Ron's Story
UNO, Mandeville, Yucatan: 1982-1991


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Mandeville



     Life has its pivotial moments for each of us.  And the move to Mandeville and UNO was a major one for me.  The department had 11 full-time faculty members and the next 23 years was the highpoint for the department.  I could not forsee the future and know that budget cuts following Hurricane Katrina, Republican state politics, and the relentless opposition of LSU to its existence would reduce UNO to the shell that it is now in 2017.  But this was 1982 and I was 35 years old, an Assistant Professor in a tenure track position.  At the university, I could no longer pretend to be a graduate student mixing in with the students, living the good life.  I had to decide how much time to devote to research and teaching and how much time to devote to life's other responsibilities.  I had accumulated various pieces of scientific equipment, including titanium reaction vessels built by Bill Seyfried with a grant from Clyde Moore's research group at LSU.  And I moved them to UNO during the summer, setting them up in what had been Gary Allen's Geochemistry Labratory, the UNO metamorphic petrologist who was not doing research.  But most important, we needed to find a house to live in Mandeville.  Meanwhile Louise found a job as a psychologist at nearby Southeast Louisiana Hospital and David was enrolled at the Mandeville Elementary School on Monroe Street.

     Cellie had several pieces of property on the east end of the Mandeville lakefront: one house (1635 Lakeshore Dr., built in the mid-1950s by Uncle Clay for the Prieto family) that she used herself when in Mandeville, a second house (1623 Lakeshore Dr., built in the late-1930s by my Grandfather Ernest) used for rental purposes, and a large vacant lot in the 1700 block near the harbor.  The rental house and the empty lot backed up to swamps, forming the floodplain of a small tributary bayou flowing between them into Lake Pontchartrain.  More than 20 years later, adjacent "unraised" houses broke up and floated into these swamps and disappeared (sank) during Hurricane Katrina.

     I asked Cellie to divide these lakefront properties among her three children.  The thought of living on the lakefront with its beautiful view of Lake Pontchartrain had always been in the back of my mind.  I wanted to refurbish the rental house and use it as our home.  But Cellie did not want to lose the rental income.  We were discussing this in the driveway of the rental house when Uncle Clay stopped by.  Clay supported me, telling Cellie that at her age, she needed to resign herself to relinquishing some control of her properties, especially since I was there to help her.  She was not impressed and said "No!"  So Clay offered a rental house on Jackson Avenue near the railroad tracks that we could rent while building a house.  And we moved there.  Over the next few months while checking out available Mandeville lots, Cellie relented and let me have the front third of the empty Lakefront lot, giving Marilyn and Lloyd the swampy back portion.  In return I agreed that Lloyd and Marilyn would eventually get the other two Lakefront lots as part of their inheritances.  We had sold our Baton Rouge house and would use the proceeds towards building a house.  And Cellie loaned us necessary additional money at 8.5% simple interest which was the going rate.  Later, I discovered she was banking her friend Dale Gale at 8% interest.  I asked her if this was fair to me, her only remaining child in Louisiana.  She replied "Dale is a better credit risk." (LOL).  Dale Gale was a tough antique dealer who, we use to laugh, would sell you her bed to make a sale.  But she was a good friend and, like us, could be trusted to do business with a handshake - not a common trait today.  In 1991, after Cellie died, Dale still owed the family a substantial sum of money and there was no legal, written record.  And she just wrote out a check to repay the family without me asking.

     Uncle Clay remained a good friend, until he died in 1987 at the age of 80.  But the friendship did not extend to two of his three children: Cousin Ernest and Cousin Mary.  I remember riding with Uncle Clay in his pickup truck to view family land and we stopped to pick up his son.  The feeling of hate from Ernest when he saw me in the front seat could be cut with a knife.  Ernest was a volatile attorney and would regularly tell me to leave his law office if I presented an opposing viewpoint.  In the process, if he felt seriously annoyed by my obstinance, he would chuck a pencil or pen in my direction.  Cousin Ernest had a lot of pencils and pens (LOL) and eventually said he would only work with me when the "Mountain came to Muhammad", but the Mountain never came.  Years later, he once needed my support in a family partition of marshland and sent word "Muhammad is coming to the Mountain."  As for Cousin Mary, one of the first statements she made to me after I came back to live in Mandeville was she was going to sue me for family obstruction.  I had refused to go along with a family sale and Mary was infuriated.  Dealing with those two was going to be interesting over the next 30 years.

     The Mandeville lakefront lot had originally been filled in 60 years earlier with fill from the dredging of the nearby bayou harbor.  Since then cypress trees had grown but the back was still a swamp (now owned by Marilyn and Lloyd).  And the area of the house footprint needed fill because of potential flooding from hurricanes.  I hired a local with a bulldozer to clear that area and a dirt contractor to bring in clay for fill.  Clearing and filling might require approval by the Army Corps of Engineers, depending on the City's agreements with the Corps in 1982 and if the 40 by 50 foot house site was classified as wetlands.  We asked no questions and did the job quickly.  Being an environmentalist, I felt guilty about disturbing the natural state but we left everything else untouched, including 6 large cypress trees between the house site and Lakeshore Drive.  I hand dug trenches around the cypress trees and they did well.  Louise and I then drew up house plans, found a draftsman to draft it to building codes, and hired Maranatha Builders, a local company run by Billy Rosevalley, to build it.  The house resembled a two story Swiss Chalet resting on pilings 10 feet above a 12 inch thick reinforced concrete pad.  Hiring Rosevalley turned out to be a mistake.  I watched the subcontractor (out of Lacombe) drive 30 foot pilings (of longleaf pine) down 20 feet.  It took less than 10 hits to drive each piling because of the uncompacted nature of the dredged harbor fill.  The house would float on top of the pilings with everything tied together at ground level by the concrete pad and above by beams on top of the pilings.  Ten years later we discovered the pilings were not pressure impregnated with creosote, only dipped (LOL), and were slowly rotting above the ground water table.  I don't know if Billy was aware of the deception because he had already paid the ultimate price by dying of a heart attack, and the crooked Lacombe subcontractor had gone bankrupt.  The pilings were replaced by steel columns.

     Our house was completed in 1983, and I rebuilt the Baton Rouge wooden hot tub behind the house.  The photo to the right shows a graduate student party with a beer keg on the hot tub.  Shell geologist Alan Thomson is standing on the deck stairs and the graduate students are feeling no pain - actually Alan isn't either.  The location and views from the house were wonderful.  The photo below left shows us on the main front deck with cypress trees in the background. The next one was taken from a sailboat in Lake Pontchartrain, showing a Bayou Castine harbor jetty and the shoreline near the harbor.  Our raised house (brown in color) is in the center in the "far" background.  Other photos show the view from the house: one showing an oil company work boat entering between the harbor jetties at dusk and one of me windsurfing in front of the house.  I really loved windsurfing, just could never completely master the quick turn (jibbing) with the wind behind the sail - which takes real skill to stand on the board while the sail swings completely around the mast.  Behind me on the board, you can see Uncle Clay's infamous breakwater, his monument that I intended to blow up before I die.  Ah, I had such great potential in demolitions but age has slowed me down.  That damn structure will outlive me until sea level rise covers drowns the town of Mandeville.


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UNO & Yucatan Research


     At UNO I settled in to teaching and doing my research.  Initially, I had two geochemistry courses at UNO: A beginning one and an advanced "research-grade" course dealing with classical thermodynamics applications in low-temperature geochemistry.  Among the department's graduate students, with some notable exceptions, e.g., Jeff Schuffert and Chris Caravella, there just wasn't enough interest in thermodynamics to support the advanced course.  And as interest switched to the environment, the geochemistry courses were replaced with courses in environmental geochemistry.  In addition, I often taught Physical and Historical Geology.  At this time, a full teaching load was two courses per semester, double the load at LSU and other major universities.  My publishing continued and UNO granted tenure and promoted me to Associate Professor in 1984.

     At the beginning of the 1982 fall semester, Bill Ward and Al Weidie led a geologic field trip to the Yucatan where they had been doing field work (mapping, stratigraphy, and structure) and carbonate petrology studies.  The field trip was attended by scientists from all around the country.  Bill had done his Ph.D. research (under Robert Folk at UT) along the Yucatan Caribbean coast and was now the recognized authority on its carbonate coastal geology.  I developed great respect for Bill Ward and enjoyed working with him.  Al had done his Ph.D. research (under Clay Durham at LSU) in northern Mexico and had later joined with Bill to work in the Yucatan, doing structure and stratigraphy.  Al's wife Anna came along on the trip, a beautiful Mexican woman (from northeastern Mexico) he had met doing his Ph.D. field work.  I can close my eyes and still see Anna standing on the cliffs near the white Mayan ruins at Tulum, looking down on the green Caribbean Sea with her long black hair and dress blowing in the wind.  What a beautiful, romantic location to work in.  This field trip got me started on a life-long career as a "resort" geochemist.  I could recognize a fun place to work when I saw one!

