I think this is one of the most important posts I’ve ever put up on this blog. I know that what follows is long, but my stars it’s mightily entertaining and informative, too. I’ve been given permission by the author to reproduce the chapter here but if you want to know more about the whole book, check out this post which has a mail from Hambone and clickthru details of how you can get your hands on your own copy. A decision to get your own copy will not be regretted, Otto’s honour.
If only one of you people out there reads the following it would have been well worth posting it up. But I want you all to read it, as you’ll never find out more about how an oil company operates its explorations than in the following lines. Magnificent writing, worthy of best-seller status.
When Joaquin Rivers and Spirit whispered to me that it was time to pack up my bag of cannonballs and move my free-loading invisible ass out of my “long-term” home at Manu Learning Center, I truly had no clue what adventure awaited me next, beyond some hazy half-baked notion of traipsing off into the jungle in search of some “lost Inca ruins” some three weeks off into a distant uncertain future. As I stepped off the bus in downtown Salvacion , Peru , on that drizzly Monday morning, I was “living in the moment” and “being here now” in every sense of those two bliss-ninny terms. Wisely, I turned my life over to Spirit to lead me to my next destination.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, Spirit directed me to Salvacion’s finest hotel, the Sheyla, where I “elected” to move into Room Number Ten, the upstairs corner room in the budget wing of the guesthouse. Less than five minutes after arriving at the Sheyla, I found myself milling around aimlessly in the hotel courtyard, waiting for eight young “bio-garden” volunteers to gather. I just so happened to find myself standing in front of the open door of Room Number One, the downstairs corner room directly below mine. Being the voyeuristic type (as you know all too well by now), I did what any nosy quasi-Peeping Tom would do when presented with an open hotel door – I peeked inside.
And when I did, I just about fell over backward in disbelief at the unbelievable synchronicity and iron-clad proof of the Negative Law of Attraction that I was looking at.
There, barely ten feet in front of me, spread across the back wall of the room like the pelt of some murdered spotted jungle cat, was a six-foot by four-foot wall map, dated July 10, showing the 300 miles of proposed “seismic testing lines” (where more than 12,000 explosives would soon be detonated) criss-crossing the million-acre pristine Peruvian Amazon wilderness of the Amarakaeri “Communal Reserve:” that’s right, my very room in a hotel I had never planned to see again in my life was perched directly atop the command post – Ground Zero – of my evil nemesis, the Planet-eating Hunt Oil Company. I could hear Spirit and the Universe pissing in their pants laughing, high-fiving each other over this colossal Cosmic Practical Joke they had just pulled on me (or was it on Hunt Oil, I’m not sure).
To use trite words like “stunned” or “flabbergasted” to describe my reaction to finding myself staring down the throat of the tiger itself would be an insult to the dazzled emotions I was experiencing. In my deepest, darkest, doom-n-gloomy Hambone imagination, I had enjoyed some brief fleeting fantasies of one day stumbling upon the object of my deepest negative desires, but I had always spit the fanciful images back into the Universe as being even less attainable than tracking down some hidden vine-covered ancient Inca ruins in a million-acre jungle, for a myriad of reasons.
First off – particularly since the massacre at Bagua and its attendant political fall-out – I was suffering some bizarre naïve Utopian notion that a Texas-based oil company would voluntarily back off for a few months, on the advice of their PR flaks in Dallas if nothing else, before moving into a Peruvian “Indian reservation” with their choppers and dynamite. Yeah, right, Hambone! (In 20-20 hindsight, I can see how brilliantly ludicrous that notion was.)
Secondly, I had played around on Hunt’s own hilarious website and discovered, (not so) strangely enough, that there was no way for journalists to contact anyone at Hunt except some guaranteed-to- get-the-royal- runaround phone number for some stuffed shirt in Dallas, who no doubt knew – or cared – about as much about Madre de Dios, Peru, as he did the dark side of the moon. Before he went south on me, Joaquin Rivers had confirmed that I had zero chance of getting anyone at Hunt to say one word to me.
The third reason for my disenchantment was that nobody knew exactly when, where, or even if Hunt was going to set up shop in Salvacion. There was some vague rumor floating around that they planned to build a “base camp” and heli-port out on the road leading down to Macchu Wasi (the little bird-watching lake that I loved so much), but even Hunt’s shrillest critics had never mentioned to me how imminently this construction project loomed. I had some weird paranoid Area 51-type visions of locked gates, armed guards, razor wire and Rottweilers populating my doomsday-prophet fantasies of what Hunt Oil’s command post would look like if I ever did find it.
And the final clincher for the abandonment of my journalistic fantasies of ever getting inside the mind of Hunt Oil was that – on the hair-thin chance that I ever did stumble upon a real live “petrolero” [oil worker] – I wouldn’t be able to understand a goddamn word he said for the simple reason that Hunt (in a classic and predictable move to distance themselves from any potential screw-ups in this dicey operation) had “contracted out” the seismic-testing job (the first phase of the operation) to an essentially Peruvian-based operation calling themselves “South American Explorations.” Even if someone from that outfit was dumb enough to talk to a nosy busy-body journalist from the U.S. , it would be in Spanish, and anything he said in any language would damn sure never be authorized by publicity-shy Hunt.
Even as I stood there in dumb-founded disbelief staring at a Hunt Oil-produced wall map – complete with a Hunt Oil-capped Peruvian dude standing there in front of it – I still figured that my old nemesis, the Spanish language barrier that has me so maddeningly crippled down here, was going to be my downfall once again… unless, of course, that silver-haired Gringo-looking dude tapping away so diligently at his computer, that guy surrounded by all that Hunt Oil literature all over his desk, might speak a little English.
Come on, Universe, work with me here…
With all the knock-kneed confidence of Jonah walking deliberately into the very gaping maw of the whale that would swallow him alive, I plunged across the threshold that separated a hotel courtyard in Salvacion, Peru, from Planet Eater Central, and introduced myself to the most delightfully vexing character and genuinely nice guy that I had met since leaving the friendly folks in Texas six months earlier: Moose Mulligan, Louisiana oil man, Colorado beef man, globe-trotting geophysicist seismic man, yarn-spinning raconteur par excellence, and all-around regular-Joe Planet Eater from the scorched-Earth depths of a dirt-worshipping tree-hugger’s worst nightmares.
I introduced myself and shook hands with the trim, handsome, middle-aged “environment, health and safety liaison” between Hunt Oil in Dallas and South American Explorations in Lima like I was saying hello to an insurance agent or a plumber. (It would be days before I even realized that Moose “Walks-Like-A- Planet-Eating- Hunt-Oil- Petrelero- Talks-Like- A-Planet- Eating-Hunt- Oil-Petrolero” Mulligan, too – surprise, surprise – was not a direct employee of Hunt, but instead was the one-man independent operation known as “Mulligan Natural Resources: Specialist in Geophysical Operations Worldwide and Western Slope” [whatever the Hell all that meant].) When he stood up to shake my hand, I was somehow surprised to see that this “Marlboro Man” – about two-thirds Jimmy Stewart, one-third George Clooney – was right about my height (five-eight or so).
“So…” I began breezily as we sized each other up like two roosters before a cockfight, “at last I meet the infamous diablo that has everyone around here so freaked out.”
One I had translated “diablo” – devil – for Moose (whose Spanish is even more abysmal than mine), he waved off the comment with a self-effacing laugh, but seemed genuinely nonplussed and surprised that his little seismic operation – and from his perspective, the proposed Amarakaeri butchering really is a small-potatoes operation — had any critics at all. He wanted to know just who his nay-sayers were.
