Junior's Samples. Part of the Stopwatch Series
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2012 by Old Man with a Pen


Millions of years ago the entire west coast of South America erupted. Lava flowed east and west. Plate tectonics lifted and subsided and lifted again. Deep in the mantle, metallurgical reactions took place and molten ore slid down the side of a volcano.

Centuries passed. The planet shrugged ... more than once. The torrential rains came and receded. Tons of moving water enveloped the shoulders of the mountains and eroded the land.

Massive boulders moved. Down and east out past the foothills the torrent moved the land. Geologic forces squeezed and relaxed ... and in the fullness of geologic time the boulders from the mountains came to rest. Dirt settled, the boulders were hidden.

Deep in the jungles of equatorial Brazil, an unsuspected find was found. Checking on the Slash and Burn tactics of local farmers, charter flyover survey 324 was using an electro magnetic anomaly set up. A huge reaction was graphed. The crew never noticed: they were too busy videotaping the forest burn.

Slash & burn is a way to clear land for cattle grazing and farming. With no thought or concern for the future, farmers move into an area, cut down the forest, bulldoze it into a pile and burn the pile.

This is good and bad. The good is the clearing of the land to promote re-forestation. Normally a result of nature, the burning reseeds the area, removing rotting deadfall and exposing the soil to sunlight. In nature, this is usually the result of blight or insect infestation.

Seldom is the tropical rainforest dry enough to burn. Sometimes the sheer weight of rotting deadfall is sufficient to cause spontaneous combustion. When this happens the fire burns for years. The decomposed matter, burning, distributes necessary nutrients over a wide area.

This is a very slow process, as is nature in the Amazon river basin. Man, however, comes in with mechanization, cuts down the shade trees, removes the very topsoil, burns the piles, converts the nutrients to runoff, spreads chemical fertilizers, depletes the land and moves on to the next area.

Recalling that this is a rainforest, with accumulations of feet of moisture per year, the severe and constant rains wash the topsoil to the nearest watershed. The water is polluted with phosphates, fecal matter, and the leftover char from burning.

What nature took centuries to do, takes man a few years. A slash and burn subsistence might use several thousand acres in the life of the farmer. 20 years to to what nature does in thousands ... without the rest and slowness.

The erosion, however destructive is nothing compared to the result of the electro magnetic readings from the flyover.

The flight crew, done for the day, deposited video camera and roll chart graph in the office drop box and headed for the Boteco for a drink and unwinding. Flights have been shot down before ... it's a wild world, the back country.

The 'Save the Rainforest' Foundation, contractors of the flyover, opened the office in the morning, retrieved the mail and checked the drop box. Guillermo set up the playback machine and put the roll of graph paper in the reader.

There was much discussion over the video playback, New York headquarters was called and the tape was wrapped and packaged for shipping to the head office. This took most of the day. An early day was called. Gill, the junior intern, got the job of transporting the package to the post office.

The next day, the discussion of the burn continued. Guillermo decided to listen as he turned on the roll reader...

"Madre Dios! Look at the size of this," he was holding up the graph paper he so rudely tore from the middle of the roll. "We've got to keep this quiet. We'll have no control. All that money ... what was that?"

'That' was the door slamming as the clerk was leaving the building. If you're not there to be sworn to secrecy you can't violate the oath.

When the clerk didn't show up for work ... and neither his wife nor his mistress had any idea where he was going after his 'emergency' purchases at the Hardware store...

"He came rushing in, robbed my purse, stripped the bed and took the money under the mattress."

His wife and mistress could have been speaking measured lines from a play. They both had the same complaint.

"Look at this eye!" exclaimed the wife, sporting a major shiner. "I tried to stop him! Now how will I live?"

"The mestizo bastard even took my mule!" shouted the mistress.

... a check on the files produced the evidence that Flight Plan 324, flyover areaXXX was missing. Four weeks later, Edgar Pinto, the wayward clerk, returned to town with the coordinates for a huge gold field, registered the claim with the government, sold half-shares within his claim and promptly disappeared! The very rich man left wife AND mistress behind. The mining ensued without Edgar.

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