With a top speed of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) and spewing diesel smoke, the vintage 1960s well drilling rig lumbered up the mountain and turned at our road.

Victor and I had talked back in November when he walked our lot and surveyed the lay of the land. “Marzo” he said, he should return in the month of marzo (March) to make our well. He said that yes, he could do it in rainy November and he would easily find water. But would the water still be there in March during the dry season? No way to say for sure. But if he gets water in March, it is sure to be there in November during the rainy season. Good logic.

So we waited until March. The land has dried out and the drainage ditch now barely trickles. And true to his word, Victor called a few days ago and said he was on his way. He had been working his way from the far side of Panama, drilling wells as he came our way.

Victor and I go back about a year and a half. I purchased a pump to move some water from a cistern. The pump came with instructions to hook it up to 220 volts. The instructions were tied right there to the wiring. So I did as they said and promptly burned up the pump. Seems it was wired internally for 110 and they put the wrong instruction tag on the pump. So I replaced the pump, but this time I called the number on the tag and Victor answered. He came right out even though it was a holiday. He correctly wired the pump and didn’t charge me a cent.

Some time later a neighbor had a problem with her well pump and I called Victor to help. He solved that problem, too, and I could see his 50-or-more years of experience with pumps was a valuable asset. We exchanged phone numbers.

Some time later, he called me. The engine on his rig had blown a head gasket and he wondered if I could help him get a new gasket from the States. I went online and found one for the old White (now Hercules) engine, paid for it with my credit card, and had it sent to a friend who was coming to Panama a few days later. Victor and I met on the road and I gave him the gasket and he paid me what was owed.

All these times I struggled with Spanish and he dusted off his very rusty English. He is one of the few Panamanians who will correct us when we make an error in speaking, and we like that. I did the same for him with his English. We got along well (no pun intended) and Cynthia noted that he and I were well suited for each other. I began to trust Victor.

Victor is in his early 70s and is a quiet and very gentle man. He has a great sense of humor. When I introduced him to Armando, he spoke in his broken English and told Armando, “I don’t speak no Spanish, only English.” Armando eyed him sideways and finally got the joke. Another time he told Romiro from across the street that he was 24-years-old but that the diesel smoke had aged him rapidly.

He and his crew arrived about 3:30 p.m. and they got right to work. Victor dowsed the well with two pieces of bent 1/4-inch rebar and stuck a stick in the ground where he said the best water was to be found. They set up the rig and started to make progress. By 5:30 they had accomplished 25-feet. The next two days they hit large, dense rocks and progress slowed to a total of 45-feet. Their goal is 80-feet, and I’ll put up a new post when they are finished.

The rig arrives and Cynthia daydreams about cool, clear water.

The Big Wheel

This is the business end of the works. This rig doesn't drill. It pounds like a pile driver. After each impact, the men turn the cable a bit to rotate the hammer.

Twenty-five feet the first day.

Victor surveys the progress, or lack thereof, and decides to switch to the heavier hammer.

Jose (left) and Miguel (right), a father and son team, keep the process moving. Miguel was particularly proud to have his picture taken.

More next time.

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