The neighbor's ranch—make that a Ranch with a capital "R"—has about ten horses, some belonging to the owner and others just boarders, in addition to stables and paddocks, service and storage buildings, an impressive hacienda-style manor, and a small, circular enclosure that looks like a miniature bullring. It turns out the previous ranchero was also a torero, and apparently a quite successful one. The wife of the present American owner is a dressage aficionado, à la Ann Romney, and uses the enclosure to practice.
From the perspective of a low-flying drone this spread is located just on the other side of a low hill we see from our terrace though in size and impressiveness it could be tens of miles away. The really down-to-earth American owners are not only friends but also sell us turbo-charged horse manure compost for the price of a donation to their church.
While a ranch hand shoveled the manure onto our pickup, Félix, Stew and I spotted this skeletal Doberman-ish puppy that someone had found abandoned on the streets of San Miguel and brought to the ranch the day before. Her short and inauspicious existence hadn't soured her outlook on life or friendliness toward animals and people alike.
The irrational puppy train of thought immediately started rolling toward its inevitable destination, with the usual stops at the stations of "oh, the poor thing!", "she's so cute! and "she likes you, look how she licks your face!" Yep, Félix, Stew and I asked about her and left shortly afterward with a truckful of compost and a fourth dog we named Roxy, after one of the lead characters in the musical "Chicago."
|Her ears hacked off by some greedy jerk who probably intended|
to sell her as a purebred left Roxy looking like the Flying Nun.
So far Roxy is far smarter than her cohorts, which are already fed up with her energy level and constant entreaties to roughhouse. In a week she's learned her name, "come," "sit" and "stay" and is studying the meaning of "don't pee in the house." We suspect she was bred to be sold as either a Rottweiler or a Doberman but turned out to be neither —her legs are too long to be the former and nose too stubby to qualify as the latter—and was abandoned.
As with all animals her less-than-perfect appearance doesn't seem to affect her self-esteem.
On the way back we stopped at another ranch which Félix, who knows everyone within a ten-mile radius of our place, said belonged to a fellow Chicagoan. In fact, Félix' dad and older brother had worked there as bricklayers about fifteen years ago, and sometimes Félix, then about twelve, came along to watch.
And so we met Jim, who was a week away from his seventy-seventh birthday, and whom we had over for some bratwurst and sauerkraut a few days later. He arrived in a battered pickup with one of those old-fashioned, crane-necked stick shifts that travels to the floor somewhere under the dashboard. He quickly assured me that despite its sorry appearance the vehicle had a "great engine" still beating inside.
Jim's sparse hair is all white, and his build thin and wiry, as someone who still putters around the ranch every day. A white shirt and chino pants a couple of sizes too large hung loosely on his frame. He is in great shape for his age.
Jim lives with a Mexican family whom he has apparently adopted: a blacksmith, his wife and five kids. He seemed to have very few contacts in the expat community of San Miguel and none left in Chicago. We hope to get to know him better. He must have great stories to tell about all his years here.
Indeed while some Americans here prattle on about the beauty of San Miguel, it's near-perfect climate, the artistic and cultural offerings and and so on, Stew and I most like the climate—maybe a little too desert-like a couple of months a year, but we'll settle for that—and the number of interesting people we've met here. Some are interesting as in interesting-interesting others interesting as in, hmm, kinda odd.
Either way, after seven years in San Miguel we have more more good friends than we had in Chicago after living there for thirty.
About interesting people—let you guess which variety—I just chatted with Bee Bob, the roving apiculturist, who stopped by in his rattletrap Volkswagen Beetle to check on our four hives, up from the one Stew had originally installed a year ago. Bob is very excited about a honey extractor he just purchased which we need to inspect and admire soon. It's about the size of a top-loading washing machine, he says.
What to do with all the honey is still a topic in play.