     The northern Yucatan has no rivers flowing to the sea.  The underlying carbonate rock dissolves easily so that rainwater percolates down into a slighty saline freshwater lense, creating a surface topography of cenotes (sinkholes) that are connected by caves.  I wanted to start a geochemical water sampling program from the interior to the coast to detemine quantitatively the chemistry of the water-rock reactions.  And I wanted to delineate the water movement.  In general the fresh-water lense in the rock pores was thin, tapering to zero at the coasts, and overlay seawater in the rock pores which entered near the coasts.  The halocline where seawater mixed with overlying freshwater was a zone of dissolution, creating the network of caves.  This zone of dissolution moved vertically up when the regional sealevel rose and down when it fell.  We knew the freshwater moved from the interior towards the coasts and suspected that the underlying seawater moved under the peninsula between the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Campeche, and the Gulf of Mexico.  But we didn't know the rates of fluid flow, the specific movements within the two water masses, and how the seawater and freshwater chemistries evolved through water-rock interactions.  I wanted to find out what was happening.  And the fun part would be scuba diving in the cenotes (sinkholes) and caves for the sampling and water-tracing programs.

     Back at UNO I started working with Alan Thomson, the Shell geologist known for his work on the importance of secondary chlorite in preserving porosity and permeability in the Tuscaloosa sandstone reservoir.  Alan was a character, full of stories of a lifetime of geology.  One story I remember in particular of he and a friend driving across west Texas and a buzzard crashed through the car's windshield, landing in the lap of his companion.  I had published my regular solution chlorite model in Clays and Clay Minerals in 1984 and wanted to model chlorite formation in reservoirs.  My first M.S. graduate student was Elizaeth (Beth) Alford who examined changes in chlorite compositions and polytype as a function of reservoir temperature and pressure in the Tuscaloosa Formation.  Beth was very smart and very beautiful, so much so it made me nervous to be around her.  (I can admit this 35 years later! (lol)).  I arranged for her to go to Californai to use a microprobe to analyze the chlorites.  I didn't realize at the time, but sending Beth to the West Coast irritated Skip Simmons to no end.  Skip is an excellent petrologist (now retired) who had set up a microprobe from the University of Michigan.  He took my action to mean that I didn't think the UNO microprobe would provide as accurate results, which at the time was probably true.  At Beth's thesis defense, he racked her over the coals before we passed her.  It was the first defense that I chaired and Skip (who is very likeable) caught me by surprise.  After that, I was careful to never let another faculty member take out their anger on one of my students at their thesis defense.  Years later, I replaced a professor whose personality problem with my student stemmed from a disagreement with the student's husband, who had been a UNO graduate student.  The professor questioned my authority to remove her (LOL).  I was not going to allow someone to bully my student.  Beth worked as an oil industry geologist but later changed fields, becoming an attorney.  And I have lost track of her.

     Geochemists were attempting to predict the movement of aluminum released during the transformation of aluminum silicates in sandstones during sediment burial.  If aluminum was mobile than secondary porosity could incrase permeability in these rocks, making them better petroleum reservoirs.  Unfortunately, the solubility of aluminum is generally a close approximation of zero in aqueous reservoir fluids, i.e., below detection with flame atomic absorption, arguing against significancnt aluminum mobility.  Ron Surdam soggested a way out of this dilemma.  He proposed that aqueous aluminum bonding with aqueous organic complexes, present in reservoir fluids, would dramatically increase the aluminum solubility and published supporting experimental results.  This was the new "hot" topic in geochemistry and was another Lynton Land moment for me.  Accurate alumunum analyses are difficult and the high aluminum analytical results in Surdam's paper didn't follow common sense.  For example Surdam reported an experimental water rock ratio of 1000 to 1, which meant total dissolution could only produce a 1000 ppm of dissolved elements.  Yet his measured aqueous Al concentrations alone were already of that magnitude without total dissolution.  I assumed the aqueous samples were not adequately filtered and solid particles were being analyzed.  I tried and failed to show enhanced aluminum concentrations in similar experiments in my labratory.  Eventually, Ed Pittman, no longer at EPR but at the University of Tulsa, and I published a critique on secondary porosity in sandstone reservoirs in The American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin in 1990.  This once again starting a sequence of dueling papers and talks.  At this stage in my career, I was definitely into controversy.

     The process of diffusion around dissolving feldspars in sandstone reservoirs could be useful in back-calculating flow rates of reservoir fluids.  The released aluminum would both diffuse and be carried away by fluid movement before precipitating as kaolinite, forming a halo around the dissolving grain.  The shape of the halo should increasingly move from circular to elliptical with increasing rate of fluid movement past the grain.  I modelled the process and published the diffusion/flow results in Geology in 1987, showing halo shapes as a function of the rates of fluid flow.  I loved the thought processes used in solving differential equations with finite difference techniques and writing the computer programs.  The university computer center was no longer necessary, as the modelling was done on a desktop PC.   Sometimes my PC would run nonstop for a week at a time.  My enduring sadness is not having been more serious in undergraduate math courses.  My math background was not good enough to easily advance to using finite element techniques in numerical modelling.  Only after math became useful in my research, did I truly appreciate its power.  Willard Gibbs famiously said at a Yale faculty meeting (to counter liberal arts professors who emphasized language studies) "Math is a language."  I'm told that could have been his longest statement at any faculty meeting (LOL).  And math, like any language, has to be used to both appreciate and master it.

     Jeff Schuffert was in my first geochemistry class.  He and I started the Yucatan work on the coast.  He was brilliant and left before graduating to go to Scripps for his Ph.D. where he worked for Miram Kastner.  Jeff never turned in his M.S. thesis to graduate but that was probably my fault.  He did good geochemical research in the Yucatan.  Eventually in 1988, we published our coastal mixing zone results (Jeff, Bruce Ford - who was a later graduate student, Bill Ward, and myself) in the Geological Society of America Bulletin.  This was the first of a number of papers on the Yucatan.  When Dale Easley, a geohydrologist joined the UNO faculty in the late 1980s, his graduate student Yolanda Moore added water flow measurements to the ongoing research.

     This paragraph summarizes the geographic scope of the field geochemical and hydrological work in the Yucatan done over the next 20 years (1983-2003).  The mixing zone (overlying freshwater with underlying seawater) water chemistry and flow measurements began initially at the coastal cave and caleta at Xcaret (south of Playa del Carmen) and at the Yal Ku caleta (just north of Akumal) with Jeff's work in 1983 and extended south to the cave and lagoon at Tankah (Bruce Ford's work in 1984).  Tankah is just north of Tulum.  After that in the early 1990s we moved inland a few kilometers from the eastern coast.   Lauren Marcella, Londi Moore (Dale Easley's student), Yong Chen and I worked with the Calica boreholes (inland from Xcaret) and in various sinkholes, including Big and Little Calica Cenotes, Cenote Chemuyil, Maya Blue Cenote and its cave, Temple of Doom Cenote, Car Wash Cenote and its cave, and the beautiful Cenote Angelita (south of Tulum, initially called Cenote Linda) and Cenote Azul further south near Chetumal.  Woody Dahl, another UNO graduate student (but not in geochemistry) helped with the initial field work.  I think Woody liked resort work (lol).  Yang Chen helped Yong in the field with his research.  Yang meanwhile was doing a labratory simulation of high-Mg calcite diagenesis back in the UNO Geochemistry Lab for his MS thesis.  Jim Coke, the legendary Yucatan cave diver assisted when we needed help.  In 2003, Jim Coke and I (along with Cajun Louisiana soil scientest Arville Touchet) sampled interior cenotes across the Yucatan, first from Playa del Carmen down to south of Tulum and then westward to the Bay of Campeche.  These cenotes included Laguna Chumkopo (south of Tulum) and Uzil, Xcolak, and Sabak-Ha (all in the interior) and Santa Rosa (near Celestun by the Bay).  Coke was younger than me and I just learned (February, 2017) that he died the previous year.  Now there is no one left that I worked closely with all those years in the Yucatan - makes me feel a little empty.

     I want to start with Jeff's research in 1983 at Xcaret.  Back then it was at the end of a dirt road with a chicken farm near the cave entrance by a few Mayan ruins.  We were young and Jeff, Woody, and I would race the rental car on that dirt road to see who could drive it in the shortest time.  I never won.  The mouth of the submarine cave led to a short caleta (a lagoon about a hundred and fifty feet away).  Being reckless, we swam the cave with underwater flashlights, without scuba gear, using the air that collected in several places at the cave ceiling.  The air layer could be recognized by light reflection and was just thick enough to push a snorkle into it to grab a breath.  There was one point in the cave where a ray of light came through from a crack in the roof, and the water refracted it like a prism, leaving a patch of colors on the floor, seemingly marking the location of a non-existant Mayan treasure.  The freshwater water flow to the Sea was too strong to swim back to our starting point so it was scary the first time.  But it was fun!  Within 10 years, Xcaret had been rebuilt into a Mayan Disney World, a tourist trap.  In 1992, I swam the underwater cave one last time, only to surface into the lagoon adjacent to a sewage pipe coming down from a new hotel above the cave.  Sadly, humans will destroy everything beautiful in nature in their endless quest for personal profits.  What a loss for all of us!

     Jeff had built a sampling device of pvc tubes mounted at right angles on a pole in which the open tubes could be shut simultaneously while holding it in a vertical position from the top.  With Jeff, this device was used at the cave mouth at Xcaret and where the freshwater entered the caleta at Yal Ku.  The Yal Ku Caleta is beautiful and we swam it often with scuba gear, followed closely by barracudas, making sure we wore nothing flashy to cause an attack.  The beachrock at Yal Ku contains embedded beer bottles, showing how fast carbonate cementation can occur.  This area was a favorite stop for geology field trips from the States to illustrate the process of beachrock formation.

