TBT - (1970) "The Road To Pumpkin Hill"

Last week I covered the story about the 'Altamula' - the small four wheel drive vehicle I brought to the island of Utila in 1970. I also brought over a small trailer to haul freight and water. Counting my Austrian jeep, that made a total of three vehicles on the island - and that is progress, but we still only had a few roads and none traversing to the windward side of the island.

There was a meandering horse trail to the north side for farmers working the island's interior and people collecting coconuts along the north shore. It was called the Pumpkin Hill Road, and people often took the long hike across on that trail to explore the cave on the hill or picnic on the beautiful beach found on that side of the island. I thought it would be a great idea to widen the trail enough for the passage of four wheeled vehicles and gain access for everyone. At some distance west of town there was a very narrow canal that ran through a swamp to the north side - dug a long time ago by an earlier generation of volunteer islanders. But the canal did little to open up the opportunities of the island's isolated north side.

There was no water system on Utila and the small power plant could only provide lights from 6PM to 10PM at night. Because of the power system's low voltage I had to run my record player in the hotel bar at 78 rpm to properly hear my 33 1/3 rpm records! Infrastructure was not a government priority, not locally or nationally. All you ever heard was: "No money".

I went to the mayor and the town's business leaders, like Frank Morgan, to confer with them on the possibility of getting another volunteer group together to make a road to the other side. Everyone was a nay sayer. As so often happens in communities run by the very conservative, all they wanted to do was put down most progressive ideas and bad mouth the present generation of youth.

LikeTom Sawyer - who got the fence painted quickly, easily, and economically, I had a plan. So one morning I loaded up the trailer behind my jeep with wash basins full of ice, soda drinks, and beer. In addition I purchased loaves of bread and big logs of 'Mortadella' (local baloney). Then I set out along the town's main streets, making frequent stops and asking for volunteer workers or the loan of tools - like axes, shovels, pick axes, pry bars, hoes, etc. to build the road to Pumpkin Hill. When the young islanders like Morris and Clyde Woods, Danny Jackson, Carlos Cooper, Dewey Buckley, and others saw it was going to be a fun adventure, with lots of food and drink - we soon had all the volunteers we needed to do the job.

After three days of hard work the road was done. The town was not out a dime and our group of young volunteers had a great time and some well deserved pride in building a real road to Pumpkin Hill - and showing those old heads on the island that they should not underestimate what the youth of Utila can accomplish.

You never know what you can do until you try.