sun filtering through the billowing smoke, the old rusty buildings, everything dirty and drab. After much wandering, finally found a hotel that wasn't half bad. But the restaurant tops the list of newfound sensory pleasures for the week. I ordered enchiladas, and just as a back-up I ordered consome and chips. The consome wasn't half bad, but the "enchiladas"? They were plain flour tortillas with bits of chicken (?) wrapped in them and then smothered in coagulated Velveeta cheese with a pile of rotting iceberg lettuce to the side. No spices, no sauce, nada. Just this orange spongy coating of cheese and rotting lettuce. I thought it was a joke. I poked at them, the cheese had the consistency of rubber. I asked the waitress just to be sure she brought right thing. Indeed they were enchiladas. I tried a bite and it was hard to not spit it back out on the plate. When she eventually came back, she asked me— "you didn't like the enchiladas?"
     "Honestly, they're terrible. They don't even qualify as enchiladas." Or something to that effect in spanish. The sad thing is that I was really looking forward to a decent meal. Instead I went to bed hungry.
     The next morning I continued to get Dr. Luiz's machine. Yes, evidently this guy is a bona fide doctor gone soil sampler. Went to medical school and everything. So Cap II's soil sampling team consists of Chuck, the legal insurance adjustor, Luiz the doctor, and me, the physicist. Anyways, when I went to the front desk for a phone book, ends up the desk clerk knew Dr. Luiz Perez Augustin. Told me where he lived. I found it with just a little wandering. His daughter answered the door with a barking Chihuahua. She spoke perfect english as she had lived in Tucson. But the doctor was sick in bed. He told me to stack the samples on the porch. And that was that. Terminado. I read the back of my car permit and it said you had to return from the port from which you entered (all these legal spanish stuff is hard to understand) so I made my way back to Nogales. I got to a checkpoint and asked the guy and he said I could return through Naco or Agua Prieta. So I backtracked and went that way. 
     When I got to the crossing in Naco, I stopped to try to ask the officiales what to do about my permit, but they kept waving their arms at me and telling me to go through. So I went through and asked the American side. They told me I was stopped so leave my tags in Mexico (otherwise they would cash the deposit I left on the car!) so I returned and had to go through the whole rigamarole getting back into Mexico and of course i got the "revisión" red light. I was trying to explain to the guy that I had been in Mexico and that I was just trying to get back to the states but I needed to deal with my car permit. But this must have only made him more suspicious as he thoroughly searched my car. Just to drive 50 feet to the "Banjercito", an unmarked trailer that I found only after asking about 5 people. Just so he could take a razor blade and scrape the decal off my window. But of course I had to wait a half an hour for him to do that. Then back into America. Up into the colorful hills of Bisbee and through Tombstone to Tucson.
     Our bedder-½ took the shuttle to Phoenix on Friday to help her folks (I guess I should say, "the folks" since they're mine as well) have a garage sale. I was going to run up there and give her a ride back, but when I called her mom, she had already grabbed an earlier shuttle. But she wasn’t home. I drove up sixth street to see if I could intercept her. I found her walking with some girl she met on the shuttle. She was sick as a dog and hugging her duffle bag. She was wearing short sky-blue cotton shorts and a suede jacket. Reunited with my little sick cub.
     A little relieved financially to discover, not only a $1,200 paycheck stub, but also a $700 check for expense reimbursement, mostly for mileage, and a $500 check from Granini for a pseudo wedding present. And Our bedder-½ got a $250 gift from her dad as a sort of dowry. Now the money's rolling in, but it seems to roll out just as quickly. It's still going to be a struggle to pay taxes and debts before we leave for the Peace Corps. $3000 left on the car, and another $3000 on my Mastercard. And I guess we can have a yard sale and sell everything we own.
     It's a holiday today, President's day, so I am just vegetating. It's cloudy and windy outside and getting dark though it's only 3 p.m. I have been reading the Rolling Stone articles on Gillian Anderson of the X-files and Chris Carter, it's creator. What a great show.  You can get as much out of the show as you can reading literature. It's got 2 of the best characters ever-developed, especially when they are both interacting and juxtaposed in their roles. And the subject matter of the show is a gold mine that runs deep. Nothing's cliche, and what's predictable about the show only makes it more suspenseful and frustrating. Sometimes you want to reach into the T.V. screen and strangle Scully and yell— "believe, damn it!"  Or you just wished they would get it on, but the show would lose its appeal if they did. It's the platonic suspense that's trying. And all this from surfer bum whose only qualifications before X-files was being assistant editor of surfing magazine.
     I'm also reading "a field guide to meteorites" that Terri and her brother Bobby wrote. Mostly about his meteorite collection and how they all came about. What a cool job that would be. News of a meteor shower in Argentina or Australia and you pack your bags. I'm still hoping (dreaming) that possibly what I found was a meteorite. Plenty of food for thought here. Now I've got to sit down and write some fiction on this oh wonderful day off.

