Lenny Lipton http://www.canyoncinema.com/L/Lipton.html
reviewed movies in The Berkeley Barb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Barb
image courtesy of http://www.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-bin/imgload.cgi/109
image courtesy of http://www.cs.bilkent.edu.tr/~david/sigart/01week1.htmby Lenny Lipton(Berkeley Barb June 21-27, 1968)Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is a masterpiece. I don't know how I found my way back across the bridge after looking at the thing last night. Furthermore, I don't do daily reviews, preferring rather to mull things over a bit and see the flick a few times. I'll see SPACE ODYSSEY a few more times, anyway.I've read science fiction all of my life. The first novel I read was by Robert Heinlein, and it was called RED PLANET MARS. Over the years I've read a few hundred science fiction novels by people like Asimov, Van Vogt, and Arthur C. Clarke, who co-authored SPACE ODYSSEY with Kubrick.And you know, Kubrick must have done the same trip. He grooved it all, secretly waiting, and then when MGM wasn't looking he jerked that giant electric around and worked it to his end.Stanley, you genius space-freak.
Judge a special effect, in the sense that it has any meaning to the theatrical film in this way only:
Does it like a special effect?
Special effects very nearly always look like special effects, be they traveling matte, rear screen or whatever. You can always see that "second-generation look" that build up of grain or matte fringes or some such shit like weird jiggle between foreground and background.
Well, when a rocket skims across the earth-light surface of the moon in SPACE ODYSSEY and you glimpse through the observation windows at the crew doing their thing and you see the earth hanging up there in the sky and the moon glides by, man, it doesn't look like a trick. It looks like it is.
And dig this: Almost every foot, every frame in this film is that way. I hate to say it but it blew my mind. I lost my mind engulfed in my childhood fantasies.
Let rockets fly up from the earth to the orbiting space station. Let the space suited men make deep space repairs floating down the hull of their giant ship. Let the moons of Jupiter rise and fall across its pearly blue streaked hide and I ask you Stanley-
How does it feel to be god, even with a small "g"?
The fantastic beauty of this film!
It is graceful. It accomplishes what Emshwiller tried to do in RELATIVITY. There is a scale against which to measure human action, feeling and drama and that scale is the night sky. It is the impulse of the sophomore and the philosopher to feel dwarfed and insignificant by the titanic creation that surrounds us.
Each frame of SPACE ODYSSEY seems to make this point and through this reinteration, the power of wonder accumulates, and like sex, it must be discharged in what I will describe as a reel of "coming" because that's what the last reel is.
So this sounds like crazed praises and it is. We can claim SPACE ODYSSEY for our own. It is an experimental film. If your head is over thirty, you won't dig it. The film might possibly play until 2001 to an audience of younger heads. I don't think mom and dad are going to dig this flick.
This film uses the full potential of motion picture high fidelity-- Cinerama. I may be straining here but the 78 rpm phonograph record is the the hi-fi stereo record (played over the grooviest system) as the normal window-framed boxed-in film is to Cinerama. You get lost in that screen. It's life. It's bigger than life like Mr. Barnum said.
Nobody has used that curved screen, those six sound tracks, that color the way Kubrick has. Nobody. In the lobby I overheard stuff during intermission and I realized that a mind bred on the printed word is so hung on symbols, it cannot experience experience as just that- experience without looking for a metaphor.
What a ghastly audience at the press preview! Back to your martinis, you jerks, you blabbering morons. These symbol freaks, so tripped out on second and third level meaning that essence escapes them. They're half-dead, man. I don't jive you.
But like any rich experience, A SPACE ODYSSEY can be, must be, and calls for interpretation but there is a time and a place. Analysis at the time of experience is fear of and a retreat from that experience but after the fact- why baby, I'd be the last person to tell you to turn your head off.
I hate to rap too hard at you about the film, hoping not to impose my own concepts but I know that won't happen because in the last month or so I've read half-a-dozen reviews, a dozen magazine articles and the promo put out by MGM. If that didn't turn my brain to cream cheese, nothing will so I figure my humble little, but let's be fair, brilliant review will not spoil the film for you. If those millions of words of garbage I've digested have left me with the ability to relish this film, it must be impervious to such verbal abuse.
Briefly then, so I've got something upon which to hang what I'm going to say; words about what happened in the film. Science-fiction freaks will find that there is not one new bone in the body, by that's OK, Shakespeare cribbed, right?
Ape-men doing the survival bit appear on the primordial landscape. This opening sequence is a wonder unto itself. It feels right. They get jerked around by the abrupt appearance of a tombstone-like slab later dubbed the monolith by all concerned. The cave men, pre-men, or prototype men are moved by the great gray and frighteningly simple thing. To the best of their ability, they undergo what I will call a religious experience. I loathe western religion but religion is the word we've got so let's use it.
It's presence, the slab's that is, seems to act as a catalyst. It sparks proto-man's creativity and soon his first piece of genuine technology appears- a bone used as a weapon. The weapon is first used to kill for food and then an enemy is murdered. Civilization has begun.
