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arrow Stories and Tales of the Coast & Geodetic Survey
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banner - piffle and jottings from the dessicated west during 1934

by George E. Marsh

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7 of 7

Bullfight in Juarez

I’m almost forgetting the bull fight in Juarez. The building known as the ‘bull-ring’ is a dingy, circular, adobe affair, a small coliseum with an arena about 60 ft. in diameter enclosed by a board fence five feet high. On the other side of the fence is a narrow passage-way, three feet wide, and then a wall eight ft. high; beyond this is the first row of seats, the rest of them being arranged on a rather steep pitch.

Ah, the band! That alone is worth the price of admission. It was the drollest, most ludicrous and motley assortment of musicians to be seen anywhere. Each wore a hotch potch assemblage of pieces of clothing hat had belonged to the army, navy, police, bell hops, dudes, actors, or left overs from a rummage sale. Not an item fit. On the short men, the trousers dragged; on the tall they were not on speaking terms with the shoes. There the ground was color and gilt in array. No comic opera ever had half so fantastic and grotesque a makeup.

A seat on the sunny side cost 75 cents, on the shady side $1.00; if one used Mexican money his admission would cost only about two-thirds as much as the figures. The audience numbered around 60 of which more than half were Americans.

The actors had on heavy, richly embroidered costumes; their hair was slickened back and done up in a bunch that looked for all the world like a horse’s dock. In the eyes of the lowly natives they doubtless appeared to great advantage.

To relate a synopsis of the fight would take too much time. I’ll just piffle along. The four “fierce” bulls from Sonora were the scrawniest imaginable. The poor bovines didn’t want to fight and only by thrusting six or eight gaily adorned harpoons deep in their flesh could they be incited to do their part. Two of them scrambled over the fence into the runway; one was lead back to the arena but the other fell in such a way as to become wedged and had to be killed there, greatly to the disgust of the populace. The toreadors, those that give the slaying thrust, were knocked down several times, much to the glee of the Americans present, but without suffering any injury. After a particularly brilliant piece of work on the part of the toreador, he would turn to the audience to receives its plaudits, the bull standing as meek as a new born calf just behind him. The behavior of the bull at such times made me mad. I wanted blood, human blood, not that of a poor bovine. After the final thrust, generally one of many, the animal was hauled out by a couple of mules to a gallows in the rear of the building where it was dressed, quartered, and loaded into a small, milk-wagon-like vehicle whose side bore the legend “Transporte de Carnes” (Carnes is meat in Spanish.) Thus you see how it is that a handful of people is sufficient to pay for a bull-fight every Sunday.

One other item from Juarez and then I’m thru sure enough. On the main thoroughfare one sees a shop whose advertisement reads “El Escritorio Publicio. To decalse de escritos manifestaciones contrabilidades, etc.” This is where you get your letter-writing done.

And on the monument to Juarez we read “Al C. Benito Juarez, Reformador y Liberatador Benemerito de las Americas. La Patria Reconocida, 1910.”

The local broadcasting station had the sign– “Difusoria Estudio XEFV.”

Station Pedro

Pedro! Never can I forget Station Pedro some fifty miles south-west of Casper. In company with one of the observing parties, I arrived at the foot of the mountain in the late afternoon of a damp and cloudy day. After pitching camp, I fastened my equipment, about forty pounds, on the pack-board and we began the ascent to the station on the peak about 500 feet above. For an hour and a half we struggled thru the wet, over fallen trees, thru the thick undergrowth, over huge boulders and gained the top after scaling the last fifty feet on hands and knees. On the summit the wind was high. There was a cold rain and the low clouds prevented any observations being made. About midnight we came down; the ‘o’ party returned to Casper and I turned in after a warm repast.

The next day was the same, low clouds and incessant rain. Around six o’clock the ‘o’ party [the observing party] arrived and we climbed to the station; this time without any packs, thru rain and fog. Our world was reduced to a few square yards about the stand. We put up the observation tent, fastening the guy ropes to such loose rocks as were meagerly present. As the evening grew older the rain stopped and the fog dispersed and toward midnight we got signals from the three other observing parties and we went to work. Under such circumstances one works fast and we finished before the others. It was bitter cold and as we waited we built a fire on a flat rock that we hauled into the tent and with whittlings from the stand. There came a time however when we dared not cut more off. We waited and shivered from the cold. After a while, owing to the wind’s violence, it took the combined strength of the four of us to hold the tent in place, the guy-rocks no longer being able to stay the gale’s assault. The danger of tent and all being blown off the peak increasing, we took the tent down, boxed the instruments, and sought comparative comfort rolled up in the tent in a depression on the lee side of the summit. There we waited for signals that would tell us our work was okay or that we would have to repeat it. We came off the mountain by the light of day.

The next night I was alone at the station; the weather was cloudy as before but with variations that were grand to experience. The mountain was fogbound all the p.m.; visibility during the ascent was limited to a few feet. Sunset was still an hour or two away when I gained the peak. The clouds were rolling over the mountain, one of a chain, at a great rate but not beyond. They disappeared on reaching the crest, the divide. All the country to the north was aglow with the afternoon sun and to the south there was nothing but dense fog. The scene was thrilling, marvelous to behold. The onrushing clouds would fan out in long streamers and flow down into the valley and then disappear as if by magic. On the one side there was an unusual brilliance, on the other a wall of cloud. I couldn’t get over it, such a rarity it was. With the setting of the sun, the clouds covered everything.

As it grew dark, I turned on the lights and in their beams one could see the lack of homogeneity of the fog as it rushed by; it came in bunches. That was interesting but it was becoming too chilly to take a keen interest in natural phenomena. Jutting out from the side of the peak and a few feet below the stand, was a rock about the size of a trunk, one side of which was undercut. To lessen the cold, I built a wall along the top of the rock, thereby reducing the force of the wind when I wedged myself in under the over-hanging faces. Here I waited, shivered and chilled. I had on all of my warm clothing, including my chamois suit that came to me as a present, a most valuable possession.

After ten o’clock the fog disappeared, the stars came out and we all went to work. The cold, damp and wind continued. Sometime in the early morning hours, greatly to my surprise I found one match in a pocket and with it I started a fire in the corner of my burrow, or rather crevice where I imitated a sardine. Now I had warmth and a lot of smoke from the old, dead pieces of trees that succumbed in trying to wrest a living from nothing but rock.

Shortly before sun-up, a weary, frozen soul dragged himself into his tent, loosened his load, made some soup in record time and rolled into bed. Damn! was I fatigued? And how! the next day I was a little sore and stiff but three days later! It pained me keenly to move; I could not sit up or stand up, it was just too much. I remained in bed all day although it was agony to do that.

My tent at Pedro was pitched close to a large, attractive log cabin. There was a spring at hand and a fenced garden plot. The setting appealed to me, the undulating plain to the front and the mountain to the back. I felt that the folks who had deserted it must have had an appreciation for the beautiful when they selected the site for their homesteading. The door was padlocked; looking thru the window I could see that the furnishings were comfortable. It had been vacant for at least two years. It was a place where the dream failed to come true.

On the road to Pedro, I passed a large granite cross that bore the inscription “To the Glory of God and Sacred to the Memory of S.M. Waldon, born in Philadelphia 1861 and murdered here by his guide 7/23/1888.”

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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