Another Hair-Raising Tale

                                                      ---- from the "Incredible  Island"

                                    THE ROAD

                                Fact-ion - By: Lorenzo Dee Belveal


When I arrived on Roatan, in January, 1967, there were two "roads," if we can use that term very loosely. What we had, actually, was one track that led from Henry Warren's store to French Harbor, and another track that led from Henry Warren's store to Sandy Bay.

In dry weather, these tracks were about twelve feet wide. In wet weather they were twelve feet wide and about five feet deep. Rain turned these red sun-baked clay artifacts into quagmires that neither humans nor horses could use. The only contrivances, living or mechanical, that could negotiate these almost bottomless routes were two or three so-called mud-buggies. These vehicles were sometimes rented like taxis to the sufficiently adventurous. 

A mud-buggy of that era was little more than an engine with four-wheel drive, a flat platform and two seats that would accommodate four, five or six, passengers, depending on the degree of discomfort the passengers were illing to endure for the dubious privilege of getting from Point-A, to Point-B. (e.g: Coxens Hole to French Harbor, or Coxens Hole to Sandy Bay) 

The mud-buggies never developed much of a following among the traveling island set. One trip was usually enough for anyone except a card-carrying masochist. 

Islanders in those salad days did very well without roads. Truth to tell, they had no need for roads! Legs, horses, kyukas and dories could take one wherever there was to go. People lived along the water, wherever there were people to be found on the island. And transportation to and from a house built on posts at the edge of the sea doesn't require either a road or a car. A boat does just fine, thank you! Only iguanas, alligators and our little key deer lived in the island's interior, and they didn't do much to encourage visitors. 

Once the development bug bit me, however, and I decided to build a resort on the north side of Roatan, just east of the village of Punta Gorda, a road - in my view, at least - became an imperative. Without a road, a resort on the north side of Roatan might rate a mention in Ripley's "Believe it or not, " but it wouldn't hold out much promise as a business venture. 

The Minister of "Natural Resources and Public Works" and the main man in charge of building roads in Honduras at that point in time was Ing. Roberto Cantero. Thinking that Roatan was a fully functional part of Honduras, I went to Tegucigalpa for a series of long, pleasant - and absolutely fruitless - interviews with him. 

Don Roberto listened attentively to my plans for building what was to become "Spyglass Hill Resort," and agreed totally with my declaration that in order to make the Resort economically viable, it would have to have land access. It would have to have a road. 

Minister Cantero agreed completely. No doubt about it! Spyglass Hill Resort must have a road. Moreover, he assured me, I could depend on his help: He would have the road to Spyglass built and opened before I could get the Main Lodge built. We toasted this agreement with more coffee, until I left his office suffused with coffee - and a sense of boundless confidence in my new undertaking that is impossible, even now, for me to put into words without weeping. 

I hired Lem Cooper as my Construction Superintendent, and retained Bernheim & Kahn, a firm of Chicago architects to design the buildings. Then I hired most of the able-bodied men in Punta Gorda, and we began clearing the top of the big green promontory where the idea of Spyglass Hill Resort would take on form and substance. I was like a man on fire!

But the road that had been so enthusiastically promised by Ing. Roberto Cantero failed to materialize. Every time I went to Tegucigalpa I would go straight to the Minister's office. He would greet me cordially, serve me coffee by the gallon, squeeze my hand tightly and shake it energetically; and assure me that my Spyglass Hill project represented "a long step forward in the Honduras program to turn Roatan into a tourist mecca." This, of course, was exactly what I wanted to hear from him. Then he would escort me to the door, and with a parting look right into my eyes, declare, "Don Lorenzo, we are going to fix that road for you. You don't need to worry about this. By the time you are ready for your first guests,you will have your road!" 

But nothing happened! 

I talked with "El Jefe," Osvaldo Lopez Arellano, with the ministers of Hacienda and Economia, "Mimi" Acosta Bonilla, and Abraham Bennaton - and a lot of other top tier-politicians. They all endorsed my undertaking in the warmest of terms. They all assured me that if I would build the tourist installation, then the Honduras government would certainly build an access road to it. "Of course we will, Don Lorenzo!" Then we would drink some more coffee and each in his turn would escort me to the door, shake my hand ---- and nothing happened! 

