Staircase to the Portico

I can’t believe that not only is it time for a new communiqué, but that it’s as late as it is – I don’t know what happens to my time. I can’t imagine that, once upon a time, I spent 12 hours a day at Grapevine, and still had time for things like goat walks and newsletters! I guess it’s the old truth of “jobs expand into the time available”…

flowersBut I am enjoying my time now – first of all, of course, there are the pups, who are growing like weeds. I can’t believe that only some short 4 months ago they were lovable little bundles of fur, both cuddled up on some lucky person’s lap – now they are tall enough that Bella, greedy for her dinner, gets so excited when feeding time comes, that she jumps as high as the top of my courtyard gate. I’m afraid that one day she will actually fly over the top, and then it will be all over with my flowers and landscaping! The last time the pups managed to be left alone with my flower garden, it was pups 10, flowers a sad 0 – so now, they and Tuff, are strictly forbidden entry.

Buster's Leisurely Meal

Buster’s Leisurely Meal

But they’re totally lovable. In the morning, about 4 am, Bella wakes up in their crate (in my bedroom) and asks to come to bed. Buster wakes up some time later – she’s a doer, he’s a thinker. Danny calls him “The Professor” – he thinks things over, ponders, figures things out, and you can literally see the wheels turning, while Bella is gung-ho into everything, rushes in like a summer storm. So funny to watch them eat, for instance. Bella gulps hers down, and cruises around her plate looking for more – which she generally finds, as she always manages to throw some around on the ground while she’s eating – but Buster eats slowly, philosophically, at times actually lays down to dine….. ponders over each mouthful. They have to be kept separate, of course – and while he’s eating, she’s bouncing around outside the fence, wanting to get in and eat his. So in the morning, she’s up and about, wants out, wants to eat – Buster lies in bed, snoozing, yawning, stretching – and only when the breakfast plate is on the bedroom floor, can he be induced to get up leisurely, and sit down to breakfast – you can almost see him adjusting his bib, settling down on his chair, picking up his utensils, smoothing out the morning paper … while she is leaping around outside the glass door, having gobbled up hers, wanting in to eat his as well. They are grown big enough now that they are not restricted to the back yard, but are allowed out to terrorize the big world of the barnyard – and they do that, quite well.

Enough about the dogs – I have a sad report to make. Our big rescue donkey, Miss Sarah, has died. We found her, last Sunday morning, lying in the barnyard, with no sign of a struggle, just lying on her side, dead. We had no idea how old she was – all I knew was that she’d had a tough life before she came to us. I just hope that her last few years here were peaceful, and as happy as they could be.

Clementine beyond the wall enjoying the grass

Clementine beyond the wall enjoying the grass

Apart from that, our summer is going well, with some rain, although most of it was last month and, sadly, not too much this month. As always, it seems to rain in other, visible parts of the valley, enough so that one gets envious, a most un-Christian like attitude. At least this year the bulk of the rain is on the east side of the valley, where Danny’s nephew, Kevin, is cow boss, and so we are happy that at least the rain is staying in the family, so to speak.

And I have some news to share about my whereabouts in the near future. My very good friend, Debbie, and I are going to the east coast, to visit my niece in Vermont and then my sister in New York City. I haven’t been out of Arizona for quite a few years now, and have never been to Vermont, so I am looking forward to the trip – and New York City is so much of everything that I don’t think our allotted 10 days there will be enough time. Of course, my favorites are the museums and the Metropolitan Opera, for which we have tickets already, Debbie wants to visit the Stock Exchange, and of course, the World Trade Center is a must, although nobody would induce me to get into a building that has more than 6 floors. Funny, isn’t it – I really hate heights, yet I had no problem flying. I guess it’s because you have your own floor with you, in the airplane. I do remember, when dropping parachutists, that if I looked out where the removed door was missing, and saw the hole yawning below, it did make me a bit uneasy, but otherwise, no problem. But a building of hundreds of feet – no, no. Visiting my parents in Chicago in the 60’s in their apartment on the 23rd floor was bad enough.

We are flying to Vermont, and then, after a week there, taking Amtrak to New York – I believe the trip takes about 6 hours or so, with lovely country to see en route. It’s going to be a rushed October departure – we begin round up on the 14th, and this year it will take longer than usual. Apart from sending off the sale calves and pregnancy checking the cows, we also need to semen test the bulls, and brand the late calves, of which there are around 40, so this round up will take longer than normal – and we’re leaving on the 20th, so – out of the cow manure into civilization!