Dr. Whateverhisnameis, where's the promo?--no not Dr. Strange! take it easy--Dr. Floyd shuttles up to Space Station Five, on a hush-hush top secret mission. From the bone of a pre-historic animal tossed into the air we have cut to a space ship in the year 2001, and the good Dr. Floyd. It's hard to identify with a creep with such short hair but after the cultural shock wears off, I got to like the cat. And that's where it's at.
The Top Secret is the discovery of another slab way up near crater Tycho on the moon. This would be a gigantic cultural shoot. Floyd heads for the moon, the stop the U.S.A. base Clavius (that's where all those War On Poverty funds went).
While posing for a snap-shot in front of the monolith, it emits a signal to Jupiter of all places. Why?
Earth scientists know the thing was buried on the surface of the moon four million years ago. They know that there is other intelligence in the universe for a fact. Furthermore, this intelligence is capable of creating a device that will remain functioning for four million years. These are people who are prepared to wait it out.
The discovery of each monolith is a test. The monolith on the moon was meant to be discovered and once it was it signaled that man was ready--but ready for what?
Cut to the space ship Discovery headed for Jupiter. Aboard are two functioning astronauts and three in the deep freeze and one super computer named HAL that really does all the work. HAL functions as T group leader, chess player, servant and watchdog. The HAL computer series had never been known to make a mistake. During a disturbing conversation with one of the astronauts, HAL makes a mistake.
Just as the monolith endowed man with creativity that was used primarily for self preservation, HAL, created by man in his own image, seeks to preserve himself. I feel there is a direct analogy between the monolith and man and man and HAL.
Fearing that the Jupiter bound crew will terminate his consciousness because he had become unreliable, HAL systematically murders the crew with the exception of Bowman (Keir Dullea). In one of the most fascinating and moving episodes in any film, Bowman lobotomizes HAL as HAL cajoles and pleads, begs for life. But the game is up, and HAL is murdered by Bowman--justifiable homicide.
Finally Bowman discovers the third monolith floating is space, orbiting near the moons of Jupiter. If man could get this far, the monolith has something special in store for him. So far it has given him a technology or acted as a catalyst for the creation of man's technology. Now the slab undoes the constraints it has placed on man's nervous system. Dr. Leary would be able to explain what happens next better than I or I'm sure Huxley could fill you in better, were he with us in corporeal form.
The nervous system, it has been said, functions very much like a filter, a filter that excludes much stimuli. If you were grooving with everything, all the beauty of the world, color form and sound and your own body, you would have a hard time crossing the street. Bowman is psychedelicized. His filters are opened wide by the third monolith. He is on a super acid trip. He is plunged into a world of inward discovery and past him shoot what look like DNA molecules, in fact, it's like getting show down a chromosome tunnel; Bowman meets God.
He witnesses the creation of all matter, the stars, the universe, the galaxies, life, and all consciousness is his, all knowledge is his. Bowman dies, or his ego dies--sound familiar--he is reborn, as a neo-man, homo-superior.
Reborn as a strange glassy-glowing fetus-like creature, perhaps a projection of a being of pure thought and energy, he revisits earth, wide-eyed, tuned into everything, no longer needing the survival trip.
The theme of survival and technology, and the gift of man of the monolith runs through the film. The first deeds of proto-man are killings as are the deeds of HAL.
Bowman could tell us if the trip was worth it.
The effect is majestic, and horrifying. The acting is superb. The filmmaking is superb. Everything is so mellow. I tell you it knocked me out. Bless you Mr. Kubrick.
image courtesy of http://freewidescreenwallpapers.blogspot.com/2007/12/three-soldiers-vietnam-memorial.html
This is the monument that I raised money for.
MARCH 22 GROUNDBREAKING FOR HISTORIC WASHINGTON, D.C. MONUMENT PROJECT IN APALACHICOLA
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Three Soldiers, Detail statue to be centerpiece in Veterans Memorial Plaza
Apalachicola, FL - Three Servicemen Statue South announces a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for 11:00 am on March 22 at the Veterans Memorial Plaza, four blocks north of downtown Apalachicola on Market Street. All are invited to attend, especially veterans of all American wars. Following the ceremony, Preble-Rish, Inc. of Port St. Joe will host a barbeque lunch at the adjacent Chapman Botanical Garden.
This one-of-a-kind veterans memorial will add to Apalachicola’s rich history that impressed the National Trust for Historic Preservation to select the town for one of twelve 2008 Distinctive Destinations. As the site for the bronze statue Three Soldiers currently installed on the Mall in Washington next to The Wall, Apalachicola will hold the distinction of having the only memorial commissioned for our nation’s capital and allowed to be reproduced and placed elsewhere. The famed Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the most visited monument in our capital with four million visitors annually.
The commission for Apalachicola is a significant detail from Three Soldiers created to scale from renowned figurative artist Frederick Hart’s original molds, and set on a black granite pedestal, similar to the panels of names at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the capital. Three Soldiers, Detail is a power work that maintains the integrity and artistic excellence of the Washington statue. Viewers will experience the Three Soldiers, Detail at the same height as the original in Washington in a serene setting so healing and reflection will also be experienced in the southeastern United States. Names of many veterans will be engraved on bricks to form the Circle of Freedom walkway and personalize the life-like soldiers of the statue which was created as a moving evocation of the experience and service of the servicemen. For more information on the bricks, contact the organization at (850) 653-1318.
