Scenes and stories about quicksand,
semi-lost in the mists of time.


James Michener, Circa 1974

One of the greater joys of taking Spanish as a second language was having to read James Michener's Iberia, an epic history/travelogue about Spain and Portugal (the Iberian peninsula, for you geography freaks) as only Michener could do it. I had to read this in my first or second course in college-level Spanish, way back there in the mid-70's (remember the 70's, kids?). Now, I know that there are probably hundreds of you out there that have a dusty copy of Iberia sitting on your shelf, so I'll be disappointed if I don't get e-mail within a week of posting this page. I lost my copy about 10 years ago, and I'm too lazy to hunt for another (although it's a fascinating book and I really should reread it sometime), so I'm just going to wing it here and let you folks e-mail with corrections, etc.

Anyway, in one chapter of the book (the book is organized so that each chapter represents a distinct province or region) Michener describes the "ojos," or "eyes" that are found in the otherwise dry pasturelands in one particular area of Spain. These "eyes" are miniature oasis with water and trees, often centered around pockets of quicksand. I'm going to try to paraphrase Michener (cut me some slack, it's been almost 25 years, for goodness sake!), who I remember describing the ojos as containing "quicksand of a most virulent sort. Once it got a grip, it seldom let go." He went on to describe the sight of deceased farm animals with only their heads showing, above what was apparently solid ground. They didn't go under and smother, they had become trapped and died after days lacking food or water. If I remember correctly, he also implied that more than one local rancher had lost his life to the dreaded ojos down through the years.

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