In order to facilitate transportation of building materials from Oak Ridge Harbor, I had already built a road across the waist of the island to my project. At my urging, Presidente Don Osvaldo Arellano, had told the Ministry of Recursos Naturales & Obras Publicas that they should "cooperate" with me in getting my road built. This initial cooperation took the form of lending me some road-building equipment, including two bulldozers, a road grader and a front-end loader. I moved the borrowed machinery to Puerta Cortez, loaded it on a barges, and towed it to Roatan.  

Punta Gorda men took up their machetes to chop out the track I had staked out, and I came behind them on a bulldozer, plowing out the right-of-way. 

The road from Punta Gorda and Spyglass, to Oak Ridge, was less than three miles. The entire construction job had taken less than a month. And while it was not to be confused with the New Jersey Turnpike, it was a perfectly serviceable road - and still is to this day. 

But to have access to Spyglass Hill from the Roatan airport, we had to have a connecting road built from the end of the mud-buggy route at French Harbor, up along the backbone of the island, to intersect with the Punta Gorda - Oak Ridge road that I had already built. The distance from French Harbor to Spyglass was almost twenty miles, and involved traversing some of the roughest terrain on Roatan. I didn't feel up to an undertaking of this kind, out of my pocket, as a personal project. But in the end this is what I did.  

Construction on Spyglass Hill had progressed as planned. I knew that we were going to be ready to receive our first commercial guests early in 1970; and it was becoming increasingly clear that I was going to open a resort without a road to bring those guests in. Not a happy prospect at all! 

The Honduras politicians still spouted their pro-forma assurances ofofficial support, and personal cooperation at every opportunity – and the coffee cups in their offices never ran dry while I was in Tegucigalpa, but the road project never got beyond the conversation stage. 

When the time came when I could wait no longer, I had another conversation with Don Osvaldo, who seemed to be the only man in Honduras who could actually make something happen. I explained my dilemma to him one more time. I told him I had to have the road into Spyglass, and that I was willing to build it myself - if there was no other way to get it. This discussion lasted a long time. My offer got his attention. 

Finally he agreed to help me again. This time he instructed the Ministry of Recursos Naturales & Obras Publicas to "loan" me one of their engineers that I could take to the island. The engineer they assigned to me was a big bear of a man, whose name was Jorge Bogran. They couldn't have made a better choice. I liked Bogran from the moment I was introduced to him, by a young engineer who only recently had graduated from Mississippi State University. That young engineer introduced himself to me as Rafael Callejas. Some twenty years later he would be elected Presidente of Honduras. 

There was no time (and no money) to engage in a long, meticulous pre-engineering project. I had a different vision of how to get the road built in a hurry. Ing. Bogran and I sat on the veranda at Spyglass, and emptied some bottles, as I outlined my engineering plan to him. For openers, we didn't even own a surveyor's transit or level, and I saw no need to buy them. To even think about drawing a route map, with gradients, cross-sectional details, etc., was out of the question. We needed a road, and we needed it NOW - not a year or two from now! 

Among Roatan's unusual resources at this point in time, was an H-19 "Huey" helicopter. Its pilot was a Canadian whose name, Eric Anderson has reminded me, was John Clark. I occasionally chartered the "chopper" to airlift guests between Spyglass and the Roatan airport. Whenever there was such a flight to be made, I directed John to fly along the "backbone" of the island. I wanted to study the terrain, and identify a route that, when the road was built, (as I was sure it eventually would be) we could follow. 

Thus it was, when Jorge Bogran and I sat down to actually plan the road construction, I was already something of an "expert" on the terrain profiles over which we would have to lay out the track. 

When the time came to begin the work, I chartered the helicopter again. In preparation for this phase of the project I had bought 200 small, brown paper bags from Henry Warren, took them to Oak Ridge where I bought two 100-pound sacks of flour from Ozzie Ebanks, and then had the two sacks of flour re-packaged in the little paper bags.  

All of these were then put in four crocus sacks that, on the designated day, were loaded aboard the helicopter. Then with some 200 of the little paper bags full of flour, Jorge Bogran, and myself aboard, and John Clark at the controls, we lifted off and headed down the island toward French Harbor. 

The old "mud road" that connected Coxen's Hole and French Harbor followed pretty much the same course as today. It passed closely to the north of what is now the Mariscos Hybur factory yard, and then made a 90º right turn into French Harbor Town. 

