During my time in Florida I developed some wonderful friends, one of whom was Tom Terpening. We knew him first and for years as “Tam” but he’s changed it so I’ll go with the change. Tam was very intellectual in archeological sites that date to about 13000 yrs and I could never understand how he knew. He showed me sights in the outback of Fla that few people get to see, one of which is this strange structure that I believe dates to Civil war times. The walls are solid concrete reinforced with railroad track. All the doorways are vaulted and it seems nobody knows much about it. I loved to photograph the place and have gone back several times. I wonder now if I could even find it. It’s up near Crystal River somewhere.
I met Tom thru my then wife Toni and we travelled around Fla enjoying the sights and scenery. Tom was working for his Dad who owned a construction company and there was a time when the company was working on the Panamerican highway around Quito Ecuador. Tam was down there working and as part of his contract was tickets to come back to the states 4 times a year for R&R. Well, he met a beautiful girl there and decided to get married. So he sent tickets for Toni and I to go free to Ecuador for the wedding and a week. It was a marvelous experience almost beyond explanation. I speak almost zero Spanish, Toni thinks she does. Tom did quite well, but Sandra spoke zero English. It was such fun. The wedding was held in a big old church with an organist and a blind violinist. I should have taken more photos for Toni to think she should have. Tom would tell me stories of being the son of a wealthy industrialist, and until I saw the movie “Proof of Life”, I didn’t understand him. My coming was the first time he engendered to travel out of the city of Quito because he felt safe. We were in a huge pickup with a machine gun (honest) under the seat. My eyes were wide open in amazement.
4/4/12…When one drove out of the city of Quito, one would see a pig or a calf hung head up on a tripod of wood, with pieces of it removed. No refrigeration mandated pretty much that meat be butchered and sold directly as people went by either on foot or horseback or auto. I have no idea how common refrigeration was in general in the city, but I do know that I was never sold a drink with ice in it, and they always kept the bottle when I was done with any bottled drink.
On my second trip to Ecuador, I was requested to go there because Tams Dad, Tom had a heart attack and I went to see if it was safe to stay or that he be brought back to the U.S.. I went to the hospital where he was, and I saw equipment that I had only ever seen in antique medical books, only I saw the equipment in hallways and rooms….still in use! The defibrillator in the ICU where he was a patient…was unbelievably huge. 4 FEET by 3 ft, by 4 ft.!! And some of the doctors had trained in Cleveland Clinic USA!! The biggest problem they had with Tom was that he was my size…6′ 1″. He stuck out on Both ends of the bed he was in, in the ICU. So the first, and probably the best thing I did was get him into a private room with an acceptable bed. We elected to leave him in Ecuador to rest up before returning to Fla.
During the second trip there, again…Tam and Sandra took me south and then west from Quito in that big pickup. Gas was having to be shipped from the Amazon area of Ecuador, across two mountain chains of the Andes mountain that split vertically and Quito is in the middle. Because of all this, we had to pay 16 CENTS a gallon for gas. Wow. So the trip to the area we were headed was 5 hours of Downhill on the west side of the Andes. The scenery can not be justifiably explained. Awesome doesn’t come close. We went to a small “city”…where the road entering the city was paved…and one way. On the exit of the city, the road was dirt. In that city..I hope I can remember to look up the name…we saw stores and shops that had front doors like metal garage doors, and wares were hung around the opening to what they had inside. One had to step up a big 2 ft or more step from the street to the opening of the stores. A restaurant we went to, had us sitting at a table right next to the step down to the street, and the people threw their chicken bones and other garbage from the meal…into the street where it was fought over by buzzards and other animals. Quaint sure doesn’t come to mind. We had travelled here to see a “tribe” of indians known as Los Colorados. This was because the men…put a seed from Aschioto (check this spelling) into their hair and brought the hair forward like the brow of a baseball cap…and the seeds and maybe a grease turned their hair a deep red. In my poor understanding of Spanish…I learned that “this is the way it has always been”. In town, we would see males with pants on, but no shirt and that strange hairdo, and mostly drunk. The women…would wear a flowered dress and strange (to me) patent leather shoes…but not tied. The women did not use this coloration in their hair. When we went out of town to see a dwelling…I’ll post a photo here…the men wore a deep blue and white transversed striped loin cloth, and barefoot. The women wore a colored striped skirt and were topless and barefoot. He charged us $ 50 cents to take their picture, and he, the man…put a pink satin cloth around his shoulders..assumedly to be dressed up for the portrait. Their house, was made of split bamboo logs split and laid flat and then attached to other intact round bamboo trees to form a rectangular building. It had a thached roof and dirt floors. There was no stove and no chimney,but a small fire pit in one corner with the smoke going straight out thru the roof. We experienced this when we went back to them after dark. There was one oil lamp…raw flame and no protection. The bed was a small elevated area right inside the door on the opposite end from the fire pit. I saw no blankets. I asked if I could buy a mans loincloth and they refused, but did bring out the most basic loom I ever saw and showed me how they make the cloth. I did understand the spanish enough to hear the man say, “Do it right for the tourists”.
On that same trip, we travelled around trying to find other members of Los Colorados. We found only a couple, a young girl with a toddler. She had the same skirt and was topless. Another was a teenage boy who had his hair in that style and blue jeans, barefoot and topless. He told us his dad was drunk and couldn’t come out to meet us. He was under a large roofed structure with walled in area at the far end, but the roofed area was again, about 30 by 50 and there was a wooden marimba suspended by roped/vines in the near corner. Shortly after seeing him, we were driving on a dirt path thru the jungle when I saw a very large snake. The jungle was like what I think was a banana plantation. Very open floor with not much dense vegetation and banana trees separated widely. I got out to photograph the snake but it took off and I ran to catch up to it. I was in my 30s at the time, and it didn’t take me long to discover that I couldn’t catch up to it….but more important was the sudden realization that if I couldn’t keep up, if it turned and chased me, I wouldn’t be able to get away from it…it was that fast. So I immediately stopped and went back to the pickup. That…is an epiphany!