Thursday, October 27, 2011


Good question.

That was the dilemma that Guillermo (same guy--what exciting times he faces, huh) faced recently, on yet another night across the river, en route home from guarding his field from the raccoons.

There, blocking his way, and stretched all the way across the road in front of him was a ginormous rattlesnake -- over 6 feet long, its head was not quite yet into the weeds across the road, its tail still obscured by the weeds on the other side of the road.

Guillermo had a machete in his right hand, and a long, heavy metal bar in his left hand. Which to use, which to use.... Well, which one would YOU use, and why?

I will end your suspense. He used the bar to crush its head, bringing it down with all his force. His rapid decision was based on, first, the striking distance of so large and muscular a rattler who knew well he was there. The bar is longer than the machete, so he need not stand so close. Secondly, a powerful swing from the bar is certain to crush the rattler's skull, and a machete may fail to cut through the thick skin of such a huge reptile.

Thirteen rattles on the tail, by the way.

He showed us its decapitated corpse, lying in the weeds alongside the road. His wife Sara was with us. I asked her why she didn't cook it up for dinner.... I know folks in the States sometimes do, for instance.

Her response was one word accompanied by a facial expression: "Guacala!" (Yuck!)

SO....... while I am still on the subject of Guillermo's practiced survival skills, let me just mention that a few years back, he also wrestled a crocodile to death, slitting its throat with his machete... while the whole village watched. THEN his wife DID cook it up, and served it to everyone. Barbecued crocodile is a specialty in these here parts. I guess I should be sorry I missed it.

Almost didn't, though. Just the other night... after his encounter with the rattler... Guillermo was coming home from the field and there, coming toward him from the shallows of the nearby swamp was (you guessed it) a crocodile. Not a big one as crocs go, but hey, some three feet long is far longer than I ever want to encounter.

What did he do? He picked up a big rock that just happened to be lying nearby and threw it full force at the croc's head. He hit it directly on top of its head, which is very thick. The croc immediately turned tail and hied itself back into the swamp. Guillermo lamented that he had been aiming for the side of the head, which is thinner -- hoping to crush the skull and thus provide the village with yet another barbecued croc.

This nearby river is back to being shallow enough that little kids play in it -- heck, there was a big in-water picnic there today with scads of kids, and a pick-up truck parked mid-river, from the tail'gate of which there were smiling moms serving plates of hot delicious home'made food for everyone.

All of this excitement around late-night river crossings has put a kind of kibosh on OUR plans to watch videos with our friends across the river. At least at night.

By the way, we gave Guillermo one of our fancy-dancy headlamps so he can always see ahead and around him without losing grip on any of his weapons.

Friday, October 21, 2011


It began with a blinding flash of light directly overhead, followed immediately by a deafening crash of thunder... and then a few drops of rain which rapidly escalated into a blinding hard rainfall. I had been lazing in a hammock in the ramada, casually glancing at the porch to watch the kids deeply engaged in their many activities--from scrabble to jenga, to building blocks to drawing etc...

What happened next was a blur of kids, gathering up their playthings and returning them to their storage space.... and then racing as fast as possible back to their various homes. Since the water had begun to splash my hammock, I figured what the hey, I'll saunter up to the porch, then.

From there, I spied Guillermo (of the slingshot and raccoon tale) sauntering up through the downpour with not a care in the world, though he was indeed dripping wet. He said he had come to invite us to dinner. He casually sat down on the top stair of our porch and watched the deluge just beyond his feet.

We assumed he was waiting for the rain to subside, so we just hung out, too -- just watching the rain pour down. It turned out, he was waiting for us to come along with him. This rainstorm was just beginning.... So together, off we stepped from the porch and into the water that was racing down our dirt driveway to the road below....

....which had become a river, with tributaries pouring in between every building... and as we progressed, soaking wet, we came to the next descent in our little dirt river-road and saw that we were heading for the Colorado River. With braced legs we pushed our way through the wild rapids... about knee-deep.. and into Guillermo's fenced in yard.