“Oh, you know… a few local eco-lodge owners up and down the river, the usual Gringo tree-hugging types you would expect,” I said dismissively, trying to get him off the defensive. [“Shut the fuck up, and let him do all the talking from here on out!” Spirit screamed at me from my left shoulder.]
Fortunately, my ploy worked. Moose relaxed, and stated clearly for the record that his job was “only” the exploration phase of the operation – essentially, tromping around the jungle to look for geo-physical evidence to see if there was enough of interest there to warrant bringing in the real big guns later.
“It’s really pretty innocuous work,” he assured me. “Hunt pays me good money to be wrong 85 percent of the time.” I swallowed the impulse to say it wasn’t that 85 percent I was concerned about, it was the other 15 percent that had dragged my ass all the way from Texas ; this would be the first of about 100,000 times over the next ten days I would choke back some erudite Hambone witticism.
Moose turned the tables on me, and asked me what my story was. I replied, honestly, that I was traveling around the Peruvian Amazon for at least a year, and writing a book about my adventures. I handed him my business card, stating clearly that I was a journalist.
“Oh, really?” said Moose, who I would soon learn believes that journalists (with the exception of Fox News reporters) are, on his sleazy ethics meter, just below slimebag real estate agents, but way above the true scum of the earth, tree-huggers. “And what’s the name of your book?”
“Peruvian Plunge,” I answered half-honestly, conveniently leaving off the post-colon: “The Unfolding Story of What Happened When a Middle-Aged Realtor From Texas Moved to the Peruvian Amazon to Kick Big Oil’s Ass Out of the Jungle.”
Sizing me up like he was Superman scanning me with x-ray vision (or maybe he was just doing a little energetic seismic testing on my psyche), Moose drilled a three-inch hole in my skull with his eyes and dropped in a stick of dynamite. “So, Samuel, tell me: what is your opinion of Hunt Oil?” He stood there in front of me waiting for my answer, like he was a doctor with my nuts in his hand waiting for me to cough.
I had traveled for six months – if not 36 years – for this once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to have a real live Amazon-smashing Planet Eater ask me point blank to my face what I, Hambone Littletail – environmental alarmist, doomsday prophet, and chronicler of the downfall of Western Civilization – thought about an evil, greedy bunch of thugs who could walk into a one-million- acre pristine rainforest wilderness (make that fly in with choppers) to blow off 12,000 sticks of dynamite in their hell-bent search for the very blood of Gaia, my Mother, goddess and protector. If I had even begun to answer that question honestly, the flood of pent-up Hambone psychic puke spewing out of me would have overflowed the Mother of God River and wiped Salvacion and the whole Amarakaeri Reserve off Hunt Oil’s wall map. Much more importantly, it would have also squandered the equally once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity to put into practice everything that Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan Matus had ever taught me about “the art of stalking” and allowed me to climb inside the brain of a Planet Eater. There was no way I could let such a moment pass me by.
With a straight face and level voice, I looked back into the eyes of Moose Mulligan, and let go with the lie that will haunt me for the rest of my life: “I don’t have an opinion about Hunt Oil,” said the oil company’s most virulent critic on the planet. I glanced over at Spirit boredly filing her fingernails on my left shoulder; she shrugged and gave me one of those “don’t-look-at-me” innocent looks.
Miraculously, Moose seemed okay with that ambiguous answer. He would love to continue this little chat later, he said, but he was a working man. I suggested we pick up the conversation that evening on the “third-floor terrace” of the hotel with the sunset view. He agreed that was a grand idea; I headed off to go check out my first Peruvian “bio-garden” and to wonder just what in the Hell I had gotten myself into this time.
[From this point forward to the end of this long chapter, I will bid adieu to my diary format]:
Of all the valuable insights that Moose Mulligan provided me with concerning the workings of the Planet-eating mindset over the course of that next week, none struck pay dirt more than my new-found realization that Planet Eaters are people, too (as hard as that is to believe sometime) and that they really can be – in Moose’s case, anyway – genuinely nice guys. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend with the man, and why shouldn’t I have? He was charismatic, witty, often hilarious, articulate, intelligent, well-educated ( University of Texas at Austin , where else?), cocky, self-effacingly arrogant (not an easy target to hit), and – most importantly – he had a heavy hand with the (good, expensive) liquor bottle at the end of every work day. I did, in fact, enjoy the guy’s company more than any of the dozen or so greenie tree-huggers I have met here in Peru . As hard as this is for me to admit, I could continue to be friends with the Peruvian Amazon-eating geophysicist, if it wasn’t for the minor detail that the Colorado beef man would grind me up into hamburger like one of his over-the-hill breeder cows if he were ever to discover the dirt-worshipping tree-hugger lurking inside my little good-old-boy Hambone heart.
As a 38-year veteran of the oil business, and a 14-year veteran of the beef ranching business, I have zero doubt that the man is dedicated to both his professions, and genuinely believes in his heart that what he chooses to do with his life is as good for humanity and this planet as I believe it is bad. The end result of his life’s work may be pure evil, but the means to those ends are nothing more than the dedication of a man doing what he feels is best for himself, his family, and his fellow human beings. As much as I wish I could hate the guy, he’s a damn hard guy not to like.
If it truly is (as it appears to be) a foregone conclusion that Hunt Oil – barring intervention from benign space aliens – is going to go through with its dastardly deed in the heart of the Mother of God in Salvacion, Peru, I would just as soon have Moose Mulligan at the dynamite controls as anyone. Despite what you’re getting ready to read about his love affair with explosives, I can assure you that Amarakaeri could do a helluvalot worse. On some twisted ironic level, the man really does inspire confidence, even in a jaded tree-hugger like me.
Now, of course, if I could just sneak five grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms into his top-shelf margarita and get him to pull his handsome silver-haired head out of his ass long enough to see the light and the tragic error of his ways, we might just be able to get this planet-wide revolution in consciousness out of park. Lord knows we need more men like Moose Mulligan on the tree-huggers’ side!
Of course, back here on Planet Reality, that’ll happen about the time the Peruvian government turns Amarakaeri into a national park.
When he’s not hanging around with tree-huggers like me or living the night life of Salvacion, what does Moose Mulligan do with his life as an “environment, health and safety liaison” between Hunt Oil Company in Dallas and a Peruvian seismic crew? In four words: he looks for oil. To do this in the jungle, he and his crews hack out meter-wide (he promises) arrow-straight trails through the forest in a carefully laid-out grid of criss-crossing lines – imagine a one million-acre fish net with 300 miles of “string” cast over the rainforest. This looks simple enough on a two-dimensional flat wall map hanging in Hunt’s office, but if you’ve ever chased a herd of peccaries through the Madre de Dios rainforest with a rock-wielding Stone Age Indian (as I have), you would know that Hunt is facing a Herculean task in Amarakaeri, which has the topography of a hedgehog and a creek or river flowing at the bottom of every steep jungle ravine.
There’s a reason that virtually nobody without wings or a prehensile tail lives in this topographically challenged, rain-soaked, impenetrable jungle – even with a machete, it can take an Amazon native an hour to work his way up one little hill. Of course, petroleros, unlike Stone Age Indians, do have wings – or rather chopper blades. And as soon as Moose’s crews finish carving out some 100 “heli-ports” into the virgin, trackless wilderness, there will be plenty of convenient places to park their whirly-birds. A one-month slog through the jungle today will be a ten-minute chopper ride tomorrow..
