Ron's Story
LSU, UCB (1st 2 yrs), Amboseli Kenya, UCB (final 2 yrs)


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LSU Grad. Sch., 1971-1973

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UCB Grad. Sch., 1975-1977



Al's Death & Graduate School at LSU: January, 1971 - August, 1973

     I had my military discharge but I didn't want to leave Louisiana with my father dying.  These would be our last months together.  It was October and I called my old boss at Union Oil in Lafayette to ask for a temporary job as an oil exploration geologist and then arranged to start graduate school in January for a M.S. in Geology at LSU.  I planned on using my time at LSU to take more chemistry and math courses that would be useful for my eventual Ph.D. research and in my career as an aqueous geochemist.  Going back to Penn State to work with Don Langmuir would be a fallback for my Ph.D., but I really wanted to work with either Hal Helgeson at UC Berkeley or Bob Berner at Yale.  In Lafayette, Bill Rogers had already left Union Oil to work as an independent, but Glenn Carpenter was still with Union Oil.  My boss treated me well and joked how I was going to study cations and anions for a career.  (For some reason, he thought that was hilareous.)  Glenn and I would meet Bill at the Petroleum Club for lunch and it was like old times.  Still inspired by Hermann Hesse, I named the oil prospect "Steppenwolf" that I delineated for Union Oil that winter.  It was located off the southwest Louisiana coastline.  Was Steppenwolf ever drilled?

     But Dad was getting weaker.  At the beginning of duck season, I drove him early one morning down to the marsh to his lease and had to lift him out of the boat and up into the blind.  He was sad about his strength being gone and he never went hunting again.  After Christmas, he asked me to host his annual New Years Day duck hunt for the Acadia Savings & Loan at Bill Cleveland's hunting camp.  Bill Rogers and Glenn Carpenter came along for that hunt.  We drank a lot that Saturday evening (1/1/71) and cut cards for money.  This was the only time in my life, I remember pulling the Ace of Spades.  After hunting the next morning, I drove back to Crowley.  Mom had called to tell me Dad was back in the hospital.  On my way home, I stopped by visit him in his room and tell him how the hunt went.  I sat and we talked some, and I told him about cutting the Ace of Spades.  He laughed, pleased at my luck.  The next morning the phone woke me.  Cellie had already gone to the hospital, and she called to tell me that he wouldn't last long.  What a difference a few hours had made.  I held his hand and talked to him but he was shaking violently and I'm not sure he was aware of me.  Mom eventually pushed me out of the hospital room, telling me to go home, saying she didn't want me to see him die this way.  An hour later she called to tell me it was over.  Dr. McNeely said he had a heart attack when a tumor pushed its way from his lungs into his heart.  Damn, that was a tough time for us.  Al was 63, Cellie was 61, and I was 23.  After that, I never picked up a gun again to kill for sport.

     The funeral was held in Crowley but the burial was in Mandeville in the Prieto Tomb.  Al had helped a lot of families get mortgages for homes in Crowley and people liked him.  He would be missed. At the Mandeville cemetery, several of the Kents from Fluker and Kentwood showed up for the internment.  I had never met these relatives before.  They were big, raw-boned men and I never saw them again, not that I ever knew them.  That seems to be the way in life.  Many of the last generation's relatives only show up at funerals to pay their respects out of some reverence for long-ago ties, knowing their time is coming soon.

     Soon after we returned to Crowley, the Acadia Savings and Loan Board notified Cellie that she would get Al's check for January but no other death benefits.  Al had managed the Thrift since it opened and built it into a success.  We had a signed employment contract (7/1/67-6/30/72) that in the event of death, his widow would receive a year's salary.  I talked to several Board members who said Al had given up that contract in exchange for getting more retirement benefits which were now nonpayable because of his death.  But there was no replacement contract to show us.  I told them it made no sense to me because Al had been seriously ill for about a year.  Why would he have done this in the face of illness?  Marilyn had stayed in Crowley for several months after the funeral to help Cellie.  On the advice of Frank Gladdys, a local attorney who had married a good friend of Marilyn, we made an appointment to see Judge Edmund Reggie, the Chairman of the Board.  Any decision from the Board would have been driven by Reggie.  Reggie was of Maronite Christion Lebanese origin who had married into a wealthy Cajun family in Lafayette.  He was a city judge who was both feared and respected by the local Cajuns.  Over the years he had become part of the powerful Edwin Edwards political machine.  Reggie had been a delegate in the 1956 Democratic Presidential Convention and broke ranks to back John F Kennedy, becoming a close friend of the Kennedy family.  And eventually his daughter Victoria married Senator Ted Kennedy late in life.  He was a man accustomed to being deferred to and not having his decisions questioned in Crowley.  His law office was filled with fluttering white doves in an aviary that stretched up to a high ceiling, very impressive (lol).  Reggie repeated the Board's decision to Marilyn and me, and we told him that we disagreed with it and would go public with the disagreement.  A few days later Cellie received notification that she would get paid Al's salary for a year as a death benefit.  Mission accomplished!  But with Dad gone from the Thrift, no one was there to argue against the Board making personal loans or paying kickbacks to family and friends and (following deregulation) for dubious commercial projects.  After the thrift failed in 1987, Judge Reggie was indicted in 1989 and subsequently convicted in 1992 of misapplication of federal funds.  Like his good friend Edwin Edwards, he had succumbed to the corruption of power.

     I was packing up to start graduate school and had rented an apartment off campus in Baton Rouge.  Gail Gueno, a high school classmate, was getting married and invited me to her rehearsal dinner in Lafayette.  (I think they had too many women and needed more guys.)  Also at the dinner was Louise (Gay) Gueno Poorman Baenninger, a beautiful, intelligent, young Temple University Professor with a Ph.D in Experimental Psychology from Johns Hopkins University.  She was in the process of moving to Louisiana because of a pending divorce from her husband. a former graduate school classmate at Johns Hopkins and also a Temple University Professor.  Her mother Louise (Lou) Gueno Poorman was from the Crowley area and was Gail's paternal aunt.  She and her husband Glenn (Wally) Poorman from Hershey, Pennsylvania, were moving to Crowley from Short Hills, New Jersey, after Wally retired from Esso.  I bet you can guess where this is leading to.

     Louise was not the typical Crowley woman.  She was a few years older than me and she took my breath away.  After the rehearsal dinner, we continued to see each other, and I could not get her out of my mind.  She returned to Philadelphia, packed her things, and drove to Washington DC.  I flew up, met her in DC, and we drove back to Louisiana in her car, a red 1967 camaro.  We did a little touring and stayed with some of her old friends on the trip back to Baton Rouge.  She was planning on living in the city and finishing several unpublished manuscripts of her research, making use of the university computer system for necessary statistical computations with her data.  Her parents didn't believe her reason for being in Baton Rouge and were horrified that their daughter would become involved with a young guy, just starting graduate school with years to go.  I think I was always a thorn in their side.  Louise became a licensed Louisiana psychologist and went to work for Baton Rouge Mental Health Center.  There she set up a Behavior Modification Program for Children and became its Director.  She loved the idea of living in Baton Rouge where she had been born.  Her Mother Lou, a stylish woman, had been Darling of LSU back in the late 1930s when she met Wally Poorman, a young chemical engineer (M.S. from MIT) working at the Baton Rouge Esso Refinery.  Louise had emotional ties to the city, made new friends, and soon settled into her new life.

     Graduate school at LSU was fun for me.  I drove from Crowley onto the campus in Baton Rouge, listening to Rod Stewart singing Maggie May on the radio, and feeling the world was my oyster.  For financial support, I had both the GI bill and assistantships.  My fellow M.S. graduate students were all characters that partied a lot.  The students included Bill Seyfried, a good friend who later got his Ph.D. from USC working with Jim Bischoff and has had a great career as a hydrothermal geochemist at the University of Minnesota; Howard (Howie) Harper who later received his Ph.D. from Harvard and worked as a research paleontologist in the petroleum industry; and Tim LaTour, a former army helicopter pilot in Nam and my childhood friend.  Tim had come back to LSU to take a few courses before moving on to the Univeristy of Montana for his M.S. and then on to the University of Western Ontario where he got his Ph.D. working for Bill Fyfe.  He subsequently had a successful career as a metamorphic petrologist at Georgia State University.  Two other students, after receiving their M.S. degrees at LSU, started Ph.D. programs at USC but never finished: Tom O'Neil, an ex-navy seal in Nam who spent his career teaching at Oxnard College, living in Venice near the beach and John (Mac) McRaney, a true party animal who stayed on at USC working as a staff member in the department.  Finally there was John Sutherland, an oil man's son, who was so wealthy that he was just marking time.  John ran his AC in his apartment at full blast in the winter so that he could build a fire in the fireplace.  Bill Seyfried once joked about visiting John's father's plant in Texas.  He said the name SUTHERLAND was spelled out overhead in giant letters with the S at the entrance gate, continuing for a mile with the last letter at the exit gate of the plant.  Bill was and is a character!  Louise nicknamed Tom "Rhino" because he was so massively built.  Once a Cajun challenged him to a bar fight across the Mississippi River, and all Tom did was take off his shirt and the confrontation ended.  Louise had nicknames for everyone, and Tom's very intelligent, beautiful, and petite girlfriend Karen Stutes from Lake Charles was "Tiny Titmouse."  By giving out nicknames, Louise got to pick out a good one "Beach Bunny" for herself (lol).  I haven't kept up with John, Tom, and Howie, but they were great guys.

     In the two and a half years since I had left LSU, geologists had come to accept the theory of plate tectonics.  Before getting my B.S. in 1968, academic geologists in the U.S. often made fun of the concept of plates moving about the earth's surface.  However, the evidence was obvious in the Earth's Southern Hemisphere.  In my senior year at LSU, a South African Professor had given a talk supporting plate tectonics.  Afterwards, Don Kupfer, a LSU professor and structural geologist, walked up to the podium to declare that if he put a hammer down on an outcrop, it would still be there in the same spot a million years later.  And the audience chuckled at the notion of moving plates.  But now, plate tectonics was the "new bible" underlying our explanation of the earth's features.  This complete reversal of beliefs was humorous to me, like a new religion had swept the science.  Geologists now devoted their time to explaining the earth-surface features that formed or occurred where not easily predicted by plate tectonics, e.g., the Rockies and the New Madrid earthquake.

     During the 1971 spring break, Clay Durham led a Gulf Coast geology field trip for the new graduate students.  This was a great field trip.  The trip started with the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, examining the Cenozoic and Mesozoic Gulf Coast sediments, and then followed the Paleozoic connection to the Llano Uplift in Texas, down into Mexico to the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains near Saltillo and Monterrey.  I remember watching Clay pay a bribe to the Mexican border officials so we would not have to unpack our gear when we entered Mexico.  Paying bribes to Mexican border officials was done automatically to not be hassled.  Clay Durham was a legendary field geologist who inspired every student he came into contact with.  And like many field geologists, he was an incredible drinker who rarely showed any effects.  The story was that his future wife Louise was a student in a freshman geology class he was teaching.  She was the girl friend of the TA of the class.  Clay had spent all night drinking and showed up to lecture.  In his inebriated state, he met his future wife and asked her out, in front of the class.  She dropped the TA as her boyfriend and the rest was history.  He was an interesting teacher in the field!  I was fascinated by the brief incursion into Mexico and years later would do field work in the Yucatan, Costa Rica, and in the Caribbean.  But my Spanish has remained primitive in spite of years of effort!

     In the LSU faculty, Steve Kessler was gone but Stan Heath (from MIT) was still there.  Jeff Hanor, a geochemist trained at Harvard, had replaced Steve.  The faculty already knew me and I didn't feel like I had anything to prove which allowed me to take courses I wanted to take.  Ray Ferrell, the clay mineralogist from Illinois, set me on my career course in low-temperature geochemistry by profoundly telling me that my future was in "mud", not hard rocks.  My primary interest was in building my background in thermodynamics.  I took Jeff Hanor's geochemistry course, using Bob Garrels' text, and practiced writing Fortran programs to numerically solve for stable mineral, gas, and aqueous assemblages at thermodynamic equilibrium.  Jeff ran seminars in which we reviewed Hal Helgeson's and Bob Berner's geochemical papers.  I needed to beef up my math background, so I took Advanced Calculus.  In the Chemistry Department, I retook the first semester of Physical Chemistry, followed by Quantum Mechanics (second semester of Physical Chemistry) and Advanced Thermodynamics.  As usual, I was missing Chemistry prerequisites, most notably organic chemistry courses, but my chemistry professors Robert Nauman and Lynn Runnels were amused by me.  Later they wrote letters of recommendation and joked with me that they pointed out that although I set the curve in their classes, I took them on a pass/fail basis, i.e., was not brave enough to risk a grade in their classes (lol).  These two chemistry professors, along with Clay Durham and Stan Heath in the Geology Department taught me how to independently think through scientific problems.  They were great teachers.

     The final semester, Jeff, Stan, myself, Bill and Tom conducted a self-taught seminar in Irreversible Thermodynamics using a book by the Belgium Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogyne.  That course was an incredible learning experience.  We alternated as teacher each week and one of us would be responsible for preparing a chapter, presenting it, and then leading a discussion.  Honestly, much of the finer points were incomprehensible to us but the intellectual effort was stimulating.  A year later, at UC Berkeley, I found John Verhoogen reading the same book in his office.  Verhoogen was a world famous geophysicist/geochemist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  I asked him what he thought of the book.  He looked at me carefully, replying there was much in it that he didn't yet understand which made me chuckle to myself.  Even a genius has his limitations.

     Since my interest was geochemistry I would end up working with Jeff Hanor as my major professor for my M.S. degree.  Tom O'Neil and Bill Seyfried were also Jeff's graduate students.  For experience, Jeff sent us on a coastal oceanographic vessel that Woods Hole was using to make measurements in the lower Mississippi River between the delta and Baton Rouge.  The experience of being part of a field crew on the river was exhilarating for me.  But for my thesis, I measured aqueous diffusion coefficients of dissolved salts in solutions in porous medium, using a mathematical solution to a model that had been worked out by the British mathematical physicist John Crank.  The porous medium was an artificial sandstone, made in the Petroleum Engineering Department by mixing eposy and sand grains.  I cut the sandstone to fit the physical dimensions of Crank's model, and tried to duplicate his mathematical derivation.  But Crank had accidently reversed the definition of two parameters used in his final equation.  This confused me to no end and I wrote Crank for help.  John Crank took the time to write back, thanking me for catching the error, and explaining what changes were needed in the mathematical equation.  This guy was not only a genius but a gentleman.  At age 60, he was trying to help a young graduate student doing research in another country.  I ended up publishing my experimental method and results in the Journal of Geophysical Research with Jeff Hanor as my co-author.

     Louise and I shared an apartment during most of my first two years of graduate school at LSU.  For cover with her parents, she maintained another apartment occupied by a "roommate", a female student, and used that apartment for storage.  Her "roommate" was something else, a totally free spirit who once described her previous nightly tryst to me as "not worth the effort to walk to the bed" LOL).  Louise's specialty as an experimental psychologist was Behavior Modification.  Louise first wrote up her experiments from Temple for publication and then got a job at the Baton Rouge Mental Health Center. She was involved in various psychology encounter groups in which I would occasionally tag along, e.g., Transaction Analysis (TA - "I'm OK, You're OK").  The focus of these groups was usually the individual being responsible and taking charge of their life.  I learned to limit the use of the word "You" in responding in group discussions because it invokes a sense of opposition to other people's ideas.  In September of 1971, Cellie and I flew up to Washington DC for Lloyd's marriage to Pam Becker.  It was a good trip for Cellie and me and we were relieved he had put his first marriage behind him.  During one Christmas, Louise and I drove to Mexico City, spending time in Cuernavaca and Taxco.  She flew back from Mexico City and I drove back, following a mountaneous route through Tamazunchale (known as Thomas n Charlie) that Cellie and Marion had taken nearly 40 years earlier in their summer in Mexico.  We also took a trip in August, 1972, to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands.  The islands are British and unlike most of the rest of the Caribbean Islands, the residents are primarily Episcopalian and lived in these little picturesque, colorfully-painted cottages next to the beautiful Caribbean Sea.  I have a tendency to lose rental car keys which I did at the far end of Grand Cayman.  We got the owner of the rental cars happily drunk when he came with a spare set.  But back at LSU, we drifted apart that fall.  Louise had developed a cadre of psychology friends to do things with while I was busy with finishing my research at the university.  During this time I went to visit Wilma, my Georgia sweetheart from my military days.  She was as beautiful and as sweet as ever and had moved back to West Palm Beach in Florida.  Wilma eventually settled down for good and married Joe Portman.

     Gene Wager, my childhood friend from Crowley, returned from serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam with the Army Corps of Engineers.  In 1972, he was completing his tour of duty with the Corps in North Arkansas.  I drove up that summer from Louisiana to canoe for a few days with him on the Buffalo River in the Ozarks.  We came across a recovery operation for a body snagged on a log on the edge of the river, an image that has stayed in the back of my mind.  And one night in Fred's Fish House in Mountain Home, Gene pointed out Gayle, a young pretty girl that he later ended up marrying.  It was like "old times" when we lived in Crowley and roomed at LSU.  I am so glad he made it safely back from Nam.

     During the summer of 1973, I was finishing up writing my M.S. thesis.  John McRaney was house sitting Dr. van den Bold's house.  The professor had gone home to the Netherlands for the summer with his family.  All John had to do was take care of their "big" pit bull, the 2 cars, and the house.  John invited Howie Harper and me to live there free which we immediately accepted.  I think Tom O'Neil was there also for awhile.  It was like "Animal House."  The dog survived but the house and cars didn't fare well.  This was the summer of the Watergate hearings.  We drank, partied, and watched the hearings.  One of Dr. van den Bold's cars was parked below the garage and John put the other car in reverse.  He said the brakes failed and the car smashed into the parked car.  Meanwhile, it was a hot summer so we ran the AC a lot.  The drain pan must have plugged up in the attic and water began to leak down through the ceiling.  At some point, parts of the sheetrock in the ceiling began to fall down.  I soon vacated the house.  Van den Bold didn't yet know I was part of the wrecking crew and it was time to go!  Later on as a professor, I never let graduate students house sit for me.