     Bruce Ford used Jeff's sampling device in 1984 for sampling at Tankah at the mouth of the submarine cave leading out to the Caribbean Sea.  Now that was a dangerous cave to swim.  In other areas we would free dive or scuba dive down to take single samples.  In later years at the inland cenotes, we used a stainless steel open tube dropped on a cable from the surface and closed with a messenger to sample at different depths, working from shallow to deep.  Eh, pH, conductivity, and water temperature were field measured at the sampling sites.  Initially, this was done on the retrieved samples but later we had probes to make depth profiles of those parameters before sampling.  The bulk water samples were taken back to our lodging which was generally at Akumal.  There the samples were filtered, alkalinity and sulfide titrated, half the aliquots acidified with HCl, and the bottles sealed for complete analyses back at UNO.  Rock samples were collected from the wall rock adjacent to the sampling depths, in order to relate the fluid chemistry to what was happening in the rocks.  At the halocline or mixing zone between the overlying fresh water and underlying seawater, the underlying seawater was significantly warmer than the freshwater and the halocline looked like a thick layer of glycerine.  The halocline was a zone of carbonate rock dissolution, so it was generally marked by a dissolution notch, cut in the adjacent wall rock.  In the deep inland cenotes, we would later find a sequence of these notches, marking the halocline locations when sea level had fallen during the Ice Ages and then stabilized.

     Louise and David often came on these trips to stay in Akumal on the beach.  In the early 80s we stayed at Las Casitas which sat on a headland separating Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay.  Akumal is a Mayan word for turtle.  The sea turtles crawled up at night on the beach to lay eggs in the sand and then covered them up in nests, before slipping back into the Sea.  The sand was soft, composed of bits of aragonite shells, light brown in color, and the Caribbean Sea was green and beautiful.  An offshore coral reef protected the shore areas and provided protected areas for snorkling.  Now in 2017, most of the offshore coral reef and interior patch reefs are bleached, the sea urchins have disappeared, and the active sea turtle support groups that protected their nests have been disbanded.  The little beach town of Akumal was a paradise in 1980s and 1990s.  Now development and tourism at Akumal Bay has robbed it of much of its charm.  Half Moon Bay, north of Akumal Bay and south of Yal Ku Caleta, still retains some of its isolation.  The restaurant and bar La Buena Vida still sits on Half Moon Bay and the "Lol Ha" Local Species Bar remains on Akumal Bay.  We spent many a late afternoon there with the expatriots watching the sunset and drinking into the night.  Resort science is hard to beat as an occupation!  These were certainly some of the best times of my life.

     The UNO paleontologist Kraig Derstler came on one of the trips in the early 80s.  Amazingly, Kraig could not swim.  He was a "sinker".  No Problemo, scuba divers wear a BCV (buoyancy control vest) which is a life jacket that can be inflated and deflated using the scuba tank and an outlet valve.  So we strapped on our scuba gear and went out into shallow Akumal Bay behind the outer reef to observe and attempt to catch lobster hiding in the patch reefs.  Kraig was like a dancing manatee with that BCV on!  We went all around the bay area and lost track of where we were.  Eventually we rose to the surface.  Wow, we had gone through a hole in the reef and were outside it in the open sea with big waves.  We dropped down 15 feet to the bottom to swim back.  But there was something seriously wrong.  No matter how hard we swam, the coral next to us remained in the same position, i.e., we were not moving.  We were in a rip current coming through the reef hole.  I wasn't sure what Kraig thought about our situation, but I was worried.  Kraig suddenly rose to the surface and I followed.  He swam to the reef, climbed up and started crawling across it (about 50 feet in width at this point).  "Christ", I thought, "He will rip his skin to shreds on the coral."  But what to hell else could we do?  I followed and we were both a bloody mess when we crawled up on shore.  Later, I would recount this story when teaching about the danger of rip currents in freshman physical geology.

     On that same trip I wanted to do reconnaissance at Tankah (just north of Tulum) which later became Bruce Ford's field area.  Today this area is a tourist resort (Manatee Cenote) but at that time it was known for drug smuggling and there were no roads to Tankah other than a beach trail leading pass an old coconut plantation used to traffic drugs.  I had heard there was a cave connecting the Caribbean Sea with a lagoon containing manatees at Tankah.  I wanted to check out the area for research and also scuba dive through the cave.  Kraig and I drove my rental car south of Tulum and met up with a local drug dealer known for diving in that area.  He drove our car into the old plantation area and we stopped at a house with a large table outside, about 15 by 40 feet in dimension.  The table was covered in coconuts but there were 10 men standing around it holding assault rifles.  Those must have been valuable coconuts!  Our driver knew these guys and convinced them (with the appropriate bribes) to let us proceed.  The drug dealer drove like crazy on the beach trail, and I remember telling him not to wreck the rental car.  He looked at me, laughed and said "No Problemo, Avis!"  We all laughed!  At Tankah there is a beautiful, winding, long lagoon extending inland, separated from the Caribbean Sea by about a 200 foot long cave that opened under the Caribbean Sea.  Locally the lagoon and cave were known for manatees which frequented the area.  We swam for awhile in the passageways on the side of the lagoon and then went through the big cave.  The water flow was enormous and the cave had numerous conduits, most eventually became too small in diameter to pass through.  The danger was that if you picked the wrong passageway, the force of the water flow would prevent your return.  The drug dealer knew the way and we followed him.  We popped out in shallow water through blow holes in the cave roof 50 feet offshore.  This was a great experience.  When I came back with Bruce Ford the next year, the drug dealers were gone from the area.  I never took a student through the cave; however, we used to pop down into the cave through blowholes off the beach and swim underwater in it to the next blowhole to pop out.  Sadly, when I came back one last time on my 70th birthday in 2017, the blowholes were mostly filled in - too dangerous I suppose for the tourists.

     With the completion of Bruce Ford's research in 1985, the Yucatan field work went into a hiatus for several years.  Amoco, Mobil, Tecaco, and Exxon were supporting my experimental efforts to reproduce oil-field reservoir reactions.  I ran closed-system labratory experiments on dedolomitization (to form calcite) and calcite dolomitization.  Dolomite and calcite were reacted for 7 weeks under hydrothermal conditions (100, 150, and 200 degrees Celsius and 300 bars), using two of Bill Seyfried's titanium hydrothermal reaction vessels that had come with me from LSU.  Lynton Land's former Ph.D. student Dennis Prezbindowski, then in private industry at Tulsa, worked with me, along with Bob Klementidis at EPR, doing the petrology, SEM and electron microprobe work on the reactants and product minerals.  We were trying to refine the thermodynamic stability of dolomite, a major geochemical problem due to dolomite's variable ordering and often being nonstoichiometric in composition.  The dedolomitization went beautifully but the calcite dolomitization failed due to slow reaction kinetics.  The dedolomitization results were published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta in 1987.  Running those experiments was like going back in time, being a graduate student again, spending late-night hours doing chemical analyses and monitoring the equipment.  The excitement of seeing the SEM photographs of the growing calcite crystals on the dissolving dolomite made all those hours of labratory work worthwhile.  Following this work I reopened my sepiolite and kerolite dissolution experiments from Berkeley.  The reaction kinetics of silicates is so slow that even now after ten years, equilibrium had to be extrapolated from the final data.  The extrapolated sepiolite and kerolite thermodynamic data were published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta in 1988.

     Meanwhile I had been working on the use of stoichiometric saturation to explain Br partitioning between precipitated halite (NaCl), sylvite (KCl) and brines.  This concept predicts the precipitated stoichiometric (actual) solid solution composition will always be in equilibrium with the aqueous solution but not necessarily the end member solid components of the solid solution.   Given time and reaction kinetics, the solid solution than slowly recrystallizes in the presence of the aqueous solution to reach true thermodynamic equilibrium.  It is an interesting concept explaining the initially high Br contents in halite precipitated from evaporating seawater to the actual Br content found in recrystallized halite in deep subsurface reservoirs.  Alden Carpenter and I published my stoichiometric saturation computations in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta in 1986, followed by a response in the same journal in 1992 to a later criticism by Glynn.  The concept is not without controversy among geochemists, but there are numerous analogs of the stoichiometric saturation process occurring in the precipitation of solid solution minerals in nature, e.g., high Mg calcite converting to low Mg calcite.

     At this time, I was also working to extend Guggenheim's quasi-chemical model for clays to more accurately compute the entropy of mixing when there were significant site interactions.  The model derivation was complex and done on long walks on the Mandeville Lakefront, listening to waves crash against the sea wall and playing with the computations in my mind.  This was the closest I ever got to doing "rocket science" (LOL).  The model was called the quasi-lattice model and was eventually published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta in 1989.  Although I continued to delve in statistical thermodynamics, this paper represented my limit, given both my mathematical ability and background.  I had always loved being outdoors doing field work and more and more my future research was built on data taken in the field, followed by labratory and computer analyses.  You know the saying "You can take a boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy."  And so it is with field work for a geologist.  I never met a research geologist, no matter their speciality, who did not love being in the outdoors taking data.  It's in our DNA.