Once the trailblazers (spreading out like leaf-cutter ants from “fly camps” spread throughout the reserve) have penetrated this seemingly impenetrable no-man’s land, along will come a group of guys lugging nine-horsepower portable drills; these guys will punch 50-foot deep, three-inch wide holes into the ground, one hole every 60 feet for the entire 300-mile length of the grid. Behind them (if I’m picturing this in my mind right) will come a line of guys laying out lengths of cable, each of which contain some 800 highly sensitive “seismic sensors.”
Finally will come the guys with the dynamite, who get to have all the fun. They will drop two to five pounds of explosives into the holes, fill the holes back up with dirt (to preserve the integrity of the shock waves), and detonate the explosives. “If you were standing 100 yards away, you wouldn’t even be able to hear it,” Moose assured me, though he declined to back up that statement with a demonstration of his “innocuous” technology.
The seismic shockwaves created by these 12,000 underground explosions are picked up by the sensors in the cable, which in turn transfer the echo-images to portable computers. The final product – what all this fuss is about – is a whole bunch of squiggly line, the “data.” If all goes smoothly in rough-skinned Amarakaeri – yeah, right! – Moose estimates it should take about four months to cover an area the size of Yellowstone National Park with these little squiggly lines. If the rains cooperate (as you can tell, there are a whole lot of “if’s” in Moose’s line of work), he would love to be back home in Colorado with his wife and kids and 600 cows for Thanksgiving.
Once the data has been charted, Moose and his eagle-eyed geophysicist colleagues are on the look-out for signs of underground “peaks” or “humps” in the squiggly lines that could indicate where oil or gas (which “rise” because they’re lighter than water, which in turn “sinks” into “valleys” on the graph) might be found. If any areas in Amarakaeri are found to be especially promising – i.e., full of peaks and humps – the petroleros will be back in a couple of years to punch a couple of “test wells” into those areas. And if any of those test wells produce commercially viable quantities of oil or gas (and, obviously, Hunt believes they will, or they wouldn’t be spending this kind of cash) then the real party begins in about five years, and you can kiss good-bye to yet another million acres of rainforest wilderness on this planet.
Boiling down the “innocuous job” of the seismic crews, Moose referred to his team as “the head of the snake.” Surprisingly, Hunt is not the first “snake” to slither into the back woods of Amarakaeri. About a decade ago, Mobil Oil did a little poking around in the neighborhood (literally), but bailed after not finding enough of interest to warrant the monumental effort it would take – financially, politically and logistically – to go in and get it. If that oil giant has given the thumbs down to Amarakaeri, why, then, is Hunt so hell-bent on going back in? Well, for a couple of reasons…
First – as Moose was happy to show me on an old geologic survey map in his office directly below my bed – he believes Mobil literally missed the mark with their ancient, ten-year-old seismic technology. Whipping out a map showing the position of that test well superimposed over a rough preliminary map of squiggly lines, even Yerz Trooly – with 30 seconds of experience as a Planet Eating geophysicist – could plainly see that Mobil’s drill bit had landed in a “valley” and missed the “hump.”
More important than this tantalizing evidence, however, is the more general truth that – if Mobil and Hunt are two snakes – then Mobil is a bloated, thick-bodied slow-moving anaconda, while Hunt (as they brag about on their website) is a smaller, leaner and more streamlined and fast-striking boa constrictor. While it takes something the size of a capybara or a peccary to get an anaconda excited enough to get off its lard ass and go hunting, something the size of a coati mundi or an agouti can get a boa constrictor’s mouth to slobbering.
In short, then, Moose Mulligan is the tongue of a boa constrictor, flicking in and out of 12,000 holes as he and his crews slither their way systematically along 300 miles of trails through the jungle. Who knows, maybe they won’t turn up a single agouti in a million acres of rainforest, and they’ll just keep on moving all the way to Iraq (and leave it to some outfit from China to come back a third time). Maybe, maybe not…
And in many ways, Guys, that right there is where this story could end in Amarakaeri for the next two to five years, barring some outright miracle that Moose Mulligan’s worst nightmare could come true and that a bunch of those damn meddlesome tree-huggers succeed in “cutting off the head of the snake.” Considering that there are no meddlesome tree-huggers nipping at his heels (not counting a few eco-lodge owners along the river and one pesky old real estate agent from Austin) – and considering the fact that the bulldozers and choppers are moving into Salvacion on the banks of the Mother of God as I write these words in a freezing hotel room in Cusco – fat chance of that miracle happening. All we can do for now is hope and pray for some miracle that the Hunt Oil boa constrictor doesn’t find anything to get its juices flowing, and slithers on away into the sunset. And – as much as Moose would like it – I would almost be “content” to leave the story lying right here and go plunging off into my next Peruvian Amazon adventure, perhaps to Camisea or Bagua.
But before I leave Moose with his dynamite and choppers in Salvacion, I want to linger with my favorite Planet Eater for a few more pages because – regardless of what he does or does not dig up in Amarakaeri – I think you should hear a little bit of what this remarkable man has to say. Here, then, is the Hambone-filtered version of the World According to Moose Mulligan:
The son of a Louisiana oil man, Moose Mulligan was born 57 years ago, and grew up in the oil-rich bayou country around Lafayette , where he learned the ropes of the oil biz and developed a life-long love of the outdoors. This fortuitous combination – combined with a brilliant mind, a restless spirit, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure – has catapulted this Kipling-quoting Renaissance Man through a lifetime of adventures that could no doubt fill three novels. I admit it, I was jealous of the globe-trotting raconteur after knowing him for 15 minutes; speaking for millions of middle-aged men who wonder if they have lived their life to the fullest, I asked Moose what his great secret of success was.
“First of all, to do this job, you gotta love the land. I love the jungle – there’s just something about the way the light filters down through the trees,” he said almost wistfully, harking back to the days he spent years ago as the seismic crew chief in the Sumatran rainforest. “This is real Indiana Jones kinda stuff. We’ll be exploring where few folks have ever been before.”
Moose insists with a straight face that he is and has always been an “environmentalist” – it’s just that the term “environmentalist” has gotten way too extreme over the years, leaving the more “mainstream” guys such as himself over in right field because the increasingly militant and meddlesome “tree-huggers” have moved more and more to the left.
To this day, he proudly (and without a trace of irony) wears his t-shirt with the giant green frog on the back above the slogan: “Be green: Celebrate Earth Day” in three-inch-high letters. (On the front of the same shirt is a tiny silhouette of an elk head and the small-print words: “West Elk Mine, Mountain Coal Company, LLC,” where his son now works as an engineer in southwest Colorado .) Speaking of environmentalists’ complaints against the mine, he rolls his eyes and says: “I guess sulfur is one of those ‘pollutants.’ I actually kinda like the way it smells.” (He sniffs the air and smiles, a carbon copy of Robert Duval’s “I-love-the-smell- of-Napalm- in-the-morning!” character from Apocalypse Now, and I can’t help but laugh.)
There was a time back in the late sixties when Moose – like so many others of his generation – was a long-haired flower-powered, Desederatta-spouting (he still loves that poem) “fuck-the-establishm ent” kinda guy. When he was an idealist college student at the liberal University of Texas in Austin , he was active in local Democratic politics and hob-nobbed “with the Anne Richards’ gang.” Some of his most cherished memories – not to mention some of his funniest stories – are about getting fucked up on mushrooms and bullshitting his way backstage at one of the early Willie Nelson Fourth of July picnics with some floozy from Houston .
But after the mushrooms and the music began to wear off along the way during the 1970s, he began to see the Planet Eater’s light. First, he became a homeowner in northwest Austin at an age when most of his buddies were getting their first apartments. He started to get more involved with the oil business, which had always been good to his family. He soon became disenchanted with the whole nattering Anne Richards gang, and found himself over the years moving more and more in the direction of Anne’s arch-nemesis, George Bush (whose politics Moose strongly endorses, it goes without saying).