     I had applied in the spring of 1973 to Penn State (as my fallback school), Yale, and UC Berkeley for graduate school for my Ph.D.  There were three professors who had been trained by Bob Garrells at Harvard, that I thought were the best in my field: Don Langmuir at Penn State, Bob Berner at Yale, and Hal Helgeson at UC Berkeley.  I wrote to each of them, receiving fellowship offers from Penn State and Yale and an assistantship from Berkeley.  So what would it be: Yale or Berkeley?  Bill Seyfried recounted a visit he made to Yale and told me that from where he stayed on campus, he could open his window and piss on the housing projects below.  That did it!  No way I was going to spend 4 years working above housing projects.  Berkeley held the magic dream of California culture, lots of marijuana, and "loose - yes that was important!" hippy women.  I accepted and got ready to go for the fall semester.  Louise and I had gotten back together during the summer of 1973 and she wanted to drive with me as far as Houston.  I'm not sure but I think she had a shopping trip planned for The Galleria in Houston (lol, known as The Gonorrhea in Louisiana).  I packed up, told Cellie goodby and we drove to Houston where I dropped Louise off.  I left on I10 in my white Vega, heading across West Texas, with "Born to be Wild" on the tape.  I was 26 and ready for California!


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1st 2 Years of Graduate School at UC Berkeley, Fall 1973 - Spring 1975

     A hundred miles out of El Paso in the west Texas desert, I noticed the gas tank was leaking in drips under the Vega.  Would the gas tank explode from the drips on the hot tank before I reached California?  Hmm?  I drove faster, driving nonstop (except for refueling) through the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and eastern California to Venice (just west of L.A.) where Tom O'Neil was living.  He was already taking classes at USC and had rented a bungalow near the beach.  What a cool town Venice is.  I saw Bill Seyfried and his wife Karen and John McRaney at USC and met Jim Bischoff who told me to give him a call if things didn't work out at Berkeley.  The gas tank had miraculously stopped leaking, and I headed north up Interstate 5 to the Bay area.  I came in from the west through the Berkeley Hills, seeing San Francisco Bay in front of me before being totally blinded by the light of the setting sun.  I canot do justice to describe the feeling of elation at being there, as this was the Mecca of personal freedom during the 60s and early 70s.

     The Geology and Geophysics Building was on the north side of campus, opposite from Sproul Plaza and Telegraph Avenue where the liberal arts' majors and hippies hung out.  The next day, I showed up at Hal Helgeson's office.  Picture this.  His lab (next to his office) had a big sign over the door "Prediction Central."  The lab itself was occupied by an enormous table, maybe 15 feet by 10 feet, stacked with PT diagrams.  Hal's paintings of bright flowers (Van Gogh style) hung on the walls.  The man was in his early 40s, tall, lean, wearing bell bottoms and a T shirt, bald on top with a long black pony tail, and wore dark sunglasses.  He would stare at you, but you couldn't see his eyes which was disconcerting.  Hal was "a trip," no doubt about it.  He had worked in the South African gold mines as a mining geologist and once told me of passing out (due to the heat) at the bottom of a deep mine under the playful eyes of the black South African miners digging the ore.  Hal had previously taught at the University of Northwestern before coming to Berkeley.  I soon found an apartment on Virginia Street, just off Euclid Avenue, a few blocks from the Geology and Geophysics Building.  Hal's assistant David Kirkham and his wife Camilla took me under their wings to show me the coastal area and meet everyone in the department.  David and Camilla had matching blonde pony tails.  It was like "Wow" for me.  At their house, we smoked a little dope, drank California wine, and talked science.  I knew I was going to love Berkeley.

     The wonderful aspect for me as a graduate student at Berkeley was the confidence developed from studying there.  The courses were challenging and the intellectual discussions were both stimulating and threatening since ideas had to be debated and defended.  An older graduate student Bruce Marsh who later spent his career at Johns Hopkins put it best "Berkeley gives you the confidence in your ability to master any aspect of your field."

     The foundation of the department's reputation was based on four giants now in their early 70s: the American Charles Gilbert, a sedimentary petrologist; the Welshman Howell Williams, an emeritus igneous petrologist; the New Zealander Francis John Turner, a metamorphic petrologist; and the geophysicist/geochemist Belgian John Verhoogen who had written the influential book titled "The Earth."  Gilbert was still teaching and I was later his teaching assistant in optical petrology.  Williams was retired and reminded me of a friendly leprechaun.  Turner was still active, rolly poly and very cross-eyed.  I remember Turner telling the graduate students that he had picked up a classical thermodynamic text, thinking he would spend a week on it, and was still working on understanding the topic 30 years later.  John Verhoogen was a tall, ramrod straight man, the departmental genius who taught the best course (The Earth) I ever took.  Although all four were still there, new blood had largely replaced them.  The department was always in controversy as to whether to emphasize field geology or theoretical geology.  The theoreticians eventually won the battle or so I think.  The faculty was filled with intrigue.  They were quarrelsome with big egos and graduate students were in danger of being caught up in the departmental politics.  Bill Fyfe, the world-renown British metamorphic geochemist from New Zealand, was no longer with the department (replaced by Hal) and went to the University of Western Ontario where my friend Tim LaTour later worked with him.  Fyfe had lost his wife to another British faculty member in the department and left in a huff.  On his employee resignation form he wrote in big red letters "SEX" as his reason for leaving.  The department office was unusual (in its time) in having a transgender secretary who had formerly been a Ph.D. male graduate student.  It was all typical Berkeley.  Alliances between faculty members could shift quickly and I worked closely with several faculty members who served together on my Orals Committee who had major disagreements: Ian Carmichael, the British igneous petrologist/chemist who was the department chairman; Dick Hay, the sedimentary geochemical petrologist of Olduvai Gorge fame; and Hal who was the most renown aqueous geochemist in the world at the time.  In my day, Ian and Dick were aligned against Hal.  The politics were a mine field for me to navigate to complete my degree.

     In my memory, the Ph.D. program in the department only had one required course, a geologic field mapping course of the Berkeley Hills.  There were no General Exams to pass.  Orals, defending your research project, were taken in the second year and could only be taken once.  Failure meant a terminal MS degree.  The graduate student rumor was that staying in the Ph.D. program required making an A in the field course.  The first day in the field Professor Hans-Rudolf Wenk, a Swiss crystallographer, lectured to us from an outcrop overlooking the Berkeley Hills.  I wasn't the greatest field geologist and had an unfortunate tendency to fall asleep during lectures on outcrops, so I was feeling unsure of myself.  Hans Rudy stopped his lecture, almost in mid-sentence.  I followed his gaze.  Jonathan Price, one of the new graduate students, stood away from the group, in quiet communication with his thoughts while smoking his pipe.  Jonathan was the classical picture of an "old time" field geologist.  At that moment, I knew he was going to make an A and the rest of us were probably doomed.  And so it was (for me) but luckily the rumor was not true.  Regardless, the hills were beautiful in the fall and field mapping is fun.  The rolling hills were covered with golden-brown grasses and green scrub oaks in the draws that contained dry stream beds.  Mapping those hills was legendary in the lore of graduate students in the department.  As for Jonathan Price, he had come to Berkeley to work with Chuck Meyer, an economic (mining) geologist and later became the Nevada State Geologist in Reno.  Jon is now (2016) the President of the Geological Society of America (GSA).  

     We went on field trips all over California.  On one memorable field trip, I fell and cut my hand badly on a rhyolitic lava flow.  This was an igneous petrology field trip led by Ian Carmichael.  Ian was a character, always holding his pipe between his teeth and he would spit on you through his teeth (probably on purpose) as he talked to you.  Out of respect to his British background, he often referred to Americans as colonials and America as the colonies.  A "colonial" saw the blood on the rocks from my cut and asked Ian if he had cut himself.  Ian stared at the student in amazement, and then profoundly said  "I am a blue blood.  That blood is red.  It's colonial blood, Stoessell's blood."  I really liked Ian's sense of humor.  He once told me I had been admitted provisionally because of my LSU GPA.  I knew what was coming next because I had heard it before.  With a straight face he explained that Berkeley arbitrarily knocked off a point to compensate for my southern education.  He also gave me a bit of useful information that I later passed on to graduate students.  As chairman he read all the letters of recommendation for incoming graduate students and realized many applicants asked the wrong faculty members to recommend them, apparently not knowing who supported them.  One of Ian's Ph.D. students would later be Steve Nelson, at that time an inquisitive, undergraduate (senior) at Berkeley.  Steve eventually ended up teaching at Tulane University, married a Louisiana French girl, and along with George Flowers (later student of Hal Helgeson) was instrumental in getting me hired nearby at the University of New Orleans where I spent my career.

     Hal lived for science but even he needed a break at times and then he became a party animal.  He had a sailboat and would take his visitors, postdocs, and graduate students, sailing and drinking on San Francisco Bay and end up somewhere in the city the next morning at a bar.  I was busy with my classes that first year and did not feel the urge to participate in those trips.  The postdocs were from the US, Canada, Europe and Russia and the visitors were a group of European students attending Berkeley.  The European system forced students to learn subjects through reading assignments rather than attending classes, i.e., you had to learn it on your own which was more difficult.  Because of Hal's international reputation, students would come for a year to take his geochemical classes and then go home to do their research.