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David


     Throughout this time, Louise was working for the state as a psychologist at Southeast Louisiana Hospital.  She and David would come with me to my academic conferences if they were held in interesting places, e.g., San Francisco, Colorado Springs, Miama.  And David was growing up quickly.  As a child he was somewhat introverted, a little chunky and didn't realize how good-looking he was, so his self esteem wasn't great.  He had two parents with Ph.D.'s who expected academic excellence.  His "modus operendum" was to make the Honor Roll by expending the least amount of effort as possible, i.e., cut it as close as possible and consequently sometimes not make it.  This was David's approach to school all the way through his first 2 years of college, before entering the Air Force which changed his attitude.

     David liked soccer but he was a thinker, sometimes debating within himself if he really wanted to run up and kick that ball (a not so useful trait in sports, but great for survival - "think before acting").  As a child he liked to climb up on my back while I did pushups.  He also liked to crawl up our stairs to the 3rd floor at night where I would be working on the computer, looking out on the darkness outside and the lake.  Suddenly, I would feel something grab my feet, scaring the hell out of me.  But years later I got my revenge, tossing pitchers of ice water on him when he was in the shower (lol); that is, until he started to reciprocate.  We were sometimes "partners in crime".  One Fourth of July afternoon, David and I were sitting on an upstairs deck, shooting bottle rockets at the roof of my neighbors house which sat across an empty lot and a small bayou (Little Bayou Castine).  The occupants were Cousin Joan's family and they were firing back.  But we held the high ground and their fire was largely ineffective.  They (I think) called the police because Officer Floyd drove up.  Office Floyd had just been hired and told us to cease and desist, that shooting fireworks was illegal in Mandeville.  He then drove off.  Out of respect for the law, we waited a couple of minutes before finishing the bombardment with a grand finale of a blaze of rockets.  And over the years, Office Floyd became a good family friend.  Thinking back on this incident makes me realize I was perhaps (lol) not entirely guiltless in the bad relations that existed with Cousin Joans extended family.  Her brother was Cousin Ernest and her sister was Cousin Mary.

     I think David had the potential to set the record for attending the largest number of schools while living in Mandeville.  His public school career at Mandeville Elementary on Monroe St ended abruptly with the second grade.  He had a bad teacher who disliked him (too white for her taste).  When we found out she would also be his teacher in the third grade, we pulled him and sent him to St. Paul's Catholic School in north Covington.  It was a good school, originally established in the 60s to escape public school integration.  He had to ride the bus each day and I remember running out of gas one morning, a block from the bus stop.  I looked at David and he knew what was coming.  He climbed out the passanger seat while I shouted "Run David Run!".  We still laugh about that today.  By the time David was to enter junior high, we wanted him to have a better academic background and transferred him to St. Martin's Episcopal School in Metairie across Lake Pontchartrain.  By this time David was going through puberty and developed discipline problems in the 8th grade, mostly (I think) as the result of my pending divorce with Louise (another story).  In the final incident in 1991, a school friend of David, underage for driving, had driven his mother's BMW from Metairie, across the Causeway to Mandeville.  He picked up David and they bought a case of beer.  David, now driving, did not know how to turn off the bright lights on the vehicle and they were stopped by officer Floyd.  At the station he and his friend were fingerprinted and had their mug shots taken, before being released into our custody.  Floyd was attempting to scare the two boys into changing their ways.  It turns out it took more than that incident for David to "shape up."

     So what could we do about getting David to change his ways.  We sent him in 1991 to St Stanislaus, a Catholic Boarding school for boys on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Bay Saint Louis.  The school is well-known for tough discipline and dealing with tough cases.  I later discovered his roommates had extensive rap sheets and were there to avoid reform school.  One of these roommates was from Mandeville and eventually ended up getting his pilot's license, achieving his lifetime goal of flying drugs from South America to the Bahamas.  At the end of his first year at St. Stanislaus, David persuaded us he had mended his ways and we let him transfer to Mandeville High School, which actually was a move for the worse.  The school was the ultimate party school, full of rich kids who had never worked for anything.  Years later David said most of his former friends had become losers, spending their adult years on drugs and still working as bartenders, waiters, and waitresses.  I remember once hiring David and his close friend Ryan McClendon (partners in crime) to move concrete blocks on a construction site.  Wow, did they have a lot of energy and were so happy!  I now know they were both on LSD!  But David survived that stage, as I will tell later!  He turned out great and is a consulting engineer today.  But it was a scary time for Louise, for me, and for his stepmom Londi who gave up her career as a geohydrologist to shepherd him to adulthood.

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Innsbruch


     UNO ran a wonderful summer school in Innsbruch, Austria.  The Innsbruch University on the Inn River rented out classrooms and dormitory space for the UNO students while the summer school faculty rented apartments in the City.  Innsbruch (Tyrol) is not like Bavaria with "friendly" locals but more like Appalachia with "suspicious" locals.  I remember a well-dressed, genteel-looking older lady shoving David off the sidewalk as she walked by.  He was in her way.  On my first time teaching at the summer school, the landlady must have violated a protocol by renting to foreigners.  If the house gate was left open, we would be blamed.  This was irritating to me and one night, we came home and I was decidedly drunk.  I opened the metal gate and "for good measure" loudly slammed it shut, rattling the house.  The gate fell apart, must have been made in Thailand.  Lights lit up the apartment house, and we hurried to our apartment.  There was a knock on our door and this guy is standing there, shaking his finger at me, saying "Bad, Bad Boy!"  He was quite the gentleman, I thought.  I grinned back at him.   I really loved being in the Alps.

     I taught alpine geology and physical geology in the Innsbruch summer school twice: the first time in 1986 with Louise and David and the second time in 1991 with David and Londi who later became my second wife.  The trips for us started in Wiesloch, south of Heidleberg, at the home of Marilyn, Karl, and their daughter Marcella.  Marilyn and Karl had this beautiful home with an empty 3rd floor apartment which we occupied.  They had built their house on land leased from the Catholic Church for 99 years.  Karl must have been a good Catholic because he certainly knew his communion wine.  We would get happily snuckered on their patio in the evenings.  I would also get to visit my soulmate Dorothea in Aschaffenburg.  From Wiesloch we would do some touring before ending up in Innsbruch.  Road trips with me driving were always exciting.  I have this scary memory of driving on a single-lane road with David and Louise, falling asleep behind the wheel, waking up quickly, thinking I was on the double-lane autobahn and confused about the slow-pace of cars ahead of us.  I switched over to the left lane to pass cars for a mile, driving around a long curve, before pulling back in the right lane.  Then a car zipped by heading in the opposite direction in the left lane.  There must have been a guardian angel looking after us.

     The summer school students came from universities all over the United States, mostly rich kids who could afford traveling in Europe.  Those from UNO were usually on scholarship to cover the costs.  The Austrian Alps are not much taller than the Appalachians and are composed of "mundane" grey limestones but are "oh" so beautiful.  Being composed of sedimentary rock, the peaks in the Alps are sharp, e.g., the Matterhorn, unlike most American mountains which are composed of crystalline rock and consequently have rounded peaks, e.g., Pikes Peak.  My knowledge of the geology of the Alps was limited.  But no problem.  I followed the time-honored academic procedure, explained to me by fellow UNO faculty member Al Weidie, of gazing profoundly off in the distance, waving my arms, and expounding my thoughts.  My classes would ride the ski trams and lifts to the mountain tops to observe glacial-carved features and discuss the formation of the Alps due to the suturing of various subcontinents to the "soft underbelly" (totally inaccurate, but great term) of Europe.  We also had this cool field trip in which we hiked up to the top of a glacier on the Italian border and collected red and yellow garnets that had weathered out of the bedrock.  The students were good natured but not motivated to study.  Their goal was to tour Europe on the weekends, not to spend time studying or sitting in classes.  Once, on the glacier, a Japanese-American student and I observed an apple-size yellow garnet, on the ice, at the same time.  The student had already told me he wasn't going to take my tests and would not report his failing grade to his university ("ungrateful kid", lol).  As he reached down for the garnet, my old "Mardi Gras instincts" kicked in.  Instinctively I raised my foot, ready to obliterate his hand, when reality struck me.  This was not a Mardi Gras throw but a treasure he would keep to remember this summer for the rest of his life.  And he left with both the garnet and his hand.  I was such a softie back then.

     We also traveled some at the end of each summer school before heading back to the States.  David, Louise and I toured Italy and Southern France with Venice being the high point of the summer in 1986 and Londi and I toured the French Alps (prior to summer school), Vienna (during summer school), and the Swiss Alps (after summer school) on the second trip in 1991.  (On that trip, David had left us early to go to an Outward Bound Camp back in the States, as punishment for being a juvenile delinquent at St. Martins.)  On the first trip David was already old enough to want to party with the students, and they would buy him beer.  I have this crazy memory of David in a beer hall in Munich, being chased around the long wooden tables by his mother Louise while he waved a stein of beer in the air.  He would have been 9 years old in 1986.  We, of course, cheered him on much to the exasperation of Louise.  But I don't think she was really mad!  We start drinking young in South Louisiana.

