Oran was able to take his resignation retraction letter by his boss’s office before he caught the morning plane back to 'Udhailiyah on Wednesday, September 22nd, 1976. With a new lease on life, I had a spring to my step as I went to the Post Office to mail Vicky's birthday card, then the Commissary, where even the shriveled up fruit and vegetables and Australian beef looked good to me for a change.

Oran called to say he was feeling much better as he had found out that Dick Lawton, the personnel man, had been working to help him. I think he felt before like no one was trying to help him.

I had called Sheila first to tell her the good news of our staying and she was thrilled. We had made plans to meet at the pool after lunch, but found it so windy we left early and just went to the Snack Bar for tea. Not even the wind could dispel my good feeling that day.

Oran drove home that evening. Word was getting around about what had happened, so Norm Wade came by, then the Kauls and the Steindorfs. All of our friends seemed pleased and we all went to the Dining Hall for shrimp to let them help us celebrate.

We awoke early Thursday in a happy, relaxed mood. It was amazing what a world of difference it made in the way we felt that the decision had been made. We went to the local "Dennys" for our usual breakfast and visited animatedly with the regulars there. Back home, we called other people to tell them we would be staying and made plans to call the kids with the news.

That evening we thought about going to a movie, but just decided to walk around camp instead, looking at the neat rows of houses, the recreation areas, the date palm trees and savor the thought that we would still be a part of all that.

We set the alarm before going to bed and got up at 3 a.m. to place our calls to the kids with the Arab overseas operator. That was going to be a difficult conversation, good and bad, happy and sad. We hoped they would understand.

The new moon was sighted by the muezzin that night, so it was the official end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, prayer, and good works. The five day holiday celebrating it, "Id Al-Fitr", started the next morning, Friday, September 24th, 1976.

Our call that we had placed to the kids came through at 9:30, and it took us a little while to explain the new situation, so by the time we got to the Dining Hall to eat breakfast, most everyone had gone already. But the Arabs working there were all very happy because Ramadan was over, so they were talkative and cutting up with us. It was fun.

Back at the apartment, we wrote letters to all our family, including the kids, to tell them we were staying and the details of what had transpired. We went to the pool for awhile with the Kauls after that to relax.

That evening we went to dinner at the bachelor portable of my Scottish bowling partner, Bob Howie, and his house mate, Robin. Sue and Frank Todd were there as well, and the Kauls came later for an Irish Coffee.

When we got home, we packed to go to 'Udhailiyah. Since we had thought we would be going home soon, Oran had agreed to work during the holidays so some of the other Americans could take a trip out of the Country. Besides, I had agreed to go down there with him again, as I had become very fond of it.

Saturday morning, September 25th, 1976, we left the house at 6 a.m. for our drive to 'Udhailiyah, but it was foggy and the guards wouldn't let us out of the main gate of Abqaiq. So we went back to the Dining Hall, had coffee with Harvey Pederson and some others who were stuck there, then back to our apartment until around 8 a.m., when the sun burned off the fog.

We got out the gate that time and arrived in 'Udhailiyah 1 and 3/4 hours later, checked in at that main gate and took our bags on up to Oran's rowhouse. Everyone was in an extra jovial mood because of the end of Ramadan, so we drove back to the 'Udhailiyah main gate to have tea and coffee and visit with the Arab guards there. They seemed especially pleased.

After that we drove on down to the Amine Plant to check on everything there. There were no camels at the watering trough, so we drove further south until we found our Arab friend Mohammed's tent. Not many of the family members were there as most were out in various areas with the grazing herds of camels and sheep. But we had coffee and tea with the ones who were there, gave the women some dresses we had bought in Al-Khobar, the children some gum and riyals, and took pictures. They seemed in a jovial mood as well, although I'm sure holidays weren't much different than any other day to them, although they did observe Ramadan.

We drove back to 'Udhailiyah Camp then, and went to dinner in the Cafeteria. The camp seemed practically deserted because of the holidays, and again, I was the only woman there.

Sunday, September 26th, 1976, Oran got up early, went to the office to check in, then came back to his house to take me to breakfast. Everything seemed in order so we left camp after that, driving south to check the East Flank operations. About half way down the row of water injection wells, we stopped at the Compressor Station to talk to Marvin Williams, the foreman on duty there. It was a lucky thing we did because we discovered, at the water well nearby, some Bedouin family members with their camels. The three women were very attractively dressed in their long dresses, black masks, and black gauze-like scarves covering their heads and shoulders. One particularly stood out with a long golden yellow dress, lots of gold jewelry, and the thinnest scarf I had ever seen on an Arab woman, either in the desert or in town. She must have been the new wife.

Colleen with Bedouin Women Colleen with Bedouin women helping with camels

The entire group seemed to be in a very good mood, so we couldn't resist visiting with them, and Oran got up enough nerve to ask them if I could ride one of their camels. They seemed delighted, had a camel kneel down to a sitting position, and started helping me to get into the saddle. Just about that time, the camel turned his head around toward me, so I stopped and jumped back a bit. The Arabs all laughed at that, but encouraged me to try again. So I managed to get into the saddle, hang on to the horns on the front and back, and cross my legs in front over the camel's back as the Arabs were instructing me to do, just before the camel started standing up.

Colleen Wilson riding a camel Colleen riding a Bedouin camel south of Udhailiyah

That was an experience, I can tell you. First you pitch forward, as he brings his hind legs up, so you had better hang on for dear life, then he straightens up completely and everything seems all right. One of the Arab men handed me a long, straight stick, gave some commands to the camel and he started ambling off. Then, I thought, "What do I do if he suddenly starts running off into the desert", so for a heart-stopping moment, I was afraid. But the Arab man was right along beside us giving the camel commands, and I got brave enough to gently tap the neck of the camel with the stick. So we just turned around in a large circle and ended up right back where we started. The women had been giving me instructions and encouragements as well, and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun. I know I was, after I realized there was really no danger.

Oran was taking movies of all of this. To dismount the process was just reversed, so I hung on for dear life again, when the camel pitched forward to fold his front legs under himself to sit down. I managed, somewhat ungracefully, to uncross my legs and get out of the saddle with no assistance. It seemed there was going to be some unexpected, delightful surprise every time we drove out into the desert, and I loved it. For every extra minute of time I was allowed to live in Saudi Arabia, I praised Allah.

After that excitement it seemed anticlimactic, but we drove on down to the end of the East Flank Road where the last water injection well was located, then cut across to the main central road on just a dirt track, almost getting lost. It was probably a foolish thing to do, as there could be very real dangers in the desert over there, but we felt so adventurous and safe. We drove on back to 'Udhailiyah, had lunch, then I went to the pool for awhile while Oran drove back to check on the Amine Plant.

That evening after dinner, we looked through the Recreation Hall, and read in the Library at the far end of that building. It had been another wonderful day for me in the 'Udhailiyah area.

The next morning, Monday, September 27th, 1976, Oran checked in at the office, then came back to pick me up so we could have breakfast before I flew back to Abqaiq. As there were no regular plane flights during those holidays, I was allowed to fly back on the helicopter. That was very different and exciting, and just a little bit scary, as the clear, front globe on the helicopter curved down under your feet, so when you looked down it was like there was no support beneath you. But it afforded superb viewing from the air of the Hofuf oasis area, Schribners Canyon and all the jabals and villages between 'Udhailiyah and Abqaiq. We landed at the heliport right inside Abqaiq camp, an interesting and smooth trip.

Mike Stead and Oran, Helicopter Mike Stead and Oran Wilson by helicopter; Abqaiq from the air.

Then it was back to the regular routine. I went to the Post Office, to Kathi's for coffee, checked the Adams house, unpacked, then went to bowl a makeup game at 3 o'clock with Bob Howie and the Manderschides.

Kathi came over to my house later, so we had some cheese and crackers, and a nice visit. She expressed an interest in going to 'Udhailiyah to do some of the things I had been doing there, but she did have her three small children to consider. An occasional trip there with all the other wives for a special function was all she could manage.

But one of the really good things that happened at the end of Ramadan was the pardon of Roy's "accidental crime" by the Saudi Government, as was customary in Saudi Arabia for a lot of prisoners at that time, a part of their good works and forgiveness. Before Ramadan, Roy had to go through a Saudi court trial and wait and wonder what would finally happen to him, so they had been going through their own private hell, just as we had.

Tuesday, September 28th, 1976, the Holidays were officially over. Jack Hays came by that morning, had coffee, and I told him we weren't leaving after all. He seemed really pleased. After he left, I met Sheila and Kathi at the pool for awhile.

Later, I finished and mailed my letter to Mother and Harvey telling them we would be staying and why. That had been difficult to compose, but she probably wasn't too surprised, as she knew I would want to stay over there if at all possible.

I prepared food all the next day for Oran's home coming for the weekend. We had invited Norm and Barbara Wade for a barbecue rib dinner Wednesday night, which we enjoyed, especially after he had worked all week in 'Udhailiyah.

Thursday night Sheila and Keith Kaul and Bob Howie came by for drinks and snacks before we went to the Mansour Camp Recreation Hall for a dance and performance by a group called "Oasis". It wasn't bad, but lacked the excitement of a bigger dance inside Abqaiq Camp.

Friday evening the Kauls had us over to see their film of our Sorority progressive dinner and dancing at Sharon and Axel Green’s. Oran seemed all right, but had to fly back to 'Udhailiyah Saturday, October 2nd, 1976.

When I went to the Post Office that morning we had received a letter from Sharon and Jim Morris. They had finally gotten moved and settled in Manama, Bahrain, where Jim would head the Santa Fe office there. They invited us to come for a visit soon.

After lunch, I went to see Kevin at the Travel Agents Office to cancel our trip home and met Sheila there, so we went to the Snack Bar for tea.

That evening, I played canasta at Flo Wilsons. We just had two tables that night and it was more enjoyable, as we got to visit more with everybody. Sharon Green, Mary Lou Love and I worked on a Sorority Service Project Sunday morning. When Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah that evening we went to the Dining Hall for supper. Kathi and Sandy came by our apartment later with a gift from Nepal and India from the Adams' Holiday trip there. We got a kick out of their family's attempt to ride an elephant.

The next day, I wrote cards to friends back home, then went to Sheila’s to work on my red and black long dresses. I would really need them now that we were staying.

That evening, after bowling in the mixed doubles league, I went to Greens, where I had my picture taken for Sorority by Axel.

Wednesday, October 6th, 1976, there were two reasons to celebrate. It was Vicky's 23rd birthday, and Pat and Guy Smyth’s 25th wedding anniversary. I couldn't be with Vicky that day, but I caught the 7:30 bus to Dhahran, then to Al-Khobar, and met Pat to shop. At prayer time we caught a taxi back to Dhahran and went to her sister and brother-in-law’s, Phyllis and Roy Boyd’s, for lunch. That had been a different and special thing to do before we had to catch the buses back to our camps.

Oran rode home from 'Udhailiyah with Jack Adams that afternoon, so he got back to Abqaiq shortly after I did. There was going to be another dance and performance that evening at the Golf Club House by a group called, "Explosion". So we got dressed up and went to Sheila and Keith Kaul’s to meet the others before going to that, which turned out to be different, too. For some reason we were all in a really crazy mood, feeling no pain, and having a really good time by the end of the evening. Oran and I rode home in the Adams’ pickup, with Sandy driving, no less. That was a real no, no, but none of us could care less at the time. We could have gotten in real trouble if security had seen us.

Even after a night like that, we woke up early the next morning and went to breakfast at the Dining Hall with Marge and Chris DeSantis, who had just gotten back off vacation. Later, the Adams came over to our house and we discussed the dance while having tea; we got some good laughs over what we had done.

That evening Oran helped Jack put up a lamp on their roof patio, and we made plans to grill steaks together the next night.

Friday morning, October 8th, 1976, started out with breakfast at the Dining Hall as usual, before we went to the pool for a couple of hours. Then we went to Jeanine and Jerry Kings to talk about their holiday trip and see their goodies and pictures from that. Back at the apartment, we got a call from Kathi inviting us over to have a drink and help lay the new rug they had just gotten from an identical guildway in Dhahran. They had called others too, so by the time we arrived the Kauls, Kings, and Greens were already there helping to lay the rugs, and trying to get them to fit in the different rooms. The party was already under way. While things continued, there was talk about everybody pooling what food they had for an evening meal. Since we had planned to cook with the Adams, we got them, then took our food to add to the others. The rug laying had gone well, surprisingly, so there was more celebrating, eating, dancing, general cutting up, picture taking, and lying around on the rug, as the furniture was in disarray, anyway. Everyone was really relaxed and had a wonderful time. It was the best, most spontaneous gathering of our group we had ever had over there yet, and Oran and I hoped there were going to be a lot more things just like it.