Three Servicemen Statue South Inc. is a non-profit formed by Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient Jimmy Mosconis, an Apalachicola native and business owner, to honor veterans of all American wars, especially those originating from the southeastern United States. Through a grassroots effort, the organization has collected over $400,000 in grants and donations. The City of Apalachicola has donated the half-block of land for the plaza.
In 2004 the sculptor Frederick Hart was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given to an artist or art patron by the U.S. Government. Awarded posthumously for the first time, the medal was presented to Lindy Lain Hart in the Oval Office by the President and the First Lady accompanied by a proclamation which stated "For his important body of work including the Washington National Cathedral’s Creation Sculptures" and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s "Three Soldiers" which heralded a new age for contemporary public art."
Production and casting of Three Soldiers, Detail is estimated to be completed shortly. Copyright of Three Soldiers, Detail is retained by the Estate of Frederick Hart and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
As I was just about to click on "violet moon's whatever"....noticed the one directly below and made that choice instead. Man, that was terrific! Sorry I never memorized the words to that song. It's a freakin' history class! I didn't notice who combined all of it together but they did a fantastic job.
An interesting take on the times of our lives. You may copy and paste the link or click on it. It will take a little time to load, so be patient. It would make an interesting show at the upcoming reunion. I think you will enjoy it.
The Billy Joel song/montage WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE
was sent to us by William Wheatley, DHS Class of '62. His brother Thomas graduated in '66 when we were sophomores.
William was brilliant at DHS. I remember him building a cylindrical electromagnet that shot nails for his science project. He showed how it could be a weapon of war or a tool for space exploration.
The following is William's biography of his father Arthur Wheatley who was my Scoutmaster in Troop 130.
The Life & Times of Arthur Wheatley [note from robertoreg:My Scoutmaster of Troop 130 in Dothan]
by William Wheatley http://wheatleyus.com/pages/672346/index.htm
Thomas’ older son, Arthur Cornwallis Wheatley, became an engineer after studying in England at Cambridge University. He obtained an appointment with the British East India Company and spent several years in Africa surveying for potential mining operations. He surveyed also for the first rail line across Africa from Khartoum to the west. He also worked a tour of duty with The Nyasaland Company prospecting for minerals.
In between African excursions he returned to Mexico and occasionally visited Texas. His father had developed a fondness for San Antonio and had established a second home there.
In San Antonio, Arthur met Mary Lucy Giddings, daughter of a prominent Texas family. Her father, George Giddings, was involved in mining operations in northern Mexico. Arthur wrote to her extensively while on trips to Africa and they married in San Antonio when Arthur completed his assignments in Africa and returned to the Western Hemisphere.
After the marriage, Thomas moved to a home he owned in Mexico City. Arthur and Mary took up residence in Saltillo and took over the active management of the mines. They kept the house in San Antonio, living part-time in San Antonio, where Arthur practised Civil Engineering part-time. The rest of the time, the family lived in Saltillo, where my father, Arthur C. Wheatley, Jr., was born in 1900.
They raised him as an Englishman, sending him to a Catholic school and hiring an English tutor to make sure he had a proper English education.
In 1910, the family was on a stagecoach trip from San Antonio to El Paso, where they also had a home, one that Mary had inherited from her father, George Giddings. The stagecoach overturned approaching El Paso. May Wheatley, my father’s older sister, was killed in the accident, and my father suffered a broken hip. Arthur Jr. was sent to New York City for medical treatment, where his broken hip was re-broken and set. He spent time in New York encased in sand until the knitting of the bones would allow travel back to Texas. Later that year, Arthur, Sr., died “of a broken heart” to be followed shortly by his father, Thomas D. Wheatley, who died at home in Mexico City.
In northern Mexico, in 1877 or 1878 (the exact date is not known), Doroteo Arango
was born on an hacienda on which his father was a worker. In 1894, Doroteo, then working alongside his father, returned to their house to find his 12-year-old sister, Martina, being raped by a wealthy property owner, Don Lopez Negreto. Doroteo shot and killed Don Lopez.
At that time in Mexico a small number of wealthy property owners, primarily of Spanish ancestry, owned and controlled most of the working land. The native population, mostly Indian and Mestizo (mixed blood), lived on and worked the land for the landowners. Debts incurred by the workers were inherited by the sons, and pay was meagre. A worker could not leave the land unless all his debts to the landowner were paid, and so the condition was similar to that of feudal serfdom. The workers were little more than slaves. A landowner was permitted to punish his workers for insubordination with penalties up to and including death. Had the roles been reversed, Don Lopez would have been justified in killing Doroteo. As it was, Doroteo had committed a capital crime.
Accordingly, he fled to the hills to save his life. There he joined a corps of bandits led by Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Before long, Francisco was killed in a raid and Doroteo took over leadership of the band, adopting the name of his predecessor. From then onwards he was known as Pancho Villa.
