– By Geoff Burrowes

They rode down from the low hills toward a long fringe of trees, through which, there was a glimpse of sparkling water!

The savannah stretched away in the distance as far as the eye could see, interrupted only by the savannah islands, unexpected outcroppings, that were as large as mountains, forested on their slopes and breaking the monotony of the flat grasslands.     

There were two of them, large muscular men, well weathered by the savannah sun, on the little ponies, descended from the horses brought to the new world by the Spanish conquistadores, many centuries before.

The man in the lead was tall and lean while the other was larger, more muscular, with a low brow under which little eyes peered at the world malovently. The lead rider turned in his saddle and said “Tiny , that looks like a good camp spot, what do you think?” Tiny spat and said sullenly “Why’re you asking me? You’ve already decided on it!” The other said, with the hint of a grin ” Well what are we waiting for? Let’s go Jet ” and  kicked his pony into the spine-jarring trot that the little ponies covered long miles of savannah with!

They trotted into a clearing in the fringe of Etai palms that sheltered the creek and looked with pleasure at the clear water that ran between the white sand banks. In a strained silence, they watered the horses, drank from the cold creek, stretched into the saddle bags and pulled out the makings and made coffee and chewed on strips of tasso, dried salted beef and then filled their tin cups with farine soaked in creek water and flavoured with brown sugar.

When they had finished their meal the lean man, Robert Moore, turned to his companion and with a small smile asked “Tiny what’s griping you?” Tiny scowled and replied sulkily. “You half starved bum, that spring we were working showed some promise of colour. You cut it short String Bean!”

Moore replied “I don’t agree but it’s not that far, you can go back and pan it tomorrow. It’s getting dark already and this area’s known for green vipers. I wouldn’t want to run into one in the dark!

They strung their hammocks between convenient Etai palms and soon were snoring gently!

The next morning dawned bright and clear and Tiny gulped down his coffee quickly, saddled his pony, Carstein, and headed back to the area they were prospecting the previous day. Robert climbed back into his hammock and promptly dropped off to sleep. The morning air was cool and fresh and the leaves of the palms cast pools of shade on the white sand of the clearing.

Robert was suddenly awake, and listening for what had awakened him, when he felt the slightest vibration and without moving glanced behind him. What he saw froze him for a split second. On the hammock rope there was the prettiest green snake coiled up within easy reach of his head. He recognized the deadly green viper. For a split second the thought of paralysis and death from the venomous snake’s bite and then reflexively swept his upstretched arm across the snake’s body and in a single swift motion knocked it to the ground before it could strike. The deadly reptile swiftly slid beneath some leaves and disappeared from view. He dozed again as the sun climbed up into the sky overhead.

The clatter of hooves woke him as Tiny and Carstein trotted back into camp. Tiny watered Carstein and took off his saddle. swearing bad temperedly all the while. “Blasted stream wasted my time – not a speck of gold!” Robert hid his grin as he stifled his instinct to say “I told you so!”

Later on in the day, as the sun was dropping towards the western orizon they saddled up and rode to the nearest savannah island – three  peaks together called Shi Ri Ri. They scouted around the bas looking for signs of gold and not finding any rode back to their camp site and prepared supper, more farine and tasso and slung their hammocks and after chatting desultorily for a few minutes started snoring gently – actually Robert snored gently – Tiny’s snore was more like the snorting of a wild pig snuffling after truffles.

Neither had seen the dark shapes scampering up the Etai palms but both were rudely awakened by a deep bass roar which rose to an ear-splitting, spine -chilling  shreik. Neither man  had ever heard anything like that and they rolled out of their hammocks and grabbed their short-barrelled shotguns and looked about them wildly. not knowing what to expect! After a long while the cacophony stilled but they still sat around the small fire for quite a while before clambering back into their hammocks and eventually dropping into a fitful doze. Some time after Louis De Freitas, at the trading post in Lethem, had a good laugh as they described their broken night. He said they had been spooked by a pack of

Red Howler Monkeys. After many more years in the bush they became accustomed to the uproar and were never scared again once they knew what caused it!

The next morning they woke up grumpy and thick-headed and after a meal of strong Brazilian Black Coffee and farine they set out again for Shi Ri Ri to continue exploring the base.

They had bathed and washed their sweat-stained khaki shirts and dungarees in the creek before leaving camp and were feeling quite comfortable until they saw a rogue bull and his herd of skittish cows coming around the base of the mountain!

A rogue bull is a, once young, longhorn bull who has been separated from the herd for a while and living, maybe in a thorny thicket, has avoided man for a while and has reverted to a form of wildness, hating men and their attempts to domesticate him. He has often passed that trait on to the cows who follow him and they are highly dangerous to man!

Having been warned Robert and Tiny pressed their horses into a cleft in  the rock wall and waited for the dangerous herd to pass. They did pass, although the bull snorted and shook his long sweep of his horns, as he smelt men in the cleft.

Tiny, who had dismounted and covered Carstein’s eyes with a neckercheif  suddenly gasped “Gold!” then he shouted jubilantly “Gold!” The spring which sprang from the cleft in the rocks had twinkling nuggets the size of small pebbles and Tiny immediately realized they had struck it rich!

He and Robert right away rode around the Kanaku mountains to the Government settlement at Lethem and registered their claim.

Their mine which they called “Lucky Strike” turned out to be very rich and they worked it with some help from a Mazaruni miner, Swagger Joe, and went from being vagrant miners to very wealthy men,

They claimed some Government land for grazing, bought a bull and some cows and became prosperous ranchers in the beautiful land of The Rupununi, but that is a story for another time!

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  • Peggy  On 03/15/2022 at 6:44 pm

    Vivid and atmospheric. Enjoyed the tale with a happy ending. Thanks for your contributions.

  • bill newman  On 03/15/2022 at 8:04 pm

    The best you’ve written so far. Enjoyable reading.

  • brandli62  On 03/16/2022 at 12:33 pm

    Geoff, thanks for sharing this lovely story about life in the Rupunini. Brings back fond memories from 1990, when I had the opportunity to spend the Easter break outside of Lethem riding horse, swimming in the creeks, and attending the rodeo. It was all so magic!

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