(one of an occasional series from the archives of the "Journal for Crypto-Ethnology" Spring 1991)
by Dr. Roccardo F. "Dick" Quadde; RfP, SoQ, AmF.
The long winter passed uneventfully, a slowly leaking bladder full of inert gas. I was occupied greatly by the continuing investigations into the previous summer’s disastrous expeditions to the lofty and distant Dorkolithic spires. But as the days lengthened and the snows began to retreat from the the alpinid meadows, I became anxious and eager seek a remarkable vanished remnant of Hellmouth’s glory-hole days during the fabled Kaopectatum Boom.
The object of this quest was to locate the remains of a startling aeronautical prototype that had literally gone in a blaze of glory from the small mining hamlet of Hellmouth back in the summer of 1909.
Wherefore the shift from coprolytica to aeronautica?
One typically blustery and cold November afternoon I had been doing research in the Archival Manuscript Section of the Hellmouth Tweed-Hanna Industrial Library. While sifting through the stacks, I serendipitously encountered a copy of “Aero-Electrical Gazette and Proceedings” which featured the singular accomplishments of Alonzo Goezinteit.
Mr Goezinteit was a local mechanical engineer of great erudition and academic repute, with esoteric backgrounds in the topical and applied sciences. His past and then-current accomplishments were enumerated in 9 point type on crumbling yellow paper, cheek to jowl with lurid and graphic advertisements for multi-colored driller's mud and ladies' finer intimate apparel.
The author was breathless in his description of a fabulous flying machine that had literally blasted off from the Chorizo Altiplano, and vanished from mortal view in the plain sight of several thousand gaping spectators. Search parties were sent out (after a keg was broached, as it was a hot day), but literally nothing was found of this remarkable machine.
I became more curious about this puzzle. I felt that this was a mystery that had remained hidden from public view too long. As long as there was life inside this garish multi-colored polyester sweater vest, I was determined to bring it the light of day. I soldiered on.
The facts surrounding this remarkable machine are shrouded in the gauzy mists of rapidly receding time and memory, which having passed out of the realm of the living was now relinquished to rapidly advancing depredations of saturnine Time. Captive on crumbling paper and fading ink, a mute testimony to the glories of a bygone age. Such was a similar fate of one Sesostris Doro Wat, the almost-forgotten Nilotic culinary architect of the fabled XII Dynasty; saved for academic posterity in a critically acclaimed monograph authored for the edification of all that followed (Sesostris Doro Wat: Nubian Mystery in the XII Dynasty/Quadde 1961).
Young Goezinteit had arrived in Hellmouth late one sweltering August afternoon in 1885, on the Hellmouth, Coprolyte & Rio Mojado Narrow Gauge. This ash-blown, cinder-blasted, soot-specked, bi-weekly mixed freight and passenger run was affectionately known as "Old Thunder- Butt" to all within earshot of its piercing and keening whistle call along its sinuous and winding track, stretching a full 69 miles from roundhouse to roundhouse.
Fresh from his recent graduation at the Bismark Hydrographic Research Institute & Normal Teacher's College of North Dakota, Goezinteit promptly found work as a steamfitter's apprentice. The local machine shops at the outlying kaopectatum diggings always had need of skilled men. His first jobs were learning the trades and keeping the pit-engines in good repair. This eventually palled for the young Alonzo, though he steadfastly continued waiting for the next available opportunity. This active intellect was not stifled in the dense hanging heat that characterized sleepy Hellmouth in the summer doldrums, and carried on a regular correspondence with various technical and popular libraries in New York, San Francisco and St. Louis; thus staying current with the latest breaking scientific developments. His business acumen also found an outlet in loaning for a modest fee certain illustrated fictional works that were extremely popular with the rough and tumble miners, who sweated their solitary shafts bereft of gentler company, excepting the precious moments they saved up for on their Saturday nights in town.
Away from his work-place Alonzo took a room at the Caucasian Gentlemen's Riding Academy & Social Club. He found the accommodations clean and precise as befitted his training as a precision-minded man of the bright new Electrical Age then dawning. Their attention to scientific principles of Modern Hygiene were noted in that vast dusty territory where the dust-devil took his share on a regular basis. Although the lodgings were excellent in their category, Alonzo knew that he needed a small isolated property he could work on ideas that came to him during the day and kept him awake at night.
Fortune smiled one day in March 1897 when he got wind of a foreclosure out at Carpaccio Creek, a short five-mile buggy-ride from Hellmouth proper. He went out to look at the property, and saw that it was good. Making haste back into town he closed the deal at 2:59, and laid plans to begin building a house and the nucleus of his laboratory.
In the mean time, the mechanical world was changing very rapidly. He was now known as Dr. A. Goezinteit, in deference to his increased status and new authority as the supervising mechanical engineer on the newly formed Boehner Potash & Alkali Consolidated Mine Works. This merger had taken over four smaller, money-losing open-pit operations in the scrubby Rhümpe-Wrangling foothills.
The new owner of this small mining cluster was the protean Waldo G Boehner, who had arrived in the kaopectatum diggings in 1882 as a strapping young man from Plummer's Divide, Ohio. Trying his hand at open-pit mining, he realized soon that all he would see would be the backside of the man in front of him, covered in the alkali dust, riven with sweat, and with little to show for his years in the sun. He pondered his options, and pooled his small grubstake with several other disgruntled miners. They began to frequent the assayer's office to keep an ear to the ground regarding likely claims that may come loose from their unwitting owners, so to speak. In this manner he heard about the promising "Little Mary Five-Fingers" claim that had been used as collateral in an all-night poker game. The hand had not gone as planned for the unfortunate miner, and things were looking bleak. Boehner and his "denim-monde" consortium interceded on the hapless gambler's behalf. The debt was paid, and the grateful debtor departed quietly on the next day's freight. The Boehner syndicate was now in business.
Boehner had a bonanza on his hands, and knew that only with the best in modern technology was he going to see the maximum profit from this venture. Proceeding accordingly, he summarily locked out the previous share-holders, posted a picket-line of unsmiling armed guards with Maxim-guns on tripods; hired 2000 Chinese miners as a temporarily expedient stop-gap while he was putting together the necessary financing for a truly revolutionary leap in open-pit mining technology. He was well aware of Goezinteit's technical skill and ambition, his dedication to his craft and sure touch with the massive wrenches when he showed the lead crews the proper techniques.
Boehner asked Goezinteit to meet him at the famous bar in the old Steatopygian Empress Hotel. His offer was short and blunt. One of the old-timers later recalled in a creaky retirement home outside of Visalia that "...In return for complete supervision and procurement, he would work his butt off and get paid lots of money..."
It was well known that Goezinteit was generally abstemious, but on this occasion bent the rules and partook a nip of the branch-water, followed by an inundation of the locally bottled AlkaliFizz. He quit his previous post the next day. His first tasks was to upgrade the hopelessly inefficient home-made donkey engines and head frames of the previous miners.
Over the following months that followed, Goezinteit began to amass the largest collection of steam-powered excavators, pit locomotives, stamp mills, headframes and generally reciprocating turbinalia yet seen in those parts. He had been waiting to use the new technology that he had read about in the current engineering journals, and this provided the opportunity.
The original syndicate that acquired The Little Mary Five-Fingers claim had, by judicious use of telegraphic legerdemain, followed the stock-exchange prices in San Francisco and New York, and with some coin changing hands were able to "prime the pump" on the Paris Bourse.
With a few well-placed words they were able to stabilize in an upward manner the historically inconsistent prices on the world kaopectatum market. Not for nothing had Boehner learned the hard lessons from the collapse of the Chilean Guano Boom in 1868.