Santa Prisca Church in Taxco

Santa Prisca Church in Taxco

Talking of travel reminds me of my time in Mexico, where we lived in the town of Taxco, about halfway between Mexico City and Acapulco. It was a magic time, and I often think back on it. I remember particularly a day when four of us went to a nearby village to a rodeo, about 5 miles from Taxco. It wasn’t a long distance, but along a truly awful track, a village stuck back in time. The rodeo consisted of bull riding and other similar feats, but it turned out that we were the entertainment of the day. My then husband was around 6 ft., and his friend, also a pilot, was 6.2 – and the little Indians just couldn’t get over these giants. They congregated around us, chattering and touching us, and generally being as friendly as only the mountain folks in Mexico can be. They particularly couldn’t get over my blond hair, which was more blond then, and also longer, and all afternoon I could feel inquisitive fingers behind me pulling on it, testing it, to see if it was real, I suppose. Eventually, the inevitable bottle was passed around, and finally it came to us. By this time we were so much a part of this friendly mob that we knew refusal would offend. I took at look at the smeared , dark brown beer bottle, out of which so many mouths had drunk, and figured what the heck, you only live once – and took a swig. Well – rest assured, no bacteria could live in that stuff – a lethal combination of the rankest tequila and hot chili juice – wow!

Taking the swig made us completely one of the crowd, and a little Indian guy, the only one there who could speak Spanish, began a conversation with me. “So where are you from?” he wanted to know … “What part of the United States?” I said: “I am not from the United States, I am from Australia”. “Oh yes”, he said, “what part of the United States is that?” I said, “It’s not in the United States, it’s far, far away, across the sea.” “Yes, yes,” he said impatiently, “but what part of the United States??” I realized that to him the world consisted of Mexico and the United States – there was nothing more … so I gave it up. “I too, have travelled”, said my companion, not boasting, but as one world traveller to another… I said, “Really – where have you been?” “I have been to Taxco” he said, proudly. It was about 5 miles away, but I guess that if you’re on a donkey, that could be a long way, and seem to be a big metropolis! I will never forget that sunny day, the friends we made, the intrepid traveller, the friendship – and that drink. Those years in Mexico were pure magic, and if I live to be a hundred, I couldn’t hope to equal that time, the friends, the laughter and tequila shared, the sheer breathless beauty of the country, and the honest loveliness of the people, were they rich or poor. It was, without a doubt, the best and most memorable time of my life.

We had a couple of horses and began exploring the countryside. Taxco is a town clinging to the side of a mountain, and all around, below the highway, are deep canyons where one could see abandoned haciendas, left empty after the many revolutions and wars. We began descending down from the high country, past little villages, and solitary settlements. One day we rode by the side of a river and, as a slight breeze parted the trees on the other side, through the branches, we could see a building. Curious, we forded the river and found an old, old adobe structure, the back walls of which consisted of the rock face against which it was built. It had several rooms and one curious contraption in one of the chambers – some sort of sluice canal and remnants of a big wheel. When we returned to Taxco, we began asking people about it – but most had never heard of it. Finally we came across a friend who remembered that, as school children, they’d had an outing to the place, and he knew what it was. It had been built by Cortez in his conquest of Mexico, and the building was constructed to store sulfur which they needed for their cannons, and which the army hoped to find by mining for it. They didn’t find much sulfur, but they found …. silver! Lots of it – so much, that the son of Cortez built a hacienda in the Indian village which later became Taxco. The hacienda is still there – at least, it was, some 40 years ago – turned into a night club, and it a was fascinating place to visit. And the wheel and the canal? For refining the silver ore. Later we found several such contraptions in other ruins we explored.

Another time we found, out in some rolling grazing country, the remains of an elegant hacienda – sweeping staircase leading to a broad portico supported by Grecian columns, the top floors unfortunately almost all gone, and, in the middle of what must have been a fabulous garden, a big fountain, almost complete, hinting of the glory that must have been. I rode my horse up the staircase to the portico, and, looking over the gardens, I wondered what happened to the family – were they murdered by the revolutionaries, did they manage to escape, and if so, where and how did they live – so many unanswered questions, so much mystery in this lovely, historic land. If there is a time in my life that I would like to re-live, it’s my time in Mexico.

But back to reality – this being Sunday, and Danny’s days off, it’s my turn to do the feeding with Jimmy, as I think I said in the last blog. During the week I help Danny, which means that I drive the Polaris, and he tosses the hay, but on the weekends, it’s Jimmy and me, and, given that his emphysema is so awful that he shouldn’t even be anywhere near the hay, he drives and I toss the feed out. Not too bad on these days of lots of grass – the resident retirees, my horses Comanche and Tequila, and pet cow Clementine and her daughter Ginger, also a venerable 13 years or so, along with Miss Katie the donkey, graze the lane from the house to the front gate, about a ¼ mile of grass, and so this leaves just the corralled horses – but not so much fun in the winter when they all have to be fed hay, and no fun at all in the days of 10 degrees and cold winds – hard to believe, while we’re sweltering at the height of summer. But I guess that’s the beauty of this country – if it was all the same year round, it might get a bit tedious. In fact, that may have been the only possible criticism of Taxco – the weather hardly varied summer to winter – pleasantly warm in the summer, with rains coming on predictable dates, and hardly cooler in the winter, in spite of the hopeful fireplaces built in the houses – fireplaces that were hardly ever lit, and even then only for effect.

