It was so very many years ago.
To Venezuela-Colombia border I had to go.
The tiny town of Tibu Santandar,
the end of civilization so very far.
The DC 4 landed on a grass field,
but the area was dead with no appeal,
all was quiet, not a person around,
so I decided to walk into the town.
Again like a flying saucer had arrived,
leaving no one in town left alive,
places were shuttered with closed doors,
absolutely no one at all minding the stores.
Soon a jeep arrived and called out to me,
asked if I was the man he was supposed to see,
I answered “I am the one you are need to meet,
but it looks like this town is fast asleep”.
He said well sir don’t you know,
between twelve and three no one will show,
it is seasta time, we all must rest,
not to be bothered by outside pest.
Little did I realize that a town this size,
was the largest to be found, civilized.
For I was now at the end of the earth,
go farther and everything was dearth.
So into a petroleros camp I landed,
where everything needed, could be demanded,
civilization had been brought into this place.
Little did I know what I was to face.
I was fitted out with proper cloths,
given a revolver, never expected one of those.
Told that in the jungle where I must go,
people were wild, but animals more aggressive though.
So through jungle we cut a path,
worried that we may cause the wrath,
of the natives, we should not know to worry,
for ahead of us they they would scurry.
You see these natives of five feet or less,
with only a loincloth was all their dress,
and they had not progressed to arrows of chert,
and lack of fetching, so ended not far, in the dirt.
They would shoot and then run away,
for they were too afraid of us to stay.
We often could smell them where they hid,
they wore a juice as repellent, same as we did.
It smelled somewhat like china-berries
and was a good way to know without worry,
a wild creature was not too far away,
but we did not know he was not there to stay.
Then one night at the bodega,
a raid was made by an instigator,
only wanted jerrycans, pots, and machetes, though
but they were surprised by el sereno.
When he saw he was out numbered,
he turned, running from where he had slumbered.
And they from fright cut arrows loose,
being fletcherless they only found his caboose.
We were called from our hammocks while asleep,
to attempt to see if his life we could keep,
but quickly we saw his big “behind”,
looked somewhat like a porcupine.
You see these arrows do not go too deep,
but the barbs on them are meant to keep,
so where they land, you can’t pull them out,
at least you can’t remove them without a shout.
But the practicante knew just what to do,
he had done this, at times, to a few,
he had a piece of copper tube,
sharpened on one end, to which he added lube.
Placing it over the arrow and pushing it down.
Closing the spread of barbs, where they were found,
and then pulling them out quick and neat,
before long Julio was back on his feet.
This poem is about my experience in the Western part of Colombia, and going on into Venezuela. It concerns the Motiloni Indians, several communities who were minding their own lives, having never been “civilized”. I did not consider them aggressive unless, like any animal, they were cornered, which was not very likely.
I considered these small people much as I would do a wild deer. They had never been conquered by the Spanish and were still living in the jungle as they had for eons. They were more afraid of us and if we happened on one of their villages it would be empty, and they would be gone, (but not far). When we flew over them in a helicopter, they would shoot at us, but their arrows were not fletched and they did not have stone arrow heads but rather a nice long arrow which were split and barbed on the end, mostly for shooting iguanas, birds and small animals. Somewhere I have photos of this, but need time to find them. They just were not meant for people, but they did have poison on the tips which could give you fits.
I did collect artifacts found around them; arrows, and feather head dresses, etc. The company, (powers that be), convenced me that they belonged to the company to put in their little collection, and they later ended up in the Witte Museum in San Antonio. I checked on these things years later and found that they were stored somewhere in storerooms never to be exhibited as far as I know.
You could smell the Indians while not seeing them, they rubbed a juice somewhat like china berry juice on their selves to keep gnats and mosquito off. If you caught sight of them it was like seeing a deer running away.
A young boy was captured with the idea that the Government could train him; and he could go back helping to “civilize” them. As it turned out when they released him a year of so later he was not accepted back by his tribe and it turned out that our company had to take care of him, which later turned out rather bad for him (and us).
This event really happened while I was there. It seems that they tried to raid our “bodega” and what they wanted was pots, Jerry cans, machete, and hatchets. You could leave an expensive camera or watch there and they would not touch it as they did not know what these things were for.
We did wear side arms in that area, they did not know how to use guns, something we could not do in the Western part of Colombia as that was bandit country, and they would just kill you for the gun.
There is an epilogue to this story which badly needs to be told. So stay tuned.
This abstract (Barco Consession) predates my work but will show you the area of interest. The concession at the time I was there was owned by Sinclair Oil company. Many people ask what I was doing in this end of the earth, this will give you an idea of my work~! Later some of the people I worked with were held by FARC for about a year.