     At the end of the 1986 summer school session, we drove to Venice where a pigeon spent the night, determined to peck his way into our room overlooking a canal.   David spent an hour the next day standing in St Marks Square, covered from head to toe in pigeons, pretending to be a statue for the tourists.  Then we drove to Florence (with its incredible museums) and finally to Rome.  Rome I could have skipped.  Yes, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was impressive with God reaching out to bring life to mankind (a worthwhile endeavor? - debatable, given the present state of Earth).  But leaving the city was so difficult.  I was so lost, circling endlessly in roundabouts in which no Italians obeyed traffic signals (not in their DNA).  From there we went to Piza to climb the leaning tower (where I tried unsuccessfully to persuade David to jump to test Galileo's obsevations) and on to the French Rivera at Cannes so I could attend a Penrose Conference (and write off our tour expenses).  David couldn't get over all the topless women, sunbathing on the Mediterranean beaches.  It was hard to keep the boy under control.  Being short on cash, I introduced him to that delicacy of stewed cow's tongue in Cannes and he didn't know what it was.  He has never forgiven me.  It wasn't until he had nearly finished his meal that he noticed the distinctive tongue pock marks on the edges.  Later, I tried him on calf's brain but he wasn't impressed.  Brain does have a unique sandy, gritty texture that is not to everyone's taste.

     From Cannes we drove north, following the pinot noir vineyards in the Rhone River valley of southern France.  (I love drinking French pinot noirs with their rich velvety flavor, the one wine grape that California has difficulty matching.)  At one point we stayed in this beautiful, romantic little inn with cherry trees blooming outside our window.  I remember Louise needing ice, so she and I went to the lady at the front desk and asked in English for ice.  The desk lady just stared at us.  She must have been practicing that dead-pan look on Americans.  Louise was of French ancestory and knew some Cajun French.  So, she tried to ask for ice in French.  Same response.  Almost all the inn guests were Americans, so the lady had to speak some English.  I looked at her, making eye contact and then back at Louise, saying loudly.  "Baby, you know how bad the French education system is.  You can't expect a country woman to know English."  I looked back at the desk lady who stared back with her dead-pan look, before grinning and saying in English "I'll get the ice." (lol)  It is funny what we remember from our trips.

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Divorce


     This is the part of my life that I have to tell honestly what happened and is the hardest to write about.  Louise was the most beautiful woman I was ever with but we were not destined to spend our lives together.  I was more married to science than to her, and science was no longer enough for me.  I needed a woman to do things with.  I loved being in the outdoors but she hated the outdoors.  I loved hiking and she hated the thought of exercise.  Living in Kenya in the Amboseli Game Park, back in 1975 where I did my Ph.D. field work, had been the most exciting time of my life.  I thought Louise, an experimental psychologist trained in animal behavior, had also enjoyed that experience.  Louise now confided that she hated being there, living under "primitive" conditions at Ol Tukai.  We did not enjoy doing the same things and had grown apart with many verbal arguments.  Our relationship wasn't close and I was unhappy with my personal life.  I needed more, and unknown to her, had been unfaithful during our marriage.  Then, in the spring of 1989, I met Ida, a younger UNO professor in another department.  She was a fascinating, intelligent woman who showed me the wonder of a truly intimate relationship.  It is a self-serving statement for me but she once said "I don't feel guilty because you are not happy in your marriage."  And that was true.  Although our relationship didn't last a year, we have remained friends.  A few years later after she was promoted to Research Professor, she pushed me to apply and be promoted also to that position.

     The incident that brought everything to a head occurred in late December, 1989, about the time of the "Big Freeze" in the "Big Easy".  Louise went on an overnight trip.  David and I were bacheloring together in the Mandeville house.  My mother Cellie had moved from Crowley to Mandeville and now lived just a block away in her lakeside home.  She was 80 years old and had become increasingly frail.  She could only play the piano with one hand, having lost much of the use of her left hand, only able to move it as a club.  And she had real difficulty climbing stairs.  We thought it was arthritis, but she was in the beginning stages of ALS and would only live another 15 months.  That evening, Cellie was worried about my cooking, and she asked to come over to cook for us.  She was there working away in the kitchen when Louise unexpectedly returned.  Louise was angry to find her there and told Cellie to leave, essentially throwing her out of the house built with her financial backing on land she donated to me.  Her act made me realize all we had in common was David.  He was now 13 and the marriage was destined to end soon.  Within a month, I told Louise I wanted a divorce, confessed to my infidelty, and moved out first to Cellie's house and then in early spring rented one side of a shotgun duplex in Mid-City New Orleans, not far from UNO.

     Alimony was not a possibility for Louise because her salary from the state was larger than mine as a professor.  My confession had made her the aggrieved party, and Hell has no vengenance like a woman spurned.  Her parents were angry and professed they would try to get land already donated to me by Cellie and also my eventual inheritance of properties from her.  Previously, Cellie had donated an undeveloped city block in unincorporated Mandeville to Louise.  (Cellie had inherited 20 undeveloped city blocks outside the Mandeville city limits and a few more inside the city.)  So I had to prepare for a legal battle.  I did not know how my infidelty would affect the legal proceedings.  My cousin Marsha Burris Higbee, an attorney in New Orleans, obtained for me the services of her previous divorce attorney, Rob Lowe.  I was by then living in New Orleans so I filed in Orleans Parish for divorce based on incompatibility, rather than in St. Tammany Parish, where the extent of my present and future land holdings was probably common knowledge.  Louise filed back, claiming infidelty (true), verbal abuse (perhaps true) and physical abuse (not true).  In his New Orleans office, Rob Lowe looked over our past joint income tax forms, saying "Okay.  The infidelity shouldn't matter, verbal abuse is incompatibility, and physical abuse is commonly claimed, regardless of facts.  We have two 'incompatible' professionals, one child, and not enough joint assets to fight over.  Split your joint assets and you pay child support."  He looked up at me. "You're not holding anything back are you?"  "No"  I replied.  "I have family property by donation but it isn't joint property."  Louise hired a New Orleans attorney, a lady who by chance happened to live around the block from my New Orleans girlfriend.  Although separated, I assumed I was under surveillance for adultery.  But the thought of any court battle disappeared in the first legal session.  The judge recognized Rob Lowe and called him to the bench to autograph Rob's book on Louisiana divorce law.  Obviously, Marsha had picked the right lawyer for me.  In the divorce, Louise received my share of half the house in return for the land she had been given as a donation from Cellie, not a bad deal for her.  She also received primary custody of David and child support from me.  (She gave up both a few months after the divorce when David moved back to live with me.)  And she paid back half of our loan from Cellie used in building the house.  Although separated throughout 1990, the divorce was not finalized until January, 1991.  And Cellie died two months later, at the age of 81, the last of her siblings.  Louise continued working at Southeast Louisiana Hospital until retirement, living in our Lakefront house.  We regained our friendship and have kept it to this day.  She has never remarried and now (2017) lives in Austin with her boyfriend William (retired Psychology faculty member from the University of North Carolina in Asheville).  They live close to David and his girlfriend Shelly Moses.

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Cellie's Death and Londi's Help


     After moving to New Orleans in 1990, I became friends again with Carla Pauls who was teaching special education courses in New Orleans.  Carla and I have remained friends but she is a born-again Christian.  I think God eventually told her to avoid me for the good of her soul.  And Dorothea LaGraff stopped by on her way from West Germany to the West Coast.  I was obviously a bad doggie but a happy one.  The previous fall, I had met Yolanda (Londi) Harrington Moore, a 31 year old, 5 ft 2, blonde (with eyes of blue) graduate student who had come to UNO to get her M.S. degree.  I was 42.  Londi was working for my good friend Dale Easley, the UNO geohydrologist.  I remember her asking me why should a graduate student take my geochemistry courses.  My reply was for knowledge.  But, she wanted to know how it would help her in her career.  And after telling me I was arrogant, she left my office in a huff.  Londi had grown up mostly in Houma in Cajun South Louisiana and had led (I thought) a wild life with two marriages already under her belt.  As a teenager, she had been thrown out of one private Catholic high school for doing wheelies on the football practice field and being an accessory to blowing up a school bathroom with dynamite.  The latter feat made her a school legend for students coming after her.  She later graduated from Centenary College with a BS in Geology while working for a bank and for two independent oil companies.  Earlier she had owned and lost a gas station in Brevard, NC.  Londi was a Cajun girl to be sure, even though her actual lineage was from a West Texas ranch near the Mexican border (from Yvonne, her Mom) and from North Louisiana (from Jackie, her Dad).  We were a perfect match I thought.  I had always wanted to date someone with demolition experience.  One spring day, I needed a dance partner to finish a Cajun dance course.  I had started the course months before with my earlier faculty girlfriend, who had since shown the good sense to dump me.  Londi said her major professor Dale Easley told her I was suffering greatly going through my divorce.  I agreed, feeling much like the Big Bad Wolf chasing Little Red Riding Hood.  She was a breath of fresh air in my life.  We would regularly go to the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street and end up dancing in the street when it closed.  At UNO, I would sometimes wait to catch Londi sashaying down the hall past my office, and reach out to pull her in while closing the door.  This intriguing behavior pattern did not go unnoticed, and Dale Easley became somewhat irritated with us.  I checked with my department head Bill Craig to make sure our relationship fell within the "normal" guidelines of faculty student affairs (lol).  He said not to serve on her M.S. committee or officially teach her any courses.  Meanwhile, Londi was sometimes jealous and hence irrational (in my opinion).  Once after midnight, she actully poured an ice cold Coors on a very sensitive body part just because I had taken another woman out to dinner.  (I had explained to Londi it was a favor to Cellie for a family friend.  Women!)  This was apparently going to be a long-term relationship.