I directed the pilot to fly directly to a point directly over that right-hand turn and then point us east. The road to Spyglass was going to join the road from Coxens Hole to French Harbor, right at the turn, and continue more or less right up the middle of the island. 

Bogran and I sat in the open side-door of the helicopter, with the crocus sacks full of little paper bags of flour between us. I shouted my instructions to the pilot over the roar of the engine, and Bogran and I threw paper bags of flour to mark the route of the road we were going to build. When each of our paper bags hit the ground, or a bush, it would break, scattering flour over an area at least several feet in diameter. It was as if we were making a "dotted-line" from French Harbor, east along the backbone of Roatan. 

The route through Plan Grande was easy. A well-used foot trail cut through the flat-land and up toward the low hills to the east, for about two miles. Then, as the elevations lead up and over the top of "Antigual" hill, our decisions about where to mark the right-of-way became more difficult as well as more critical. 

Determining the route over and/or around Antigual, itself, was the most crucial decision we had to make. Unless we could plot the route over this "high point" in a location where it could be kept open in spite of the torrential rains that winter always brings, the entire road would likely be closed - cut in two by rain erosion.  

We had the pilot make several passes back and forth over the problem area, before we began throwing our flour markers. This stretch finished, we then veered northeast along the ridge that runs up and behind Pollitilly, the three villages to the east of Pollitilly that, together, comprise Punta Gorda. We stayed with this contour and - as planned - it ultimately led us to an intersection with the road I had already built from Punta Gorda to Oak Ridge. 

This done, I then instructed our pilot to turn around and fly the route back to French Harbor, using the flour markers for guidance. It was beautiful! The white blazes of flour on the green shrubbery and lower ground cover were impossible to miss. And the route, itself, looked feasible. Not easy, but do-able. Bogran was very well pleased with our "survey." He summed up his feelings in a single short sentence that meant, "I can do it." I was ecstatic! We had the route laid out. Now all we had to do was BUILD IT! 

Jorge Bogran was a big, strong, almost-giant of a man. Fully six feet tall, and weighing in around 225 pounds, he was ideally constituted for the work he had to do. In preparation for converting our flour-trail to a more dependable form, Bogran had earlier put two of his men to the task of cutting wooden stakes. Then, with one arm full of these stakes, and a four-pound sledge-hammer in his other hand, he started from the French Harbor turn, driving one of the big stakes in the ground about every twenty feet. This is the way the route was marked - all the way to the Punta Gorda - Oak Ridge Road. 

We had two bulldozers, a front-end skip-loader, and a road grader.

Following the stakes Bogran had put in the ground, and the flour splotches that were still easy to find, the machines began pushing a route through the bush, up over Plan Grande, along the island's backbone, and ultimately to its connection with the Punta Gorda road. 

It was slow, hard, and - at times - extremely dangerous, work. It was especially dangerous opening up the portion of the route around Antigual. The tractors had to claw their way up, along the side of a sheer precipice that, with even the smallest operator mistake, could put both machine and driver two-or three-hundred feet down the face of the cliff. With nothing to stop the fall until they got to the bottom of the ravine below. 

Jorge Bogran stayed with the machines at the work-site. I took charge of logistics. To build a road you need diesel fuel. Lots of diesel fuel! Since I was going into my own pocket for things like crew meals and housing, equipment repair parts, and a variety of other things that, after nearly thirty years, might have slipped my mind, I wanted some help with the fuel problem. So I went looking for it. 

I begged fuel from one end of the island to the other. The trouble with naming names in an undertaking like this is that invariably you forget somebody. Or a lot of somebodies. But among the folks who gave me fuel (or money to buy fuel) for the tractors, I remember Dr. Polo Galindo, Dino Silvestre, Delmer McNab, Harvey Mayer, Ozzie Ebanks, Rex Gough, George and "Plenty" Jones, Stalin Jones, Bill Kepler, Larry McLoughlin, Albert Jackson, Teodoro Castro, Eric Anderson, Seth Arch, John J. Wood (although I seem to recall that it was Miss Catherine who actually handed the money to me), and there were others.  

And I apologize to everyone I have left out. Blame it on faulty memory. It certainly isn't intentional. I think it was Albert Jackson who loaned me the flat-bed truck that we used to haul the 55-gallon drums of fuel, lube and water, from the pumps to where the tractors were working.  