“When I was a young man, I had a narrow waist and a broad mind,” he likes to joke. “Now that I’m older, I have a broad waist and a narrow mind. I’ve worked through my ‘meek phase.’ I’m pissed off now.”
Somewhere between his “meek phase” and his pissed-off phase, Moose developed a life-long love of dynamite and explosives. Surprisingly, this did not happen in Vietnam – where he never served, though he says he would have if he had been called into service (maybe that experience would have helped him work through his “dynamite phase,” where he’s been stuck for more than 30 years). I first became aware that Moose’s affinity for things that go boom in the jungle was more than just a job requirement as he and I took advantage of a rare sunny afternoon in Salvacion to walk to the bird-filled little lake, Macchu Wasi, the town’s only tourist attraction, about a half-mile from Hunt’s proposed base camp and main heli-port.
“It’s great to be back in the jungle again,” Moose said as we left the filthy streets and logged-out cow pastures behind us, to enter the cool shade of the quiet forest. “I do love waking up in the morning in the jungle in the fly [helicopter] camps,” he mused as we stood gazing over the bucolic scene below us from the mirador.
We decided to take a stroll down the hill to the lake. Spying a tiny piece of litter on the ground, he growled, “I hate people who throw their trash on the ground – it’s why they call them litter bugs.” But then, spying a brand-new “Silencio!” sign put there in the path to ask tourists to be quiet so they wouldn’t scare off the park’s skittish bird population, Moose cracked: “Shut up, Samuel, you may disturb an ant!” As pleasant and cool as the thick forest had first seemed, it wasn’t long before we were both soaked with sweat on the muggy afternoon.
“You know, if we just had a stick of dynamite right about now [100 yards or so past the ‘Silencio!’ sign], here’s what we’d do. You see this low spot through here?” he said, indicating a shallow depression in the trail. “We’d drop a stick of dynamite right about here, and we’d have us a nice refreshing swimming pool in about two minutes.” Moose should know – he is, after all, Hunt Oil’s “environment, health and safety” man on the ground in the Mother of God.
Of course, Moose won’t have to use dynamite to scare off the birds from Macchu Wasi, as Hunt’s helicopters (oops, make that South American Explorations’ helicopters) will be doing a fine job of that on their own. Moose’s best estimate is that the two choppers each will be taking off and landing ten times a day as they ferry supplies back and forth to the guys running the seismic lines in the heart of the reserve, which means there should be about 40 chopper flights, and possibly many more, per day. I can see the bad-ass Emilio, the caretaker at the park, flapping his hands in imitation of the terrified birds fleeing for their lives in the wake of the noise (not to mention the macaws at Manu Learning Center ’s clay lick, or the eco-tourists in the area who keep several riverside lodges financially afloat).
As hard as this is for me, I’m gonna cut Moose some slack here about this whole mess over the base camp. When Hunt, and Moose, learned about Macchu Wasi, they really did, I believe, try to move the base camp and its two-chopper heli-port about two miles farther away in an effort to reduce conflicts with the park and the birds who live there, and tourists who pay to visit there. Judging by his comments about disturbing the ants, I am sure this was not an easy idea for Moose to get behind, but hey, he did, and I give him credit for being so compromising. There was just one little hitch: when Hunt tried to move the heli-port to a spot that was clearly less environmentally threatening to the local ecology (either base camp would have been built on logged-out cattle ranches that hold virtually no ecological value, anyway, so even a tree-hugger like me has to admit that the only consideration was the threat to Macchu Wasi), they were not allowed to do so because the Peruvian government had already approved the laughable “environmental impact analysis” of the original site – if Hunt tried to move the camp to a less environmentally sensitive site, they would have had to do another assessment of that site, blah blah blah, so they said, “Screw it, we’ll keep it where we originally had it.” I would’ve done the same thing.
Of course, Moose uses this as just one more instance of the “blame game” that Planet Eaters are so fond of playing to blame everyone else but themselves for the problems that they are causing. “We really wanted to move the base camp,” he groused (and I believe him). “But the environmental impact analysis had already been approved. So we’re back to less than a kilometer from the lake. Now we’re going to have to monitor for ‘helicopter noise.’ I’m not sure how we’re supposed to be able to do that. Oh well, they’re just now beginning to develop that site [the lake] for eco-tourism. We [the seismic crew] will be in and out of there in three or four months, before they’re even finished.” That may or may not be true for the seismic crew, but it sure as Hell won’t be the case when Hunt comes back in a few years for the real assault against Amarakaeri.
Moose took this blame game to such an extent that he started sounding like a whiny little kindergartener. Here’s how the game (a favorite of Planet Eaters) works: for example, Moose would mention the subject of the gold miners in Amarakaeri (many of whom are natives who live in the reserve), who for years have been raping and pillaging and poisoning their own community with virtually zero backlash from the Peruvian government and the tree-huggers that he despises so. “Go pick on them,” he whines, his argument being that if they can get away with such blatant disrespect for the environment, then nobody should be concerned by his “innocuous” little seismic job. It’s kind of like saying, “Armed robbers are holding people up every day with guns; why shouldn’t I be allowed to be a purse-snatcher?”
At one point, Moose said he had heard no reports of any problems with Hunt Oil’s environmental boondoggle at Camisea, the huge natural gas project that Hunt spear-headed a few years ago, and is still working hard to expand. When I barely mentioned that I had, in fact, heard some negative press about that Planet-eating scene of destruction barely 100 miles from Amarakaeri, suddenly the “Hunt Oil” project became a mish-mash of different companies and government entities, and poor little picked-on Hunt suddenly became a 12 percent owner in the pipeline. Another time, I mentioned a Sixty Minutes segment on problems with oil companies in the Ecuadorian Amazon (which I still have never seen); Moose said that he (yeah, right!) had never seen it, either. Even though neither one of us had “ever seen” the story, and (as far as I know) Hunt Oil has nothing to do with that particular case, you should have heard the guy blaming everybody in the world (namely, the government of Ecuador) for the problems there; the next morning, he presented me with Chevron Oil’s response to the story that he had never seen to convince me that the poor little innocent oil companies were being “picked on” by those damn irresponsible lefty journalists at CBS News.
I had almost let Moose’s comment about the nice little swimming pool we could’ve built with one stick of well-placed dynamite (and I have no doubt he would be the man to place it) slide on by like 99 percent of everything else he said, until he once again brought up the subject of creative uses for seismic testing explosives that have nothing to do with seismic testing. Moose and I had found ourselves, as we found ourselves every night, trying to scare up a decent meal in Salvacion. We were at a place called Tamy’s Restaurant, run by this sweetheart of a couple, Ruth and Pablo. After a hard day at the computer, Moose was ready for some ceviche to go along with his Pisco sour. Only problem was, the fish catch had been less than remarkable in Salvacion the past few days, so there were no fish with which to make this “Peruvian sushi” – essentially, raw fish “cooked” in lime juices and spices. Moose was not happy to hear this.
“If it wasn’t for all these damn eco-lodge owners around here, we could take what we call a ‘Dupont Lure’ [dynamite] down to the river, and we would have all the ceviche we want,” said the environment, health and safety liaison between Hunt Oil Company and a crew of guys with a bunch of dynamite. “I remember doing that in Sumatra . Of course, we had to eat a bunch of tiny little fish, but they were good eating.” He pantomimed trying to eat a pile of sardine-sized fish, which is what you get when you use something so indiscriminate as dynamite to go fishing. I have to admit, guiltily, that I laughed. The guy really is hilarious: he could turn a Planet-eating tale about dynamiting under-sized fish out of a river into a funny story.