     That initial year, I served as Charles Gilbert's TA in undergraduate optics class.  I like optics and requested the TA but unfortunately have rarely had the chance to use a petrographic microscope in my own research.  But for those interested in art images, the views through a petrographic microscope can be absolutely stunning when thin sections of rocks are viewed through polarized light.  Among the courses I remember taking were Ian Carmichael's course in igneous petrology, Dick Hay's course in sedimentary petrology, John Verhoogen's course entitled "The Earth" which was a comprehensive overview of geology that covered everything in his book by the same title, and Hal's geochemistry courses.  Hal introduced me to his concept of the reaction progress variable, a useful parameter used universally in modelling chemical systems on the path to equilibrium.  His research effort at the time was to develop "fit" equations for moving standard state aqueous molal volumes and entropies of components through pressure temperature (PT) space which made possible equilibrium calculations at any PT point.  His favorite phrases were "PT space" and "howbeit" used as a synonym for "nevertheless" when he was dispensing with opposing arguments.  The equations were an extension of classical chemical equations derived from theory and he used the literature experimental data to derive the fit coefficients for each component.  For computer calculations, these equations (and those that followed) are enormously useful.  And Hal began (over time) to optimistically believe the fit parameters had fundamental theoretical significance in chemistry.  He generally used postdocs, e.g., Wayne Nesbitt from Canada who had just arrived, to help him with his research.  David Kirkham ran Hal's equations to do the curve fitting at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the hilltop above the campus.  Previous Berkeley geochemical graduate students (Enrique Merino, Yousif Kharaka, etc) had taken his courses but worked with other professors.  I was the first student at Berkeley to complete his Ph.D. working with him.  As I write this now, I clearly see that this was a mistake on my part because we were never friends.  I wonder where my career would have ended up if I had chosen a different path?  My most challenging course was a graduate-level statistical thermodynamics course taught by David Shirley, the chairman of the Chemistry Department.  I really like the subject because it deals with probability and used it later on in my own research.  In addition we had graduate seminars, and Herb Shaw from the USGS was there and got me interested in numerical modelling.  In one of these seminars, a student's presentation was chopped verbally to pieces by John Verhoogen, and Herb came to the student's defense.  It was brutal destruction!  I think we (graduate students in the class) all made a mental note to ask Herb Shaw to serve on our Orals Committee and not to ask John Verhoogen.  At least that is what I did (lol).

     There was a moment in time at Berkeley when the potential sadness of an academic life touched my soul.  I was down in the subterranean bowels of the Chemistry building, for reasons I do not remember.  It was dark as I walked down the hallway, and I saw a light coming out of an open office door.  I recognized the name on the door as being that of a famous inorganic chemist from earlier times.  Looking in I saw an old man in a dark room, reading documents under a single light at his desk.  The loneliness of that image has stayed in my mind.  Fame and ego were not worth paying that price.

     I liked writing Fortran computer programs and together (but independently) with Mark Reed, another of Chuck Meyer's students, started to reinvent the wheel (as Hal put it) that spring of 1974.  The thermodynamic computer program that calculated the equilibrium assemblage at a particular PT point was legendary in the lore of geochemistry.  The program ran on the STAR CRAY super computer and often took hours of run time.  A mathematically-inclined geology student of Hal's at Northwestern (Tom Brown?) had written the first program called PathCal.  Originally, it had hundreds, if not thousands of equations to solve simultaneously because the equations were not written solely in terms of the thermodynamic components.  The program's equations were the equilibrium relations.  At Berkeley, PathCal had been rewritten in terms of these components, reducing the number of equations to a mass balance equation for each thermodynamic component and an equilibrium expression for each solid phase and for each gas component, generally about a hundred to two hundred total equations.  There were probably between ten and twenty thousand lines of Fortran code in PathCal and no one any longer understood how everything precisely fit together.  Mark was ahead of me in writing his own program for his research.  I think he had a working version (SOLVEQ) at Berkeley; whereas, mine (REACT) took several more years to complete and ran (albeit slowly) in 1981 on the first IBM PC using an Intel 8088 microprocessor.  My intent was to use it for my own research and to get away from needing a mainframe computer.  I should add that Mobil helped fund the development of REACT.  Meanwhile Tom Wolery at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory updated the official version for Hal as EQ3/6 and there are now many other programs doing the same thing.  All of them require periodic updating to include new advances in chemistry and geochemistry, e.g., using Pitzer's equations to calculate aqueous activity coefficients in concentrated salt solutions.  There are three main parts to the programs: a section that computes the thermodynamic properties of the system at a particular PT point which generally includes the use of Hal's equations for aqueous components; a section that does an aqueous species distribution at the PT point of interest which allows the calculation of saturation indices for solids and a gas phase; and a section that titrates in solids and gases into the system, computing an equilibrium assemblage of different phases.  The titration is done in steps because the Newton Raphson numerical method used to solve the equations generally fails if one tries to compute the final equilibrium assemblage in one step.  Hence, these programs follow a reaction path to the final equilibrium assemblage.  I used REACT at Berkeley (in which I had completed the first 2 program sections mentioned above) and SOLVEQ (Reed's program) for my data analyses in my Ph.D. research.  I have digressed on this because I love writing computer programs, only now I do it primarily in Javascript for PCs.  Javascript soothes the soul!

     By the end of that academic year, it was crunch time.  I needed to make decisions as to what to do for my Ph.D. research.  It was the spring of 1974 and I would have to defend my choice in my Orals that fall.  Several years earlier Hal had written a paper in which he proposed that a leached surface layer forms on aluminum silicates during dissolution and that diffusion through this layer controlled the reaction kinetics.  He wanted me to prove his hypothesis using feldspar dissolution data from the French woman M. LaGache in the literature.  Because I had measured diffusion coefficients for my MS thesis, I had read his paper while at LSU and calculated preliminary diffusion coefficients in this proposed leached layer using LaGauche's literature dissolution data.  The coefficients were orders of magnitude off from what they should be through a solid layer.  To me, this implied diffusion was not controlling the kinetics, a conclusion also reached years later by other researchers.  Hal and I argued and we ended up in the hallway yelling at each other.  I figured this was the end of my Berkeley career, thinking I would contact Berner at Yale to see if he would still accept me as a student.

     As I walked down the hallway away from Hal's office, Ian Carmichael called me in to his office saying perhaps I would like to do an aqueous geochemical project in East Africa.  Hmm - What project was he referring to, I replied.  Ian had a previous student who had worked on the igneous lava flows on Mt Kilimanjaro and had become aware of a sepiolite deposit at Sinya on the edge of the Amboseli Basin along the border of the lower northeastern slopes of the mountain.  The mineral sepiolite (aka meerschaum in German) is a white, low density (very lightweight), magnesium silicate ground water precipitate used in the carving of smoking pipes and as an addition to drilling muds in oil wells.  Dick Hay was also familiar with the deposit from his field work at nearby Olduvai Gorge with Mary and Louis Leakey.

     Ian and I got together with Dick Hay and we discussed how this would work.  Dick would supervise my field work, and Richard Leakey (son of Mary and Louis) would be my academic sponsor to work and live in Kenya.  There was a sepiolite mining company at Sinya, no longer active in the area, but the management would give me written permission to examine the part of the deposit in Tanzania.  I would field map the basin, sample ground waters and rocks, bring them back to Berkeley for analyses and use them in dissolution experiments to establish the thermodynamic stability of sepiolite.  And Ian would supervise my chemical analyses in his laboratory.  With my background, I could handle the thermodynamic data analyses.  Wow, I had always wanted to go to East Africa and see Mt Kilimanjaro.  It didn't take much to convince me.  Of course I knew that Ian and Dick disliked Hal, and I was being used in a vendetta to make Hal angry by pulling me away.  But I apparently had no future working on one of Hal's projects so what was I giving up in accepting?  Well for one thing, I was now involved in departmental politics.  At this stage my dissertation would be supervised by two faculty members (never a good idea) and neither Ian or Dick were aqueous geochemists.  But Thure Cerling, a fellow geochemical graduate student, was working for Dick doing a project along Lake Rudolf in northern Kenya.  And several years earlier, the aqueous geochemist Enrique Merino had worked with Dick rather than Hal.  But would this work out for me??

     Science for first-year graduate students is often not a benevolent mistress, leaving little time for personal relationships.  While my liberal science compatriots happily demonstrated across the campus at Sproul Plaza, we generally spent our time trying to learn more of her mysteries.  There were a few breaks for me that year from that endeavor.  One was my Berkeley Lady, an older woman, a friend who slipped into my bed one night and has stayed gentle on my mind.  She was just lonely that night and, like each of us, needed to feel loved.

     I had one good friend in my apartment complex.  My neighbor was an attractive, very feminine, older African American lady with a botany Ph.D. who did research with the USDA.  The lady loved classical guitars and string quartets and often took me with her to listen to musical sessions.  Coming from the South, her life story was very poignant to me.  She had grown up in South Carolina in a large sharecropper family, escaping the prejudice of the region through higher education and moving to California.  There, she fell deeply in love with a Norwegian, and he proposed to her.  But the man's father could not accept his son marrying a black woman.  She never fell in love again and was destined to live her life alone.  She wasn't unhappy and had her friends to keep her company but there was this sadness deep within her.  It was that sadness that drew me to her as a friend.  Some years after graduation, I was back in Berkeley for a conference.  Out of curiosity one evening I stoped by the old Virginia Street apartment complex.  Her name was still on the occupants list and I rang the doorbell but there was no answer.  As I walked away, a man came out of the complex and I asked him if he knew her.  He was her brother and she had died a week earlier.  I wish I had gotten there a few weeks earlier.