Porfirio Diaz had ruled Mexico as President with dictatorial powers since 1876. He had developed the Mexican economy by inviting foreign investment. A number of Englishmen settled in Northern Mexico on land given them by Diaz. He invited foreign investment in industry and resource development as well. It was in this period that Thomas Dalemain Wheatley, my great-grandfather, moved to northern Mexico and invested in silver mines. Before long, the paths of Pancho Villa and the Wheatley family were to cross.
In 1905, a series of small rebellions began against the Diaz regime. Among them, Pancho Villa in the north and Emiliano Zapata in the south began fighting the federal forces and wresting large swaths of Mexico away from federal control.
Diaz could see the handwriting on the wall. He announced in 1908 that Mexico was ready for full democracy and that the time had come for him to prepare to step down and have an open election for president. Accordingly in 1910 a ballot was scheduled, and Francisco Madero announced his candidacy. He planned to institute rule by a group of elites, rather than full democracy, and Diaz, to prevent Madera’s election, threw him in prison and declared himself the winner. Madero escaped and fled to the US. A popular uprising ensued in support of Madero, who raised forces against the weak federal army. Zapata and Pancho Villa fought alongside him. After the defeat of the federal army, a coup within ranks resulted in Victoriano Huerta’s seizing command of the federal army. He worked out an agreement under which Diaz would abdicate. Madera was duly elected President and established a democratic government in 1911.
In 1911, most foreigners in northern Mexico withdrew to Texas for reasons of personal safety. Northern Mexico had become very turbulent. Most mining operations, owned and operated by foreigners, were shut down at that time. The American engineers who had been running the Wheatley mine since Arthur C. Wheatley Sr.’s death in 1910 shut down the mine and fled to Texas. The Wheatleys relocated to El Paso.
Zapata’s forces and Pancho Villa’s forces were merged into the federal army. Huerta expected to rule Mexico from his position as head of a strong military, while the idealistic president, Madero, would make speeches and write grand plans for Mexico. Huerta decided to eliminate his competition. Meanwhile, Zapata and Madero came to a parting of the ways over Madero’s failure to institute land reforms, and Zapata withdrew to the south with his forces.
Huerta imprisoned Pancho Villa, who also advocated land redistribution, on charges of insubordination. Huerta ordered the execution of Pancho Villa, but President Madero stopped the execution and ordered Pancho’s release. Pancho fled to the US in 1912 where he proceeded to make friends with wealthy Texans, arms dealers, and politicians.
In 1913, Huerta arranged for the assassination of Madero and declared himself president. Pancho Villa returned to northern Mexico and organised an armed rebellion. The force he formed came to be known as the “Division del Norte.” He and another rebel, Venustiano Carranza, waged a successful revolt against Huerta. The US supported the rebels against Huerta, who had begun expatriating American land holdings in Mexico and giving them to families that supported Huerta. This support included financial support and the sale of arms to the rebels.
Carranza and Villa had been enemies in the past, and Carranza tried to place Villa under his control by inviting Villa to join with him (meaning under him) for the campaign to overthrow Huerta. Villa refused, preferring to maintain an independent force. Carranza and Villa both fought simultaneously against Huerta, but as separate forces, very loosely coordinating with each other. Carranza formed an alliance with Álvaro Obregón. As the defeat of Huerta’s forces seemed imminent, Carranza and Obregón began skirmishing against Villa, and the war turned into a three cornered conflict.
In the midst of this, the US saw Carranza as the “stronger candidate” and began siding with Carranza, stopping the flow of money to Villa. At this time, Carranza/Obregón on one northern flank, Pancho Villa on another northern flank, and Zapata on the south were causing severe problems for the federal troops. As Carranza got closer to Mexico City with Huerta’s troops in retreat, the US opened a fourth flank against the Mexican federal troops. US Marines landed at Veracruz and marched on Mexico City (“The Halls of Montezuma”) in support of Carranza. Distracted by the American attack, the federal troops allowed Pancho Villa’s Division del Norte to establish control over most of northern Mexico, including most of the territory that had been under Carranza’s control. Carranza now controlled only his battlefields; his rival, Pancho Villa, controlled half of Mexico.
Seeing that his defeat was imminent, Huerta fled to Spain. Pancho Villa declared himself president, but so did Carranza. At first, the US appeared to recognize Villa’s presidency. General “Black Jack” Pershing hosted a formal reception for “Presidente Villa of the Republic of Mexico” at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, in July of 1914.
The US desired to prevent the return of Huerta, who had tried to ally Mexico with Germany in the war in Europe in order to take revenge on the French for their conquest of Mexico and installation of Maximillian as emperor of Mexico a generation before. The US anticipated an alliance with the British, and did not like the idea of a German ally on the southern border. Pershing promised that Pancho Villa would get renewed US aid and arms. Carranza entered Mexico City and was sworn in as president.