Encouraged by my reaction, and fueled by a couple of stiff drinks, the natural comedian tried his routine out in his halting Spanglish on Ruth and Pablo. Ruth shot her husband a “did-that-Gringo- just-say- what-I think-he-said” look out of the corner of her eye. Pablo stared incredulously at the laughing petrolero, and said (and this is a rough, but close, translation) : “Dude, that’s just not cool to dynamite fish out of a river. You’ll kill all the baby fish.” Suddenly, the whole light-hearted energy in the room darkened, and I shot Moose this conspiratorial “shut-the-fuck- up time-out” look, which he wisely seemed to understand. Fortunately, we recovered the mood, and the evening passed without us being kicked out of the place.
“Damn, Dude, you sure know how to win friends and influence people,” I said as we walked home. “Cut the dynamite shit, for Christ’s sake.” Here I was, a tree-hugger giving a Planet Eater lessons in diplomacy in the Peruvian Amazon before he got us both tarred and feathered! He agreed that I probably had a good point, and that he would try to be more careful with his politically incorrect sense of humor in the future.
I don’t know if it was that episode, the alcohol we shared, or just the familiarity that grows between travelers in a far-away land who have nothing more in common than a mother tongue, that made Moose open up to me as the days passed. I had always felt that much of Moose’s shuck-and-jive routine towards me was part of a well-rehearsed attempt to “hold out” on me (as my own good-old-boy banter was my way of hiding my “agenda” from him); however, as our unlikely friendship grew, he began to drop his guard, which was exactly what I wanted him to do. As he grew more comfortable with me, his opinions about the scourge of the earth – those god-damned meddlesome tree-huggers – grew more and more virulent. He cursed the damn tree-huggers for being so “emotional” and “passionate” in their arguments against the Planet Eaters, while in doing so he became one of the most emotional, passionate folks I had ever met in his foaming-at-the- mouth virulence against people exactly like me. As smart as the guy was, he clearly had no clue who he was talking to as he railed against his nemesis. I wish I had a tape recorder, Guys; this is just a tiny sample of what I endured – choking down my hydrant of Hambone psychic puke all the while — during several of the strangest days of my life:
When I suggested that perhaps he might surprise himself if he actually would take the time to start a dialog with those environmentalists he loves to hate so much, he replied: “I would love to talk to the tree-huggers, but they won’t let go of the damn tree long enough to sit down and talk to me,” he complained to a tree-hugger who had been sitting down with him and talking for hours on end, for several days straight.
As he railed on and on about the “emotionalism” and “passion” of the damn tree-huggers, I dropped my own guard and made the serious mistake of suggesting that the tree-huggers’ arguments were coming from the “moral high ground” (as they are). You can imagine the reaction that got from Moose, the roll of the eyes and the pained expression. “Don’t these tree-huggers have anything better to do with their lives?” he said. “Don’t talk to me about ‘the moral high ground.’ Bring me specific complaints about problems with one of my projects, backed up by good science, and I’ll talk to you. [Otherwise, shut the fuck up].”
In his newest job, he was particularly irritated by the whine of the eco-lodge operators in the area (especially some thorn in his side by the name of Joaquin Rivers), who he obviously considered a minor mosquito for Hunt Oil to slap. He recalled visiting the campus of some school where they taught classes in tourism and recreation, which he lumps under the general heading of “fluffology.” “I asked this one woman there: do yall ever take any classes in this school?” His abject contempt for these “fluffologists” boiled over: “I’m what you call a ‘primary producer’ in this society. When I’m in Colorado , I’m putting food [beef raised on public lands] directly on people’s plates, okay? When I come to places like Peru , I’m looking for oil.”
At one point in his diatribes, he was accusing those damn tree-huggers of getting in the way of alternatives to Big Oil, such as wind power. He wasn’t sure of the details (and neither am I), but he had heard some story about some kind of “prairie chicken” getting in the way of a “wind farm” that had somehow pitted the prairie-chicken lovers against the wind-farm supporters. “Sometimes we might just have to let an endangered species go extinct,” he said, obviously siding with the wind-farm supporters. “I’m looking out for a species called man.” Over and over again, he would refer to those folks – such as Barack Obama, a major target of his wrath – who “want to take us back to the Stone Age” in our energy policy. Even his own brother – also the son of an oil man — was one of those “greenies” looking for bio-fuel alternatives to gasoline. The poor guy was obviously getting ganged up on.
I’m not going to deny it, Guys: one of the main things that cemented our weird friendship that week was alcohol. Moose Mulligan (after five p.m.) was a hard-drinking man, and after a certain point, the alcohol would pretty much obliterate whatever was left of his “edit button” (and mine, too, no doubt) as he pulled out all of the stops in his diatribes against the tree-huggers. No doubt due to my own alcohol-impaired judgment, I mentioned the name Edward Abbey to Moose, and asked him if he was familiar with that genius’s work. Even though Moose admitted he had never read a single word that Edward Abbey had ever written, that was no reason that he shouldn’t have an opinion about the man.
“I’m capable of murder,” Moose let me know. “Edward Abbey is someone I could take out – with extreme prejudice.” I laughed and said he was about ten years too late in that desire, that Abbey was already dead. “Good, then I’d get to shoot him twice.” Talking about Abbey’s under-cover stint as an employee at Canyonlands National Park in Utah (where Moose has had years of experience fighting the tree-huggers upset about the oil companies’ desires to mine “oil shale”), Moose growled that it is scum like Edward Abbey that “infiltrate” folks like the Bureau of Land Management to dig up some tiny little detail to “drive a wedge” into plans of folks like the oil companies, that disgust him more than any other. “People like that think their ends justify any means,” he said. [Can you say “ancient Inca ruins?” I quipped under my breath.]
Despite his hatred for tree-huggers, there were a few folks even lower down his list than them (besides those damn “lefty journalists” who “always have an agenda”). Even worse than the land-based tree-huggers were the damn “whale watchers” – Moose’s pet name for marine biologists. A former offshore seismic man, the poor Planet Eater had to endure the presence of those pesky “whale watchers” who had the audacity to suggest that underwater explosive testing may – may – have a negative impact on marine mammals, particularly dolphins and whales, who depend on sonar to navigate their way through the open seas.
One of the worst months Moose has ever spent in 38 years in the oil business was being trapped on a ship with one of these wishy-washy “whale watchers” who ascribed to the (perfectly reasonable and logical) “precautionary principle” – if there’s any doubt as to whether an activity damages a species, the best course of action is to (duh!) not engage in the questionable activity until conclusive scientific proof is in that the activity is, in fact, benign (what Moose would call “good science” that he is always carping about). “I had no doubt [that underwater seismic testing explosions] did not pose any problems; if I had a doubt, I wouldn’t do it.” He says it took a month, but he insists that when the “whale watcher” finished his month-long tour, he, too, was convinced that the tests posed no risks to whales. (I would like to talk to the “whale watcher” to get his side of the story on that opinion.)
“Thank God for hydrocarbons, they saved the whale!” Moose crowed to a “whale watcher” that showed up at our table at Ruth and Pablo’s for margaritas one night (referring to the “fact” that sperm whales were “saved” by the oil companies when people switched from whale oil to cheaper petroleum to light their lamps in the nineteenth century).
I guess he had a tougher time convincing another “whale watcher” that underwater seismic testing was not a problem for dolphins. “That just meant we had to do our underwater seismic testing at four a.m.,” he recalled, laughing. Noticing I wasn’t laughing along with him, he backtracked: “Oops, I guess that isn’t funny, kinda like dynamiting fish out of the river, huh?”