After all of this effort and attempts at forward planning, one day we had to stop work because the tractors had run out of fuel. It was my fault. I got busy with some of my own work, and didn't have time to go scavenge the fuel that our road machinery had to have. So I went to see Allan Hyde. 

I have to point out that Allan Hyde was one of my first friends on Roatan, and to this day, remains my best friend. It's like we understand each other. So, when I needed a reliable fuel source, I naturally went looking for Allan. 

After explaining the problem to him, told me that whenever I needed fuel for the machines and didn't have another place to get it, send the fuel drums to Hybur. "I'll fill 'em up for you," I remember him saying. And he did! I have no idea how many thousands of gallons of diesel fuel Mariscos Hybur put into "the road." But it was a lot. The earth-moving equipment never shut down again for lack of fuel in their fuel tanks. For other unavoidable reasons, perhaps. But we always had fuel.  

As road engineers go, Jorge Bogran was some kind of a magician. I've seen people build roads almost all over this world, and I remain convinced that Bogran was perhaps the best road construction boss I have ever watched do his job. The project worked six days a week, and Jorge usually spent Sunday at Spyglass. This gave him and me an opportunity to talk about what had been done, what work was underway, and what would be the next order of business. In addition to being co-workers, we became good friends. I enjoyed his company. And I think he enjoyed spending time at Spyglass, with me.  

I had bought a 350-Kawasaki dirt-bike, since this is the only sensible kind of transportation on an island without roads. The motorcycle proved to be precisely the right machine for getting up and down our road-under-construction. I visited the work-site at least once every day, and - depending on the reasons for doing so - sometimes two or even three times in a day. 

My first responsibility was to see that Bogran and his little road crew had whatever they needed to get on with their work; whether this was diesel fuel, a repair part, drinking water, food, or lubricating oil for the tractors. This involved a lot of running up and down. And when my over-worked motorcycle broke down temporarily, I just borrowed one from Larry McLoughlin - and kept right on truckin'. 

Then, after what seemed like an awfully long time, a glorious day arrived when one of our International tractors pushed the last big berm of earth out of the way and we were connected with the Punta Gorda - Oak Ridge road. The dream of a road was a rough-cut, but utterly beautiful reality! 

When I had first mentioned the idea of building a road from French Harbor, up to our location on the island, my good friend Ozzie Ebanks, laughed at me.  

"Dee," he assured me, "that will never happen! I never expect to see a road into Oak Ridge in my lifetime!" Since Ozzie is just a year older than I am, it seemed clear there was no time to waste.  

With this memory to go from, when I saw that we were about to break through into the Punta Goard - Oak Ridge right-of-way, I knew what had to be done. 

I got on the dirt-bike and went over to Ozzie's store at the edge of the Oak Ridge bight and loaded him on the buddy-seat,. We took a couple of hits out of a bottle of Flor-de-Cana that I usually carried in a saddle-bag, and we headed over the hills to initiate the brand new road grade, that Ozzie "never expected to see!" A combination of loose dirt, maybe a drop or two too much out of the bottle, and an excess of celebratory exuberance combined to dump us at one point. But neither of us was hurt. We untangled ourselves, righted the cycle and got on with our "official" road inspection. 

This particular celebration had been a long time coming, and it hadinvolved a lot more than a modest amount of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears. We had a memorable celebration at Spyglass that night. Jorge Bogran, Ozzie, the tractor drivers, bush-choppers, Rex Gough, Tom Garcia, and a lot of other people who looked familiar at the time, but whose actual names are now lost in the folds of faulty memory and too many years, were there for some, most, or all, of the night under discussion. We ma managed to put an impressive dent in the Spyglass Hill liquor inventory in just a few hours. 

This kind of thing can happen when people who have never had a road, get a road! 

Somebody has said that "Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is forever a bastard." So it was with the road. Until the right-of-way was actually cut through, one could hear a lot of island jokes about the "crazy gringo" who "wants to make a road." But as soon as the route was bulldozed through, "the road" became almost everybody's idea – like overnight! It was startling. 

Now, more than twenty-four years later, it's easy for visitors to the island - and even the islanders themselves - to take "the road" for granted. It's almost impossible for anyone to imagine how we ever survived without it. But it was a different story at the time. 

