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A Long Line of Walters title image

by Walter Pentland IV

Walter Sr. and Walter Jr. at Cinco Minas 1930

Walter Sr. and Walter Jr. pose together in front of the bull gear for double drum hoist at Cinco Minas, 1930

As for the first Walter, he came from a long line of Pentlands who, in turn, came from the area of the Pentland Hills in far northern Scotland across the Pentland Firth from the Orkney Isles. The first mention of a Pentland, as far as family research goes, is Baron Alexander Pentland, who lost his title in 1513. No one has any idea why. One of his descendants moved to Canada in the eighteenth century, settling eventually in Peterborough, Ontario. In the 1850's, David Pentland was a highly successful dentist in Peterborough, but felt himself stagnating. He uprooted his family and relocated to Prescott, Arizona. Some years later, David's son, Walter, took an active interest in railroad engineering. David was not pleased. Several of his other sons had gone into the railroad business, and he found the entire industry more than a little plebeian. So, David suggested his son that he might find something more appropriate in which to invest his efforts. Walter then became interested in mining, and stayed with it for the rest of his life. His mining career was not the sweat, grime, and pick kind. It was the engineering, neckties, and office kind. His career took him to México, and then all over México. He went to Zacatecas (sa-ka-TE-kas), he meandered through Aguascalientes (a-was-ka-LYEN-tes), he set up shop in Jalisco (ha-LEE-sco), he did business in Nayarit (na-ya-REET), he mined in Sinaloa (see-na-LO-a), and even worked a few mines in Sonora once or twice. During his travels, he met an Englishwoman named Charlotte Dake King in México City. They married and had two children, Edith in 1910, and Walter, Jr. in 1912. In 1919, Charlotte died, and Walter could not feasibly truck his two children from mining camp to mining camp which, in any event, were no place for children, and certainly not for well-brought-up children. So he sent them to boarding schools, and arranged for them to stay with relatives during summers and holidays. Reasonably enough, Edith and Walter grew to value any "quality time" they could spend with their father.

In 1903 or 1904, Walter Sr. had visited Caborca on business regarding the Juárez Mine. He was there to test some ore samples from the property to determine if there was gold or antimony or silver or anything interesting, and if it was there in a large enough quantity to be worth looking for. He met Manuel Salcido Cesma in the same way that the French counts met Don Manuel. He was a prominent local businessman and the local assayer. Although Walter was only in town for a few months, he and Don Manuel got along very well. They saw a great deal of each other before Walter's mining interests elsewhere called him to parts unknown. In early 1929, Walter landed back in Caborca, fresh from the Amajac Mine in Nayarit. Even though it had been nearly a quarter of a century, Don Manuel remembered him well and fondly and they renewed their friendship very quickly. It was the following summer that he brought his son down from Phoenix. This particular summer was to leave a lasting impression on Walter, Jr. Even as a small boy living in Guadalajara in 1915, he had never seen very much of his father. He had been away at this mine or that one, one state or another. Even his mother's death hadn't changed his father's absence. During the next decade or so, his father would show up for a few days every year or two at the home of whichever relative was housing his children.

It wasn't until Walter Jr. was eighteen that the invitation was extended to visit his father at the worksite. He was to spend a whole summer in Mexico, just outside Caborca. The Walters, father and son, talked for hours. He learned mining and lessons in adulthood and his first steps in Spanish. In all of the schools he had been in, he had been instructed in Latin, whose complexities left him feeling a sort of bland annoyance, and French, whose pedantry left him with the most bilious revulsion, but at no point in his education was he instructed in Spanish. This was not coincidental. Indeed, given that Walter Sr. had spent all of his son's life in a country that spoke it almost exclusively, one might have expected Walter Jr. to receive at least cursory instruction. Especially, if there was the remotest possibility that he might be called upon to succeed him. And, as a matter of record, Walter Jr. had asked to learn it more than once, particularly if it would supplant French. No luck. Walter, Sr. himself had intervened in this matter, and informed the successive schools in question that his son was not to be taught Spanish.

This course of action was finally explained many years later, during the summer visit, when he mentioned to his father early in his visit that he would like to take courses in Spanish when he returned to Phoenix; his father had summarily dismissed the idea. Walter Sr. wholeheartedly approved of his son learning Spanish, but he would learn it here, at the mine, the way people really spoke. There would be no stilted, fussy, artificial Spanish coming out of his son. So, for the next three months Walter Jr. worked as a common laborer, doing the same work and earning the same pay as the lowliest stratum of camp life, learning mining and Spanish at the same time. Seventy years later, he would still occasionally apologize for his Spanish, saying that he'd learn to speak it in a mine shaft.

July 2002

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