Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age
Almost half a century ago, forty-seven years to be exact, I became the owner of a bar in Ecuador. Life in South America was a thrilling place to be and far wilder than it is now. Until that time I had never owned, managed or bartended a bar so I had a much to learn about the business and the country
When I took over, the Wildcatter Club, as the name implies was an oil-field bar with a monopoly on contradictory characters. It was no cocktail bar nor was it a horse-brass filled, traditional English pub and there are not enough words to describe the men and women who frequented that bar. Honest, resolute, eccentric, reckless, nefarious, unstable are but a few adjectives which come to mind.
In the nineteen-seventies, the South America countries west of the Andes were turbulent places. Ecuador, at the time I write about was governed by the military, as was Peru. Columbia was still recovering from the horrifying period called, La Violencia and the communist group FARC were just getting organized. In 1973 socialist President Allende was killed and Chile became a dictatorship under General Pinochet. In Argentina, the military’s Dirty War was getting under way and before the end of their rule 30,000 people would disappear.
Not that I was aware of what was going on around me at that time. As a naive newcomer to Latin-America I knew nothing of the political situation, despite that a select number of Ecuador’s high-ranking, police and military and their mistresses, spent time and money in the Wildcatter. I was informed by one army colonel, on questioning him on some irrelevant news item, that “Un poco de conocimiento es algo peligroso.” – A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I left it at that.
The Wildcatter was an international bar and financially out of reach for most Ecuadorians. With many petroleum workers in the country during its oil boom it was a somewhat unruly bar. I attempted to change that. Before long the clientele were diplomats, businessmen, both local and international, police and military officers, arms dealers and con-men.
I could go on about that bar and the two consecutive bars I had in Quito during those years. Instead, I have put it all down in my book, “If I Hadn’t been Shot, I’d be Dead by Now,” that covers my eventful life during that period, which I hope will shortly be published. However, as an enticement I can cite one typical ludicrous incident which happened as I was up-grading the clientele.
The American Embassy’s consul at that time was in the Wildcatter lunching with two of her female colleagues. Nearby in the bar area was a small group of the rougher oil-field wives having a little fun while their husbands were at work in the jungle. Even during the day these women, when drunk, could be disruptive but that day they were quietly drunk and seemingly conspiring peacefully amongst themselves.
All was calm until the largest of them, known to us as Big Belle, (from Bakersfield) who I later learned had an on-going problem with the US consul, left her bemused friends, went into the dining area, interrupted the trio by introducing herself and politely offered to entertain them with a trick.
Regardless of the consul’s polite rebuff to see the conjuring stunt being proposed, Big Belle went ahead. The caper, which I am told has been known to work, is to remove the table cloth with a sharp tug, leaving the glasses, plates and cutlery, standing in good array on the table.
I knew it would not have worked even if Big Belle had been sober – and she wasn’t and it didn’t. The three embassy employees had their steak, tail and baked potato lunches, tossed up in the air and ultimately down, to stain their neat business attire.
Of course, Big Belle apologised profusely but whether she got her visa problem sorted, I never did find out.