Building a road means that one has to cut a track through private land. Building a road means cutting farmer's fences. It means piling up ugly, red berms of mud in front of people's homes. In short, it means raising merry hell with the tranquil, green-grass-covered, pretty island countryside.


Except for those few forward-looking folks who are willing to put up with some immediate inconvenience, in order to enjoy a disproportionate future benefit, building a road is a plain damned nuisance - and one that might be deemed something better avoided entirely.  

Thus it was on Roatan.  

A lot of people thought a road might be all right. But it was hard to find any real enthusiasm for it. Understandably so. Having never had roads on the island, how could the islanders be expected to be anxious to get them? 

But infinitely worse for the project, the people who owned land through which we had to take the right-of-way were either modestly or absolutely, one-hundred percent, four-square, NO-WAY, By GAWD, opposed to having their wires cut, to make a public route through their pasture, sucker patch or cocal.  

Each one of the enroute land-owners had to be personally won over to the project. Only then could we expect to get permission to cross the private land in question. And, should we fail to get permission to cross a particular piece of land, the result could require a long and costly detour around that particular piece of property. Several of the land-owners on the route wanted me to buy a right of passage across their land, but this would have defeated the entire idea of a "public road."  

If worst had come to worst, we could have resorted to condemnation and expropriation of the land required for the road. But I never wanted to do this. And it never became necessary. The island land-owners allowed "the road" to pass voluntarily. Neither did we buy or "bribe" road access from anyone. Of course this could not have been done. 

I (anyone) could have bought or rented passageway across a particular piece of land, but at some later date, the owner, his heirs, etc., could decide that they no longer wanted traffic across the land. Should this happen, it would mean either closing the road entirely, or re-routing the portion of it that traversed the private land. Our legal advisors told us that unless we could get permission for perpetual "dedication" for public use as a road, the entire project was nonsense. It would only be a matter of time until some private land owner closed his fences, and totally halted road traffic. This would have put us right back at square-1. 

In view of this, dozens of discussions, some of them involving loud voices and ugly, difficult arguments took place, in an effort to win our way up the body of the island. On several occasions I felt the road project was doomed to failure, just because one person was refusing us passageway across his land. But, in the end, we got the agreement of everyone over whose land we had to put the road. In the end, they let us pass.  

Well, almost. 

One of the properties involved was owned by Joseph Jackson Rivers, and was situated on the southwest side of what is now the "Y" where the westerly route to French Harbor intersects with the road from Punta Gorda to Oak Ridge. Joseph "Chooksie" Jackson, (then, as now, a "congressman" in the national assembly) had initially agreed to permit the road to transit his (his mother's) land.  

This acquiescence only lasted until the road was built across the corner of the Jackson-Rivers pasture. Then everything changed. 

One morning shortly after the two routes had been co-joined, "Chooksie" came to Spyglass looking for me. His purpose, as he explained it, was to "talk about the road." 

"What about the road," I wanted to know. 

"Well, it goes right through my portrero," he said, digging his toe into the dirt and squirming around like a small boy trying to explain wet pants to his teacher. "I have to get something for that. And you built the road – so I have to talk to you." 

I reminded him that both he and his father had given their unqualified permission for the road to cross their land. And this before I ever entered their fences. 

"That's true," he admitted grudgingly, but I didn't know it was going to be so wide!" 

"Twenty feet isn't wide, as roads go, Chooksie." 

"Well, it's wider than I thought it was gonna be, so you have to pay me something for it," he insisted. 

"Just how much do you think it's worth to have the inconvenience of a road through your land - that you and everyone else can use?" I asked him, getting angrier by the minute.  

"Here's a paper I had wrote up," he replied, pulling a folded sheet of official stamp-paper from his pocket. "You just sign this and then pay me four-hundred lempiras a year - and we're not going to have any trouble, Mister Dee." 

He handed me the document and I read it. It spelled the arrangement out just as he had verbalized it. It called for me to pay him a yearly rental of four-hundred lempiras for the right-of-way across his land. If I signed the agreement, the road that had cost so much in time and trouble, as well as lots of money, would cease to be a public facility. It would be, by legal definition, a temporary private access. In other words, it would be a private road. It would be subject to "Chooksie's closing it whenever he decided to do it. He or his heirs could raise, double or triple the rent, and close the road if I refused to pay it.  

