The Lady and the Tigers

Remembering Harvey Greenlaw

[Out of the blue, I received this email from Jimmy Smith. Ain't the internet grand? It serves to nail down the time when Harvey lived in Baja California--1954, with likely a year or two on either side. Soon after, he washed up in Compestela on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he died in 1982.(Either Mr. Smith or Mr. Biedebach is mistaken on that score.) He's buried in an unmarked grave in the Compestela churchyard. -- Daniel Ford]

Dear Mr. Daniel Ford,

First off, I would like to state that your web site has furnished me much entertainment and edification as I am probably Harvey Kenneth Greenlaw's number one fan.

Harvey Greenlaw Harvey Greenlaw and I were associated in various schemes here in Baja California until his death which occurred in late 1974 or 1975 in Compestello or Tepic Nayarite. David Deal saw Harvey in a wheelchair there in Compestello in November 1974. Dick Biedebach went to look him up sometime in the spring of 1975 and was told that our colonel was dead.

I never knew Olga but have been in love with her since I first read her book in 1953. Your impeccable research on her early life has filled in many blanks.

Your history of Harvey, while out of phase with his own reminiscences, I also believe. It certainly smears egg on my face when you read the chapter on the Flying Tigers in my book.

Below, please find a column [I wrote] about this association as it appeared in Cabo Life Magazine.


Col. Harvey Greenlaw's digs up in El Arco were a bit primitive but one of the most fascinating places on the whole peninsula of Baja California. Aside from the colonel's spellbinding stories about his experiences as commander of the Flying Tigers in China, there was a never-ending procession of improbable characters passing through on various and sundry missions. I spent most of the spring of 1954 there.

Author McCarthy dropped in for a night's lodging. He was camped out with a crew at Scammon's Lagoon while implementing a salt harvesting operation for Daniel K. Ludwig.

Gil Powell (el Leonero) spent several nights with his sextant. He shot the stars to establish the location of the 28th parallel so the new salt works at Guerrero Negro would know whether their taxes would be paid in B.C.N. or B.C.S.

Bud and Linda Dugo passed en route to La Paz. They were mounted on Harley Davidson Motorcycles. An account of their trip was later published in a motorcycling magazine.

The painter John W Hilton painted a mural on Harvey's wall. He was working on a book (published by Dawson's Book Shop in Los Angeles, titled; HARDLY ANY FENCES) commissioned by the governor of Baja Norte.

Lew Britton and Dr. Charles McKinnon flew in from Santa Rosalia. They were investors in Harvey's scheme to re-open the old Harding gold mine there at El Arco. They loaded Harvey up on tequila and he went running naked through a cholla patch. When queried as to his motivations he reported that it seemed a magnificent idea at the time.

Peter Gerhard and Howard Gulick spent a couple of days with us. They were doing research for a guidebook that later became the bible for Baja California travelers.

Mike and Walter McMahan traveled in the much-lauded BURRITA. They left a copy of Hancock's BAJA CALIFORNIA which was an account of their trip in 1950. They didn't mention it but they, too were working on another book; BAJA ADVENTURES.

One morning the colonel fixed me with an accusing eye and stated, "Well, Jim, like every one who passes here, I suppose you'll write a book about the goddamned place."

"Perhaps, someday when I'm qualified." I replied.

My qualifications are still in doubt but coincidentally my 75th year approaches with alarming rapidity. If I'm going to do it, it's now or never!

THE GRINNING GARGOYLE SPILLS THE BEANS AND OTHER YARNS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA is with the printer as this is written. Old pal Dave (Big) Deal did the illustrations. Katie Landsdown edited. Baja Source is publishing jointly with Richard Weaver. If you have read this column for the past five years, you've read over half of it.

A boozy book signing is planned at Galeria de Bassi shortly after it is moved into their new location at the new mall. Watch this column for the dates.

Jimmy Smith
Los Barriles, Baja California, Mexico

Mr Smith's book and that by the painter John W. Hilton were eventually published but are now available only from booksellers as vendors on Amazon and Abebooks. Indeed, Mr Hilton's typescript, including many unpublished chapters, is available at the Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California / San Diego.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

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