[as usual we didn't have a camraw in these days, but here's what the area we were surveying looks like now on google maps]

February 22, 1997 — Tucson (Northern Sonora)

Guess I didn't have much of a weekend. Monday morning went to meet with Jim Sell and David Brown. They were not pleased with my coverage at Saric. "Then don't send me down with some control freak (Bill) who is telling me what to do and what not to do every night by the fire. For Christ sake, we go to a restaurant and the guy orders food for me!" They acknowledged that Bill had a past history of being controlling, but they still wanted me to return to Saric and get more samples. Bastards. They know I'm doing a hell of a job, they're just taking advantage of me. I'll hear them make some comment, like "Luiz has two weeks work in this area, well, for Derek that would be about a week." But hey, the more you're willing to endure, the more they'll make you endure it, and if you work hard, after a while people just take it for granted and expect it of you. Whatever, I wasn't thrilled about going back to Saric, but at least I wasn't going with Bill. I had to go through the whole border crossing rigmarole, get insurance, car bonded, visa, etc. But this time I did everything for six months. They talked of sending me to Cananea next so I don't want to have to deal with this all over again.
     I left Tuesday morning just so I could be back in time for the weekend. Border crossing was just usual hassles, nothing major. This time I didn't take that god-forsaken dirt road straight to Saric, but went down to Magdalena and took the new road. Best road in Mexico and it's virtually abandoned. Got to the ranch some time after noon, but no one was there. Went down and picked up some samples. Found some new roads cutting over to the placer gold mine from the west. 
      Juan was at the ranch in the evening. As a P.R. gesture I gave him a case of Henry Weinhard's beer and a virgin of Guadalupe candle. Juan's not exactly a friendly guy. Polite's the word. I couldn't figure out if he liked having me stay there. He insisted I did and everything. He took the beer and the candle. I saw him go back out to the shrine and light the candle. I felt good about that, like the Virgin of Guadalupe was watching over me. I made enough tuna casserole for me and the dogs. They love me now. The black one has slowly mustered up the courage to come near me, and I could tell he wanted to let me pet him, and finally by the last day he let me pet him. I slept in the room, it was nice and warm.  
      Wasn't thrilled about going back for an encore. The next day I set out to find roads to fill in the gaps. There's this clusterfuck of roads that I explored down in this semi-agricultural area. Not that anything grows there, but they're doing something with the land... presumably weed. Some fields are littered with black plastic tubing as far as the eyes can see. It's really surreal. Cows or horses see me and come running like I might feed them. So half these roads lead to some tank or well, or into a fence, and the other half just dwindle down to hell in a handbasket. I followed everyone and nada. Finally I saw this old man on horse. Why is that everybody that rides a horse always has a little dog sidekick? I asked him if this road on the map to the "Repression of the French" ranch existed, and he said no.  The only way was to go around (a road I had already sampled) and ask at the Represo ranch. Didn't want to deal with those machete-wielding ranch-hands again and all this running around was dwindling my gas reserves, so I just found a place to park it and walked in what I could.