This was to prove the big strike that Boehner and his confederates had prayed for all their working lives. The Little Mary Five-Fingers claim was dead-centered on the richest reef outcropping of Kaopectatum that the world had yet seen. The veins went deep into the Rhümpe-Wrangling foothills, and it its prime between 1897 and 1917 produced over 20,000,000 tons of refined premium-grade kaopectatum. It employed over 10,000 men and kept the machine shops humming around the clock. It was well known but little mentioned that at least 2,000 women were likewise kept busy as the shifts changed at the pits. New power-plants were built, and continually rebuilt to feed the expanding electrical appetites of this vast enterprise.
Far from the silk top-hats and cool marbled halls of the major financial districts of the East it was a different world altogether. Hellmouth was a small patchwork tent village of 150 in 1882, and grew to a large and raucous, if perennially dusty metropolis of 50,000 in its prime. It was situated at the confluence of the Rio Mojado and Stinkwater Creek on the Hardepanne Plateau of the Hellmouth Valley. This had been the site of the first Great Kaopectatum Bonanza of 1871.
The initial strike was in an alluvial fan in the surrounding foothills by the Hessian immigrants Joachim Rhumpe and Fritz Wrangling. They had arrived on the same burro in the fall of 1870, and set up their "cousin-jack" dug-out into the side of a hill, following local mining tradition. For several months they prospected, taking samples, until they set to serious digging. One day in March, they realized they had struck the telltale pink mother-lode, and promptly bagged as much as their grizzled burro Pedro could carry.
The story has a somewhat tragic ending as they didn't live to see the fortune that their discovery would bring. As soon as they had taken it to the assayer's office for the weighing, testing and pay-out, they were on their way to Missy Loblolly's Chili Emporium & Recumbent Social Club, snugly astride their faithful grizzled burro, Pedro. Passing down Main Street, they encountered a mule-train laden with fireworks and inflatable rubber novelty items making its way slowly from the other direction. One of the mules took a hostile dislike to their burro, and in seconds a major brawl ensued. The resulting jostling and friction in the melee caused the inflatables to chafe vigorously which ignited the fireworks. In the following explosion, the two miners and a number of the mules joined their celestial maker in a brilliant send-off worth of a deceased Pharaoh or Oriental Potentate. When the smoke cleared, the town went about its business in a manner suitable to any other boom town. They promptly named the previously-anonymous foothills after the departed miners, and appropriated the claims. A perfunctory effort was made to locate relatives, but was abandoned after the traditional brief mourning period. Life resumed its normal cadences quickly in a virile town like Hellmouth.
At its zenith it boasted, like so many other late nineteenth century boomtowns, a fistful of banks, a plethora of saloons, the requisite number of bawdy houses, and the Obligatto Opera House.
The Hellmouth Obligatto Opera House was in itself was an architectural landmark and marvel, designed by the now-forgotten genius Nestor Ersatzi. It was sheathed inside and out by the most artfully worked Java Rubber panelling, which portrayed various classical motifs in bas-relief. The House hosted the finest performers and artists of the era. The splendor encountered by the eye was a prelude to the delights which graced its stage. One such memorable performance in 1902 was by the famed Russian diva Ethyl Murmanskaya; who brought the capacity audience to its feet with a dramatic bel-canto rendition of Ludovico Spaetzl's "Cantata Akronesque". She returned for seventeen curtain-calls, and was nearly a victim of her audience’s fervor as they flung the brilliantly dappled Hellmouth Cactus-flower as a floral tribute.
But for all of the finery, gee-gaws, and wha-dee-doo-dah laboriously brought in over the mountain passes by train from San Francisco, it did little to change the fact that Hellmouth was seen by nearly all of its transient inhabitants as a place to make a quick strike and then get out.
Alonzo did not share that short view. He came to admire, and then to deeply love the stark and imposing lithic skylines that crisply defined the mountain ranges of the imposing Dorkoliths. He had become aware of the shy and reclusive remaining Maemo-Lipkat tribes through a series of unusual monographs.