There have been a few bright moments in his career as an offshore seismic tester facing off against those pesky “whale watchers” over the years. “I loved it when the French blew up the Rainbow Warrior [the Greenpeace ship that the environmental organization used to defend whales]. You gotta love those French!”
Another breed the oil and cattle man would just as soon do without are those pesky archaeologists. I stumbled upon this thorn in his paw during a conversation (one of many) we were having about the cursed gold miners in the Rio Colorado River (see Chapter 17). “You know, a lot of people think the gold [in the Rio Colorado] isn’t natural,” he said, letting slip the fact that he knew (or at least suspected) that there were archaeological sites in the headwaters of the Rio Colorado (which is exactly where the Inca ruins in Amarakaeri are located, in fact).
“Wouldn’t it be funny if it was an oil company that found the famous Lost City of Gold?” he mused. (Explorers have been searching for centuries for the fabled “ El Dorado ,” which legend has set somewhere in the jungles east of Cusco .) He caught himself, thought about the fall-out from that, and backtracked: “Nah… we’d have the damn archaeologists all over our asses.” (One of the few times Moose dropped his shuck-and-jive routine with me that week was when I showed him the map I had that clearly showed the ruins he had alluded to right there in the middle of Hunt’s network of seismic lines. “Where did you get that map?” he snapped, losing his cool. “Maps showing archaeological sites are only supposed to be released to [authorized personnel],” which clearly didn’t include me. The man clearly does not want the information about these ruins getting out, which is why I am doing everything I can to get the information out.
Similar to his story about being stuck on a ship with a “whale watcher,” Moose told me about a miserable trip he and his seismic-crew good-old-boys had to endure with a nagging young archaeologist in Utah . “We were sitting out there [on BLM land], having a barbecue, a few beers, really enjoying ourselves, you know? This guy was really starting to piss us off. He wasn’t one of ‘the boys.’ I finally had enough and called the home office and said, ‘You gotta get this dude outta here.’ I didn’t even mention his, ah, ‘effeminate nature.’” (The home office did, in fact, pull the guy off the job, and replaced him with a female archaeologist that Moose and the boys could at least tolerate hanging around their barbecues.)
The newest group that Moose is learning to despise (besides that bunch of whiny “get-a-life” eco-lodge owners and tour operators) are those greedy damn money-hungry Indians in Amarakaeri, the ones clear-cutting the jungle and dumping mercury into the rivers while whining about Moose’s “innocuous” little seismic lines and helicopters. He is particularly outraged over Shintuya’s demands that Hunt cough up a whopping $22,000 for permission to bring one of their lines across their village’s land (which, as Moose and I will both tell you, has already been laid to waste by the natives living there).
“The Indians don’t care anything about the land, they only care about the money,” groused the oil and cattle man, who clearly suffers no “noble savage” fantasies. [I sheepishly must admit that I agree with much of the Planet Eater’s sentiments here, though I would soften that statement just a wee bit, and say that the natives care more about the money than they do the land.] “If you are concerned about the environment, work with us.”
Due largely to the fact that Moose managed to hold out on me that Hunt had scheduled a meeting with the Shintuya natives – I knew the day, I just didn’t realize that the meeting was scheduled at the perfectly reasonable time of 6:30 a.m. – I can’t give you a first-hand report of what happened at that meeting. I caught up with Moose just as the meeting was breaking up. Although he first tried to pretend that he was confident that “we’ll be able to work something out,” his temper got the best of him, and he reminded me that Hunt had already been awarded the contract by the Peruvian government, and the oil company – not the Indians – therefore had the power of law behind them. Once again, the poor picked-upon Planet Eaters were trying to be nice guys, and once again, they were running up against opposition who had no legal right to complain (this was a refrain I had heard dozens of times in the short time I had known him).
“There were close to one hundred people in that room, and only ten to twenty of them were the nay-sayers – but it’s always the nay-sayers with the biggest mouths,” Moose fumed outside the meeting hall. “That’s not showing much respect for those folks who do want us here. We’re trying to be good neighbors, but if they don’t want us [in Shintuya], we have plenty of other places to start work.
“Remember, we have the subsurface rights, which always trump the surface rights. [If the natives are unwilling to work with Hunt], we’ll turn it over to the government [to enforce the contract]. We’ll leave it up to the jefes [the chiefs in the villages and the government lawyers] and God to sort it all out. The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not the mineral rights.” [Can you say Bagua?]
While the natives are deciding whether or not they want to share in Hunt’s largesse by going to work for the corporation – and you can bet plenty of them will, regardless of what the official line from the village chief is – Moose is moving ahead with hiring guys who are ready to get to work hacking trails through the jungle. I met one of his newest hires – a nice young fellow from Puerto Maldonado named Manuel, who quit his low-paying job at a wildlife rescue center in the city to go make the big bucks (which I THINK is a little less than twenty bucks per day, though I could be being way too generous to Hunt here) working for Hunt in the jungle. I met this young man, and it was obvious to me that he was a borderline tree-hugger. I was almost as much surprised by the fact that Moose hired on this “bad fit” as much as I was by the fact that Manuel was willing to go to work for Moose – that would be as crazy as Yerz Trooly being a fucking real estate agent or working for the world’s biggest drug-testing company. Not surprisingly, the two were off to a bad start before Manuel had even signed the contract.
“He’s a nice kid, but I can already tell he’s gonna be a problem,” Moose whined to me over two 55-gallon drums of cold cerveza. “He could turn into a real communist; I can just see him trying to form a damn union with the other guys. He was trying to tell me about raising beef, that you don’t need [to destroy] all those acres for cows when you can raise chickens instead. I guess he’s worried about ‘rainforest deforestation.’ I told him: ‘Why eat chicken? Why don’t you just eat vegetables instead?’” The poor picked-upon Planet Eater took a long swig of cold beer and summed up his frustration with his tree-hugging seismic crew: “Don’t worry about ‘life’ – life will take care of itself.”
With all the bullshit the poor Planet Eater has to deal with in his life as a globe-trotting oil man, you would think he would like to take a rest from it all when he got back home to his 600-acre ranch in southwest Colorado, which he has called “home” since 1995. No chance. As soon as he gets back home, he’s right back at it again with all those namby-pamby environmentalists who are opposed to his God-given (and federally sanctioned) right to graze his cows on public forest land because the tree-huggers “trip over a cow patty when they’re out taking a walk in the woods.” Moose pays two dollars per cow, per month, to graze his 600 cows on 20,000 acres of public land for two months in the summer ($2400 per year out of his profits) and he doesn’t want to listen to those nay-sayers in Colorado any more than he wants to listen to them in Shintuya , Peru .
To educate me about the problems he faces, Moose printed out an article from the “fair and balanced” Fox News Service titled “Range War In the West” (unfortunately, the author’s name wasn’t attached, so I can’t give him credit for this fine piece of fair and balanced news reporting): “Well, [the environmentalists battling grazing on public lands] must want something? Not really, except to drive the ranchers out of business and let the land return to its pristine state when there were no cattle. I have some news for [the environmentalists] : before the cattle even came to the West, huge herds of elk and buffalo roamed the plains and valleys for centuries, and I’ll bet they ate a little grass and tramped through the streams.” [Hmmm… sounds like a damn good excuse to get rid of cattle and start raising elk and bison to eat, instead.]