But I guess this just goes to show that people are never happy ….

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7 Responses to Staircase to the Portico

  1. Marilyn says:

    Hi Eve,
    Sorry to read the news of Miss Sarah, you number of animals was going into decline until the pups arrived on the scene, Dai and I were begining to wonder if more strays might come your way!

    But as we said to each other its time you had some fun yourself and got out and about a little more now you do not have the responsibilities associated with Grapevine. We keep hoping for a sale for you so the last remnants of that responsibility could be taken off your shoulders.

    Well 4 weeks to go before we are on our way to you again – cant wait.

    Lost of love as always,

  2. Debbie curtis says:

    Yet another great read Eve, for a while I thought you were describing me but no, it was Buster!
    Hope you have a good roundup and sounds like a wonderful trip, can’t wait for the next blog, more photos please.
    Take care, love to all,
    Debbie x

  3. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Eve,

    We enjoyed you reminiscing… Joyce has been to Cortez’s hacienda near Vera Cruz; happened upon it when she was on her way, by herself, from an archeological ‘dig’ in Belize..
    We have wanted to wander Mexico for too log and now we are tooo OLD and broken-down..
    Sorry about ‘ burro viejo’, but she had ‘vida bueno’ , on the Grapevine Ranch!!! We know what you mean about the varible temperatures up here(USA) but I’d like to spend some time where it was in the 70s & 80s, year-round!!!
    Reading GEORGE’S blog we’d about decided to MOVE there, but ‘chickened-out’!!!
    I know some folks who did move to ALLENDE; he said it was almost all expats from the US!
    Lost track of them and after reading Kevin&Ruth’s blog about how it’s like an American city, crowds, prices, crime, beggars, etc., now, we decided to stay on the ranch and read about it… Joyce wants to comment some….

    seeing one of Cortez’s Haciendas is a real thrill. I worked a Mayan archaeological project
    in Beleze in l981 near Orange Walk. After the Dig, I drove back to San Antonio in a new little Toyota Pickup with a camper on the back. I Site hopped all the way back. One of the thrills for me was Tulume! Tulume was the first site of habitation in the new world that Cortez saw from his ship. Turning at the archologia ruines signs, I saw sites like the Catherwood Gate and other ruins I had seen in the pages of my textbooks. But the real thrill was a sight I had never even seen a picture of…Cortez’s Personal Hacienda near Vera Cruiz! No one was there but me– It was not a tourist spot–never had been. THe thick wooden gates were still open to the courtyard. The old well in the center. All the roof was gone from the surrounding rooms, but some painting and decoration remained. Trees grew out of the tall rectangular windows on the outer walls and other trees grew up from he remains of the walls which were several feet thick. It was one of the few archaeological ruins I have ever seen that looked almost 500 years old! Someday I’d like to go to Taxco and Oaxaca..Thanks for the blog. Joyce

  4. Eve says:

    Hi Joyce – what a thrill to see that old house! And so many of these old place are totally abandoned and unattended in Mexico – part of their charm, I think, but at the same time, it does make them decay faster. Near Taxco was a fabulous hacienda which had been built by a Spanish admiral – I can’t think of the name of it right now – and had been turned into a hotel of sorts – another great place to visit. The road to it was the old cobblestones, the chapel had an enormous carved door – it was a place of enchantment. I hope it’s still there, though I am not likely to see it again.

    And Marilyn – faithful reader of the blogs!! I AM looking forward to seeing you both again!

    Debbie – glad you liked the Buster bit – but here is a not-so-good bit of news about poor little Buster – he was snake bit last night. I rushed him to the best animal hospital in Tucson, where he is today, doing better, but these rattlers take all the fun out of the summer. When there’s a lot of activity, like at Grapevine, they mostly left us alone, but here, with only me, Danny and Jimmy and the animals, they don’t feel threatened enough and scurry around, the blighters! And poor Buster was just probably being nice and saying hello!

  5. Marilyn says:

    Hi Eve,

    So sorry to read that Buster had also been bitten by a rattler, you know how I hate any form of reptile. Hope Buster recovers fully and learns from the experience.


  6. Eve says:

    Buster is back home, not much worse for the experience – what is worse is my bank account! If only animals knew what they can cost us – but actually, no, that’s part of their charm, their total disinterest. He had to be confined in his crate for a couple of days, but is out and about again, terrorizing his world and annoying Tuffy and Bella. This afternoon I am off to the vet. again – my vet this time, not the costly emergency clinic in Tucson – for a final blood platelet count. Oy – enuff!

  7. Debbie curtis says:

    Glad to hear Buster is recovering lets hope he’s learnt his lesson!

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