Tuesday, December 26, 2006

December 26, 2006 Bonus Blog
We have a new poll up: Are you going to attend the celebration for the Centennial of Oklahoma?

And speaking of history, part of the reason I wanted to go to Mexico and especially the Sierra Madre Mountains is because it’s the setting for a good part of the Top Secret Project. I wasn’t disappointed with the scenery, and I learned a ton about the geography and local fauna. For example, the west side of the Sierra Madres is covered with organ pipe saguaros. Tons of them. I tried to find out what the Mexicans call them (it’s hard for me to believe that they call them “organ pipes” because that is so New England sounding), but all I got was “cactus” and “saguaro” from my river runner hosts in El Fuerte.

And speaking of our host, Jose Luis Pina Acuna, he also has a ranch so I immediately asked him about the tradition of mounting, in other words, which side do they mount from? And he looked at me like I was crazy and said, in Spanish, “the left, of course.” And then he added a funny caveat: “Women mount from the right.” So, I think it’s safe to say that in Mexico, the vaqueros mount from the left, just like the gringo cowboys. I'll have more to say on this later.

Last Thursday (December 21) we hired a guide from Creel named Oscar to take us to Recowata Hot Springs. Oscar loves basketball and baseball so we had much fun talking about sports. Oscar claims the reason Mexico does so poorly in basketball is because the coaches invariably play their relatives and no one else. That was his take on it, which I thought was odd, but Tomas tells me that Mexican family is El Supremo to any and all authority, although we noticed they don't let that get in their way for, say, world cup soccer.

Anyway, on the way back to Creel from the hot springs, I was sitting in the front of Oscar's late model Jeep and as we came into town we met a big F-250 full of borachos (drunks) who pulled out to pass and came right at us. Oscar swerved onto the shoulder of the road and as he did I said, loudly, “Aiy Chihuahua!” And, as Oscar pulled back onto the road he laughed and added, “Aiy Chihuahua, cuantos Apaches, cuantos Indios sin huaraches!”

I couldn’t believe it. Did he really say “Apaches”? And is this a common saying? Or did he just make it up? Oscar assured me that it is a very common saying in this part of Mexico. A day later in the city of Chihuahua I confirmed it when we were on our taxi ride to the bus station and I said “Aiy Chihuahua, cuantos Apaches,” and the cab driver looked in the mirror and finished the saying, “Cuantos Indios sin huaraches?!”

What they’re more or less saying is: “Yikes, how many Apaches, how many Indians without sandals?” Since there are no more Apaches in Mexico to speak of, this saying obviously is a holdover from the 1880s (and several hundred years prior) when Apache raids by Geronimo, Cochise, Juh and Victorio, to name just a few, terrorized the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Apaches wore calf-high deerskin moccasins, as opposed to the sandals of the locals, thus the play on words and the rhyming (Apaches-huaraches) has carried over to the present day. How thrilling to run across this little known saying and discover it comes from the exact period we are writing about in the Top Secret Project. That alone, was worth the trip.

”If it’s going to be two against one, make sure you are not the one.”
—Old Vaquero Saying

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