We ate standing up as their wall-less dining area was soaking wet. Excellent food as usual, just as good as the raccoon the other night. Then, we went to the upper porch to sit and watch, as the river in the road was augmented with waterfalls from surrounding fenced-in yards.

I liked imagining myself in a miniature raft, Grand Canyon style, and thus scouted for a route through the huge rolling rapids... but as the rain continued to fall, and the river continued to rise, the rapids became impassable for my imaginary raft... There was no safe route through the huge rollers of my imagined Colorado run.

As the flow began to seep into Guille & Sara´s yard, a light went on in Guille's mind. With a big grin, he splashed over to his wheelbarrow which was piled with organic leaf and twig litter and rolled it over to the torrent in the street... and dumped it. He shrugged as it swirled away downstream...because it was headed to the very river and ocean that he would have hauled it to on another day.

Throughout all of this wonderful maelstrom, one neighbor, the flamboyantly gay man, did as he always does -- he turned up the volume of his music so that above the pounding of rain on metal rooves, we could hear pounding drum-beats and screaming guitars!! Such a circus.

When the rain subsided somewhat, Robert and I waded out to survey the changes.

What stunned us was to see that the river itself -- the one we had crossed at night after a smaller storm when we first arrived -- was now utterly impassable. It was HUGE. It was now so wide that it was four to five times its usual width. It buried the road that parallels the river, and lapped against the surrounding hillsides. It raced furiously toward the sea, brown and roaring. It had risen some four to five feet. My imaginary Colorado River that ran through the streets was child's play to this... the real thing.

We tried walking alongside it down to the where the river empties into the sea --to the place where we originally camped the very first time we ever came to this beach. We couldn't make it. Not that night.

And now? After the deluge? You would hardly know it happened. The river is a wide, clear creek again. Roads are passable. All is well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A la cena / at dinner

Smiles all around as we pile well-cooked chunks of meat-with-bone, steeped in a perfectly seasoned just-right-hot red sauce, onto our plates. Then we reach for the fresh-steaming blue corn tortillas from the nearby bowl. Our dear friend--also named Sara--keeps them coming straight from the wood-fire. The kids --teenagers now!!-- are also seated around the long wooden table. This is a cozy, easy-going gathering that we have been enjoying for these many years.

Now, her husband Guillermo commences to describe the events of the previous evening. This man of all trades -- this ocean-fisherman, farmer, builder, tool-fixer, gardener, father, mayor of the pueblo, born and raised right here and married to a village girl -- is also a skilled... well, here is his story:

His corn crop is just coming on to fully ripe, so he heads out to the field across the river (never mind the crocodile threat) with his two dogs -- at just around 10pm every night, to begin his continual circling of the field until just around 4am. If he hears a snap, or suspicious rustle of a cornstalk, he sics the dogs to the spot...

Barking loudly, the dogs race around and end up chasing the raccoons (oh, there are so very many these days) up into a nearby tree and hold them there...

...which is when Guillermo hauls out his sling-shot (with an outsized band) from his pocket, picks up a few good-sized stones, and then makes use of a skill he perfected as a kid growing up right here, doing the same thing. No wasted shots. Each pebble brings down a raccoon, and in that instant, the dogs are on it.

Within moments, the raccoons are dead. Son muertos, las mapaches.

Wow, sez I... and in my fractured Spanish, I comment that the dogs must have devoured those mapaches on the spot....

"No....." he says slowly. And with a flashing grin, he glances down at the bowl of fresh-cooked meat, and over at my plate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tales of Two Tails...

....tails of hurricanes, that is.

We were just settling in to a cozy day on the porch with reading material and projects -- while outside it was raining hard and steady. We figured we had a day of this, so we would just relax. Along comes Guillermo, our dear friend and neighbor, drenched to the skin but grinning. His news however was that we were --in for it! On the tele --as they call TV-- he just learned that our village would be drenched for days from two separate hurricanes whose tails were due to lash our coast, one after the other.

We thanked him profusely, and leapt into action.