     Cellie's condition continued to worsen, losing more of her mobility.  She would not be able to live alone much longer.  Doctors had not been able to diagnosis what was wrong and she was turning 81 in 1990.  Lloyd and Marilyn wanted me to put her in a nursing home and she agreed.  In the beginning of the summer of 1990, I moved her into a Slidell nursing home, 20 miles away.  Carla Pauls knew her and came with me several days later to check on her.  She had injured an ear drum with a cotton swab and was incredibly depressed, begging me to bring her home.  Carla's mother had died of ALS, and Carla mentioned that Cellie's speech was becoming slurred.  But she didn't tell me that she thought this was the beginning stages of ALS.  I was leaving for San Francisco for 5 days to participate in an AAPG debate on secondary porosity.  I promised Cellie I would bring her home as soon as I returned and would set up a home care system for her.  It was hard to leave her there, even if it was only for a week.  A nursing home is only a place to go to die.  We all deserve better.  Cellie would die at home.

     We needed to raise money to help pay for estate expenses and taxes after Cellie passed.  Cellie owned 440 acres north of Lacombe that had been clear-cut of timber 30 years earlier.  When walking the land, there did not appear to be much timber that had grown back.  A local forester told me it wasn't worth cutting.  Londi and I were walking the land one afternoon to check on fire damage, when we met Joey Stringer (a Mississippi logger) who was cutting 40 acres of timber on adjacent land.  Joey wanted permission to cross our land to reach the adjacent 40 acres.  He was an interesting redneck character who referred to Londi as the "Little Heffer", making her mad as hell and causing me to chuckle.  Joey said he was paying the adjacent landowner $10,000 and offered to pay my family $100,000 for our timber on the 440 acres.  I ended up selling to him all but the timber on 80 acres which had a temporary legal tie-up.  Several years afterwards, a state forester told us he was familiar with our land and thought there had been actually $400,000 of timber on our property.  Apparently I was set up by the "local" forester.  Turns out that this happens often to landowners.  After this, we always paid Bennett and Peters (a consulting timber management company) 10% of the sale price to survey our timber and conduct the timber sale.  But there was more about Joey Stringer.  He had also dealt with Cousin David Moore on their property, and Cousin David told me this story making the rounds among lumbermen.  Joey was away from home and he found out his wife was having an affair at their home in Mississippi.  He decided to return unexpectedly and to scare the couple by bursting into the bedroom, firing away with a gun loaded with blanks.  And he did this!  Turns out the man had his own gun and it was loaded with real bullets (LOL).  Joey was shot but lived.

     Londi began to help me with Cellie, finding nurses, first to stay during the day in the summer and then in round-the clock shifts, beginning in the fall.  And in the fall, we moved from New Orleans to her home in Mandeville to help her.  Londi was still a graduate student and we did the daily commute to UNO.  At the end of the summer, a neurologist diagnosed Cellie with ALS.  He examined her and after she left, pulled me aside to tell me.  Later at home, Cellie howled in dispair and cried when she learned her diagnosis.  She never cried again over it but asked me, when the time came and she couldn't move, to help her die by suicide.  These were not all sad months.  She would sit in a chair in the sun out in both the front and back yards with her cat on her lap, watching the world move around her.  Her good friend Gail Dale came often.  She loved her nieces Cousins Marge and Joan.  And Marge came from New Mexico to visit her.  But Joan, who lived a block away, never came.  I don't think she could face ALS.  Marilyn came from Europe and in her usual business-like way fired all the nurses (LOL) before she left.  The nurses cared deeply for Cellie and (of course) I rehired them.  By winter, Cellie was enrolled in hospice and their people instructed us on giving morphine and other drugs to make her comfortable.  The first Iraq war was taking place and she watched the news and loved watching Golden Girls.  After losing her speech, Cellie would tap out messages on an alphabet board.  When a minister came by, she tapped out for him to leave.  Earlier, I had asked her if she believed in God.  She said she thought religion was wonderful for the children and that was why we went to Church in Crowley.  The end came in early spring on March 5th, a few days after she had adopted her remaining cat to a friend.  The previous evening, she had been in discomfort and after clearing her throat with suction, I dripped excess morphine down her throat.  She looked at me with her brown eyes as I held her up.  I told her that we would be OK, hugged her, and laid her down to sleep.  The nurse, sweet Hattie Brown, woke me at 2 AM, saying she was passing.  I held her hands, felt her move, and then she stopped breathing.  There is a saying in the South, "A Lady knows when its time to go."  I had probably overdosed her on morphine a few hours earlier.  But I felt overwhelming relief.  Cellie was no longer hurting and in dispair and if there is peace following death, she had found it.  Writing this 26 years later, still brings tears to my eyes.

     My two Chinese graduate students (Yong and Yang) and Hattie Brown sat with Londi and me in the front row family pew during the Episcopalian funeral service.  Hattie had been there for us when we were in need.  Cellie was buried in that "dreadful" (to me) old Prieto Tomb in Mandeville to be with my father Al, her parents May and Ernest and her siblings Marion and Preston.  I don't think anyone else will want to be buried there, and the key to the tomb was subsequently lost by the funeral home.  Marilyn and Lloyd had returned for the funeral and even Louise showed up at the wake, not really sure why?  It was bitter sweet to see Cellie's old close friends from Crowley: Evelyn Gueno, Beth Barnett, and Margarette Penner and New Orleans cousin Lil Burke.  These ladies were not long for this world, and I never saw them again.  As I now look into the future, my ending too is not that far off.  But at that time, that was not in my thoughts.

     All during the previous fall, I (with Marilyn's help) had been working on getting Cellie's estate ready for the irs.  Even 26 years after Cellie's death, I hesitate to talk much about this (LOL).  I'll say the obvious "You can sometimes hide cash but not real estate from the irs."  And our problem was the value of her real estate.  Would we have to sell the land to pay the inheritance taxes?  There were literally a hundred parcels of various sizes, totaling 1500 acres, in and around Mandeville.  Luckily, Cellie died during the 1990-1991 recession which had depressed land values.  I spent several months compiling an accurate legal description of each parcel with any known title defects and a wetland estimate using the percentage of hydric soils (from state soil maps) in each parcel.  I then hired Bennett Peters, a Hammond area land company that dealt in timber and land appraisals, to appraise her real estate.  Cousin Marsha Higbee found a "competent" New Orleans estate lawyer who we hired to put my information together and file the estate in late 1991.  Then we could only wait for the irs response.  We had to assume we would be audited but there was always hope tht we would slip through the cracks!

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Yucatan Hydrology & Geochemistry


     I need to step back to being a professor.  In the summer of 1989, I was planning a new research program in the Yucatan inland from my previous research area doing groundwater chemistry along the eastern coast.  The northern Yucatan surface is fossilized reef rock (limestone) with karst surface, e.g., no surface streams and only cenotes (sinkholes) and wells to draw drinking water from.  Rain water dissolves the limestone, sinks downward to the water table, and then flows towards the coast.  This fresh water lense is actually brackish with a nearly constant vertical composition and has a maximum thickness of a few hundred feet in the center of the peninsula.  Underlying the freshwater lense is seawater moving through rock pores and fractures, between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Campeche.  The freshwater is floating on top of the more dense seawater, separated by a narrow mixing zone.  Bill Ward had a Mexican geologist friend who was working as a consultant for CALICA, an American subsidary company of Vulcan, located just south of Playa del Carmen.  Their property extended more than 10 kilometers inland and they had dredged an ocean harbor to load aggregate to ship to the States and elsewhere.  CALICA was mining limestone in open pits (west of the coastal highway) down to the water table, 40 feet below and then dredging more limestone below the water table.  Their milling plant on the property would grind up the limestone into piles of aggregate of different sizes, move it by a large conveyer belt to the harbor, and there the aggregate was dropped vertically into cargo hulls of transport ships.  By 2000, the pit seemed to be a couple of miles wide.  This was really a big operation.

     Bill's Mexican geologist friend sent a letter of introduction for me to take to CALICA management to request permission to sample groundwater on their property.  I needed to do a reconnaissance of CALICA property and asked Ida to come along in the summer of 1989 to see that portion of the Caribbean.  The previous year (1988) category 5 Hurricane Gilbert had crossed the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula and the coast was unrecognizable with many buildings destroyed and all of the coastal coconut palms gone.  We showed up at CALICA's main office and gave my letter of introduction to John Clark the plant manager.  He was a tall, thin, wiry geologist who looked at my reference letter, looked at me, and said "I hate that son-of-a-bitch."  This was not a good start!  I needed to make amends.  I replied "I don't know the bastard but he was the only one we had to contact."  John looked at me warily and smiled.  I explained my geochemical research and talked about my experiences doing field work in the Yucatan and Guatemala.  I probably threw in my East Africa experiences for good measure.  He was worried my results might be used by environmentalists against the company in the future, and I was telling him that they could be useful in planning their mining operations.  We had something in common.  He too had once been captured, only his experience sounded more life threatening than mine in Guatemala.  He was kidnapped at gunpoint in Mexico City along with an associate, shoved into the trunk of a vehicle, and driven around the city for hours.  Eventually the vehicle stopped to let them out to pee.  He decided there was no way he was getting back in that trunk.  He just walked away to freedom while his captors yelled and threatened to shoot and his associate pleaded with him to come back.  They didn't shoot.  The guy was tough.  John finally told me "OK, I'll send an employee with you to look around the property and then let me know what you want to do."