Tree-huggers tripping over cowpies aren’t his only nemesis in Colorado ; there’s also those pain-in-the- ass little devils that chew his irrigation lines and trip up his cows – the dreaded prairie dogs. “I’ve been trying to make them go extinct [on my ranch] for years, but I’m only fifty percent of the way there,” he complained to me. “They’re just so fun to shoot; they sit there like little targets.” Since bullets are too slow (and, I guess, dynamite would make a bigger hole than the prairie dogs make), Moose has taken to chemical warfare in his battle against the pint-sized, buck-toothed terrorists. Not wanting to pay the high price of the “officially sanctioned” prairie dog poison, he has come up with an ingenious alternative where he soaks horse shit – “not the fresh road apples, you really gotta compact the shit in your hands” – in gasoline, then plugs the holes so the toxic fumes can gas the little ground squirrels in their burrows.
I sat there listening to him complain about how tough his life is on the range, trying to imagine this brilliant, college-educated, Marlboro Man stalking around his ranch with a bag of road apples in one hand, a can of gasoline in the other; I could just imagine the crazed grin on his face when he encountered a prairie dog burrow, and could see him packing the shit in the palm of his hand, soaking it in gasoline, stuffing it in the hole, and saying, “Take that, you little fucker!” (I know how he feels, I was exactly the same way when I used to gas gophers that used to mess up my lawn in California .)
“Dude, it sounds like you have way too much spare time on your hands on your ranch,” I told him.
Before anyone out there gets the idea that Moose and I had no common ground to meet on, there was one area where he and I were in complete agreement: neither of us have any patience with folks who complain about all those big bad Planet Eaters and their evil ways, when they are making no lifestyle changes in their own lives to change things. Until you’re ready to back up the whiny tree-hugging rhetoric with some fucking personal responsibility — a concept Moose firmly defends – all your bitching and moaning is nothing more than the whining of a bunch of two-faced hypocrites.
“Do you like hot water in your shower? Well, there’s one [gas] well,” Moose said. “Do you like to use soap in your shower? Well, there’s another well.” [I’m not sure what kind of soap Moose uses, perhaps gasoline, but I think I see his point.]
As Moose was always mining me for information on the enigmatic Joaquin Rivers, I slipped up in a weak moment and repeated the Manu Airport rumor. Needless to say, this was a great source of humor to him. I made sure he understood that this story was a completely unsubstantiated rumor. “Now don’t go running your mouth to Joaquin that Samuel says you’re an airport developer,” I chided him.. He just smiled back at me and said: “You know what they say, Samuel: loose lips sink ships.” I’m not sure whose lips the loosest set of lips I’ve ever encountered was referring to – mine or his – but I can assure Moose I’ll never forget that wise piece of advice.
Nor will I ever forget the sweetest words I’ve ever heard, or will ever hear again, from the loose lips of a Planet Eater: “We’re in this together, Samuel, and don’t you ever remember that.”
Perhaps in an effort to teach me about fairness and balance in journalism – the guy was just sure I had some sort of “agenda,” he just couldn’t figure out what it was – Moose gifted me with a copy of Hunt Oil Company’s official magazine, Pay Sand (pay sand is a sandstone that contains gas or oil).. I joked that perhaps I had a job waiting for me as the editor of the PR pulp organ when I returned to Texas . Here are just a few of the highlights from the official mouthpiece of Hunt Oil Company that may offer you a more objective and balanced view of what Hunt is up to down here in Peru, just in case you think my jaundiced view of their activities has been less than balanced:
— From the masthead just to the left of the photo of company president Ray Hunt: “The mission of Hunt Oil Company is to be a growth-oriented industry leader respected throughout the world for the quality and competency of our people, the efficiency and scope of our operations, and our rich heritage of honesty and integrity. Our core values are: commitment to excellence, honesty, integrity, respect for the individual, teamwork, and creativity.”
— From the article, “Pipeline Installation Requires Coordinated Effort”: “[Hunt Oil] pipeline crews used five D-9 Caterpillar tractors to anchor a kilometer-long string of 34-inch feed gas pipeline as it was installed on a steep slope at Pipeline Kilometer 222 in the Andean highlands. Each tractor weighed 49 tons…The dozer facing the train is the last resort tractor [don’t you love that term, “last resort tractor?”]. Should any piece start to slip, the operator buries the bulldozer blade and ripper claw. Because of the rocks, the pipeline trench is lined with sandbags to prevent damage to the pipeline’s anti-corrosion coating.”
— From the article, “Peru Liquid Natural Gas Project [Camisea] Advances”: “The Peru LNG plant site [right next door to the most important and biologically rich wildlife breeding ground on the entire Peruvian coast] construction project is 75 percent complete [June, 2009]. In December , nineteen heavy plant vessels were delivered at the Port of San Martin in Pisco. The vessels were built in Korea and Malaysia [I can’t believe it, they weren’t built in China !]…The heaviest vessel was the “AGR Absorber,” which is more than 33 meters [100 feet] long, 6.5 meters [almost 20 feet] wide, seven meters high and weighs 402 tons…Special multi-wheel hydraulic trailers were used to transport the heavy vessels to the project site. The 105-kilometer [65-mile] trip took seven days [and I thought Peruvian busses were slow!]. To maintain safety and minimize traffic disruptions, project contractor CB&I and the Peru LNG team worked closely with Peruvian officials and local communities to plan the convoys.”
— From the “World to Explore” article on South America: “ Peru , Block 76 [the lease covering Amarakaeri]: The first Hunt Oil Company-operated exploration block is on trend with [is in a straight line from] Camisea. The license, covering 14,351 square kilometers (3.5 million acres) was signed May 2, 2006. Respol [a Spanish oil company that Hunt sold half its drilling rights to in order to split the risk of the investment] has a 50 percent share in the block. It is located in a national preserve, and to safeguard the pristine jungle and its native inhabitants, Carlos del Solar, general manager of Peru Hunt Oil Company, and his Lima staff developed a rigorous environmental master plan [overseen and paid for by Hunt Oil Company in classic fox-guarding- the-henhouse fashion], which Peru approved in 2008 [surprise, surprise]. Work on the environmental [and] social impact assessment necessary to acquire 400 kilometers (248 miles) [now standing at 297 miles] of seismic [testing] was led by Silvana Lay, Environmental Health and Safety representative. The assignment entailed a number of meetings with local communities [and, according to two native rights’ organizations involved in the process, resulted in every single community being opposed to Hunt’s plans, a small detail conveniently omitted from this article].”
— From the article “Hunt Oil Company Earns Silver LEED Certification”: “Hunt Oil Company’s Dallas Headquarters building has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for Commercial Interiors… Hunt is the only independent oil and gas company in Dallas to achieve LEED Silver certification for Commercial Interiors. To do this, Hunt met stringent credit qualifications in the areas of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.” [Hooray for Hunt, those greenies!]
An open letter to Moose Mulligan (and any other Planet Eater out there who might just happen to be reading this) from Hambone Littletail, environmental alarmist, doomsday prophet, and chronicler of the downfall of Western Civilization:
Dear Moose Mulligan:
I have no way of knowing when, or if, these words I am tossing out into the Universe will ever reach your eyes or ears; but toss them out I will just the same, in the vain hope that one or two of them may rub off on you, or at least on someone who shares some of your worldview. I realize, too – on the slim chance that Peruvian Plunge ever lands in your hands – that I have plummeted on your sleaze meter to somewhere between Barack Obama and Edward Abbey: not only have I betrayed you and stabbed you in the back like Brutus did to Caesar, but I have thrown even more fuel on the flames of your hate-filled rhetoric that us tree-huggers – especially us tree-hugging journalists with the secret lefty agendas – are the lowest form of bottom-feeding scavengers barely even worth the energy of your scathing contempt.