In 1915, Zapata and Pancho Villa, acting together, attacked and drove Carranza out of Mexico City. Pancho declared himself president and was sworn in as such. My father told me that his family was invited to attend the inauguration. His uncle, Lionel York Wheatley, lived in Mexico City at the time. I remember seeing among family papers the engraved menu from the inaugural dinner.
Carranza at that point turned back toward Mexico City and in 1915 mounted a serious campaign against Villa, who fled to the north. Carranza quickly won two important battles against Villa, who was hamstrung without money and arms, as US shipments to him had not resumed. Villa withdrew to the hills that were his traditional stronghold, and the US officially recognized Carranza as “provisional president”, ordering all arms shipments to Villa stopped. Pershing allowed Carranza to move Mexican troops across Texas to cut off Villa’s forces at Aqua Prieta, Sonora, where Villa suffered a serious defeat and pulled all of his remaining forces back to the hills.
Declaring that northern Mexico had been stabilised and was now peaceful, with Villa “defeated once and for all,” President Carranza in January of 1916 invited the exiled foreign land and business owners to return to Mexico. Many did, but Pancho Villa, enraged at America’s withdrawal of support, turned against Americans, vowing to kill all he could find. Arthur C. Wheatley Jr. was among those who returned. He was just sixteen at the time, but he was determined to resume mining operations in the mines he had inherited. Carranza attacked a train carrying seventeen American mining engineers from Chihuahua to the mines near Saltillo, executing sixteen of them. The seventeenth escaped by feigning death, dropping to the ground as if he had been shot, where he rolled down an embankment into a stand of mesquite trees, whence he escaped on foot.I have read of this incident in histories of the Mexican revolution, and have wondered if the one who escaped was my father.
He had returned to Mexico at Carranza’s invitation, relying on his looks (brown-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired) to be able to pass for Mexican, on his ability to speak Spanish like a native, on the fact that he was a native-born Mexican and that as an Englishman he was not an American, to remain safe. The above incident and my father’s story are of the same time, but he never told me about the train attack. Nevertheless, he did flee Mexico at the time. Here is his story as he told it to me:When Carranza became president and it seemed that the rebellions had been crushed, many who had fled Mexico at the outbreak of hostilities returned to their farms, their mines, and their businesses in Mexico. I was just sixteen at the time, but my sainted mother was nearly destitute from lack of income. She had been forced to sell our house in San Antonio to meet expenses and we had moved to the smaller home we had in El Paso, where I was in school. In the spring, I started rounding up the engineers who had worked for my father in the mine and organized an expedition back to the mine. We went to Chihuahua by train, and then continued on the little mining supply train that ran through the mining country to Saltillo, where my father’s house still stood, the house in which I was born. I had arranged earlier for my mother’s car to be shipped ahead to the house in Saltillo.
Unfortunately, hostilities broke out again. To make a long story short, I made it by foot back to Saltillo without being caught by the Villistas. I took the car and drove as fast as I could on the dirt road to Monterrey where I slept, ate, stocked up on water, refuelled the car, and then took the road toward Laredo, Texas, which was the closest border crossing.
About two hours down the road I encountered by a patrol of troops. I couldn’t tell whether they were federales or Villa’s men. They were heavily armed and I had only my father’s revolver, so I stopped at their road block. El Colonel got in the car with me and told me he was commandeering my vehicle and that his men would follow on horseback. I asked him where they were going. He said they were going the same direction I was. I asked them what they were doing and whether there was trouble ahead, because I thought all the fighting was to the south.
“We’re looking for a Gringo [a Mexican slang word for American] named Arturo,” he answered.
“Did he commit a crime?” I asked.
“He came back to Mexico to steal again a mine that belongs to the people of Mexico. Diaz stole it from the people and gave it to the Gringos. We chased out the foreigners and took it back, and now Arturo came back to steal it back.”
“What does Arturo look like?” I asked.
“He’s a gringo, so he must have light hair and light skin. Have you seen any Gringos on your trip?”
“I’ve only seen Mexican peasants running away from the fighting.”
“So where are you going?” He asked.I had to think fast. There was no destination worth mentioning between where we were and Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
“I’m going to Laredo to buy American feed for my father’s horses. He raises fine Arabian horses for the corrida [bullfight].” The answer seemed to satisfy him.
“I’m thirsty,” he said after a while. “What do you have to drink?” I nodded my head toward the back.
“I have some water in containers in the back,” I said.
“I am too thirsty for water,” he said. “Tiene usted cerveza? [do you have beer]?”
“Pulque?” [Pulque is an alcoholic drink consisting of fermented juice of the agave, the base that is distilled into tequila.]”
“No, yo tengo solamente agua [no, I only have water].”
“Stop at the next cantina.”
After about an hour we came to a crossroads populated by the village of Sabinas Hidalgo, consisting of a handful of adobe buildings, one of which contained a cantina. He instructed me to stop at the side of the road, which I did. He showed me a gold piece, and told me that if I waited while he and his men wetted their thirst, I could have it. I nodded agreement. Seeing a gasoline sign a short distance ahead, I told him that I would go to refuel the car and then return to wait for him. His men dismounted and watered their horses at the public watering trough outside the cantina, and then they all went inside. I drove slowly to the gasoline sign, found the owner, and had him pump the gasoline into the car. I paid him, and then drove on as quickly as I could. I never saw the troops again.I made it without further incident to Laredo, and then went on to El Paso. In the fall, I went back to high school. As the revolution consolidated its hold on the country, Mexico nationalised the mines.My grandfather’s legacy was taken away.