     CALICA's operation was impressive with its large harbor (used also by cruise ships visiting Playa del Carmen) and an inland open pit which was a km wide at that time.  The mining trucks followed the International Mining Convention of driving on the left side of the road and they were enormous with wheels taller than me.  Around the edges of the open pit were drilling rigs, drilling boreholes to set dynamite to enlarge the pit.  Hmm - Drilling rigs, those could be useful in my research.  Caves were exposed in the pit walls and in later explorations, I found them to be filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.  These exposed caves were destroyed in the next series of explosions.  Draglines in the pit bottom continuously worked below the water surface to get more limestone, while gigantic trackhoes loaded the trucks with huge blocks of limestone to be taken to be milled into aggregate.

     Tucked away on one corner of the SW corner of the property, in the jungle, were two sinkholes (cenotes) reached by short hikes through the jungle.  I named them Little Calica and Big Calica.  They were both about two hundred feet across with Little Calica somewhat smaller.  Both had vertical sides down to the water table, about 40 feet below.  Caves ringed the sides of the cenotes, marking positions of the freshwater/seawater interface when sea level had been higher in the past.  Flocks of vultures and other birds were roosting on the exposed edges of the caves while brown vines dropped all the down from the surface to the water.  The green water surface had a white sheen over parts of it, marking a floating layer of calcite crystals that precipitated as groundwater degassed carbon dioxide to the air.  Further back in the jungle, several years later, I found a Mayan Cave, (named the Dos Ojos Cave) complete with an altar, tiny rock paths for the "Alux" (the little people of Mayan legend), and Mayan glyphs carved on the wall rock.  That cave is so cool!  But the jungle was difficult to hike through, even on a path.  I never saw a jaguar but did once see a gold-colored big cat (mountain lion?).  The ground surface consisted of hard, sharp rock with trees growing out of holes in the rock.  Limestone lacks aluminum which is needed to make clays for soil from weathered rock, so there isn't much agriculture in the northern Yucatan.  What little soil is present in this area formed from weathering thin layers of volcanic ash, dropped from volcanic eruptions further west in mainland Mexico.  The joke was that the Mayans planted their crops in pot holes in the limestone, marking the locations of dead Spanish conquistators which provided organic nutrients for their crops.  The surface rock was so irregular that it was easy to fall and cut yourself on the sharp edges.  The vegatation seems dangerous such as the Chechen trees which have sap that burns like acid on your skin.  Luckily, Chaca tree sap can be used as an antidote, but you have to know your trees.  And no matter where I was in the jungle, I was always coming across these ubiquitous, never ending, straight Mayan walls of chunks of piled limestone rock to a height of 2 to 3 feet, presumably built hundreds of years earlier to mark land boundaries.  They must have made for life-long jobs of Mayan slave labor to haul loose rock through the jungle to build those walls.

     Back at CALICA's main office, I asked John Clark to use his drilling rigs to drill a series of boreholes along the roads leading to the open pit.  The boreholes needed to pass through the freshwater lense into the underlying salt water.  I intended to bring graduate students back the next summer to sample the water in the boreholes as a function of depth and do the same in Little Calica and Big Calica.  And John agreed to have the boreholes ready when we came back in 1990.  At the time I did not yet know Londi Moore so this was for geochemical research only.  However, by 1990 the project had expanded to include geohydrology which became her MS thesis.

     In late summer in 1989 I also made a reconnaissance trip to Barbados to check it out for doing geochemical field work.  Ida came along to see the island.  Barbados, a former British colony, is much like the Cayman Islands with a very literate African poppulation, religiously dominated by the Anglican Church, and dotted with picturesque tiny, neat, pastel-painted houses.  Both consist of a wedge of sediment capped by limestone reef rock.  The difference being Barbados sits over a subduction zone east of the volcanic Windward Islands in the Atlantic, rather than along a left-lateral transform fault marking the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.  I began my trip by meeting government officials in Bridgetown.  They did not object to my groundwater sampling program and pointed out the general locations of boreholes along the eastern coast.  So we rented a 2 door Jimny Jeep and off we went.  The coast was incredibly rugged and beautiful, with steep limestone clifts that had wave-cut platforms marking periods of higher sealevel.  There were Caucasians among the Africans, descendants of the original British settlers, that I made friends with.  In general, they seemed to have gone to New Zealand and Australia to find mates.  So that was how they maintained a somewhat distinct ethnic group but everyone seemed to be (at least) distantly related.  Although I added the Barbados groundwater chemistry to my data base, this trip and others later were more for fun than science.  After all, I needed to maintain my growing reputation as a "resort" geochemist!

     Back at UNO in the early spring of 1990, I was going out with Londi Moore, Dale Easley's graduate student in geohydrology.  One weekend Londi asked me to go with her and Dale to her field area at Golden Meadow in South Louisiana.  She was going to model groundwater flow around an old oil field that had become polluted from the surface disposal of produced reservoir brines.  At first glance, the field area looked like a scene out of Dante's Inferno.  The ground was yellow with sulfer from hydrogen sulfide oxidation.  If it wasn't a superfund site, it would soon be.  I told her about the beautiful green waters of the Caribbean and suggested she come work in the Yucatan on groundwater flow.  Dale was not happy, but he would still be her major professor, and I could help her with her field work.  I could not serve on her M.S. committee for obvious personal reasons.  At the same time, two Chinese students had enrolled at UNO to work with me in geochemistry for their M.S. degrees.  They had brought their wives with them from mainland China.  One of them (Yang Chen) was doing a laboratory diagenesis thesis on low-Mg calcite with my flow-through reaction vessel, and the other (Yong Chen - no relation to Yang) was going to work on the water chemistry in the boreholes at CALICA in the Yucatan.  Yang wanted to visit the Yucatan and he accompanied us (to help Yong in the field) during August, 1990.  I remember Yong telling me that in China, professors were viewed as a father figure to students.  I couldn't live up to that but Londi did her best to take care of them.  At the start of the previous fall semester, she had taken all of the new foreign students on a French Quarter tour.  She accidently brought the group into a well-known gay bar for drinks.  "Hmm - Wow - America is really different."

     The trip itself was an experience not to be forgotten.  On the drive down from Cancun, the rental car's transmission broke down on the narrow two lane coastal highway.  The car was off the road and partially in the jungle.  I told everyone to hide in the jungle while I hitchhiked back to Playa del Carmen to get another car.  Well Londi was excited and climbed up on top of the car and started dancing.  Sometimes a girl just has to dance!  About this time a deuce and a half truck, the back filled with Mexican laborers, whizzes by.  The truck came to a screeching halt and then started backing up to the broken-down car while the Mexicans waved machetes and cheered Londi.  Her Spanish was and is still terrible, and she frantically waved to them not to come to her aid.  They were very disappointed.  Yong and Yang then pulled her off the car, wrapped her in a blanket and hid her in the jungle until I got back.  Those boys knew how to handle a woman!  At Akumal, we rented a condo on Half Moon Bay.  The first afternoon, Londi and I went snorkling, collected conchs and laid them out to dry.  The next morning we woke up to the smell of fried conch.  Yong and Yang had scooped out the critters (mollusks) and were cooking them for breakfast (lol).  Luckily, they didn't know how to recognize where the sea turtles had buried their eggs in the sand or there would have also been a sea turtle egg omelet.  We later went to nearby Xel Ha, a tourist lagoon with thousands of colorful tropical fish.  I had to save the fish from Yong and Yang.  They looked at them and said "Chinese Takeout!  Let's grab a few."  They were great fun to be with.  In the evening after doing field work, we would drive to Playa del Carmen for dinner and drink "grande" margaritas until we were drunk as skunks.  What a week that was.  On returning to New Orleans, immigration officers detained Yong and Yang for several hours.  The officers would not tell me why, and I refused to leave without them.  Eventually they were released without me being arrested for insulting immigration officers - a minor miracle for me in dealing with the government.

     The August, 1990 field work in the Yucatan had gone well.  The boreholes were waiting for us at CALICA and John Clark assigned two employees Jorge Rodriguez Bremauntz and Lourdes Rodriguez to help us.  Both became close friends as well as Marie Carmen Cerda, the secretary who took us under her wing.  We ran depth vs conductivity (also pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen) profiles in the boreholes and in the cenotes to define the geometry of the freshwater lense at each location.  The freshwater lense was 10 to 15 meters thick, brackish with a constant composition, and it had a sharp interface with the underlying seawater.  As expected it decrased in width approaching the coast.  Yong and Yang took groundwater samples in the boreholes and I did the same in the cenotes.  We measured all the chemical components in the field that would change before we got back to UNO, e.g., hydrogen sulfide.  And Londi did field tests to measure the rate of groundwater flow across the boreholes.  We would insert a pipe in the borehole from which hung a conductivity probe and a tube to inject seawater (in the freshwater zone) and fresh water (in the seawater zone) and then subsequently record changes in conductivity with time to estimate the groundwater velocity.  I thought the field data we took was really good.  Londi and I came back in November, 1990, to remeasure the geometry of the freshwater lense to see if it was changing seasonally.  The changes were insignificant.  The freshwater lense in the Yucatan is much thinner than would be expected for a static system because it is dynamic with the water flowing coastward.  The yet to-be-explained features were the uniform brackish composition of the freshwater lense and a temperature spike in the halocline below the lense.  Those explanations would come later.

