by Arthur Jones
From his autobiography,
" . . . And God Laughs"
"The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last."
After a brutal trip through the Mexican jungle in the summer of 1951, I arrived back in Veracruz without a cent remaining in my pocket, with a large truckload of wild animals and with no place to put them, and filthy dirty, only to find that Mike Tsalikis had sent me no money at all.
Instead, I found a telegram waiting for me that said I should call him at home at eight that night. My problem then being that I could not place the call to Mike collect; so I went to the office of the phone company and spoke with Mike from a phone booth there, but afterwards had no money to pay for the call.
So the phone company sent a man with me while I went out on the streets in search of somebody who might be another Gringo, hoping to be able to borrow enough money to pay for the call; and, eventually, I found another American who did agree to loan me the money I needed.
Then I had to try to find a place to unload the animals, and eventually found that; in the home of a man called Pedro The Dog because of his occupation, stealing dogs. He lived with one son and a daughter in a very small house in a government housing project and agreed to let me put my animals there until I could ship them to Florida. My animals filled his house to the ceiling so his family had to sleep out in the open in an enclosure surrounded by the small houses.
Having read Mike the riot act because of his failure to have the money awaiting my return, he promised to have it waiting for me early the next morning; and it was waiting, but then the man on duty in the telegraph office refused to give it to me in spite of the identification provided by my passport, told me that the sum represented several years of his gross wages and he dared not give that much money to a stranger.
Which brought me to the end of my rope, but I then found that while he would not accept my passport as sufficient identification he was more than willing to accept my pistol; after about five seconds of looking into the barrel of my pistol he gave me the money in cash, in pesos.
A few days later, sitting at a table under the roof of a restaurant outside of the largest hotel in the city, eating with the other American who loaned me the money for the phone call, we noticed two middle-aged and very homely women seated at another table. He said they looked like American women, but I said that they did not look like Americans, so we entered into a bet on the subject.
Neither of us was interested in the women because they were far from being attractive; our only interest in them was their nationality, because of our bet. So we invited them to move over to our table, and they did.
They were English school teachers, both old maids, who had saved their money for years in England, then moved to New York and worked there for several years as domestic servants while saving enough money to buy a new car for a planned trip to lower Mexico in search of adventure; which they were about to find.
Neither woman had ever driven a car before they left New York in a new Studebaker; an investment that required most of their funds, leaving very little for the planned trip to Mexico, but they wanted adventure so here they were, at the end of the road.
South of there was nothing apart from jungles and mountains; no roads, no trails, no bridges, no restaurants, and nothing deserving the name of hotel or motel. All of which they were about to learn for themselves; learn the hard way, with a little assistance from me. The truck I had hired for the trip into Veracruz had already departed, and its owner told me that he would never use his truck for such a hard trip again since it was almost destroyed by the very rough trails that we were forced to use while carrying a heavy load of animals.
So since I knew that another, but smaller, load of animals would be waiting by the time that I got back to the village of San Juan Evangelista, and since the women were seeking adventure, I suggested that they go with me in their car for another load of animals, with me driving and with Pedro The Dogs son along as a guide and assistant; and they agreed to go, a decision that they probably still regret more than thirty-three years later, if they lived that long after our trip.
The first part of the route south of Veracruz, after crossing a bay on a ferry boat, was a narrow trail that quickly disappeared into the jungle, a trail that crossed several relatively small streams that we had to ford, but with water deep enough that the interior of the car was soaked halfway up the doors of the car. Then back on the trail after crossing each stream the middle of the trail was very thin dust that scraped against the bottom of the car; the result quickly being that the upholstery was covered in mud within a few miles, which did very little in the way of pleasing either woman.
On we went. And the farther we went the worse it got.
After roaming around in the jungle for almost all of the first night, lost since we had somehow missed the proper trail, both of the women were violently sick, running at both ends; they were vomiting and shitting almost constantly, which delayed us even more, and which did not contribute much in the way of improving their appreciation of what I was doing for them.
