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.


  1. A fascinating description. I can understand the pov of the local people — they had no reason to fear you, other than that you were different than anything they had seen before. The arrows are intriguing — very creative in their design. It is this type of creativity that intrigues me and brought me towards cultural anthro — the more time people have for activities other than food gathering, the more creative they can be!

  2. Am looking forward to reading the epilogue. I hope you’ve had a good day — it’s raining again here, and pretty chilly. There’s a strange hush in the air, similar to the feel just before an earthquake or a thunderstorm. It’s odd to be out in a city with no people — although there are more people out and about than should be. I took the car and the camera for a ride this afternoon — needed an outing after a week at home!

    • Quiet weekend and I am in a writing slump. Sorry. Well where are all the photos you took on your solo outing. Only connection with the world that I had this weekend was a call from my son in Houston. But Tami insisted on playing ball with me all day yesterday, she must have realized that I was down. The problem is that she has her own rules for the game and found two balls which she put in my shoes to get my attention. Because her mouth is too small, her balls are about half the size of a tennis ball and fit down in the shoe where I only find it when I try to put my shoes on. Well that was better than the time my cat put a dead lizard in one of them.

      I have worked on that epilogue in the past but it is so sad and at the same time gets me so angry with some of the elements, I must re-edit it to make it palatable to the general public. It will show my attitude with an element that bothers me a lot.
      Nice to hear from you this morning, while having my first cup of coffee. Wish I had a brioche or hot croissant with jam on it to help with a perfect Monday morning. Oh the closest French boulangerie is over 40 miles away in town, but I am tempted but it is another overcast damp day being sent from California.


  3. I’m sorry to read that you had a down weekend! The photos are loaded to the computer, and edited — now to select which to post (some of this batch won’t make the cut — I often post an entire batch). I’ll do a post today, but it may be this afternoon before I get it done.

    Haha — I love the idea of Tami leaving you gifts in your shoes — at least the balls are nicer than the gifts from your cats! I once had a gift of a live mouse from my cat — when I got up and asked him to take it outside, he caught the mouse again and took it outside!

    Don’t worry about workng on the epilogue — times are so sad right now that it’s probably better not to force the memories. But if it would help you to write it out privately, you have my email address.

    You’re likely to have some more nasty weather — it poured here overnight — so hard that the rain on the roof woke me! It’s been nice for a little while this morning, but is clouding over again. Sorry to send it on to you , but that’s the only way we can get it out of here, and it doesn’t usually last long! I’m thinking, though, that it’s a good thing that we have rain, as it helps to keep people indoors — I hate to think what this will be like as the weather warms up and there’s no humidity in the air!

    Yesterday was pretty nice — but there were so many people on the beaches that they have now closed all parks and beaches — I don’t know if I’ll be able to go and see the birds again while this lasts.

    I’m glad your son called yesterday — do you just have the one son? I’ve been in touch with several friends over the last week, and even had an email from my CPA yesterday regarding taxes! That interpersonal contact is going to be extra important as time goes on — please don’t be shy about emails. My sister and her son both live in Santa Barbara, and her daughter recently moved to Boise, ID with her husband! It’s always good to talk with them on the phone, but I’m afraid it will be a while before I see any of them again — especially difficult with the two little boys in Santa Barbara, aged 4 and 7!

    Have a happy day — play with Tami, read a good book, and enjoy!

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