Thursday, July 4, 2013


Tres Piedras – Back-Story (3 stones)

My latest novel has been getting a lot of attention.  I suspect it is because it is Waaaaayyyyy out of my normal genre. 

I just finished this book. I couldn't put it down. This book kept me so excited to I couldn't put it down. A little graphic for me at times but it was needed to complete the story. Good book Robert, now I start UNTAMED.

This above review was written by a friend that went to high school with me.  I haven’t seen her since 1960. She’s one of the few that will post on my FB page.  Most readers won’t post a review.  Instead, they find my address on this blog and send me a private note.  Some even point out a typo or misspelled word.  (That hasn’t happened often since I discovered Melissa Gray, my new editor.) I get a dozen private emails (always positive) to every posted review on Amazon. It’s rewarding to receive so many positive comments; especially from old friends and associates. However, the private e-mails don’t advance my standing with Amazon.  Only multiple sales with positive reviews will increase one’s ranking. 

TRES PIEDRAS was inspired by my lady friend but the idea for the title and the overall story line was formulated in my mind while visiting an archeological site here in Panama.

Inspecting the tools of the pre-Colombians and then witnessing the current culture, it occurred to me that not much has changed in the cooking department.  In the larger towns and cities, the Panamanian ladies have mostly modern kitchens.  In the country and even the small towns, they still use open fires outside under a thatched roof ‘rancho’ or bohio if you prefer.  A stand made of concrete blocks or stones raised the fire pit to counter height.  It’s the only improvement they’ve made since man discovered fire.  Panamanian kitchens often are so sparse that it takes them two hours to prepare a simple meal and up to four hours for a multiple course dinner. Some only use the TRES PIEDRAS and open fires for special events or special dishes; like their version of the tamale.  Other folks like the employees on some of the farms and the indigenous on the reservations (Carmaca), have very little choice.  Their cooking occurs in the same fashion as it did thousands of years ago.


One of the reasons given by Panamanians is that cooking outside keeps their homes cooler.  The same reason they give for not having ovens; just 2-4 burner propane burners. So basically there is very little baking done in the more ‘traditional’ homes.  I personally don’t understand this problem.  My ancestors have been using outside ovens for centuries.  The Mexicans use ceramic ovens outside.  Woodstoves placed in these bohios would be so much more efficient.  They wouldn’t rust out if maintained correctly.  As an alternative, they could use a buried cast iron pan.  I have used the old fashioned “Dutch Ovens” for years.  I’m about to introduce the method to a few of my Panamanian friends.

My brother sent me some of my belongings he had stored in his basement.  One of them was a large Dutch oven. It was necessary to remove all the rust and take the unit back to almost bare metal.  Then I ‘seasoned’ it in a campfire, cleaned it again with a solution of Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.  Then it was baked for several hours.  I baked a loaf of bread in the unit a couple of days ago and a double batch today.




My next step is take the unit to my lady friend’s farm, start a campfire, dig a hole next to the fire and once the bread has risen in the Dutch oven, I’ll shovel some coals into a hole lined with river rock, lower the Dutch oven into the cavity, shovel more coals onto the lid and around the sides and cover the unit with a banana leaf.  Placing a layer of dirt on top of that will finalize the ‘cowboy oven’. TRES PIEDRAS – enhanced!

I’ll use this unit sparingly.  I have a first rate bread machine and a Crockpot for my normal day-to-day.

Over the years I’ve cooked everything imaginable in my ‘cowboy cook pot’. This is the original slow cooker.  Biscuits, bread, lamb stew, venison and elk roasts, beef stew & roasts and my favorite; cowboy chili. While fishing in Alaska, a similar in size Dutch oven without the tripod legs, resided on my diesel stove; It was cooking 24/7; crab, halibut, shrimp, salmon, ling cod, black cod, and even venison or moose stew once in a while.

This quite a segue from the back story of TRES PIEDRAS and yet it isn’t. Backward thinking is the primary reason we have so many wars in the world; the reason many cultures don’t advance and consequently become extinct.  Look at the Native American Indian.  They were introduced to the wheel by the Spaniards in the 1500's.  The never adopted it and continued to transverse the countryside with dogs and women packing their stuff.  Eventually they did adopt the horse as a means of transportation.  Then they let the horse pull a travois.

Having a horse pack some belongings is akin to moving the fire pit from the ground up to counter height.  A small advance but still really archaic thinking.  That’s the premise behind my novel.  TRES PIEDRAS thinking – in a modern romance. The action adventure of this novel is just my imagination embellishing my own personal experiences.
The boat trip from Oregon to Panama is a composite of several voyages on several different vessels plus one in particular.

  Years ago I’d met a guy on a dock in Anacortes, Washington who looking for a deckhand for his 46’ sailboat.  He needed to move it from Seattle to Newport, Oregon.  My big boat was in dry dock getting a new garber seam and some additional ironbark added to the hull. I had time to kill so I decided to join him in his adventure. It was a hoot and a half.  Neither of us were good sailors so when the weather and the sea got gnarly, we dropped the canvas and went to the auxiliary engine.

Over the years, this friend and I stayed in touch and each time he needed to make a passage, I was able to help him move his boat further and further south.  We finally ended up in Boca Chica, Panama, fifteen years later.    

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