There were no alternatives for me. I couldn't do his deal. 

"Chooksie," I said, fighting to control my voice, "this is an interesting situation. However, this roadway was authorized and ordered by the Honduras Government, and is being supervised by a Government engineer, Jorge Bogran. All I have done is build it. Now, let me tell you what I think you should do with this agreement." His eyes lit up as he sensed a degree of success coming his way. 

"Chooksie," I went on, "first you find a pineapple. Then you take your knife and hollow out the inside of it." His eyes clouded over as he failed to connect this line of activity with what he considered to be our topic of conversation. "Then, Chooksie, you put this agreement inside the pineapple and shove the whole works up your fat butt. Now you get the hell out of here!" 

He left, shouting threats and obscenities, but he did leave. I assumed, quite incorrectly, that we had an end to it.

Two days later, as I buzzed merrily over the hills to Oak Ridge, mytranquillity was dealt a heavy blow. As I came to the Jackson land line, three big, thick fence posts blocked the roadway. They had been freshly - and deeply - implanted into the ground. Boiling with rage, I wiggled them loose, pulled them out of the ground and threw them down the hill as far as strength and outrage could send them. At the far boundary of the Jackson land I encountered another installation of the same kind. These posts were likewise removed. 

I heard nothing directly from Chooksie, but two days later I had my answer. At the Jackson boundaries, not three posts, but twelve posts had been set into the ground, and not less than a dozen strands of barbed wire fastened them together and anchored them into the Jackson line fences that extended on both sides of the roadway. These barriers were not about to be removed by hand. They were built to stay! 

Do I need to describe my response? Can't you imagine it? So imagine it - and then raise it to the tenth power. 

In a great gesture of great prudence, Chooksie was not to be found – when I went looking for him with a pistol in my pocket. Where he went to hide out I do not know, but he was not at home, nor in any of his other haunts that I knew about. 

Attempts to get the Municipal authorities to invoke their powers and order the clearing of the road were unproductive. A trip to Coxen's Hole to enlist the aid of the Governor of the Bay Islands was unavailing as well. The local officials had no desire to get in the middle of what was shaping up as a blood feud between the Diputado and a wild-eyed "gringo." 

Finally some sense of perspective returned to me, and I recalled having earlier met a Coronel Policarpo Paz Garcia, Commandante of the National Constabulary Forces, and obviously a man who could wield the hard hand when he chose to do so. 

I spent several hours in a Coxen's Hole cantina pumping Nacional beer and framing an eloquent telegram to the Coronel. I carefully detailed the events leading up to the building of the road, and Jackson-Rivers' repeated closing of it. I ended the four-hundred-plus word telegram to Coronel Paz Garcia by asking if this was something he could handle - or if I should take the matter up directly with El Presidente, Don Osvaldo Lopez Arellano. 

Twenty-four hours later I received a reply from Coronel Paz, enclosing a copy of his telegram to Jackson. In essence, he told Chooksie that, unless the barriers in the road were removed within twenty-four hours, the constabulary soldiers would remove them - and put him in jail. Coronal Paz Garcia was not - and IS not - a man to trifle with. 

As an interesting footnote, after the roadway was cleared and island life in our neighborhood returned to its accustomed tranquillity, Chooksie lost his seat in the legislature. He then bought a car and began hauling passengers for hire, up and down the road that he had tried so very hard to close. 

It took a long time, but I think I can guardedly describe Chooksie and l as friends today. Without doubt, we are both thankful he was out of sight the day I went looking for him. Had I found him, this incident would surely have had a much different ending. 

Over the almost thirty years that Rex Gough and I knew each other, we emptied a lot of bottles together. But there was a point in time when Rex didn't like me at all. And it, once more, was because of "the road." 

Finding a route into Oak Ridge was not easy. The town is built tightly around the bight, and houses are so cheek-by-jowl close that there just wasn't anywhere for us to put the end of the road, except behind Ozzie Ebanks' store. To get there I had to put the road just up the hill from the Gough house.

 Building a road results in a lot of torn up, loosely arranged soil left in the wake of the construction. This is bad enough in dry weather, what with the dust, etc. But when it rains, the loose soil becomes a tidal flood of red mud, of disaster proportions. This is what I did to Rex, and Charmaine, and - quite understandably - they didn't like it at all! 