     During the previous fall, I had realized there was an error in my diffusion calculations for my MS thesis.  The error wasn't particularly significant but I wanted to go back to LSU, use my computer programs there to redo the computations for a paper coming out with Jeff Hanor.  I told Hal earlier that spring I would be going back to LSU in the summer.  Louise had previously come to Berkeley over the Christmas break to visit and had met him.  Hal asked if I was going back to marry her.  I said no that we had broken up for good.  He looked at me and said "Ron, now that you are no longer chasing her, she will chase you."  And in that respect he was right.  In Baton Rouge, Louise's boss Bob Watts, the Director of the Baton Rouge Mental Health Center, was making life difficult for her.  He had initially been a good friend but (according to Louise) had become jealous over the success of her Behavior Modification Program.  She wanted to quit her job.  She suggested we get married that summer before I took my Orals, so I wouldn't think that she waited to see if I passed them (lol).  We had gone together (been in love, off and own) since 1971 and the marriage seemed right.  I could envision us 30 years later, teaching together at a university and grading papers while sipping pinot chardonnay.  I'm afraid that didn't pan out.

     We were married in a small ceremony in late July among a few friends in a Unitarian Church in Baton Rouge with Louise's good gay friend playing the piano.  Lloyd flew down from Washington, DC, to serve as my best man, and Sanna (Louise's sister) was her bridesmaid.  Her parents were not happy about the marriage, much less the gay piano player.  Wally and I just never got along.  He had been the President of Esso International (the marketing company of Esso) and was both short in statue (with - I thought - a Napoleonic complex) and was a very conservative guy.  He was very articulate and intelligent, had been incredibly successful in his career, and had vigorously promoted women at Esso (ahead of his time) when he was in a position to do so.  He thought that Sanna had the potential to be the first woman president.  He was probably right about that.  Sanna was dynamic, beautiful like her sister, a good politican and married to Ned Randolph, the mayor of Alexandria, Louisiana.  Through his background as a MIT chemical engineer, Wally and I shared a common interest in physical chemistry.  But Wally disliked the liberal Berkeley atmosphere and the idea of his daughter marrying a young "tall-in-stature and soon-to-be" Berkeley graduate did not set well with him.

     One dark and rainy night, not too long after the wedding, two ghostly figures entered Bob Watts office in the Baton Rouge Mental Health Center.  Bob's animosity towards Louise had culminated into a poor performance letter placed in her personnel files!  Louise was convinced that someday she would end up working for the state again and did not want that letter in her files.  (Never underestimate a woman who feels she was wronged!)  The key to his office personnel cabinet was found, and the offending letter disappeared, never to be seen again.  The intruders were like Nixon's White House Plumbers, only more competent.  Hopefully the statue of limitations for this act does not exceed 40 years.

     I used my time at LSU that summer to not only redo the M.S. thesis diffusion coefficient calculations but to plan the upcoming field work in 1975 in Kenya.  The mineral deposit was at Sinya, Tanzania, on the northwestern edge of Amboseli National Park, formerly the Maasai National Game Reserve (Maasai country, i.e., the blood milkshake drinkers). Louise and I would live in an academic community of researchers in concrete huts with thatched roofs (bandas) in the National Park at Ol Tukai.  Interestingly, her sister Sanna had been a Peace Corps volunteer in that region and Wally had contacts throughout East Africa from his days of running Esso International.  (I think Wally was planning ahead on rescuing his daughter if anything bad happened, and I don't think I was included in the rescue plans.)  LSU had one of the most complete collection of topographic maps in the world and I made copies of the maps of the field area, plotted on them what was known of the geology, and worked out what I would need to do.  I wanted to sample the streams coming off Kilimanjaro to see how their composition changed to the point that they began to precipitate sepiolite.  Hence, I was planning on hiking part way up the mountain and for atmosphere, reread "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

     At the end of the summer, we drove to Berkeley, pulling a U-Haul behind her bright red camaro.  Our new apartment was in a complex near the Caldecott Tunnel that cuts through the Berkeley Hills, marking the boundary between Oakland and Berkeley.  This was suburbia for me with manicured lawns, ponds with ducks and herons, swimming pools, etc.  (After coming back from Africa in 1975, I periodically attempted to spear the mallards at dusk with my Turkana spear, but no luck, the green heads were shifty.)  The management said positively no children, so don't have any babies.  Well, we later successfully rebuked that hypothesis.  Louise fit in well in the academic atmosphere but she wanted a vacation from working and became bored.  She decided to infiltrate Scientology with the intent of learning about some of their procedures that seemed both similar and extensions of Behavior Modificiation procedures.  Scientologists often used "lie detector" techniques, putting their members "on the cans" to guide their questions with the electric responses.  But Louise could beat a lie detector so they never found out about her nefarious intentions.  She kept her last name Baenninger from her previous marriage, but for the Scientology organization she used Stoessell.  The scientologists were cult followers of Ron Hubbard and would occasionally show up at our apartment.  They reminded me of yuong Mormon missionaries, very serious and always proselytizing.  For more than 20 years after we left Berkeley, the Scientology hounds tracked her through my last name, trying to retrieve her back into the fold.  Apparently, she made quite an impression on the organization.

     Back in the department, I sat down with Ian and Dick to discuss the rest of the make-up of my Orals Committee.  Ian would be the chairman and run the show.  I added David Shirley of the Chemistry Department, along with Herb Shaw of the USGS and Hal.  I was worried about Hal since he was still angry with me.  But Dick and Ian said not to worry, they had never seen him take out vengeance on a student.  Well, it turns out there is always a first time!

     Orals day arrived towards the end of the fall semester and my fellow graduate students and Louise gathered outside the "Room of Doom."  And in I went.  Louise had told me about her Ph.D. Orals at Johns Hopkins.  Her advice was to look thoughtful, i.e., go to the window, gaze out and ponder my answer to each question.  Good advice but I tend to react quickly.  I gave my presentation at the start, outlining the research and how I proposed to do it and analyze the data.  Then the committee started their questioning.  Supposedly their questions had to relate at least in some general way to the presented project.  Dr. Shirley asked me about the derivation of the extended Debye Huckle equation used in calculating aqueous activity coefficients.  (We had previously discussed this derivation in a chat in his office, a head's up on what to expect.)  He ended up by asking me to quantitatively explain the origin of the earth's magnetic field in terms of the rotating molten metal in the outer core - not sure how that related to the thermodynamic stability of sepiolite (lol).  Fortunately Ian squashed that line of questioning by saying if Ron could adequately answer the question, he would be on their side of the table and they would be on my side, and we all laughed.  Dick asked questions about the geology of the field area and what was known about the conditions favoring the formation of sepiolite over other clays and zeolites.  He eventually pulled out some "unusual" rocks for me to identify.  I pondered them carefully and gave my best guess for each one.  Dick then took a puff on his pipe and put the rocks way.  The rascal never said if my answers were correct or not, i.e., he covered for me.  I don't remember the specific questions from Ian and Herb but they dealt in general with determining the stability of sepiolite from my proposed low-temperature dissolution experiments and how to estimate unmeasured thermodynamic parameters needed to extrapolate my data to fit with higher temperature data already in the literature.  Finally it was Hal's turn.  He sent me to the blackboard to do a derivation of a thermodynamic parameter and then started leading me down a line of questioning.  I was wary and took my time to figure out where this would end up and realized the path we were on would probably bring me to an erronous conclusion.  So I stated the conclusion and why it would be incorrect.  Hal was not pleased, and we had another heated argument.  I was fearful of what the rest of the committee thought of this interaction.  And I was sent out of the room for them to vote.  Louise and my fellow graduate students, Steve Nelson in particular, gathered around to provide support and I needed it.  The pressure was intense.  The door opened.  They called me back in, told me I passed, and each one shook my hand.  And it was over!  I never asked Ian or Dick how Hal voted but I think I had the support of the rest of the committee.

     During the spring, I wrote and received a GSA Penrose grant to fund the transportation to and from Africa and rent a car in Kenya.  I still had GI benefits which along with departmental field money would cover living expenses in Kenya and purchase a field pH meter, field filtration equipment, chemical supplies, etc.  I planned on field filtering the water samples, measuring alkalinity, doing EDTA titrations for Ca, Mg, and Sr, and preparing samples (half of the aqueous samples were acidified) to take back to Berkeley for complete chemical analyses.  I bought charter tickets for Louise and me, flying from Zurich to Nairobi.  We would first fly to Frankfort, visit my sister Marilyn and her husband Karl Seifert in Wiesloch, West Germany, and then go to Switzerland to visit Hans-Ruedi and Regula Pfeifer.  He had been a visiting graduate student at Berkeley, taking Hal's courses.  Louise and I sat in on a course in auto mechanics during the spring from a local junior college, thinking we would probably need it for the rental car in the African bush.  We bought some books on Swahali and learned to say Hujambo (Hello) and Msaada! (Help!). The summer of 1975 arrived, and we were ready to visit the "dark continent!"