Back at high school in El Paso in the fall, my father enrolled in the Cadet Corps to prepare for commissioning in the US Cavalry. Everyone was expecting the US to enter the war in Europe in support of the British.
In March of that same year, 1916, Pancho Villa invaded New Mexico to punish an arms dealer there who had refused to ship arms for which Pancho had paid. He didn’t find the arms dealer, but he did attack and destroy the town of Columbus, New Mexico, in a battle in which several Americans were killed. Some believe that this was a staged incident by Carranza sympathisers to induce the US to intervene against Pancho Villa in the ongoing war between Carranza and Villa. However, the attack is consistent with Villa’s known intent to punish the Americans for abandoning him.
In April of 1916, General Pershing invaded Mexico, with President Carranza’s approval, to pursue and capture Pancho Villa. Pershing was singularly unsuccessful, although there were a number of skirmishes and he killed a number of Mexicans who were believed to be Villistas.
The US activities during these years were turning points in US military history. For the first time, US Marines stormed foreign soil. For the first time, National Guard troops were activated by the Federal Government to engage in combat. For the first time, American troops (regulars and National Guard) invaded what was indisputably foreign territory. For the first time, aircraft were deployed on a combat mission. This was also the first combat experience for Lt. George Patton, later to win fame and his place in history in World War II as a general. In Mexico, Patton succeeded in leading a raid that returned with three bodies of Mexicans – one of which was the body of one of the commanders of Villa’s forces, Cardenas. For a brief period, Patton was a “war hero” whose story was told in US newspapers.
Finally, after much futile pursuit and little to show for results, Pershing gave up the chase and returned to the US, writing to President Wilson, “Pancho Villa is everywhere, and he is nowhere.”
As a high school cadet, Arthur trained at Fort Bliss under Patton, among others. In 1918, upon graduation, Arthur was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry and stationed at Fort Bliss. Within days the company at Fort Bliss and their horses were sent by train to Galveston to board ship for Europe. Before they left harbour, the war ended. Arthur’s company was returned to Fort Bliss and mobilized as a border patrol to defend the border against bandits and Apaches. By the end of the year, the unit was converted to inactive National Guard status and demobilized.
Mexico seemed to have settled down, but with Pancho Villa still holed up in the mountains. In 1918 the Constitution of the Republic of Mexico was adopted and the “official” phase of the Revolution ended. However, small bands of rebels still held out, and there were occasional skirmishes, but the “rebellions” began to look more and more like “banditry.”
In early 1919, Arthur returned to Mexico with a few mining engineers. He reopened the mine and hired the local Indians to work it, paying them in silver coin. They had no trust in paper money, since each of the bandit-revolutionaries had developed the habit of printing his own, and paper money had very little value. Silver, however, was a known quantity. On Thursday, Arthur would take boring samples, rods of ore stone drilled out of the rock, by mule train to Chihuahua for assay, along with the mined ore for sale. He would return with rolls of silver coins to pay the miners. Here is the story, combining his verbal story to me with written narratives from his papers:The hills still had roving bands of bandits. Some were Pancho Villa’s men, some were bands loosely associated with him, and some were simply independent gangs. Villa tried to run herd over them all, acting as regional policeman. If a local farmer had been robbed, he would go to Villa, who would track down the bandit who did it and return the loot. If a visitor from elsewhere in Mexico was robbed and complained to Pancho, Pancho would return the goods and tell him to try to stay in his own neighbourhood. The bandits were supposed to prey only on trains carrying supplies to the federales or to interests outside of Pancho Villa country. Raids to lands nearby were permitted, but within Pancho Villa country one was supposed to be secure and safe. Of course, the truth was far from what it was supposed to be.
My weekly mule train was often stopped. Usually, I was stopped on my way out to Chihuahua. When asked what my mules were carrying, I would show them the stone rods which were the assay samples and the bags of crushed stone that was the ore. Seeing nothing that they could use for money, they would let me go. I made it a point to carry a few of the “stone rods” with me on my return to the mine, so that if I was stopped on the way back I could unwrap stone rods to show the bandits instead of rolls of silver coins. Soon, I no longer had to show them anything. They would ask what I was carrying, and I would tell them I was carrying rocks and stone rods, and they would wave me on. Soon, I stopped carrying the assay samples back to camp from Chihuahua.
That was a mistake – a careless mistake. A band of bandidos stopped me on one trip and asked what I was carrying. I gave the usual answer. The leader dismounted, walked up to my lead donkey, and used his machete to slash open a roll of silver coins. Sneering at me, he took the mule train and killed the two Indians who rode with me, slashing them across the stomach so that their intestines spilled to the ground. He took my horse, my hat, my rifle and my boots. I walked barefoot back into camp.