To do nothing would strand us in our casita with low supplies for long past the predicted extended drenching. The road from the highway to our village is a long, winding, hilly mud'bog in the rain. We would have to drive our car out immediately or be trapped. So we prepared to drive out.

First, we went to Zihua to store up supplies. Loaded up, we did not bother trying to get back to our little salty place. By now, that road could well be impassable for our humble vehicle.

Instead, we went along the highway to the NEXT village, because....

...the next village along the coast just so happens to have a paved road from the highway all the way down to our same beach... where we also just happen to have friends who will let us park there.

Our village and this other village are NOT connected by a paved road along the beach....In fact, there is a river between the two villages -- the very river that causes the point'break that makes the waves so fine -- and there is no bridge. Only in far lower water would our car be able to splash through the river.

So! by the time we got all that done, it was dark -- we had food supplies, and our car was on the paved-road side for the river. However, and more to the point, we were now on THAT side of the river ourselves, which we knew would now be a rushing torrent, swollen by rain coming down from the nearby mountains.

Hmmmm..... We would have to make our way through it, in the dark, balancing our supplies on our shoulders to get back to our humble casita.... It was, of course, still raining hard.

Mind you, we have waded rushing torrents before, so know some tricks to keep us ON our feet against the current, and we are familiar with this riverbed from years of crossing it... but this would be a higher flow than we have encountered, and.... it is dark....

...and this is a jungly area with crocodiles and poisonous snakes all of whom swim, as well as lurk.

Deep breath.

Shoreline... sure is higher than we had ever seen it. We both laughed, shook our heads, took a deep breath, banded ourselves together for extra strength against an unknown current, and headed in.

Obviously, we made it.

Furthermore, because of the storms and our slow-to-dry road, we are just keeping our car over there, and hauling stuff back and forth across the river on foot -- which thankfully is not so wild now.

We have yet to get in the sea.

The surf is wildly exciting and crashing everywhere, and the wind is powerful. So! We meet with friends for beer and guacamole at one brave restaurant that remains open -- and watch the sea foam skitter wildly across the flying sand.

It aint half bad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

¿Where Are the Snake People?

For years, we would stop by their psuedo village along the highway -- ramshackle dwellings stretching into the distance, each cobbled together from found wood and whatever. We called them The Snake People, because one way they hoped to bring in tourists, and money, was to sell snakeskins. Each shack boasted a rack of dried skins waving in the wind. They also sold live birds and little mammals in home-made cages.

The people themselves were clad in outfits cobbled together from found cloth and whatever... if they had shoes, they were rarely the right size, and broken down, and covered in dust. The people would surround our car, pointing at a half'eaten sandwich by my feet, the waterbottle in my hand -- they wanted anything, everything. Each visit, we unloaded a box or two, or three, filled with yard'sale dresses, shirts, pants, baby clothes, kids clothes, shoes of all sizes... There was no fighting among them to get to the things in the boxes. Together, they would haul them off... to somewhere... presumably to divide up among the rest of their kin.

But now, there is no sign of them. The roadside is completely cleared of all trace. Where did they go?

Coincidentally --or not-- we had to quit bringing down these boxes of goods. The last time we did we were halted at the border, and told by the gentlemen wearing badges that we must pay an (exhorbitant) fee for these goods. Same goes for the bikes we used to haul down.

Meanwhile, there are "other" snake people blending in wherever.

And as for us? Life is so sweet in the village. Yesterday was stellar. The children who once were small brought their little siblings and relatives over, in order to introduce them to our storehouse of toys. They themselves have outgrown all but scrabble and large jigsaw puzzles...

Thus our toyroom, our porch, and our ramada were once again filled with laughter and hijinks as kids built, destroyed, and redesigned towering (to them) edifices of plastic blocks and wood blocks, and drove toy tractors, cars, and wild toy animals all in and about them.

The rain clattering on the roof and splashing all along the edges where they played -- they paid it no mind. And they did not leave til dark -- til their mamacitas called them in for cena.