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Amboseli, Kenya, Summer, 1975

     In Europe, Mariyn and Karl took us to Heidelberg, just north of their home in Wiesloch to roam through the old city and walk along the Neckar River.  I love that town and could visualize my grandfather (Al Sr) there as a student, drinking beer out of steins and fighting duels along the Neckar.  (Did he really lose the tip of his tongue in a duel or was that just a family tale told to frighten Stoessell children not to stick their tongue out in a sword fight?)  We saw my good friend Dorothea LaGraff in Aschaffenburg and then drove down to Switzerland to meet with Hans-Ruedi Pfeifer (later University of Lausanne Professor) and his wife Regula.  I remember one night going out for dinner, and Louise stayed behind because she was tired.  Marcella, Marilyn and Karl's daughter, was sleeping in the hotel room with Louise.  When we came back that night, little Marcella had climbed up into Louise's arms and was sound asleep, cute as a bug in a rug.  Louise said that she just suddenly crawled in.  Switzerland was cool with the cows and their bells and their magnificent mountains.  But we arrived at the Zurick Airport, just in time to see our Charter Flight disappear down the runway, without us.  Somehow, I got the departure time mixed up - a not unusual Ron Stoessell moment but one that was not repeated when we returned to Europe months later.  I parked Louise in the Airport lobby and rushed around to different airlines flying to Nairobi, Africa.  Who would be foolish enough to accept our Charter Tickets?  Wow, East African Airways was about to leave for Nairobi and had unsold seats and accepted them.  In an hour we lifted off the runway for Nairobi.  Everyone else on the flight, including the pilot, was a black African, making this an unusual experience in the 1970s for a white southern boy.  The pilot was a tall, athletic-looking guy who looked competent, but I (of course) fanatasized him in full Maasai gear (loin cloth) chucking spears at the lions on the Serengeti Plain from the cockpit window.  Well, he was a good pilot and we landed without incident at Nairobi.

     We checked in with Richard Leakey and his brother Philip who helped us get settled in for our time in Nairobi.  It seemed like all the English did was drink tea and eat crumpets, i.e., English muffins.  The dynamics of the Kenyan society were mystifying to me.  The English had mistreated the natives in the past and treated them now like servants but were held with high regard by them.  The bureaucracy in Kenya was modeled after the British colonial government and was mind-boggling.  To cash a check at a bank required the signatures of 5 different bank employees.  You can imagine the bureaucracy governing work permits.  The Leakeys told us to plan on spending several weeks to get the necessary signatures on my permit to work at Amboseli National Park.  We were done in 5 days.  We spent the first 4 days going to each government official's office where I would sit down for small talk while Louise would pour us tea.  I am under no illusion each official signed off because of the scientific merit of my research, but rather the sight of Louise volunteering to pour the tea.  (As I later mischievously told Wally, he had trained his daughter well - lol).  On the 5th day, I worked in a lab at the University of Nairobi to make up my field solutions for titrations.  And then we drove off in our Toyota rental car, heading south into dry African bush country (reminded me of the arid Wyoming plains) for Amboseli, 155 miles away, near the Kenya-Tanzania border.

     Amboseli National Park sits just north of Mt. Kilimanjaro which is in Tanzania.  At this time, Old Tukai, the Park headquarters, had a large tourist lodge, a Maasai encampment, and a row of concrete huts (bandas) with thatched roofs, facing south towards the mountain (fabulous view), overlooking a water hole over a hundred yards away on a generally treeless plain.  Each banda had a smaller "cooking" hut to the rear containing a wood stove.  There was no refrigeration and the electricity was sporatic at best, sometimes coming on at night to provide lights.  Army cots served as beds.  The other bandas were also occupied by academic researchers, principally psychologists studying animal behavior, biologists, and paleontologists looking at the geographic spread of animals, e.g., Kay Behrensmeyer who was there that summer as a graduate student from Harvard.  For fresh food, we could buy bananas, avocados, and mangos at Old Tukai and buy meat on market day at the village of Loitokitok on the border.  At the village, cattle were butchered and the meat sold out of wheelbarrows.  Louise was particularly adept at bargaining with the natives for meat which (without refrigeration) had to be cooked the same day.  I can visualize her waving Kenya shillings in a raised hand, pushing her way through the crowd surrounding the wheelbarrow stacked with bloody meat.  She was tired of our staple diet of mangos and avocados.  (I don't remember having access to eggs but certainly they must have been available?)

     Kilimanjaro is a shield volcano (like the Hawaiian volcanoes), sitting on the eastern edge of the East Africn Rift Valley.  The lower slopes were dotted with small parasitic volcano cones.  Magma slowly moving up the internal conduits produced daily earthquakes of magnitude 3 and 4.  These often passed unnoticed during the day but were felt at night when lying down.  The shaking from the quakes would sometimes drop large lizards out of the thatched roofs onto our cots, always an exciting moment.  In the afternoon, elephants would occasionally walk through the banda area while we were sitting outside.  I think they did it for fun because they would suddenly swerve, swing their trunks at us while flapping their ears to make everyone run.  Elephants also came in at night and roamed around the huts.  These were the classic "heavy breathers" and would lean against the concrete walls of the bandas to scratch their sides which shook the bandas, dropping more lizards (more excitement).  Lions also occasionally passed through at night, alerting us to their presence by coughing (sort of a throaty roar).  What do you do when walking outside in the dark and hear a lion cough nearby?  Is it better to run and possibly wake his interest or slowly work your way in the opposite direction and be an easier target?  I always chose the latter.  During the day, progressions of animals would visit the waterhole in front of the banda.  Hundreds of wildebeests (gnus) would first mass there, followed by a couple of hundred zebra, then followed by herds of antelope, then small giraffe herds, and finally by groups of elephants.  Vervets (small monkeys, but bigger than spider monkeys) would sometimes sneak inside the banda during the day, confront Louise, and chase her outside - always a humorous event for me when I would return from the field to find a monkey had taken charge.  The animals were just incredible.  I recall seeing a group of elephants standing around a dying or dead compatriot, in silent respect.  Once I hiked up a 50 ft hill to get a rock sample and looked over at the next hilltop, a couple of hundred feet away, to see a pride of lions watching me.  I avoided eye contact and slowly worked my way back down the hill to my Toyota.  I guess they weren't hungry.  Leopards were a problem in forested areas around waterholes when I was sampling surface waters.  Like lions they had a distinctive cough but would hang out in the trees on the edge of the waterholes.  The animals in Africa lived up to my expectations.  Feeling the ground move beneath the hooves of thousands of wildebeests is a never to-be-forgotten experience.

     I spent the first week traveling the dirt roads to get a feel for the area.  Close to Old Tukai, were tour vans, filled with tourists, relentlessly snapping pictures, but further out on the dirt roads, it was just the animals.  Kay Behrensmeyer had a land rover, a more substantial car than my Toyota sedan and she took me around to places where she was observing animals.  There were plenty of herds of antelope, zebra and gnus for the lions to feed on.  The first day we pulled up to watch a lion finish off a gnu.  The lion had knocked it down and slowly suffocated the animal by putting his muzzle over its mouth.  Because the lion could't stay "on task", opening his muzzle to growl "small talk" to a lioness companion which allowed the gnu to occasionally grab a quick breath of air, the process took 30 "painful" minutes, and I was distressed.  I wanted to blow the vehicle's horn to scare the lion to save the gnu.  Captain Behrensmeyer would have none of it.  She was like Captain Kirk on Star Trek - Follow the Prime Directive - Do not interfere!  Oh, she was tough!  A few days later, Louise and I were traveling a dirt road in a remote area of the park.  Looking down the road was a large, young(?), bull elephant (with tusks) coming towards us.  But he wasn't trumpeting, ears flapping, and charging with raised, swinging trunk.  I didn't want to risk disabling the vehicle by driving off the road.  So we had a game of road chicken as we closed in on each other.  Surprisingly enough, the elephant got off the road.  Today, I would have turned that car around and outrun him but at age 28, hormones got the better of me.

     As I started my field research, my thought was "Do I know what the hell I am doing here?"  But when in doubt, just start working and see what turns up?  So lets start with the terrain.  The area consisted of arid flat land with low hills and with a dry Plesitocene-age lakebed further west (containing surface salt deposits).  There were several small streams and a causeway that fed onto the lakebed.  Minor swamps followed the path of the streams whose banks were generally forested with throny Acacia trees.  Silicified caliche deposits formed low ridges and frequently contained hyena dens.  The ground was dusty, carpeted with dry fecal pellets and material from the thousands of animals.  Dust devils, small dusty tornados would sprout up during the day and were ubiquitous.  The lakebed had a small (6 to 10 ft) escarpment surrounding it with good exposure of green clay sediments.  Gaylussite, a hydrous sodium calcium carbonate salt had formed quickly on a lakebed as a precipitate from evaporating waters.  At this time, gaylussite was surface-mined to the southwest, outside of the park, at Sinya in Tanzania near where sepiolite had previously been mined in pits.  Sepiolite was a very slow (thousands of years) magnesium-silicate groundwater precipitate within the dolomite (also a very slow groundwater precipitate), formed from the weathering of the magnesium-rich basalts laid down from eruptions on Kilimanjaro.  The flow of ground water was northward, from the mountain.  My geologic field work would consist of mapping the exposed sediments along the lakebed escarpment and the sepiolite and dolomite in the mine pits at Sinya.  And my groundwater field work would follow the gradual change in water composition off the mountain into the basin where sepiolite began to be precipitated.