In those days I had a temper. I was really angry. I took my revolver from my trunk. It was the revolver that had been carried in earlier days by my father, and that I had carried in rougher times, but which I had stopped wearing. If I had been wearing it, the bandido would have taken it, too. I saddled another horse and rode to Pancho’s stronghold. When his guards challenged me I told them I had a complaint that Pancho Villa needed to hear. They let me in. I dismounted and walked up to Pancho Villa.
“Don Pancho,” I said, “I have known you since we met at Fort Bliss when I was young. I have always known you as a man of your word, a man who values honour. You have known me as the Englishman born in Mexico who is as much Mexican as English. I complain to you as a Mexican who has been wronged in your territory by bandidos.”
I then told him the story of my robbery. I then drew my revolver, holding it so that it pointed straight up at the sky.
“You know me as a man of my word, as well,” I continued. “I give you my word that if you do not return to me what is mine, I will fight for what is mine. If I do not leave here with what is mine, I shall starve, and my mother and my sister shall starve, and we shall die, so I do not fear being killed by your men. But you can be sure that you will die before I do.”
“Put away your weapon,” said Pancho. “I’ll die before you because I’m older than you. I’m not going to harm you. My men did not know they were robbing the English Mexican. I will return all of your property.”
With that, he turned his back to me and strode toward the table that was set in the courtyard.
“Come eat and drink with me, as an old friend, before you return to your camp,” he said.
I did join him for dinner. We traded tall tales about our adventures. He laughed when I told him of my flight by car from Mexico a few years before.
“My men would not have harmed you,” he said. “They were under orders to round up all Gringos and bring them to me. They didn’t know that the Arturo they sought was the English Mexican. I knew that you and your father were men of honour, and I would have let you go. But I would have taken your mines, because Diaz had stolen them from the people.”
“You don’t take it now,” I said. “Why not now? Why would you have taken my property then, but not now?”
“Times have changed,” he said. “The revolution is over. I fight on only because I don’t want to be caught and executed. The times are still dangerous. Small fights still go on. Most of my men know who you are and respect you. But there are men in this state who are not revolutionaries but bandidos. You have to be careful of them. You need a bodyguard.”
He sat in thought for a moment before continuing. “I have a man who shall be your bodyguard. He is not as old as I, but he is experienced, and he knows all of my men. He is one of my right-hand men. He can deal with any bandido you run into. He will be at your side from today and I will pay him as I have always done. I do things for my friends.”
Raising his voice, he yelled, “Don Jesus! Come here!” A swarthy bandido came running to the table.
“Sí, mi General,” he said.
“You know the English Mexican, Don Arturo. He is a friend of mine. Bandidos have been bothering him. I give you to him. You are to guard him and serve him as you would guard and serve me. ¿Comprende?”
“Sí, mi General,” he said.
Don Jesus departed with me and stayed with me from then on. After several trips to and from Chihuahua, bandit bands no longer stopped us. They just smiled and waved as we went by. I had saddle bags painted with the words, “Don Arturo” and started sending the mule trains with one of my engineers in charge, no longer feeling the need to defend them myself. For weeks they returned safely. I had begun to think that they were finally safe from the bandidos.
Then one day the engineer who had taken a mule train to Chihuahua returned with the mules but without his men and without the payrolls. He told me that bandidos had taken the money and shot his men. I turned to Don Jesus and took out my anger on him.
“Don Jesus,” I shouted, “I thought that your boss had honour but he does not. His bandidos have taken my money.” He stood with bowed head while I yelled at him a while longer. I told him to go back to his bandido friends, that from now on I would hire my own guards and take care of myself. He raised his head and looked me in the eye.
“Don Arturo, I have honour, and so does Don Pancho. I will go and get the men who did this. They are men who have left Pancho, have abandoned the revolution, and have become bandidos. They are without honour, and I, who have honour, will bring them to justice.”
I immediately repented my outburst because I was sure that he was telling me the truth and that this was not Pancho Villa’s doing. I apologized to him, but he stopped me, telling me that I should hold my words until he returned, having then proved his honour. He armed himself heavily and rode alone into the hills. I said a silent prayer for his safety, fearing he would not return alive. My American engineer and I went to Saltillo for a few days at home with bath water, soap and good food.
Three days later he walked into the courtyard of my house in Saltillo, leading his horse, on which three prisoners were tied and strapped into place. He offered them for identification. Alas, the bandits had their faces covered when they had committed the act, and my engineer could not identify them.
Don Jesus untied them from the horse, but left their hands bound and left them tied together. Leading them by the rope that bound them, he led them away, saying he would take them to town and deliver them to the local police for investigation.
He was back within an hour, reporting the old story that they had tried to escape and he had been forced to shoot them.
“But, Don Jesus,” I complained, thinking of their blood on my head, “Those men may not have been the ones who assaulted my men. We could not identify them. You may have killed innocent men!”