The most remarkable of the essential monographs by Harry "Hairy" Singh Ramadamanadanapanly's freestanding epic masterpiece "Fifteen Years in Coprolytica: Selected Edited Journals in The Dorkoliths, Schlongbergen & Alte Puttanescas, 1890-1905". At the time, it was still an undeservedly obscure work bearing the imprint of a private academic publishing house in Benares. This was the first pillar to the gateway leading to the Dorkoliths. The second was Malpissant, Wanger & Blindsider's seminal dissertation; Expedition Among The Dorkoliths; which did not find its way into general circulation in an anthologized form until late 1913. Due to vagaries of popular taste it was literally bound in with a suspect and sensational baedaker of horizontal recreational meccas frequented mainly by miners and later by tourist groups from the Eastern Seaboard on the Hellmouth high plateau.
I drift somewhat, but the imperative to lay out all the details in Mr Goezinteit's remarkable endeavors must precede any desire for mere sensation. And the youth of today wonder why their attention span is never more than seven minutes.
The mind reels. In my case, slowly.
The studious Alonzo would prop one of these remarkable tomes on a table, and read the dense and wiggling script while he took his lunch in the sweltering mine-office out at the pits. His attention seldom wavered, as he was avidly diving into the cold briny depths of the scholarly pickle barrel. His mind continued to ponder the eloquent and near-Sufic descriptions of the geology and ethnology of this wild mountainous land while simultaneously working out the minutae of keeping an expanding enterprise well provisioned and stocked.
In this manner, in the deep well of learning, he came to read and learn about the enigmatic Maemo-Lipkat peoples that were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Dorkoliths. The were such a reclusive and self-sufficient people that even the ancient Paiute and Mono peoples had little to say when their oral histories were examined by later generations of ethnologists. It became clear that their language was not even closely related to the surrounding lingual groups, although this was not extraordinary by any standard. They evidently had arrived into the high Dorkolithic plateau well ahead of their neighbors. They hunted small animals, planted small crops where conditions permitted, and traded for small things they would not normally have. In this manner shells from the coast and obsidian from the interior found new owners far from their origins.
Several key peculiarities distinguished the Maemo- Lipkats from their neighbors. They simply had no resemblance, visually, linguistically, or ethnically to their native Californian neighbors. Their enigmatic and terse mythologies posited their origins as a celestial, with references to a sudden fiery arrival from the sky in a far-off time. Researchers from Eastern universities found it difficult to remain somber when confronted with these fanciful tales, but kept poker faces and detailed notes nonetheless. Careers were to be made, and each hoped that they would be the sole inheritor of a surviving tribesman from an earlier Arcadian age; when the implacable iron horse did not spew sparks while shrieking its clangorous clarion call of “Progress!” in the deep echoing canyons of the Dorkolithic hinterland.
Another ethnographic enigma was their religious pre-occupation with calcified remains of certain giant lizards and the fossilized by-products that occurred in abundance in the high valleys. Finally, their close and near-cultic observation of the rare, euphonious, highly aromatic and reclusive High Sierra Barking Spider, as they came to be known in my time. The original Maemo-Lipkatic gloss for this unique creature has been lost to contemporary science, but will surface shortly, no doubt.
The gentle reader and auditor of this screed will no doubt wonder; how do the paths of an ambitious mining magnate, a talented and hard-working engineer, a vanished group of mysterious aborigines, a scarcely-noticed aeronautical wonder that passed from the human firmament in a shattering blast on a bright summer day, and an obscure alpinid arachnid sub-genus intersect? Why had such a mystery laid inert and dream-like for so long?
The same thoughts occurred to me as I began to untangle this tale. Piece by piece I began to realize the majestic plan as it unfolded in this unusual drama. Let us go back now to Dr Goezinteit as he sat at his sweltering foreman's shack out at the vast open pit that made Waldo G Boehner the wealthiest and most feared mining baron in the Far West.
Goezinteit's mind had been pondering several key passages of the Malpissant/Wanger & Blindsider tome. There were enigmatic references to the flammability and combustibility of certain chemically inverted forms of the kaopectatum that occurred in certain conditions. It suggested certain properties that were not completely evident to the casual prospector.
The commonly refined version of kaopectatum was completely inert. Its mineral passivity was well documented in contemporary scientific literature, and was the butt of crude student japes. Modern chemical science had only just synthetically duplicated similar refractory mineral compounds later used in gelatinous dessert confections made popular in mass-circulation magazines after the Great War. The Maemo-Lipkats had evidently made careful note of these properties for their rituals, as the MW&B volume made mention in Latin footnotes to
"...observances involving men in ritual settings, generally involving crudely fermented beverages, making ritualized savage obeisances in the presence of spouting blue flames..."though not citing specific proximities, relationships, and so forth. These attributes had been noted in modern texts, but had been relegated to meager footnotes and wished away by editors of prestigious anthropological journals far from the blazing sun and still canyons of the Dorkolithic Badlands. Such was the stuff that Alonzo was reading.
By this time the mere mining and finishing of kaopectatum had become a fully integrated vertically integrated monopolistic conglomerate. The previously freewheeling Hobbesian free-market antics of the early years were gone forever. In the place of burly Pinkertons, there well-placed contacts in the state capital and under the national rotunda made sure that things ran without undue interference from nascently troublesome unions, or bespectacled reformist do-gooders.
The product was mined with Boehner labor, shipped on Boehner rolling stock, processed at vast, smoky Boehner refineries, packaged at Boehner factories in boxes with labels litho'd on Boehner presses, and finally sent to markets the globe over in Boehner vessels. The company ensign was a familiar sight in ports as disparate as Anchorage, Bangslap Prang, Zanzibar and Zamboanga on the fabled Mindinao coast.
The business of running a large mining operation from a mechanical standpoint had become routine, and tasks that had been consuming in the beginning were by now rendered in the administrative shorthand necessary for proper maintenance. Wise investments in the Boehner portfolio, along with three successive eight-for-one stock splits had assured him of a generous income for years. He was then able to devote large portions of his time to keeping abreast with accelerating developments in aeronautics and rocketry. The revenues coming into the Boehner coffers were sufficient to keep Waldo B in tall clover, and his long-time mechanical genius associate Goezinteit intellectually diverted. Boehner knew of Alonzo's plans and tacitly subsidized them, knowing full well in his wisdom that it was better to pay now to keep than pay dearly later. He had acquired his hideaway estate, and had constructed a small and comfortable house, with a well-equipped laboratory behind the house about 500 yards away behind an earthen berm that shielded the lab from stray sparks and curiosity seekers. He had begun building a trusted team of engineers that were to synthesize Ancient Wisdoms and Modern Sciences, who started work at dawn and finished well after dark.
In order to bring this vast project to fruition, Goezinteit had begun to hire promising young engineers as they came off the academic assembly lines from prominent universities. He kept an eye out for eclectic and electrically minded young men and women, for he was a firm believer in the random distribution of intelligence regardless of gender. From his boyhood experiences he knew that trouser legs required solid filling in order to stand tall.
While he studied he began planning his most audacious mechanical achievement, the Fully Aerial Reciprocating-Turbine-powered Aeronautical Leviathan. His rough notes envisioned a mighty 24-wheeled, 200 ton cast-iron and steel leviathan powered by a mighty compressive furnace, burning the secret kaopectatum inverted-fuel concentrate. Goezinteit had been quietly combing the archives in search of the key that would launch his incredible machine into the azure skies, aloft in a brilliant blast of light and roar of thunderous smoke that would start rock-slides far above the tree-line.
Teams of men, steam-shovels and feeder-tracks were laid to begin shaping a large ramp that extended fifteen miles up a mountain slope. The work commenced on Monday morning, March 3, 1906. They began from the plateau floor, and proceeded to blast and cut in a westerly direction up the face of Psuedo-Sudanese Pied-Monte (Hall). The exact angle of the slope had been determined to be precisely 12 degrees for the first mile, then dropped into an increasingly steeper decline for the next 13 7/8 miles, where it literally troughed out before assuming a steep upward climb in the last 1/8 mile.