     Had minestrone soup and bean burritos back at the ranch. Still not much talk out of Juan. When I pulled up he was just sitting in his truck outside. I asked him what was wrong, and from what I could make out all the gears on his flywheel were ground down, and if he got lucky, they would line up and his car would start. Looking under the hood this truck was unbelievable. This rusted gut of an engine. Amazing that it ran at all. What a life. He has his cheap battery-operated radio blaring chicken-scratch accordion Norteño music, surreal Mexican Polka music. That's really his only entertainment. There were no lights on, I don't think he read. There was a television antenna, but they must've had to start up some generator to get electricity, even if he had a TV in there. I was trying to work on some piece by headlamp, loosely based on the experiences at hand, except through the eyes of the ranch hand whose contemplating murdering the gringo, burying him out in the desert and stealing everyhing. Then I read Scott's South Pole journals until I was bored and went to sleep around 9 p.m. What the hell does Juan do every night?  Sit there in the dark by himself? 
     The weird thing is the last thing I read was about how they were sitting in their hut in the south pole in the middle of the winter when there is 24 hours of darkness and then suddenly a 50 mph gust of wind would come out of nowhere and last for 15 minutes and suddenly stop. I woke up in the middle of the night at the ranch and it was windy as hell, the roof sounded like it was going to blow off and the trees were howling and creaking. I'm positive I didn't dream it as I needed to pee and I didn't want to go outside as the pee was going to blow all over me, but I eventually got up and the moonlight was beautiful, bathing everything in a blue light. But it was windy as hell. I listened to it for about 15 minutes and it suddenly stopped, just like in the book. The whole idea of wind was just tripping me out before this even happened, pressure systems equalizing, all this air like it has somewhere to go, but you'd think eventually it would just get sick of going places and reach an equilibrium.
     The next morning I went back to the wash in the northern section of the map and parked it and walked it in. And then I was off to let the Trooper make some money, 300 miles back to Tucson, over $100 just for the car and another $200 bucks (OT) for me to sit in it and steer. Started in the wash and the absence of roads, progressed to the shitty dirt road to Saric, and then to the pothole chocked paved road, still not seeing any other cars. And then the abandoned great Mexican highway, and then passing semis on the windy mountainous Mexican highway to Cananea and then across the border to average American backroads and then onto the 75 MPH interstate, and then into Tucson city traffic at rush hour, quite the variety of driving conditions.
     Back to my divine creature. I feel bad that she is stuck in the den all week without a car and feel obligated to go out with her when all I want to do on a day like today is sit around doing nothing or writing (though i get rejection slips daily). We're going to climb tomorrow but today we just walked downtown, people-watched and ate at this little lunch place in the barrio arts district. We've become very preoccupied with what to do, both stricken by wanderlust and wanting to get out of this financial rut so we can travel. We've been questioning the Peace Corps and whether it's such a great idea and tossing around other ideas of what we could do. I wish something would just fall in my lap, that either I would get published or get some interesting job offer with the FBI or to be a travel writer in Bali or opening a bed and breakfast in Argentina... we're dreaming but we're free to dream. The world is ours. We just need a little prod in the right direction, a window of opportunity, to find a meteorite worth $50,000. It's hard to make an honest living in this world. With that note, I will try to finish the Saric-inspired piece [not sure what piece we were talking about or whether we ever finished/published it, but some of the material from this era went into Mining in the Black Hills].

