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Las Delicias

Las Delicias was a 40-acre mountain coffee farm, acquired by Grandpa Turner (Donald D. Turner) in the 1930’s as a campus for a Bible Institute, the Instituto Bíblico Las Delicias (IBLD). It is in the prefecture of Caripe del Guácharo, in the state of Monagas, Venezuela. I (David) and most of my brothers and sisters were born there, and we pretty much all grew up there. To my mind, there can be few places this side of Paradise more perfect to live in.

Las Delicias: The Big House
(Courtesy Harry and Alma Bascom)

This is a reproduction of a painting done by Aunt Lelia Bascom. The old Big House, one of two large “mud-and-wattle” structures with tin roofs, was the main building on the Las Delicias campus for many years. The mountain behind it (south and a bit west?) is El Perú, perhaps so called because its pyramidical shape made somebody think of the Incas. It lies across the Caripe valley (the town of Caripe is down and to the right). The view is from near the Girls’ Dorm, a.k.a. Los Pinos, which was built in the late 1940’s, and which is where I and my brother Fred (at least) were born.

I think this must be Danny; assuming he is about two this would be in 1950 or 51. He is on one of the old tractors at Las Delicias. The mountain in the background was called the “Wedding Cake” because of its layered shape. We kids used to love to climb it. We could run up it fairly quickly, once we were teenagers, and you'd get a really nice, even exhilarating, view from the top. The tractor is in the field north of the “Rat-run”, and the house in the background is the smaller section of the Big House. I remember the two mango trees from when they were twice that size or more, and spent many happy hours in them. The callena (hibiscus) bushes to the right in the picture are part of some very early memories of mine.

Mom (Alegría Turner, a.k.a. Joy and Grandma Tuggy) joined her parents (Grandpa and Grandma Turner) at Las Delicias in the mid-forties, and when the war ended, Dad (Alfred Tuggy, a.k.a. Grandpa Tuggy) married her there, and they settled down there. Dad’s parents (Harold and Dauphine Tuggy) were also there by that time, and about 1948 or 49 the Turners moved to Quito, Ecuador, to work with HCJB. Mom and Dad were (mostly) at Las Delicias until about 1969, and Grandpa and Grandma Tuggy until Grandpa’s death in 1970, with Grandma staying on for another ten years or so after that.

Las Delicias is at 1000 m. (3300 ft.) elevation, in the coastal mountains of eastern Venezuela. The highest peaks of the Cordillera de Caripe get up near 9,000 feet (2595 m. for Cerro Turumiquire and 2430 m. for Cerro Negro).

Caripe is about 50 miles as the crow flies from the ocean, but gets a fair bit of moisture from the ocean: we had lovely rains, usually blowing up the Caripe River valley from the Golfo de Paria past Caripito. It is about 10° north of the equator, which means that the days are nearly the same length year round, and when you combine that with our altitude and with cloud cover whenever it would try to get hot, the temperature was wonderfully pleasant. It was rare that one would want a sweater, and I don't think the temperature ever got above 90° F. or so. (Down in the llanos or on the coast was a very different story, I can assure you!) The mountains were covered with coffee plantations, and big trees, many of them bucares sixty or seventy feet tall, shaded the bushes. Bucares and a good many other kinds of Venezuelan trees flower in March or so (if I remember right!)--the bucares are a bright orange. The soil of Caripe is extraordinary; even up in the mountains at Las Delicias we had rich black topsoil over a meter thick in many places.

Caripe Valley as painted by Joy Turner Tuggy
Caripe Valley as seen from Las Delicias, looking eastward
Joy Turner Tuggy
Courtesy of Herman and Rubylene Musgrove

Mom Tuggy made this painting for Uncle Herman and Aunt Rubylene Musgrove about 1960. The Musgroves would come up from Caripito to spend Christmas with us, and this was Mom‘s Christmas gift to them one year. As of Christmas 2005 they still have this picture hanging on the wall in their Texas home. The view is of the eastern end of the Caripe valley, looking towards Teresén.

Grandpa Turner planted fruit trees all over the Las Delicias campus. There were dozens of wonderful big mango trees, dozens if not hundreds of orange trees, including navel oranges juice oranges, an enormous grapefruit tree, and horribly sour cajera oranges (good for making marmalade and shampoos), catuche (guanábana) and chirimoya trees, dozens of different kinds of banana trees including plátanos (plantains), nísperos (loquats), lechosas (papayas), puma rosa and puma laca, and others. Several people tried apples and peaches, but the weather never got cold enough for them to do well. We also had several varieties of pine trees growing at different places.

We kids used to live for weeks at a time up in the mango trees in season, stripping the peelings off with our teeth and gorging ourselves on the delicious flesh. We’d collect mangos for the Bible Institute dining room (Aunt Minnie Lewis would pay us a locha —12½ céntimos— a dozen, until we got so efficient she lowered the price to a centavo —5 céntimos— a dozen.) We’d do the same in the níspero trees in the níspero season, and oranges seemed to be coming ripe almost all year long. We would collect several hundred oranges in varying stages of decomposition off the ground, build two forts on opposite sides of a field, give each side 50 pieces of ammo, pile the rest in the middle, half-way between the two forts, and start a war. If you ran out of ammo all you had to do was run into the middle of the field, getting plastered as you did so, and get more.

We got our water from the Pabellón, a stream running down the mountainside across a small valley, a couple of kilometers away from the LD campus. We used to go often to the Pabellón, to enjoy the shade of the bucares and soak in the water. A couple of places it was even deep enough that you could float it in, or almost swim! We used to dam up the biggest pool to try to get it a little deeper. From well upstream, where a spring sprang up, water was collected and fed by a pipe to the pumping station which was in the hollow some distance below, where you started climbing back up towards the shop. The pump pushed water into a pressurizing tank and then on up the hill to various tanks which fed the plumbing in the houses of the IBLD campus. Dad Tuggy, as far as I know, designed the system, and certainly was the main person maintaining and improving it for a good many years.


 The OA was at Las Delicias.


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