When the ramp was well underway, rail-laying crews would follow up the mountain laying cogged track, which would serve as the ever-lengthening supply line to the alpine launch site, followed by the actual launching track.
The cogged track was narrow gauge, similar to the famed Monte Markham military funicular railway near Dum Aloo in the Punjabi Saag Panir Hill-country. The launching track was specially designed in the Moe-Faux (Extra Wide) Gauge, a full 8' wide. The sleepers were specially cast using the innovative PsychoCeramic/Vitreous technology from a mix of Kaopectatum slag and brewery waste, which by means of a secret proprietary formula produced an inexpensive, porous and fireproof beam capable of withstanding the intense heat and weight that it would have to bear to send the mighty Aeronautical Leviathan on its maiden voyage.
The same technology was responsible for the production of the colorful heat-deflecting tiles on the planned craft. Surviving illuminations show conclusively that these innovative patterns were later appropriated entirely without attribution by various Mid-western plumbing consortiums and home-builders during the “Mission” craze.
While the ceramacists were wrestling with these pyro-aesthetic decisions, the broad shoulders and girded loins of the forge labored to cast, mill, and machine the many thousands of precision parts that would constitute the finished machine. New ground was continually broken in the prototypical wind-tunnel as scale models were tested for their aerodynamic qualities, a term that was scarcely known in those days but intuitively arrived at by hard effort.
The culmination of this plan was to have this massive beast winched slowly up the grade to the distant summit. All fuel and necessary fluids would be stockpiled at the top, arriving in relays. Tons of rock were to be blasted out of the "petra firma", using a house-blend of recently improved nitroglycerine enhanced with synthetic derivatives of the highly unstable vegetable-based Fabarasol-Garbanzolene igneous compounds. The captains of the blasting teams were grateful to the improved substance, as many of their number had acquired rueful nicknames like "Flash" and "Stubby ", and found that their recreational opportunities with the ladies were substantially diminished by previous methods.
The enterprise took shape and substance as velocity gathered and became manifest. And it was hungry. The provisioning was initially handled by the La Rue Sisters, who have become legendary in their own rites and through their descendants here in the Hellmouth Altiplano.
Originally the LaRues had been known only as the Fabulous LaRues, and had won the hearts and golden pokes of miners throughout the Hellmouth Altiplano mainly by their charming talents involving the livelier demi-sartorial and performing arts. Contemporary articles in yellowing newspapers noted approvingly that saloons and large tents were filled to capacity with a devoted male following who "heard them dance and watched them sing" in their trademark act involving a wheezy portable organ and a patient grizzled burro named Pedro.
They were astute enough to realize that the vaudeville audience was fickle, and after so many renditions of favorite classics the world was going to change soon. So they sold the organ to the founding members of the Chapel of the Quivering Orchid, and used the money to buy a used wood-stove and a large tent, under which they all lived. Pedro began his career as a hired beast, carrying large loads over steep trails while the LaRues stayed home and began building a business cooking food that was fit to eat, a rarity in any age.
When they began to provision the vast project underway, they anticipated baking at least 10,000 rolls daily to go with the 5,000 gallons of the favored Hi-Impact Java favored by the crews as they toiled up the mountain slopes laying track for the eventual launch. This was a supplement to the 10,000 eggs, 750 lbs of refried beans, 200 quarts of hot sauce, 50 sides of bacon and several wagons of butter required to round out the plates of the burly diners. They quickly hired on125 additional Mexican women to keep the tortillas coming, who took time out from their chores in keeping the giant stew vats from boiling over.
Before the conclusion of this remarkable enterprise, the twining of fate that brought Alonzo together with the lovely and smouldering LaRue sisters was to have an epic effect on the future destiny of the Hellmouth Valley.