February 27, 1997 — Douglas, AZ

Ended up going for a hike on Sunday with our bedder-½ up Pima Canyon. I was acting as her trainer, trying to get her to push herself. She wants to some long outback climbs but I want to get in her shape so the hike doesn't get her before the climb does. Monday met with Jim and I was supposed to go to Mexico on Tuesday but then Luiz was coming to Tucson so I just stayed and went out to lunch with Luiz, Jim, Clark Arnold and this other guy Mike Jacob who has a very gringo name but is Mexican. He has an assay lab in south Tucson. We met there and I was given a brief tour. Then to lunch with the old dogs. Then followed Clark around to the airport storage place and to Skyline labs. Clark's the kind of guy that will introduce you to everybody down to the secretaries and janitors. I went to his house to wait for him. He's got a nice Southwest style home with two greyhounds. As I was waiting I couldn't help but notice a memo on his desk from Dave Lowell and Marcia concerning Derek/Geoptemps. Upon reading I discovered that they were quite taken back by how expensive I am when overtime is taken into account. But I think they were more concerned about how to allocate the money as they don't have an area in their budget to deal with such costs. When Clark arrived we went up to Freeport to download the GPS. There was a bunch of Indonesian guys there. I mentioned to Clark how cool I thought Indonesia was how and how nice the people were and that I would move there in a second given the opportunity and he said they might hire me. He invited me to go to an Arizona GS meeting next week, and I think I will take him up on it so I can do some networking and maybe get a job in Indonesia.
     Wednesday I left for Douglas. I met Luiz at the Gadsen. Then we went into Agua Prieta. Seems like Luiz knows everybody in Mexico, a mover and shaker. He was trying to hunt down the owner of this ranch where I am working so I could get the key. We went on a little tour of all the backstreets of Aqua Prieta, trying to find this guy. Then he introduced me to this other guy Don David, so I could stash my samples there rather than get busted carrying them across the border. Then to the site. (Going through a military checkpoint and then customs at KM 21). The site is just past KM 21. We went to the ranch and ran into the owner, Mike's brother Alex and a ranch hand whose name is Catariño. They showed me where I could find this hidden key and gave me permission to go back in on their ranch. 
     Luiz then took off and I had a few hours so I got the samples along the railroad tracks. The Catclaw here is really dense. So dense in some places that it is not physically possible to get through. I was forced to stick to the railroad tracks. I retreated back to Douglas. Sleep in the U.S. and work in Mexico. It gets confusing. I'm speaking to people in Spanish in Douglas cuz I forget where I am. The Gadsen is a classy joint. The lobby is fantastic, old fashioned and spacious. The rooms are not as nice, but still, it's nicer than hotel Congress in Tucson I'd say.
     Unfortunately, I brought my computer but I neglected to bring a power cord, so my battery is running down. A big storm is coming in and I'm sure I could be getting some writing in, finish up "Z for Ziller".
     Today I went through the whole rigamarole again. Go through the check at the border. Then the military post check as I pull onto 17. And then yet another check at KM 21. I went in through the ranch. Came bearing a gift of groceries for Alex and Catariño. They invited me into their dirt-floored shack. They had some Javelina feet sitting on a table. They had chickens and peacocks running around all over. I drove up this road that ended up just being this wash. But I managed to get about 3 miles up it to get these samples. This job is going to be a pain. All the samples are very spread out, access sucks and this cat claw really sucks. 
     I ran into Alex late morning carrying a rifle. I gave him a ride up into the mountains on a road he showed me and it was a useful road (the only road in this area). He tagged along with me for the majority of the day. Me hunting soil and him hunting animals. I think the GPS unit blew his mind when I told him what it did. I asked him how he got such an American name (and his hair is about as dark as mine) and he said his father was American, served in Vietnam. He had a green card but it was taken away because he got caught smuggling 400 lbs. of marijuana across the border. Spent 16 months in Cochise county jail and then got kicked out the U.S. Kind of scary, this guy is riding in the front seat with me, with a .22 hunting rifle propped between his legs. I only got 12 samples done. Weather was setting in. It had been threatening to rain all day and was very windy. Back through the checkpoints to Agua Prieta where I dropped the samples off with Don David and then through U.S. customs to the Gadsen.

[A lot of these documents were transcribing have stray bits of text that we can't make rhyme or reason about, like this one ends with:] "White"cerned about how to allocate the, only finding his mother, brothers and cousinsCabullona the federale station at nch and ran into the owner,go back in on theI had a few hours so I got the  Wide marble staricases and columns, etc.t sitting on a table,   They invited me to stay for coffee or go hunting but I had to get working.useful wed me at it was]

[ ... March 1997 ]

850 <(current)> 852> Covid-California dreaming of cabin fever, brain fog + another shitty east coast winter
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