The first rain after we completed cutting the end of the road into Oak Ridge, totally covered Rex Gough's beautifully mowed and meticulously manicured lawn into a sea of red viscous mud. And even after the rain had stopped, much of the mud remained. So, instead of a lovely expanse of green grass, the Gough lawn was left as an ugly stretch of mottled red and yellow mud. 

Rex and I had been friends for quite a while, and his father, Captain Joe Gough was one of my favorite people in the Oak Ridge bight, but "the road" put a strain on our friendship that took a year or two to erase. He still talked about "the mud flood" the last time we sat together in the "Happy Landing" and emptied a few. But by then we could both laugh about it. 

Rex solved the "mud problem" by totally encircling his property on the uphill side with an elaborate catch-basin arrangement. As now installed, when it rains the water and mud still runs down toward the Gough property. Before it gets there, however, it is trapped in elaborate concrete forms that first direct it to the west, and then to the south, down the hill and into the sea at the side of Ozzie Ebanks' store. The system works perfectly. No more mud on the Gough lawn.  

Rex and I were good friends again for several years before he died. God rest his soul! I miss him.

Once "the road" became a reality, it seemed like everybody wanted to get into the act. And that always was - and still is - all right with me. I always felt that just getting the road built generated more than enough credit to go around. In all truth, it was an island-wide undertaking. But there must be some limitations as to how far island generosity can go.

On one of my annual visits to Roatan, while riding up "the road" in a taxicab, and admiring the technicolor view of the north shore barrier reef, I spied a concrete artifact at the south side of the road that piqued my interest. I asked my driver to stop, and got out of the car to examine the marker. 

This particular stone sculpture carries a bronze plaque giving the broadest possible inference that "the road" was built as a result of the industry, ingenuity, far-sightedness and limitless faith of Rafael Leonardo Callejas, in the beautiful Island of Roatan and the good folks that populate it.

Beguiling language, certainly, but a bald falsehood. 

Rafael Callejas did, indeed, play a role in getting "the road" built:

First: He loaned me two tractors, one front-end skip-loader, and a road grader, out of the Recursos Naturales y Obras Publicas equipment inventory. He made this equipment loan to me in response to direct instructions from then-Presidente Osvaldo Lopez Arellano.

Second: He (Callejas) loaned me a government civil engineer, Jorge Bogran, who just happened to be one of the best engineers I have ever known. Again, because Don Osvaldo told him to do it.  

Third: He may or may not have been personally involved in getting portions of "the road" paved. If so, I salute him for this. 

But to sum up, he didn't plan it. He didn't survey it. He didn't build it. He might have paved  it. 

I knew the people who were responsible for building "the road" on Roatan. I was there, and I personally recruited most of them.

Begin with Don Roberto Contrero. He didn't do a thing for "the road." But he convinced me that he was going to do something. It was his hollow promises that lured me into building Spyglass. And with Spyglass under construction, I had no choice but to do whatever was required to go ahead and get "the road" built. 

The next name that should be on the plaque at the side of "the road" is that of Don Osvaldo Lopez Arellano. He gave me the equipment and, as pointed out earlier, he authorized the loan of Jorge Bogran to the Roatan road project. 

The third name, clearly, must be that of JORGE BOGRAN, himself. 

Fourth, in terms of direct support and financial investment, is Allan Hyde. Except Allan doesn't much like his name on things that, in a slightly different setting, might be taken for a tombstone. To be safe, maybe we should ask him about this before we do it. 

Fifth? That should be Policarpo Paz Garcia. But not "EL Presidente" Policarpo Paz Garcia. When "Polo" answered my call for help and ordered the road to be opened, he was only a Coronel. He certainly didn't know it, at the time, but in taking the action that he did, he "saved" the road for all of us. Had he not acted exactly when he did, and in the way that he did, it would most likely have been another ten or fifteen years before "the road" would have come into being.  

So "Coronel" Policarpo Paz Garcia is clearly entitled to fifth place on the roadside marker. 

Maybe Sixth place should be reserved for Rafael Leonardo Callejas. If he says he paved "the road" - Okay. I'm willing to take his word for that.  

But he, sure as hell, didn't build it.  I KNOW who built it!  

And now, so do you. 


Lorenzo Dee Belveal, Author
Copyright © 1997 Lorenzo Dee Belveal
All Rights Reserved