Finally, almost destroyed by then, the car broke down and we could not continue; but eventually a big truck came along and I bummed a ride to the gravel road for myself and the two women, leaving Pedro The Dogs son to mind the car, telling him to wait there until I could return with help to fix the car.
Both women assured me very sincerely that they were almost dead, and looked it; they were utterly filthy with their upper clothes covered with mud and vomit and their lower clothes covered with mud and shit, with their hair matted into fright wigs of mud and other debris. By that point they were no longer much interested in adventure.
So on we went.
They were too weak to protest much, spent most of their time weeping, vomiting and shitting; no longer even trying to remove any of their clothes before shitting, just letting it seep through their underpants and run down their legs.
They then had no remaining interest in adventure, and did not seem to like me as much as they did when I first met them in the restaurant and told them about the tremendous favor I was willing to provide them with at no cost to them. I always was very generous in those days; not very smart, but generous. My intentions were always only the best in any situation; although my plans were seldom the best.
We caught another ride on a truck after we reached the gravel road and then I hired that truck to take us to the tiny hotel in the village of San Juan Evangelista; when we finally got there the women looked at it as if I had just checked them into a luxury suite in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. And less than an hour later Pedro The Dogs son arrived in the village, towing the womens car behind another large truck.
So we all went to bed in the tiny hotel rooms; renting the entire hotel cost me only a dollar a night.
I have been in some better hotel rooms but never any that were less expensive; and there was no extra charge for the flies, cockroaches, mosquitoes, vampire bats and other assorted nonhuman bedmates, which the women did not even seem to notice.
Four days later, having managed to get the car repaired at least to a point where it would run again, having convinced the women, who were still nearly dead, that there was no alternative to a return trip, having loaded the car so full of wild animals that there was room only for me and the two women on the front seat, with the Mexican boy riding on the hood of the car, and with even the trunk filled to overflowing with boxed animals and snakes, we set out in route back to Veracruz.
As things turned out the trip south had been a pink tea party when it was later compared to the trip back north.
Fording one larger than average stream, with the Mexican boy wading in front of the car so I could judge the depth of the water in the river, he signaled me to turn towards my right; I did, and the car dropped off of an underwater cliff, and sank into about twelve feet of water. When it stopped sinking only the boxed animals on top of the open trunk were still above the surface. Things were really fucked up at that point.
Between us the Mexican boy and I managed to get both women out of the car still alive, if just barely, pumped them out as best we could in total darkness, and then tried to rescue as many as possible of the animals before they drowned. We did manage to save a few, but had to release most of them and let them float away on the current of the river. After which we could do nothing more to help improve our situation.
Neither woman had anything to say after they finally stopped gagging up water, and for a while I was afraid that both of them were dead. Then, shortly after dawn, a big truck came along and I hired it to pull the car up out of the deep water and tow it to the next small village along our route towards Veracruz.
It then took the Mexican boy and me three days and nights to take the car apart, dry it out and try to get it running again; but our first such attempt failed, it would not start. But, after a second attempt, it did start; but, by that point, the car was probably not worth fifty dollars as junk, it was simply destroyed.
And the women did not appear to be worth much if anything more than the car was; having spent the better part of a week stretched out on the bare ground under a tree while we worked on the car, eating almost nothing and still shitting almost continuously, they were no longer interested in much of my conversation and had apparently lost all of their original interest in adventure.
On we went, with only a few more minor disasters along the way.
Finally, after we reached Pedro The Dogs house and unloaded the few remaining animals, I gave the women a copy of Pedros address and told them that if they would come back the next day I would get their car washed for them . . . free of charge.
But they must have lost Pedros address, because they never came back.
(Note: Joness autobiography, " . . . And God Laughs," is available as a part of a two-volume set of his writings, which is called The Arthur Jones Collection. This collection may be purchased through I-A-R-T.com, click into Books Section.)