12 - Stories from Asturias 1958 : by Michael Furstner ------------------------ Previous - Next - Contents

Barrios Quartzsite : silent witness to our only fight
With Hauk (left) in Leiden 2008 Hauk Fischer and I have been the closest of friends from the first day we met shortly after arriving at Leiden University and joining the same student Yearclub Pimpernel in October 1955.

For the first 4 years of our study we were virtually inseparable and known by all as Fisch & Furst. Little wonder, for besides being Club friends we both were Geology students, both coxswains in the Leidse Student Rowing Club Njord, and after the first year also lived in the same student house (Hogewoerd 30) for several years.

Royal Students Rowing Club Njord The first year at Njord was very demanding which we both suffered through stoically. We each were in charge of an eight rowing crew. All through that cold and wet winter of 55/56 we each spent 6 hours on the water every single day, training with our coach and crew.

The full crew was first split up into two fours which we took out for 2 hours each (one after the other), then a final 2 hour session with the complete eight. We were continually wet through, very cold and found little time for study those days.
Then when the year's race rowing season started in the late Spring we had to abandon it early summer in order to attend geological excursions and fieldwork.

Hauk and I both were hot fans of the novelist John Steinbeck, and on all our hitch hiking trips, excursions and joint fieldwork mimicked the lifestyles of those loveable simple characters of Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.
On geological excursions we usually shared a room together, and sometimes even a double bed. But here is where our closeness firmly ended. Before bedtime we would tie the shoelaces of our boots together into a long string, span it across the middle of the bed from head to foot end, and if either one during sleep accidentally nudged even as much as a heel across this "border" he was forcefully kicked out off bed by the other. This was our firm, mutually agreed upon rule.

Our friends were amazed at the fact that we never ever quarreled, and on a few occasions tried to start one off between us, but never with any success. Then, at the end of our 3rd year, in the summer of 1958, we did a joint mapping exercises around Felechas in Asturias.

With Hauk in front of our small 'office' shed, 1958 The geological structure of the area around Felechas (the "Felechas syncline") was like the upper half of a table spoon, slightly incline upwards. The "metal" of the spoon consisted of the oldest rocks (upper Ordovician), the Barrios Quartzsite, a light grey very hard sparkling crystalline rock, which formed the highest mountain chain just inside the northern perimeter of our designated mapping area.
Within this Barrios Quartzsite "spoon" were concordant layers of subsequent younger and softer sedimentary rocks of Silurian and Devonian age, sloping gradually downwards and south towards the main valley.

The first four weeks or so in Felechas Hauk and I spent in complete harmony. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, high up, near the top of the mountain, amongst the sparkling boulders and rock formations of the Barrios Quartzsite, floating as it were within an irregular and steeply sloping carpet of green grass, we suddenly burst out in a most heated argument.

Felechas in winter, viewing SW from the approximate spot of our former camp site

Wandering around the rocks some 40 paces apart we yelled and shouted at each other at the tops of our voices. About what ?? I can't remember, other than that it was about a geological, rather than a personal matter.
After perhaps a quarter of an hour of this, we both stopped and silently descended down to our base camp. There we had a glass of wine, and were the best of friends again until this very day. No one of our friends ever heard about this. There had been only one witness, silent and some 300 million years old : the Barrios Quartzsite.

Inside the Felechas Chapel I think it was a few days after our fight, while on our way home that we found at the end of a mountain spur a large wooden cross lying on the ground, obviously blown over by a recent storm. It was made from an old telephone pole, 4 meters (13ft) high with a 2 meter cross bar.

Hauk and I dug a deep hole into the rubble, placed the cross upright in it and filled the hole around it with stones. The spur overlooked the EW valley running between Sabero, Felechas and Boñar, and anyone in the valley looking up could now once again see the cross.
Back home we pointed this out to the villagers who were much pleased with our effort. We were also immediately invited to the following Sunday Mass in the Felechas Chapel. This we did.

The village Chapel as I remember it, but without the snow Neither Hauk nor I had ever been to a Roman Catholic service before and it struck us with great force. I remember that at the end of it we were much upset by the very naive and (what we considered to be) outright pagan rituals. How could anyone believe in this nonsense we asked ourselves.
Both of us were much inclined to race back up onto that hill top and pull the cross down again, but in the end common sense got the better of us and we let it stay there, making no comments about our feelings to the locals.
In fact knowing us to be non Catholics several of the villagers told us that they had prayed for the salvation of our souls that morning, which was, if nothing else, a very endearing thought.

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Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner