Friday, April 30, 2010

Los Caracaras

South Texas is an exceptional part of the State, and of the USA, for that matter. The same can be said about any corner of Texas, but around here the wildlife is incredibly diverse and abundant. This remote brush country hasn't been scarred too badly by the near non-existent urban sprawl. Its vast expanses of mesquite, chaparral and prickly pear have yet to be humbled by the rough hand of man.

Visiting with Mom at the Ranch once, we were sitting out on the porch when a high-pitched screech broke the stillness of the country. The call was followed by what sounded like "quick-quick-quick-quick-querrr," uttered in short order; the last "querrr" fading away. This call was repeated many times. I tried to localize the sound and then my eyes locked on a pair of caracaras perched high atop a utility pole. Caracars are falcons and the rolling plains of South Texas are probably the northernmost reach of their habitat.

Late in the evening is always a good time to be at the ranch this time of year. There is little to prevent clear observation of sights, sounds, or smells. The senses are unbridled at the ranch. Except for limited aircraft traffic and the occasional truck or car zipping by on Highway 339, the only sounds are the call of birds and the soft whisper of the breeze through the wispy leaves of the mesquites. My observation point is the comfort of my mom's porch, sitting on the same metal chair whose age I can only guess.

I heard another set of calls from the caliche driveway leading to the house from the cattleguard off the highway. Two more caracaras were strutting around each other like chickens on the road. Back and forth, from the pole to the road, the pair called to each other. I don't pretend to have anywhere near the knowledge of an ornithologist, but I determined this to be serious communication between the fowl. I found it fascinating. How many people, I thought to myself, spend their hard-earned money to find an opportunity like this? How many will dole out their vacation dollars to find solitude in the country to witness wildlife up close? I was getting it for nothing.
I've come to learn that caracaras are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and that Mexicans gave this falcon the distinction of being their country's national bird. It is certain that few people give a flip, but I found it interesting and I will always enjoy sitting out here. It's very relaxing. The soul is soothed and comforted. Perhaps not to the extent that cradling an infant lovingly close to your heart does or bringing a tiny furry kitten up against your cheek and stroking its back, but it comes close. The pueblito, Benavides, exists as a tiny island in this sea of natural diversity. Oddly, too few who carve out a living here have an appreciation for their good fortune.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dime con quién andas...

Walking into Simon's backyard Thursday evening to fraternize with his cohorts was as easy as slipping into an old pair of slippers. It was simply comfortable. For months Nono had been aware of this regular convergence of conversation, barbecued meats, beer and testosterone by little more than its reputation. After work today he drove an hour-and-a-half west to see for himself and he was not disappointed.

After his initiation (a baptism of fire touring Simon's vast collection of every conceivable brand of soda can ever produced), Simon, the Lord of the "I COME HERE TO RELAX" Manor, bestowed Nono with a full membership by presenting him The Official Stainless Steel Hobo Tool. Then Simon put him to work. Membership came with a price and a liberal load of calories in return.

Dime con quién andas, Nono.., y te diré quién eres. Simon, Nono and the rest are exceptionally fine human beings. Como siempre, todos pasaron un buen tiempo. With the caliche-dusted pueblito fading in the rear view mirror, Nono, alone with his thoughts, settled more comfortably into the leather of his driver's seat. It would be a pleasant drive east and home.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Great Crippler

Once he's clocked out for the day the small man doesn't hesitate for one minute. His Nikes are on the floorboard behind the seat of his pickup and the school's track field is only two minutes away. For life's sake.., his.., a fast-paced thirty-minute walk awaits. Recovery is the name of this game. He is walking daily in the hope of rebounding from the crippling effects to his body brought on by an excessive consumption of breakfast tacos for the last 20 years.

When he exchanged wedding vows with his bride 35 years before, he was a spare 145 pounds. Six weeks ago the scale in the doctor's office registered a suicidal 200. A man built that close to the ground ought never to have let the pounds pile so heavily on his frame.

He would walk this afternoon... and the next... and the next... and the next; religiously. Undoubtedly, the small man had experienced a life-changing epiphany. The days were numbered for him. He was closer to the end than he was to the beginning. Good health would no longer be taken for granted. It would be work now; a daily task. Vowing that he would not fall victim to stroke or heart attack in the time left to him, he turned his back on those unbelievably tasty taquitos as though they were as repulsive as the snake-crowned figure of the mythical Medusa. He would not be crippled.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Time, Another Youth

A few years ago my wife's aunt was helping plan a reunion of her high school's graduating class of 1957. She handed me four yearbooks and asked if I could "turn" them into a DVD to show the survivors. The pictures speak for themselves. It was another time, another youth..., another pueblito.


The Benavides High School Class of 1957

Monday, April 26, 2010

The SMART Man

He's a 250-pound man being pushed along by three cylinders producing 70 horses down the highway at 70 miles an hour in a 1600 pound car only eight feet long and not wider than he is tall. He's a SMART man.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Drinking Problem

What adult beverage loving man would spend a nickle on a bottle of belly wash labeled Bud Light Lime and still call himself a beer drinker? This swill is little more than watered-down girly-beer Bud Light with a twist of artificial lime flavor. It was embarrassing to see this empty bottle laying in the middle of the half-mile caliche strip called La Mota Street. This not the first time evidence of poor drinking choices has been found carelessly discarded. It means some misguided men in this pueblito have been pathetically in the habit of throwing away good money after bad. On occasion, cans of that god-awful Natural Light piss have been found along roadways. Does anyone drink real beer around here? We have a serious drinking problem in this town if folks are guzzling down flavored water that produces a one-inch head of beer and fades quicker than the next burp.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

They're Back

Who can say whether turkey vultures smell death or not, but when they perch ominously on a fence post, a windmill, a tree, or circle lazily high against a bright sky, it can't be a good sign. Death has struck somewhere near.

A little over three years ago turkey vultures took residence on one of the two water towers in town. The one near my place wasn't engineered for roosting birds of any size or description, so the vultures preferred the newer tower. Those magnificent scavengers made the tower their headquarters for many weeks. It seemed as if they knew something we in the pueblito didn't and they were just waiting it out. This afternoon it was déjà vu all over again. They're back.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A More Scholarly Pueblito

A friend was emptying his boyhood home a few months ago. The house had been sold and I was part of the volunteer crew that helped with the packing. A lot of old stuff found its way to the growing pile of trash by the street curb. Of course, every article was examined for potential value before being discarded. In the process, I spotted something of interest. It was a xeroxed copy of The Benavides Scholar, the high school newsletter. It was the April-May 1933 edition; 42 pages of a peak into the pueblito's past. My friend generously agreed to part with it. Click HERE to view.

After reading, one comes away with the impression that the community and its schools enjoyed a more literate and scholarly environment than what calls itself Benavides today. Having been born twenty years after this publication, I could be mistaken. I wasn't there.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Free Enterprise

If you're gonna live miserably you may as well be happy doing it. Eight-liner machines are catching up in number to the collection of pot holes in the pueblito's caliche streets. Free enterprise is reigning strong with the law of supply and demand in play. Both the producers and consumers are smiling. At last count there were four eight-liner establishments in this poor and miserable town, with a fifth on the way. Eight-liners, which look and play just like slot machines, are only legal when played for amusement. If that's the case some folks in Benavides must be the most amused in South Texas.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Missing School

A grandmother was walking her granddaughter to the elementary school this morning. In the pueblito it is no longer common to see a kid walking to school. I've seen kids who live one block from the school's front door dropped off by mom or dad in the family car or truck. Walking must be embarrassing. The look on the grandmother's face as she walked alongside the little girl was one of great hope. I kid not. I could imagine her thinking,"Get a good education, mijita. Learn all you can to help make a better life for yourself." I was reminded of the effort and encouragement my parents gave us to take school seriously.

Gloria, my big sister, wrote this.
---
My father had a sixth grade education. His desire, like most fathers, was that his children succeed. He would say, “No quiero que trabajen duro.” (I don’t want you to work hard.) I don’t believe that he meant that he did not want us to work hard at any task that crossed our path. We learned excellent work ethics by his example. What he meant was that he didn’t want us to work as laborers. Education for his children was the means by which he was assured we would succeed. We seldom missed school unless we were very ill. Our dad adhered to the postman’s creed… neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail…will keep my children from school… if I can help it!

Our house was three miles from the School bus pick up point on the highway leading to Benavides. There was, and still is, a deep creek, the Aqua Poquita, between the house and the highway. Our dad was not a meteorologist, but he somehow always KNEW when the weather was going to bring heavy rains. This would be a rain that would flood the creek and not allow any vehicle to cross over and would prevent us from going to school. My dad was prepared for this situation. He ran a cable from one side of the creek to the other over a 6-inch-wide gas pipeline. He would park his work truck on the highway side of the creek before the weather changed. When the creek did flood, he would drive us to the creek, tightly strap us to himself, take hold of the cable with his hands, and slowly and carefully walk us one at a time to the other side of the creek where the truck was waiting to take us to the bus stop. And by the way, our books got across too. Dangerous you say…I don’t ever remember being afraid. As a child I always felt secure and safe with the decisions Dad made on our behalf.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Just Want to Pump Gas

"Tara Reid pulls the plug on her wedding plans." Who cares? I just want to pump gas. Bright and obtrusive, the Gas Station TV Network tells me things no one needs to know. I just want to pump some damn gas. Worse still, there is no off switch. At the very least there ought to be a mute button. I don't mind looking a Tara Reid or any pretty girl on TV, but I just want to fill my tank when I pull up to the pump.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Comfort of Former Days

What is it about the conversation of days long gone that gives some of us a feeling of comfort and solace? What have we lost as adults that the recollections of our more innocent days give us a sense of tranquility? As long as we do not dwell on them in an inordinate fashion, what is the harm? Still, it is nice to recall the goodness of those days, almost pining away for people, places and events lost to time. We almost grieve.

Alfred Bunn, a failed English theater manager over a hundred and fifty years ago, put it very nicely when he wrote,
The light of other days is faded,
And all their glories past;
For grief with heavy wing hath shaded,
The hopes too bright to last.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tokyo 東京

These short legs have walked along the streets of a few great cities in their time -- on four continents. Not too long ago they were in Tokyo, a wonderful city. When and if the end comes to this troubled world it would please me to no end to see Tokyo spared. I never experienced a more orderly and clean city populated by an equally orderly and clean people.

Horrifically fire-bombed to near total destruction during World War II, it is a miracle of perseverance that this city rebuilt itself into the bustling center of world commerce and human vitality that it is today. On this date in 1942 General Jimmy Doolittle led the first air strike by the United States on Japan.

Tokyo is beautiful today -- the brightest jewel of the Far East. I hope you visit her one day.

On the other hand, don't be in any kind of hurry to visit Benavides. Unlike Tokyo, it has not risen from the ashes like the fabled Phoenix. Rather, it is as if Doolittle was dropping bombs on the pueblito everyday. Ten inches of rain in the last week has taken a great toll on the caliche streets.

On a positive note there is a new 8-liner operation getting set to open in the middle of an old downtown block that hasn't seen life since the days of polyester shirts. That's a good thing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

El Rio San Antonio

On two previous visits the boy had been denied a cruise on the river aboard the 30-foot tourist barges. He would not be disappointed a third time. His eyes were bright and his smile wide when he set foot on the flat-bottomed boat about to cruise el Rio San Antonio.

video
"How deep is the water?" he asks.

Four or five feet I tell him. He asks questions all the time and of everything. That's good. Inquisitiveness is good at his age. His brain is a sponge right now that retains a lot of what it absorbs. Every day is one of discovery. The innocence is enviable.

Slowly, the barge pushes down the river with thirty souls and the boy aboard. To eyes accustomed to the scrub brush of South Texas the old trees along the river bank look like California redwoods to the boy, and he says as much. He's a good listener, too, following the pilot's scripted narrative of history and trivia. His face turns to the gargoyles high on the Smith-Young Tower. Barn swallow nests under the Commerce Street bridge are especially fascinating to him. They're made of mud. He's also amazed at the ducks floating past him. They are not skittish in the least. Evan's eyes lock on the tree growing out of a wall outside a riverside bar. The pilot explains how the seed for the tree was deposited in the wall during a flood. The boy notices barges being prepared with tables, chairs and dinnerware. Some are already cruising past with musicians aboard serenading people who are eating, drinking and laughing.

Turning to me he says, "I want to go on one of those next time." Mentally, I make a note of it. We will.

The river cruise is everything the boy had imagined it would be. He is not disappointed, nor am I.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Living Chance

For the young, the old and the in between, the odds of survival in the pueblito will improve in the coming days. Ambulance service is returning to Benavides. Soon there will be a living chance in this remote place. The faithful in the population have been burning the right kind of candles because they have been very fortunate in the years since the services' absence.

Like a little mouse the nervous apprehension has always been there in the back of everyone's mind. "What if a call for help goes out and no one can come?" The ambulance services in Freer, 24 miles away, and San Diego, 16 miles up the road have their own people to ward over. The pueblito has indeed been very blessed. No life has been lost because help never came to this brushy isolation.

The blue metal building taking shape on the corner of Highway 359 and Railroad Avenue will offer much needed comfort. Godspeed to this new enterprise.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

South Texas Manna

Once a week the clean white panel truck delivers slow death right to the pueblitero's doorstep. The driver, a thin young fellow with a small mustache and pale complexion, parks and walks to the rear of the van where he swings open the doors. The inside is stocked with dozens of trays stacked high with packaged flour tortillas. Already cooked, soft and lightly toasted, they are a tempting and delicious mouth-watering delicacy. In South Texas they are as good as manna from heaven, only they're slowly killing the population.



Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Song of a Million Ranas

It is the biggest concert of the year in Duval County. Not even the rumble of the passing train nor the blast of its horn can drown out the song of a million ranas croaking on the beds of mud in and away from the pueblito. It is a sound that has to be heard to be believed. They have us corraled on all sides sounding off a symphony of nocturnal croaks and clicks.

This evening, the neighbor's dogs, animals that had know only drought conditions since the day they were born, were terrified; barking into the night air at the vociferous chorus of frogs whose source had laid buried, dormant in the once dry soil. The hounds' ears had never before heard such an unworldly sound. Torrential rains alien to the dogs' experiences had coaxed the toads to the surface. They sang the same song all night long and the dogs finally gave up trying to stave off the terrifying sound coming from the wet darkness.

Supposedly, it is the male of the species that produces the calls in order to attract the females. They all must have got lucky because the machos were quiet by morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bajo Un Aguacero

To think, a year ago the ground was burnt bare by drought.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Long Time Ago

When I was his high school teacher twenty-five years ago, Melecio towered over everyone in class . Vertically, nothing has changed since, except that he is a 41 year-old man now. Damn! I was at Walmart to buy a mirror but changed my mind after running into him. A thousand years ago in high school I never pictured a day when I would bump into a former student 41 years of age. Back then we could not imagine lasting that long.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Working With Weights

Each fist-sized chunk of crushed caliche averaged about a pound in weight. Fill up six wheelbarrow loads of the aggregate with your bare hands and you've quite a workout. That's important. Benavides, Texas has no athletic club offering memberships to the puebliteros and the nearest workout facility is a half-hour drive away. It is just as well that there is no club. That costs money y yo soy poco apretado.

Today was a Sunday and some form of physical workout was needed to get the heart working. The wheelbarrow was handy and the work needed to get done and there were no excuses. A half-block away the rocks were free for the taking off a large pile and the rut cut out by the torrent that runs between the dirt-packed drive and the formerly paved La Motta Street needed filling. It was an excellent workout; lift, fill, push, haul, dump, lift, fill, push, haul, dump. There was some benefit to the muscle tone and underneath our vehicle's wheels their access to the street will be minus a hard jolt coming in and going out. The rut is no more.

It would have been preferable to call "the city" to take care of it, but there isn't "the city" to call. Except for the municipality's spotty trash pick-up service, it's every man for himself around here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

CRUDE

The ground water is bad, the small communities sitting on fabulously rich oilfields have little to show for decades of exploitation, and the people are sick with cancers. Sounds like rural South Texas, but it's Ecuador.

The people who live in the remote jungle of Ecuador are suing the oil giant Chevron. They claim that reckless oil exploration poisoned them, their water, their animals and their lives.

Elizabeth Burns (RanchoLosMalulos.com) is fighting the same battle in the remote brush country of South Texas. She recommended this award-winning documentary to me and I am recommending to anyone who doesn't want to live with their head buried in the sand. CRUDE is the title of the movie.



Order it from Amazon.
Click HERE.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Star is Born

Rudy, our jack-of-all-trades handyman at work, is going to be in the movies. Four years ago New York-based writer/director Amy Wendel watched a CBS 60 Minutes segment about San Diego, Texas losing a couple of young men in the Iraq War in the span of eleven months. The story drew her attention to this area. The movie is titled "Benavides Born." The plot centers around a young girl from a poor family who desperately wants to escape her small town and attend the University of Texas, but many factors come into play to derail her dreams. Filming started about four weeks ago and word is that it will wrap up very soon.

Our man Rudy got a small non-speaking part in a couple of scenes. According to our pueblito's star his time and effort was worth $100.00 and a DVD of the motion picture when it is released.


Rudy possesses the fundamental Hollywood qualities for a male actor. He's taller than me, has a fabulous head of thick wavy hair that he hides under his hat, and he's not twenty-five pounds overweight. The movie people never called me, but a guy from the production company spotted Rudy and asked if he'd like to be in the movie. ¡Qué suerte!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An Earthly Angel

Another bit of the pueblito's humanity went home to His Maker this week. Charlie. He was only sixty-five. This evening we went to pay our respects to the family. The funeral home in San Diego is only a quarter mile from the nursing home where my only remaining uncle lives. With as many visits to the funeral home as we've made in the last few months I should have taken the opportunity to visit with my uncle, but I did not today. He shares a birthday with dad and still asks for him when we visit. Dad's been gone nearly fifteen years.

I remember the last time we sat with my uncle. It's been a while.

Two of my brothers and I visited one afternoon. He was eighty-seven then and remarkably healthy for his age. The walker he used was only for a little added support when he walked about the facility.

We had been chatting away with him for about a half-hour when this gorgeous seventeen-year-old olive-skinned beauty walks up to our uncle and flashes him a brilliant white smile. His eyes lit up like a kid's on Christmas morning. She greeted him by name and gave him a warm hug and a peck on his cheek.

"Hello," I said, and asked who she was. I could not place her face among those of the family tree, but I guessed that she must be some relative's daughter or niece.

I was mistaken. She was not a blood relative. This wonderful child was visiting the nursing home on a Sunday as part of a class project for school. She was writing a paper on the care of the aging and apparently had been visiting with our uncle for months. All the while she was there she held his hand in hers and explained to us how of all the residents there, he was her favorite. She said she loved him because he was so dear.

God, I thought to myself, I have seen an angel this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Pet Shop

The boy looked up at me with a grieved look on his face. A pup was laying dead at his feet. "There's ants going into his nose," he said. "Why are they doing that?"

The aggrieved sound of his little voice pained me. The small black dog was stiff already. The boy and I were both sad, but for different reasons. "Let's find a shovel and bury it," I said.

You could just imagine the boy's thoughts. He wanted to shake the pup awake and play with it as he had enjoyed in the days before. That was not going to happen. The stream of tiny ants continued in and out of the dead animal's snout and this disturbed the boy greatly.

"Why are they doing that?" he repeated.

"It's what ants do," was all I could reply. I thought it best for us to leave the scene, but the boy would not budge. It was plain he wanted answers.

"Had he been sick?" I asked.

The boy shook his head. "He had been sleeping a lot. There were worms when he would make poo poo."

"That's why it died," I said. "Sometimes you have to worm puppies when they're little so they won't get worms."

The boy looked away from the pup and turned to listen. He clearly wanted more explanation. "But why do they die?"

"The worms make them sick," I said. "They get into the tripas and start sucking blood. That's what I think happened to this one."

"How come? How do they get them?" the boy asked.

"My guess, Evan, is that he probably ate something on the ground. The ground is very dirty. It probably had worm eggs in it and that's how they got into his stomach. That's why you need to wash your hands every time you play with dogs or cats. Don't ever put your fingers in your mouth."

"So my other puppies are going to die?"

"They need to be dewormed."

"What's that?"

"It's a medicine you're supposed to give puppies when they're small so they won't get worms."

"Let's get some before the other ones get them." The boy was insistent.

"We have to go to Corpus tomorrow. We'll go to this pet shop and pick some up." I told him. "We'll take you." He looked relieved.
---

This evening at PetSmart we had a good visit. All the puppy and kitty cages were empty, but Evan enjoyed studying the rats, gerbils, snakes and lizards.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

To Pass the Time

359 is a busy, if not noisy, artery linking the pueblito with the population centers to the east and the west. On the Texas gulf coast Corpus Christi harbors 1,790 souls per square mile. 130 miles to the west on the banks of the Old Rio Grande, Laredo chokes with 2,470 on the same parcel of real estate. I was raised in the sticks in Duval County where on average seven people live freely on one square mile. The figure is just a stat. Truth is, a person could live alone and in complete isolation out here without anyone being aware of their existence. That is the sort of elbow room one can appreciate if you ignore the shortcomings.

Great population density means libraries, good restaurants, museums, universities, endless shopping, medical centers, clubs, bars, bookstores, a great mix of people, synagogues and churches of your choice. A real city is a great place to visit, but living there is a bit busy. Relative desolation has its advantages for those who don't wear a watch or have to be somewhere in five minutes.

In the stillness of the early evening Melba, Evan and I drove to the country to pass the time and to watch the bats fly. It was quality time of the finest kind.

Monday, April 5, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I now eat as if I were a rabbit that has given up coffee, soft drinks and French fries just before acquiring a taste for chicken. An epiphanic moment 16 days ago provided an opportunity to reflect on what I had been shoveling down my gullet for the last couple of decades. It was a delicious picture, but one more suited for a younger man with a higher metabolism than I can crank out at age 57. Change is on the horizon.

The gastronomic world I have set out to explore is one of low caloric landscapes that is minus the cherry-topped heights of banana splits and the deep and dark valleys of rich chocolate. You just can't sit on your ass all day and not expect trouble to happen. A sedentary existence coupled with no limits on consumption is a road map to a slow or sudden death; depending on the severity of the stroke. I am not going there. It's the life of a rabbit for me from now until the grave -- lettuce and leaps to remain viable.

Food can be a funny thing. In some parts of the world people are dying because they do not have enough, but in America people are dying because they have too much. I do not wish to be counted among either group. So if grilled chicken salad is healthy fare then I am becoming what I eat.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Easter Bunny Was Fat This Year

The heart of South Texas is a cultivation of impenetrable mesquite and prickly pear. This inland sea of brush and rolling plains is cross-hatched with miles of rock-strewn caliche roads. It is pickup country that insists on high clearance, 8-ply tires and heavy-duty suspension. The parking areas at the Ranch on Easter Sundays are usually a showcase of rugged vehicles suited to this landscape. It is the norm to see heavy-duty metal monsters rolling in on equally tough paws of rubber. When a guest pulls off 339 and heads up to the house we are alerted of its approach by the xylophone-like rattle produced by the tires rolling over the two-inch pipe railing of the cattle guard. Day or night the metallic chord alerts better than a doorbell.

This afternoon was no different than other Easter Sundays. As folks drove up to the celebratory grounds we could hear the periodic cling-clang-clung rattle and turn our heads to have a look at who was coming. Many of us did a double-take when the final vehicle approaching was a fabulously striking SUV. "Who is that?" we wondered. The shiny chrome emblem on the grill proclaimed Mercedes. Damn! It was nice-looking.

It was my older sister and her husband in a gorgeous Mercedes Benz ML350. Forget the bunny, forget the eggs, and forget the sizzling fajitas... let's have a look at what the Easter Bunny brought. Sis and my cuñado must be doing all right. The Easter Bunny was fat this year.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Flowers and Fire

This will be an exceptional Easter in South Texas. The gods of the air and the earth have got along splendidly this season and presented us with a flower garden landscape. The grass is green and tall, and the countryside is resplendent with color. Daisies, Indian blankets and poppies compete for real estate along the county and state roads.

We enjoy it while we can because soon the gods of the air will give the sun and its heat dominion over everything we see today, and this flowery palette of reds, blues, violets and yellows will mature, seed and die. The radiance of spring will only be a memory.

With everything so green and succulent we are free to burn refuge in great pyres. Ranch pits dug into the earth to contain the discarded and unwanted remains of our material existence can be set to the torch. It had not been possible during the last years of drought. So we have been busy in the pre-Easter days. It has been a time of flowers and fire.

Friday, April 2, 2010

El Diablo No Duerme

For years the blast of the train's horn must have seemed like a dagger to the heart of a former co-worker. Her youngest boy was struck and killed by a diesel locomotive as he drove across the tracks in town one Good Friday. That steel monster barrels through the pueblito about eight times a day. That was four years ago. He was only twenty-one.

That same month a sixteen-year-old boy died in a single-vehicle rollover. A senseless death. This is a tiny community and a young person's violent demise shakes it up terribly.

Pero el diablo nunca duerme. Today was Good Friday. A boy got killed on the outskirts of Benavides in the early morning hours. Coming into town he lost control of his vehicle and it rolled over many times. No seat belt. He was ejected from the vehicle. The other three kids with him survived with varying injuries. The time was around three o'clock in the morning. It is all very sad. The train didn't kill him, but that horn works to stir up a good number of ghosts.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool

On this date in 1975 the infamous George B. Parr drove to the windmill of the Julian pasture in a secluded area of his ranch, Los Harcones, five miles south of Benavides. On that Tuesday he contemplated his future and determined he had none. The 74-year-old man had lost his appeal for a conviction on federal income tax evasion and decided that he was too old to go to jail again. As he sat behind the wheel of his big Chrysler Imperial he pointed the muzzle of a .45 Colt Mark IV to his temple and squeezed the trigger. The bullet passed through his brain and exited the open driver side window. The engine was still running when the authorities located him at 11:20 a.m. on April Fools' Day. The Duke of Duval was at long last gone, but the irreparable damage he did to the economic and political prospects of Duval County is still evident today. May there never be another of his ilk forevermore.