     During the 1990 Yucatan trips, Londi and I met James (Jim) Coke one evening at the "Lol Ha" bar on Akumal Bay.  Jim was an expatriate from Texas, a cave diver who had become a scuba diving legend for mapping underwater cave systems in the Yucatan, a very dangerous profession.  Jim was built like a field geologist, thin as a reed, all muscles, with an unmatched capacity for alcohol.  He had read my earlier paper on the groundwater chemistry along the Caribbean coast and was interested in our research.  A biologist by training, Jim discovered an 11,000 year old skeleton in a local submarine cave system and published his find in Nature.  At the time, I think it was the earliest human dated in the Americas.  We later worked and published together.  Jim knew the jungle locations of the cenotes, acting as my guide, and took me scuba diving into submarine caves.  On my last Yucatan field season in 2004, we drove across the peninsula, sampling the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan.  He was a wonderful friend, not to mention a good drinking buddy at La Buena Vida on Half Moon Bay.  I remember him always greeting Mayans in the field by calling them "jefe" (boss).  I eventually lost track of Jim and was recently told he died in 2016.  I miss him.

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Londi in Europe and our Wedding


     Following Cellie's death, Londi and I went back to the Yucatan in May for more field work.  The picture shows Londi at a cenote named Car Wash, about 5 km inland on the road to Coba.  I remember diving into the water and at the height of my dive, a local Mayan yelled "Cocodrilo!" (crocodile).  But he was a small 4 ft freshwater cayman, nothing to worry about (lol).  Our big event in 1991 was for me teaching UNO summer school in Innsbruch, and I took Londi and David with me.  As in previous trips, we flew in to Frankfort, went to Wiesloch to see Marilyn and Karl, and did a side trip to Aschaffenburg to see Dorothea.  I do remember driving in France with Londi and David and nearly getting us killed.  There was a road intersection with a road coming in from the right.  We were going straight and I erroneously assumed we had the right-of-way.  An 18 Wheeler turned in front of us and we went careening out of his way.  Londi said "OK, you have good reflexes.  Don't do it again!"  Londi and I visited Chamonix near Mt Blanc on the trip to Innsbruch.  The French Alps are so beautiful.  We drove up high in the mountains and joined a crowd watching two person parargliders jump off the mountain edge and glide away in an updraft.  One pair ran up to the edge, jumped, and dropped like a rock out of sight.  But no one seemed worried about them.  Hmm, could this be natural selection for paragliders.  Pairs continue to jump and glide away.  Then, twenty minutes later, two pairs of hands appeared as a couple pulled themselves up over the edge of the mountain with their paraglider.  Wow, those were tough people.  Londi thought Charmonix was the most romantic place she had ever been.  I made the same mistake that I had made with Louise in Mombasa.  I promised Londi we would come back in 5 years and we never made it back.  Never promise (your wife or future wife) something and not deliver.

     In Innsbruch, we rented an apartment on the other side of the Inn River on a very steep hillside.  Earlier that year (in May) when Londi and I went back to CALICA for a week of fieldwork, our Mexican field guide Jorge mentioned he was going to Europe that summer.  We had invited him to visit us.  At the beginning of the semester, Jorge flew in to Munich and I went to pick him up.  I brought him back to Innsbruch where he stayed with us for a week.  The Austrian border police detained him at the border overnight because he had come from Mexico.  I saw firsthand the prejudice of nationalities.  The first day Jorge rented a bicycle and said I'll be back that evening.  About an hour later, he appeared at the apartment, all bloody and carrying the bicycle, totally smashed from a crash.  That was a very steep road!  But after nursing him back to health, we had a good time and were sad to see him leave, as were the Austrian girls.  That is probably why the Austrian border police didn't want to let him into Austria - to protect the virtue of their Frauleins - an unsuccessful mission.  Jorge never went back to Mexico permanently but stayed in Europe and married an Italian girl.

     Teaching at the summer program was different for me this summer.  I had done it before and knew the ropes.  The administrators acted like heads of state and had the students and faculty marching around in parades, but the class schedules were not adjusted to the needs of the students.  Who were they trying to impress?  I had no respect for them and (as a full professor) simply ignored them which caused some irritation.  They complained I was unmarried and living with a UNO graduate student (Londi), thereby setting a bad example.  Since the head administrator was bisexual, living openly with her partners, I replied they needed to get a life and grow up.  The administrator chief assistant and I almost came to blows when he tried to bully me.  Obviously I was not interested in returning to teach there again, which was true.

     But it was a great time for the students and us.  Londi soon became their earth mother, their mother away from home.  And David made friends and partied with them.  They would ply him with alcohol in the hope of getting advance copies of my tests.  Not a chance!  He was still largely uncontrollable (in my mind) and was being sent to an Outward Bound Camp later that summer to shape up!  He and Londi came on the field trips with us looking at glacier-carved features and rode ski lifts to the tops of mountains to examine the glaciers.  Near the end of the term, David and I did a recon trip to a glacier in the Italian Alps where the students were going the next week to collect red garnets that had weatherred out of the clifts above the glacier and fallen on top of the ice.  To get to the glacier, we had to hike for a mile on a path over a steep end moraine, after getting off a ski lift.  We overtook an elderly British couple who must have been retired university professors because they were closely examining the flora.  I stopped and asked the lady if she could identify a flower near the path.  She said "Oh, Let me look." and bent down.  Suddenly, she slipped and went rolling down the hill, crashing into a boulder.  Her husband and I ran down.  "Are you hurt?" he cried out.  She looked up and held up her hand which was bent 90 degrees backwards.  "Oh, I'm fine but I do believe my wrist is broken!" she replied.  "Not to worry my Dear.  Have some of this whiskey." and he poured her a shot from a flask which she sipped on.  I was amazed.  She didn't cry or complain and must have been in terrible pain.  I guess that is what the British call having "a stiff upper lip."  Meanwhile, I retreated rapidly, feeling partially responsible for her fall.

     The summer went by quickly.  Londi was disheartened that the Austrians didn't celebrate the 4th of July with a barbecue (unpatriotic heathens).  We took a weekend trip to Vienna, one to the Dolomites in morthern Italy, and one to Venice and to various local sites.  The trip to Vienna followed the Danube River and what touched my soul were the stone ruins of a small castle (Durnstein Castle) where King Richard the Lion Heart had been imprisoned for ransom when returning home from the Crusades.  We were there alone (no tourists) at dusk and I could easily visualize Richard in a cell listening to the troubadour Blondel below.  Near Vienna, we feasted in the home of a farmer who was celebrating with Gruner Veltliner (green wine, tastes like pinot gris) and the produce from their farms.  And I think Vienna is as beautiful as Paris.  In Italy, the drivers were crazy as always.  They drove fast and seemed angry at anyone being ahead of them.  But when the road shut down temporarily, everyone piled out of their vehicles to share wine and food.  Then when the road reopened, the race began again.  At the end of the summer term, David had already left for the States, and Londi and I drove to Zermatt, the village below the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.  That was a fateful trip for both of us.

     The trip was hair-raising for me in the Alps.  I don't mind heights if I am on the ground but I was down on the floor boards in that car.  Londi was driving and we were constantly above the timber line, with steep dropoffs onto 60 degree slopes, and never a guardrail, just flocks of sheep grazing precariously below.  At the top of one mountain pass, we stopped, slapped hands together, and did a mock dance, so I could celebrate being alive.  At Zermatt we rode the tram up the Matterhorn base and then got out to collect rocks.  The Matterhorn is folded sediment which slid north in the collision and suturing of Italy (Adriatic Plate) with Europe (Euro-Asian plate) some 25 to 50 million years ago.  It sits on top of oceanic crust in which the deep-sea basalts have been metamorphosed into pretty green serpentine.  We were both loaded down with serpentine and Londi was standing near the edge of a clift.  I asked her to marry me and she nearly fell off the edge, very dramatic.  I knew how to spring a surprise on a lady.

     Back in Louisiana, Londi MS thesis research on coastal Yucatan groundwater flow was accepted for publication in Ground Water.  So when she defended her thesis, it was already "in press", very impressive.  She graduated from UNO with her M.S. in Geohydrology in 1991.  After our summer in Innsbruch, Londi accepted a job as a hydrologist with URS, a consulting environmental engineering firm in New Orleans.  She enjoyed the work but not the "sexism" of the company management.  We were married in Mandeville on December 21st under the live oaks on the Lake Pontchartrain Lakefront by a defrocked Catholic Priest (Mike Zimmerman) - very appropriate I thought.  Robin Nash, Londi's old friend in Shreveport, had recently moved to Mandeville and was her maid of honor.  Robin later married Miles Gautreaux whose family had moved from Houma and Londi knew them while growing up there.  David was my best man and of course he and his partner in crime Ryan McClendon got totally smashed at the reception dinner at the Pontchartrain Yacht Club.  It was a good way to end 1991, a year that had sadly begun with Cellie's death.

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© 2017 Ron Stoessell