“Innocent? Ah, but, Don Arturo,” he said, “They could not have been innocent. They were very bad men, yes, very bad. They were the ones, I am very positive! And besides, if they did not do that, they have done other things. They are very bad men. Yes, they were my chief lieutenants in the days of the revolution. They deserve the punishment that they have received.”
He was standing straight and calm with dignified pride.
“I did what they deserved. Justice is served. My days of killing men who do not deserve to die are over. We must make Mexico a land of law!”
I thought to myself that it would be generations before the old ways died and Mexico could become a land of law.
In 1920, General Álvaro Obregón, along with associates Plutarcho Elías Calles and Adolfo de la Huerte launched a successful revolt against Carranza, who was soon assassinated. Carranza had already had Zapata killed in 1919. Pancho Villa, the last remaining revolutionary, reached a deal with the new Mexican government under which he laid down his arms and retired to a large hacienda with his men.
The new government expropriated the mines, industry and lands owned by foreigners, including the Wheatley mines. My father returned to Texas and continued pursuing his degree in mining engineering from the Texas School of Mines in El Paso.
In early 1923, Calles began campaigning for election as President, and Pancho Villa, still immensely popular with the people of the north, decided to make a legitimate bid for election. He told his associates he was going to announce his candidacy and try to win election. My father had returned to Mexico, employed now as a mining engineer to work in the mines he had once owned, by a company that was running them for the Mexican government.
Pancho Villa began a trip criss-crossing the northern states, lining up political and financial support. When his car reached Parral, Chihuahua, he was killed in a hail of gunfire.As my father told it, Villa had arrived by car in the town square with the town leaders and local businessmen, including my father, standing near the car. Villa was going to make a speech announcing his candidacy for president. Seven gunmen killed him in a hail of gunfire.
Once again my father headed for the border. The assassins were arrested, tried, and imprisoned with very light sentences. Suspicion centred on Calles, but the assassins never named their employer, and Calles soon pardoned them.
No uprising followed, and so my father returned to Mexico and his employment after a brief absence. Soon, he met Inda Mary Benway, a young lady later to become his bride, who was at the time living with her father, mother, and sister in Chihuahua. Her father, Dr. William Henry Benway, a surgeon, operated a medical and surgical clinic for the Methodist Church to provide medical care to the Indians of the region, particularly the Tarahumara Indians.
He left Mexico after the mines played out in 1929, and Don Jesus went back to the hill country. My father worked for a while in the Beaumont, Texas shipyards before marrying Inda Benway on 5th June 1935 in El Paso, Texas. He returned with her to his home in Saltillo and returned to working in the mines he had once owned. Then, when the US entered World War II, he took employment with the Tennessee Valley Authority as a construction engineer.
When I was an infant in 1945, we moved from Norris, Tennessee, to Merida, Yucatan, where my father began employment with Electric Bond and Share of New York, later known as EBASCO, building power plants. My father said that he wrote to his friends in Mexico to announce his return, and that about a month later, Don Jesus showed up on his doorstep in Merida. He told my father that although Pancho was dead and could not pay him, he was there to continue his duty. My father put him to work on the payroll of the projects he was running.
I remember Don Jesus. When we moved to Puebla, Don Jesus came, too. My father became Chief Engineer for Luz y Fuerza de Puebla, the power company for the state of Puebla, and Don Jesus became night watchman at the power plant that served the City of Puebla. That power company, and the entire power industry in Mexico, was owned at the time by EBASCO. My brother, Thomas Benway Wheatley, who was born in Puebla, also may remember Don Jesus. After burglars broke into our house one night, Don Jesus started spending his nights as night watchman at our house. Our dog, Butch, adored Don Jesus and would make the nightly rounds with him. He fed Butch bread soaked in coffee, which Butch seemed to love. Don Jesus died shortly after we moved permanently from Mexico in 1955. I remember him as a kind, gentle old man with steel in his eyes. They were the grey of gunmetal.
Once again, it had become necessary for my father to leave the country, this time because the Mexican government expropriated foreign holdings. It nationalised the power industry and passed a law forbidding the employment of Americans in managerial positions in state-owned industries.In 1955 we left Puebla and settled in Dothan, Alabama
, where my father took a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a construction engineer at near-by Fort Rucker.
My father and mother are both buried in Dothan.
The connection between Alabama and Pancho Villa’s Mexico may be tenuous, but the strange friendship between my father and Pancho Villa provides a link. Pancho Villa was brutal, and began his adult life as a bandit. However, throughout most of the revolutionary period, he was a true revolutionary and champion of the poor people.William Arthur Wheatley http://wheatleyus.com/pages/672346/index.htm
(©2006, William Arthur Wheatley)
Today, I am an architect and construction manager. I live and work as a consultant in the Philadelphia suburbs. Like my father’s, my work tends to be international. I have many beautiful memories from my childhood in Mexico. My brother, Thomas Benway Wheatley, Esquire, an attorney, lives and works in Portland and in Bar Harbor, Maine.
The copyright for this article is owned by William Arthur Wheatley. This article may not be reproduced without permission in any media. Some of the photographs reproduced in this article are from the public domain, and are so noted. The remainder are the separate copyright property of the owners referenced.