I harbor no illusions that anything I could say to you at this point could anymore make you see the light than anything you said to me in a week of ranting could make me move back toward the darkness that you inhabit, and from which I am trying to escape. Therefore, this letter isn’t so much of an apology or even an excuse for what you no doubt perceive as my inexcusable low-down dirty-dog behavior. It is, instead, my attempt at an explanation of my behavior; more importantly, it is an amplification and clarification of my “hidden agenda” that has you so mystified. Perhaps – just maybe – after you finish reading it, you will have a better understanding of what lurks in the awakening minds of today’s tree-huggers. That is, after all, the least that I owe you after all you’ve done for me to explain what lurks in the mind of a Planet Eater.
First off, let’s dispense with that lie I told you five minutes after I met you, the one about me not having any opinion on Hunt Oil. Moose, you know why I had to make that off-the-cuff decision. You’re a lot of things, but stupid ain’t one of them: if I had answered that question honestly, we would have verbally tangled like a couple of rutting bull elk for about five minutes, and I would have lost the golden opportunity to discover what makes guys like you tick. That opportunity was simply too valuable to waste, and right or wrong, I took the plunge and stuck with it. Try imagining a prairie dog looking you square in the eye and asking you, point blank: “So, Moose, that gun isn’t really loaded, is it?” and you’ll have some idea of what I was dealing with.
If you’re really that interested in my opinion of Hunt Oil (and of all the Planet Eaters in the world they speak for), I invite you to read the rest of this book, and hopefully you will learn something along the way. This letter is not the venue to address those opinions; however, what I would like to address here are a few of the rhetorical questions you have about tree-huggers and journalists in general, and about this one tree-hugging journalist in particular.
To answer your first rhetorical question – “Just who are these tree-huggers?” – well, let me remind you that you just spent a week hanging out with and getting to know perhaps the single most militantly pacifist hard-core dirt-worshipping tree-hugger I know this side (the left side) of Edward Abbey. As perhaps you recall, he is a 49-year-old, college-educated, (former) Realtor with real estate licenses in three states, a Roth IRA burning a hole in his pocket to invest in more real estate, a 1031-exchange tax-deferred rental property, $30K in silver buried out in the woods in Texas , and two Bank of America credit cards. And – as much as it pains you to admit – he’s a pretty nice “regular guy” who could run around with “the boys” at a keg party in the woods and blend right in. What might not be so apparent to you about the guy is that he’s an “awakening soul” who’s figuring out slowly (or rediscovering) that the unsustainable lifestyle he’s been leading for way too long is pushing this planet toward Armageddon every day, and to keep that from happening, he’s trying to get people to realize, as he has, that it’s past time to dump the old broken-down Big Oil/Big Mac paradigm that is hurling this planet against a brick wall at 23,000 miles per hour. Now, I can only speak for myself, but just a few other folks I know who would probably proudly describe themselves as “tree-huggers” include other real estate agents and investors I know, mortgage brokers, builders, venture capitalists, lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs… well, you get my point (and let’s not forget those pesky journalists and eco-lodge owners you love to hate so much).
Moving on to your rhetoric about all those damn tree-huggers like Barack Obama who “want to move this society back to the Stone Age,” I couldn’t help but smile, recalling my buddy in Guatemala (a tree-hugging eco-lodge owner) remarking to me in February that he was “just waiting around for [the Planet Eaters] to bomb us back into the Stone Age – of course, you [meaning me] understand that’s an optimistic hope.” Moose, I just want to make it clear to you and anyone else reading this that this self-proclaimed environmental alarmist, doomsday prophet and chronicler of the downfall of Western Civilization does not “want,” and has never “wanted,” to live in the Stone Age. Though you could never tell it by looking at my life today, I am a huge fan of hot showers, macho pickup trucks, central heat and air, big juicy cheeseburgers, cell phones, and my (former) Wal-Mart credit card. It’s simply that I have fucking woken up and figured out that if even one half of the population of this overcrowded little rock hurtling through space suddenly demanded to have these items that Americans take for granted as “necessities” instead of the luxuries they are – which is exactly what those folks, understandably, are demanding from Shintuya, Peru, to Beijing, China – then this entire house of cards would collapse overnight, and the Stone Age would look pretty damn nice compared to the No Age we’re barreling toward as a society and as a species, with the fucking oil companies and beef industry leading the lemming charge into Oblivion. I’m having the hardest time trying to make my self-described tree-hugging friends from the last paragraph understand this simple straight-forward equation – and I sure as Hell don’t expect you to be able to add up two and two between all your fancy seismic-exploration geophysics equations – so I’m simply trying to offer you a peek into the mushroom-cleared mind of a real tree-hugger.
Moving on to your oft-repeated rhetorical whine – “Don’t these damn tree-huggers have anything better to do with their lives [than pick on the poor Planet Eaters]?” – all I can say (speaking for myself) is this: “No, Moose, as a matter of fact, I have nothing better to do with my time than to pick on Planet Eaters, which is exactly why I’ve carved this huge swathe of ‘spare’ time out of my once-busy life to do just that. Picking on Planet Eaters and exposing their evil schemes to anyone I can find willing to listen to the chilling facts is, indeed, the single highest and best use of my time – and my life – I can think of. And there’s no more perfect bunch of Planet Eaters I can think of in any more poetically positioned place I can imagine than Hunt Oil Company in Salvacion, Peru, in the very heart of the Mother of God, to do just that — and I would like to thank you for your valuable contribution in helping me to help everyone else on this planet wake up to the madness of what is going on in the Peruvian Amazon. It’s guys like you that make it a lot easier for guys like me to do my job.”
Which leads me to my (by-now) self-evident “agenda” that you never could figure out behind my tequila-breathed, regular-Joe, good-old-boy exterior I present to the world most of the time. If you want a detailed description of my admittedly less-than-“objective” agenda, I’ll refer you to the long-winded preface to this rambling rant. But I’ll sum it up for you and anyone else who may have forgotten it right here. First off, my agenda is to balance out the mountains of Madison-Avenue funded unadulterated crap out there in the media and on the Internet from folks like your “fair and balanced” friends at Fox “News..” Much more important than that side job, however, is this one: I am doing whatever I can in my tiny little Hambone way to follow a direct order from Spirit to help wake up this comatose planet, and to foment a planet-wide revolution in consciousness to change our self-destructive, sinning ways that I honestly believe at a cellular level are going to be the ruination of us all, tree-hugger and Planet Eater alike. If our budding friendship – which I really did value – is a casualty of the revolution, then so be it.
I loved your comment cautioning me about loose lips sinking ships. Before we part company forever, I just want you to know that the first ship that this pair of loose lips has its torpedo cross-hairs set upon is none other than the battleship USS Hunt Oil. My lips will be wagging in the wind as long as it takes to sink that ship – or, minimally to float its ass out of the Peruvian Amazon and back to Iraq or wherever it came from – and I will forever be grateful to your loose lips for helping me sink that ship. I look forward to the day when I can look back over this whole mad-cap adventure and be able to bugle, moose-like: “Thank God for Moose Mulligan – he saved the Mother of God!”
All joking aside, amigo – and I really do consider you my amigo, even though we’ve let the Mother of God flow between us – if you ever do wake up and see the light (and if I can do it, so can you, Dude), we sure could use a man of your caliber on our team. But until then, amigo (and please don’t take this personally), just remember one thing: “You and I are not in this together, and don’t you ever forget it.”
Hasta luego, Moose!
— Your Old Trail Pal, Hambone