Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Guano Smuggling Story

                                                                The Guano Smuggling Story
                                                                                  1963
                                                           A true story that happened in Haiti
                                                        Written 1/2010 and rewritten 1/2015
                                                                           Howard Yasgar


      In 1963, I was living in Miami Florida when I received a phone call from an old friend named Lou
Gladstein.
      Lou had moved to the country of Haiti, and he wanted me to fly there as soon as possible to
Help him with a project, at the time I knew that there was a country called Haiti, but I didn’t exactly know where it was, I was soon to find out all about it.
     Once I arrived in Haiti, my friend Lou and his wife Gladys picked me up at the Francois Duvalier airport and we drove up into the mountains to an area called Fermathe, where they were renting a beautiful home from a Dr. Fritz Cineas.
     Once we were there at the house, my friend Lou told me all about why he needed me to help him, it seems that he had purchased the entire Haitian railroad and he needed my help to disassemble and sell it. I agreed to help Lou, and I stayed at their house for a few days discussing the project.
      In Haiti, in the evenings, it was customary to have friends come by for a cup of local coffee, or a drink of rum and conversation, so one evening, Lou’s wife invited a friend over for supper. His name was Doctor Marc Bulliet.  Mark was a tall, light skinned, distinguished looking Haitian fellow.
      Lou’s wife had said she liked Marc a lot because he was an interesting guy, Lou jokingly told me that Marc was a bit of a story teller and probably worked for the C.I.A.
      One evening over coffee, Mark said he was Haiti’s chief archeologist, and he showed me a business card to that effect. There was no question that I found Marc to be a very interesting and entertaining fellow. Besides from telling me that he was the chief archeologist in Haiti, it appears that he got involved in all sorts of interesting projects and side deals. Actually I think it was best to say that Marc was always getting involved in anything that he could make a dollar off.
       Marc liked the fact that I was interested in getting involved with some of the deals he was talking about with me, and believe me there were plenty to choose from.
       Later that same evening Mark asked me if I ever had heard about Guano, and I told him that I had read that Guano or bat droppings was one of the best fertilizers to be had. I knew that it was very high in Nitrogen which made it ideal as a fertilizer. Marc was overjoyed that he had finally found someone that knew what Guano was.
      Marc said that he had discovered a big cave in Haiti that was loaded with guano. He said the cave was in a very remote location, but the Guano could be dug up, bagged and brought to the capitol of Port Au Prince in Haiti by burro. Marc wanted me to team up with him and sell the Guano in the United States.
     Well, never having tried selling Guano, I didn’t know, if I could, so Marc said if I stopped by his office in downtown Port Au Prince, he would have some samples for me that he had already prepared, and I could take them back to Miami.
      Mark said that he had already had an official chemical analysis done on the stuff, and I could use that information to help to sell the Guano.
      The next day, Lou drove me down to Marc’s office in Port au Prince so I could get the samples before I left Haiti.
       I found Marc’s office to be done in a very old French style, with tall rounded top doors leading to the noisy streets of Port Au Prince, but the office was clean and uncluttered. On Marc’s desk, he had already prepared several beautiful samples for me. It appeared that he had obtained some soft gray, three inch wide vinyl tubing, and he had made it into pouches about eight inches long. Each pouch had the Guano’s chemical analysis neatly typed on the gray vinyl. It appeared that the ends of each pouch had been stapled shut with a simple office stapler. I opened my attache case and found that six of his vinyl pouches nested in it perfectly.
      I left that morning on an Air Haiti flight to Miami, and upon entering the Miami International Airport customs area, I went directly to the line for returning American citizens.
     The airport was crowded and noisy, but the line moved quickly. When the customs officer asked me to open my attache case, I simply placed it on the inspection table, unclicked the latches and opened it.
      It seemed like suddenly the entire airport was silent, there wasn’t a sound to be heard. It was so quiet that I’m sure you could have even heard a pin drop, it appeared that everyone in the airport was staring at the neatly placed vinyl pouches of Guano in my attache case.
      I think no one in the room could believe it, they must all have thought that U.S. Customs had just caught a cocaine smuggler, and a really dumb one at that.
      Suddenly there were six agents around me. The agent in front said, “And what may I ask is that?” That’s Guano I said, looking him in the eye. “I’m sure it is”, he replied, “But it looks like drugs to me,”
      They gently picked up my attache case and marched me to a glass walled office, where the Chief Customs officer sat. They placed my attache case on his desk and said something to him. I saw his eye brows lift as he pointed to a chair for me.
       “What do we have here he said?” I said they are all packages of Guano fertilizer, the analysis is typed on each pouch, but I could see he didn’t believe me.
      He sat there deliberating with his finger to his lips. He placed a sheet of white paper on his desk and removed one of the pouches. He gently removed the staples from the end of the pouch, with a letter opener, and a grayish granulated powder came out. I could tell this was going to get serious, as the Chief wetted his finger with his tongue, he was going to taste the powder.
      Again he said, “What did you say this was, and where did it come from?” I said I came from Haiti Sir, and it’s a fertilizer called Guano, you know “Bat shit”. He immediately withdrew his finger, and decided against tasting it, he sat back, thought for a minute and then told me to take my stuff and get out of there. I think everyone in the airport was watching me leave.
      So as not to leave you guessing, the next week I made several phone calls to golf courses and fertilizer distributors. I got the same story from every one, I was about fifty years too late with trying to sell Guano. It used to be popular, but now commercial fertilizers are available, they can be made to order and done very cheap. Oh well, I couldn’t sell the Guano but at least I got a good story out of it.

        

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