     In northern Kenya that summer, my fellow Berkeley graduate student Thure (Thor) Cerling was doing a geochemical project near Lake Rudolf.  Thure later told me the Rudolf group camped in tents and one night one of his fellow researchers (Gary Johnson, later Dartmouth Professor) woke up from his sleeping bag and yawned, while stretching out his arms.  Apparently, a king cobra was sleeping next to him.  As you know, yawning is contagious and the snake also yawned.  The guy put his hand from his stretched arm into the open mouth of the snake who promptly bit him on a finger, i.e., keep your hands to yourself.  Pandemonium occurred but thay had antivenom and he survived.  In the field, Thor had a porter following him around to help carry his collected water and rock samples.  Once he looked back just in time to discover his porter was drinking his water samples, i.e., why else would crazy white boy collect water in a bottle if not to slake your thirst (lol).  Oh well, I worked alone and I never saw a cobra in the field that summer in Africa.

     The sepiolite mining pits in Tanzania, at the southern end of the lakebed, were reached from Kenya on a dirt road from Old Tukai.  The lakebed here was covered with shinny gaylussite crystals, often 4 to 8 inches long.  The gaylussite mining operations were close to the abandoned sepiolite mining pits.  This small mining operation was supervised by an Indian who had immigrated from India.  At that time, Indians in East Africa were the merchant class and widely discriminated against by the African natives.  The governments would periodically expel Indians, confiscating their possessions.  I often visited this guy in his office.  We drank tea and exchanged the stories of our lives.  I learned of his trials and the opportunities and difficulties of being Indian in East Africa.  I often wonder what happened to him.  Did he stay or go back to India?

     Groundwater exposed in pits and in lakes in arid regions becomes very alkaline (sodium and potassium-rich carbonate waters).  The sepiolite pits were filled with alkaline water which attracks flocks of pink flamingos.  My first view of flocks of those beautiful birds taking off from the pits makes a great memory.  White sepiolite was exposed in the sides of the pits.  It occurred in veins mixed in with green sepiolite and an unknown (to me at the time) green, glassy mineral that occurred marble-like in a dolomitic host rock.  This sounds strange and funny, but a useful way to distinguish clays in the field is by their texture. Sepiolite sucks up moisture but maintains its structural integrity, i.e., not like the lithium silicate clay hectorite which absorbs water so fast that it literally explodes in a glass of water.  Place sepiolite against your tongue and it will hang there by suction, making it painful to pull off.  The unknown mineral had a hard, smooth glassy texture, no suction to it.  The more common aluminum silicate clays have a chocolately texture, smooth and creamy.

     I spent about 6 weeks field mapping on the lake escarpment and in the sepiolite pits and following the streams, taking water and rock samples for further analyses back at the Banda and later at Berkeley.  At the sample site for a water sample, I measured the water temperature and pH.  Back at the banda, I filtered two aliquots of each sample, and acidified one with HCl for later cation analyses at Berkeley.  The other sample was used to titrate the alkalinity and do EDTA titrations for Ca, Mg, and Sr, and then was stored for eventual analyses at Berkeley for silica and anions.

     But I still needed stream and groundwater samples from the slopes of Kilimanjaro in order to fully describe the chemical evolution of the waters.  So Louise and I packed up my sampling gear and we headed across the border into Tanzania at Loitokitok.  Pulling up to the border station, we realized we did not have the necessary documents to enter Tanzania.  Hmm - Could we talk our way into Tanzania?  Louise and I put on the usual show.  I made small-talk with the border guard in his office while Louise poured us tea.  However, this Tanzanian borderguard was not a pushover.  He told me to send Louise out of his office.  Once she was gone, he asked for my wallet which I handed over.  Looking at the cash in it, he pulled out most of it, saying the remainder I would need to get back to Ol Tukai when we left Tanzania.  I was impressed at his bribe-taking efficiency, leaving no money on the table (so to speak) but yet enough for our return - no hard feelings.  In Tanzania, we picked a nearby tourist trailhead (elevation 5,300 ft) in the rain forest and started hiking up the mountain with my gear.  Louise came a short distance and found a pretty, secluded place to wait for my return.  The forest was beautiful, and the black and white colobus monkeys followed me, swinging from tree limbs as I hiked up the trail.  The vegetation gradually changed from forest to heather and moors.  At an elevation of 8,800 feet, the electrical conductivity of the spring waters appeared to be almost distilled water, a good starting point for sampling.  On the hike down, I collected basalt and water samples from springs and streams (Kimengelia and Nalemoru).  It was a great hike, worth paying the bribe!

     Near the end of the field season, Dick Hay showed up to see what I had done.  He had come from Olduvai Gorge with his wife and they stayed at the tourist lodge.  They took us to dinner there, probably the only good meal we had at Amboseli.  We were both tired of avocados, mangos, and bananas.  During the next couple of days, I showed him the lakebed escarpments and the abandoned sepiolite pits, and he checked out my field work.  Dick was great to be with in the field because he was such a good field geologist.  But like many field geologists, he comically mapped clays by tasting them, chewing on samples as he climbed the walls of the mining pits.  I remember following him, trying not to laugh as he would carefully take a bite, chew it thoughtfully, spit it out, and profoundly identify the clay mineral.  But Dick could not identify the unknown green, glassy, mineral that occurred marble-like in the sediments.  Hmm - Was this to become Stoessellite (lol)?

     We celebrated the end of the field season by taking a trip to Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, staying on the Diana Beach at the Two Fishes Hotel, run by a British couple.  On the way we passed though Tsavo National Park to see the large herds of elephants.  Only the Gulf Coast Florida Panhandle beaches compare well to these white Indian Ocean beaches.  They are spectacular and the old city had the most interesting Arab shops.  Louise badly wanted one of those "expensive" Arab chests, decorated with what looks like thousands of metal thumb tacks on the outside.  I was running low on money and promised her I would buy her one later in the future.  Unfortunately, I never kept that promise, probably producing bad karma later in our relationship, i.e., never renege on a promise to your wife.

     The day we left Amboseli for Nairobi, we took the long drive back, going through Sinya to take one last look at the sepiolite pits filled with pink flamingos.  Strangely, a pair of cheetahs showed up near the border, climbing on a rock to observe us a short distance away, as though to tell us goodby.  At Sinya, we were surprised to be surrounded by soldiers with automatic weapons, threatening us for crossing into Tanzania from Kenya without going through customs.  Well there was no official border crossing at Sinya and in the entire summer, these were the first Tanzanians I met in Sinya.  I unloaded the Toyota to find the letter from the Tanzanian mining company, sent a year earlier, giving me permission to work at Sinya.  And that seemed to satisfy the soldiers, didn't even have to bribe them.  On the way back to Nairobi, Maasai cattle herders gave us the traditional sendoff by chunking rocks at the moving Toyota.  Luckily, they lacked catapult technonlogy.  We spent our last money on knickknacks in the Nairobi market, shipped everything home and left the dark continent for good.  I had two Turkana spears with me in my overhead luggage.  Try doing that today!


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Last 2 Years of Graduate School at UC Berkeley, Fall 1975 - Spring 1977

     

     Back in Berkeley there was work to be done on the Amboseli field samples.  I first ran XRD (X-Ray Diffraction) patterns in Hans Rudolf's labratory on the Amboseli rock samples for positive identifion of the minerals and then did bulk chemical analyses using "arduous" classical wet-chemical procedures in Ian's labratory, i.e., dissolve the rocks in acids and analayze the liquids with colorimetric procedures.  These were the wet-chemical methods that Ian used to calibrate standards for use world-wide in XRF (X-Ray Fluoresence) machines for rapid bulk chemical analyses of rocks.  I really enjoyed doing wet chemistry, trying to get close to 100% in summed weight percentages of measured components for each sample analyzed.  But during this time, Ian became moody and more difficult to be around in his labratory, and I was relieved when the rock chemical analyses were finished.  My rock analyses showed the unknown green, glassy mineral had the chemical formula of hydrated talc; however, the X-ray diffraction pattern didn't match anything in the literature.  The next summer in 1976, I attended a Clay Mineralogy Meeting in Oregon, and George Brindley, a famous clay mineralogist at Penn State, presented a paper on a hydrated talc called kerolite.  He had worked out its crystal structure and provided its XRD pattern which matched the Amboseli samples.  Mystery solved, the mineral was kerolite!

     At this time, the department at Berkeley lacked basic analytical equipment for water analyses, e.g., AA (atomic absorption spectroscopy) for cations and LIC (liquid ion chromatography) for anions.  My good friend Bill Seyfried from USC had come up to Stanford and set up a hydrothermal lab to run his Ph.D. experiments on hydrothermal alteration of basalts in sea water.  Bill had designed an elaborate titanium reaction vessel system for his research.  He offered the use of the analytical equipment in his labratory and I gratefully accepted.  So the field water samples were analyzed at Stanford.  This finished the labratory work on the field area and the field results were "in press" in Contributions to Mineralogy (with Dick Hay as my co-author) when I graduated in 1977.