After that, we all called it the infamous rug laying party, and we still talk about it today when any of us get together. If there had been more weekends like the one we just had in Arabia, Oran might not have been so anxious to leave. Don't know how they managed after the rug laying party the night before, but Oran and the other foremen flew back to 'Udhailiyah Saturday morning.

When I could finally drag myself out of bed, I went by the Housing Office to get the plans for the new townhouses that Aramco planned to build as part of their new 5 year expansion plan. Since we were going to be staying for awhile longer, we just might end up being eligible for one of them, you never could tell. Anyway, everyone was excited, and grading work had already been started on some, plus the other 9 holes of the Golf Course along the perimeter fence on the west side of camp. The Construction Camp outside Abqaiq on the main road to Dhahran just past Madinat was already well under way and partially occupied. That would house most non-Aramco Construction Companies, some of their families, and a school for their children. There would also be business offices, recreation facilities, and a dining hall.

On Monday morning I went to Sheila’s for coffee and to discuss, with the rest of the girls, a yard sale we were planning to have at Kathi's and a going away party for Harvey Pederson. He was the only original 'Udhailiyah foreman of the Water Injection Project whose wife had never joined him in Arabia. In fact, none of us really knew much about his previous life, not even the Kauls, who were from Canada, as well.

That afternoon, Ken Casparis called to say that since we weren't leaving, I could be Bowling Association Secretary/Treasurer for the new season after all. That was something I wasn't looking forward to, and had hoped they had found someone else already. It would require mostly collecting money from all the various leagues and depositing it in their special account at the Cash Office. It shouldn't be that much work and I would have the time to do it, so I accepted.

Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah that evening, Bob Howie came by, and we all went to the Adams. Then Bob and I went to bowl in our mixed couples league at 7 o'clock. It was raining when we finished, so we took a taxi back to the Adams to have the steak dinner they had saved for us.

Tuesday morning, October 12th, 1976, Marge Williams came by with a cake she had made for Kathi's birthday. We met Sheila and Sandy in front of the Recreation Center, walked to Kathi's and surprised her. We were the surprised ones when she told us that the next day was her birthday, but we had the cake and coffee anyway. Jack and Marvin joined us later.

After lunch, I packed and caught the 4 o'clock plane to 'Udhailiyah with the Adams. We went to John Cochrane’s for drinks and food with the performers we had seen in Abqaiq the week before, "Explosion". They were the friendliest group, so far. We went to watch them perform at the usual place by the pool, then back to John's for more drinks and food. We were beginning to feel really close to all the performers who were coming to Arabia at that time, as we were seeing them all at more than one camp and at the parties, as well. Sometimes we flew with them on the planes between the camps, too.

Like the next morning. I didn't stay in 'Udhailiyah any longer that trip, but flew on back to Abqaiq on the 7 o'clock plane with the others. Oran drove in later that day, early enough for us to go to the pool for awhile, even though it was cloudy. Then we met the Kings, Kauls, and Adams at the Dining Hall for our Wednesday shrimp dinner. The Steindorfs had come by our house on Kathi's "real" birthday, but they couldn't join the rest of us for dinner. The entire evening was a very enjoyable get together, and Oran and I both agreed that we would like to do that every week.

The rest of that weekend we stayed busy as well, with interesting social functions with various friends. Thursday, we started out with breakfast at the Dining Hall, where we saw Patty York, the Adams, and Harvey Pederson.

That evening at the Steindorfs, we had the planned going away party for Harvey. Besides all the foremen and wives, there were others he had worked with from the department. Everyone brought some party food items, and although it was rather a formal affair, compared to the other foremen's get-togethers, it was nice.

We had breakfast at the Dining Hall again Friday morning with Marge and Chris DeSantis. That afternoon there was a Sorority Tea and Ritual of Jewels Ceremony for four new members. Later I went to a meeting of the Bowling Association Officers at Ken Casparis'. It had been another full, but nice weekend.

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