     But the bulk of my research was done using my purest samples of sepiolite and kerolite in low-temperature (25 degrees C) and 1 atmosphere equilibrium dissolution experiments.  I shared a lab with Beth Price, Jon Price's wife, who was running experiments for her M.S. in the U.C. Chemistry Department.  I sometimes spent all night in the lab taking aqueous samples, measuring pH, filtering, measuring alkalinity, and acidfying some aliquots, all for later analyses in Bill's lab at Stanford.  At daybreak, I often walked across campus to the computer center to submit my measured data for computations.  At this time the skies would gradually lighten and the the birds would break the night-time silence by commencing to mightly chatter about the upcoming day.  The labratory work was enjoyable.

     The experiments were needed to establish the thermodynamic stabilities of the two minerals at 25 degrees C and 1 bar.  Several hydrothermal temperature experiments of sepiolite dissolution had previously been published and there was no published data for kerolite.  I wanted to tie my low-temperature results to the higher temperature data in the literature for sepiolite and come up with a consistent set of standard state Gibbs free energies and estimated third law entropies and molar volumes for both sepiolite and kerolite.  Slow reaction kinetics led me to extrapolate my dissolution results to equilibrium for my dissertation.  And the experiments continued for another ten years in Louisiana before I had enough faith in the extrapolated equilibrium results to publish them in Geochemica.  Reaction rates for silicates are very slow under earth-surface conditions.  During that time, I also attempted to precipitate sepiolite at 25 degrees C in supersaturated solutions with various starting minerals and chemicals but the reaction kinetics were too slow.  If that had been successful, than equilibrium would have been approached from both dissolution and precipitation, making the estimated thermodynamic stabilities more accurate.  In retrospect, the slow reaction kinetics are a good thing, providing long-term stability (on a human species time scale) for our earth-surface environment.  And it isn't just reaction kinetics that are slow.  Years later, I foolishly started some experiments involving solid state diffusion across mineral surfaces between aqueous solutions at 25 degrees C.  Subsequent numerical modelling of the experiments showed it would take more than a billion years to see significant results.  Lots of laughs for those experiments.

     Those last two years at Berkeley were the most idyllic time of my life.  I wasn't taking classes, just doing my research and enjoying life with Louise.  We went camping with Beth and Jon Price and other graduate students in the High Sierra and Death Valley and saw those incredible desert sunrises and sunsets on the mountain passes.  In the summer of 1976, I received a second Penrose Grant to do geochemical research on sepiolite formation in Amargosa Playa, and spent several weeks traversing the High Sierra, traveling down through Death Valley and into Armagosa Desert in Nevada.  It was my time to think, reflect, and enjoy nature.  And back in Berkeley, in my office with Brian Stump, a geophysics graduate student whose career took him to SMU, we hosted a weekly California wine tasting party every Friday afternoon, and became happy connoisseurs of cabernets, zinfandels, and chardonnays.  Louise and I became good friends with Pete Olson and his girlfriend Jan Gibson.  Pete was a geophysics graduate student who later spent his career at Johns Hopkins.  In the weekend afternoons in 1976 and the spring of 1977, the four of us hunted mushrooms in the hills above Berkeley, collecting Lactarius deliciosus varieties (milk mushroom species).  Back in Pete and Jan's apartment, the mushrooms were cleaned, sliced, and cooked with spinach in omelets, then washed down with white wine.  This was a time of great conversations with good wine and food.

     Louise and I badly wanted to have a child together.  She had given birth to a daughter in a previous marriage who had tragically passed in a crib death.  Since then she had developed endometriosis, producing scar tissue in the fallopian tubes which made pregnancy difficult.  In late 1975, Louise had an operation to clean out the scar tissue and this was now the time to have a kid.  Would it be Little Princess or Little Dog?  Well, the kid's college nickname was "Down-Town Dave" so you can guess how it turned out.  In February of 1976, Louise and I with Pete and Jan drove south to Big Sur and stayed at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn on the cliffs above the Pacific.  We hiked down to the beach, collected black mussels and steamed them later on the steam radiators in the rooms.  David was conceived there, a good place to birth a soul.

     The pregnancy went well.  Louise spent a lot of time by the apartment pool, developing a great California tan.   David was delivered by Cesarean Section on November 8, 1976, at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley.  He was a happy baby, hardly ever cried, just looked around and smiled at everyone.  But that was until we had him circumcised!  Don't believe the BS that newborn babies lack pain receptors to feel pain.  David let us know that we had betrayed him and he would get his revenge.  He didn't snap out of his funk until several weeks later when we laid him on a bar in Sausalito to have celebration drinks with Louise's Mom Lou Poorman.  We let him sniff the tequila shots.  Back in the apartment on Caldecott Lane, Louise generally took care of him during the day and I took care of him at night while writing my dissertation.  The apartment complex had this rule of no children, so we had to hide him until we left California at the beginning of the next summer.  But like clockwork, he would yell for 15 minutes every day at 4 PM.  So, each afternoon, I would sneak him down to the underground garage, close the windows of the car, and let him scream his head off.  We took him to department parties (where he once playfully tried to bite Ian Carmichael), and I carried him in a Snuggy while hunting mushrooms in the Berkeley hills.  I was not always the ideal father.  Once when he wouldn't stop crying, out of exasperation, I kicked his crib.  He sat up, looked straight at me, and held his breath, gradually turning beet-red.  This "gorilla" whom his sweet mom tolerated for some unknown reason, had violated his personal space and an apology was needed.  A horrendous scream came out of him.  I extended a finger and he gummed down hard.  Apology accepted!  A couple of years later, I was back in Berkeley for a conference and revisited the old apartment complex.  I asked the manager if he was aware of our baby those last months.  He laughed and said "Your wife didn't hide the fact at the swimming pool that she was pregnant."  And we thought we had been so clever!

     Through 1976 and 1977, Hal Helgeson had supported my research through various assistantships.  David Kirkham would run Hal's equations with new fit coefficients at Lawrence Livermore and I would use his output to produce computer graphs of the computed curves plotted with experimental data from the literature.  Hal and I never became good friends but I was doing purely geochemical research and his presence on the faculty was the reason I had applied to be at UCB as a graduate student.  I was also using his aqueous thermodynamic equations of state and his consistent thermodynamic data bank to evaluate my experimental research data.  Just before Christmas in 1976, I made a switch of major professors from Dick Hay back to Hal.  One afternoon I went to Dick Hay's house in the hills to tell him.  It was snowing and I was standing outside his door in the snow.  He and Hal disliked each other intensely.  Dick was hurt by my decision, and he told me that he could no longer serve on my Ph.D. committee.  I could see my dissertation going down the tubes due to departmental politics, and I begged him to reconsider with tears in my eyes.  And he did!  This, not my orals, was my most traumatic moment as a graduate student.  Seven years later Dick wrote a book chapter on his interpretation of the sepiolite occurrence at Amboseli in an Elsevier's "Developments in Sedimentology" series with me as his co-author.  He said it was to repay me for making him my co-author on my paper on the occurrence of sepiolite and kerolite.  By that time Dick had left Berkeley for the University of Illinois over faculty disputes about whether the department should be more theoretical or field-oriented.  He was the best field geologist I ever worked with and one of the nicest researchers I ever met.

     In the late spring of 1977, my dissertation was finished and it was time to look for a job.  Louise wanted us to live in Baton Rouge where she had been born.  My dream job was working in the Northwest to be near the Cascades and the Pacific, but my mother was now 68 and needed help.  The family properties were numerous in the Mandeville area and someone had to look after them.  And Southerners have strong connections to their roots.  I loved LSU and liked the idea of working there but there was no faculty position available for a low-temperature geochemist.  That slot was already filled by my M.S. thesis advisor Jeff Hanor.  However, a fellow Berkeley graduate M.S. student had good contacts with Exxon Production and Research Company, EPR, on Buffalo Speedway in Houston.  EPR would recruit at Stanford but not at Berkeley because of its perceived liberal bias.  Through the graduate student, I talked with a recruiter visiting Stanford and received an invitation to give a talk on my dissertation in Houston at EPR.  They were interested in me using thermodynamic modeling to predict reservoir properties ahead of the drill.  And subsequently I received a job offer as a Senior Research Geologist.  So we now had a place to go after graduation.  Houston wasn't Baton Rouge but it wasn't very far away, i.e., a step in the right direction.  I knew my job at EPR would be temporary because it wasn't a university faculty position.  But things were looking up for us and we were ready to go.

     My dissertation was written as two papers: the first, already accepted for publication, on the Amboseli field work in Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology with Dick Hay as my co-author and the second on the labratory work with the preliminary results to be published later.  After distributing copies of my dissertation to my committee members, I had to collect their signatures on the cover page.  I was apprehensive about getting Hal's signature.  There had been little interaction between us, and I wasn't sure if he had even read the dissertation.  In Prediction Central, he stared at me through his dark sunglasses, said my writing style was bad, and signed it with an illegible fluorish of slanted lines.  Graduation was June, 17th.  I never made it to graduation.  We had already packed up and headed for Houston.  As my father had predicted, my college times (at LSU and UCB) were the best times of my life.  Never again would I be free to pursue my interests without responsibility.  Damn, at age 30, the gig was up and it was time to finally grow up.

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© 2016 Ron Stoessell