Camerino Urbina - El BorradoSunday, July 10, 2011
While in Mike East’s South Texas Santa Fe Ranch, I was given the opportunity ( a distinct pleasure, in spite of the wilting heat, and the caliche dust that got into everything) to accompany him in his working rounds.
One early morning at 6:15 as I readied my photo gear by Mike East’s Toyota Tacoma twin cab I noticed a tall man with almost white hair and a well trimmed moustache. He was wearing a hat, his spurs jangled and when I said “Buenos días," to him, he answered, “I am called El Borrado.” Now if you translate that into English, to rubbed out that could be an ominous nickname. I asked him to explain. He removed his glasses and in the early morning light I was able to discern from his explanation - “My eyes are nebulous, almost erased. I inherited them from my father.” - that his eyes were smoky and different.
In the truck he sat in the back and I sat by Mike East. Because of the rules of propriety in a ranch we did not speak. A ranch patrón is very much like a captain of the British Navy. No sailor or non-commissioned officer can talk to him unless first spoken to. And Mike East is very much like a Navajo and does not ever contribute much to conversation unless it is absolutely necessary. A pregnant silence is just silence. It would not have been proper for me to question or talk to El Borrado.
Once we got to the particular pasture/corral of the day in a section of the ranch called La Mula I watched El Borrado. He was about to mount his horse when he looked at me and told me, “No he montado en cinco años.” (I have not ridden a horse in five years). I watched as he swung his right leg over the horse, and considering that El Borrado may be my age (68 or 69) it was obviously a painful operation. Once on the horse he changed. He was part of the horse or the horse was part of him. I watched him and I could only think of Randolph Scott, all elegance and grace.
Once during my week at the Santa Fe while watching Mike East ride Grammercy Flow in the arena (a huge covered area with large fans, obtained from helicopters, that move the air around) he gave us an uncharacteristic but impromptu exercise in virtuoso horsemanship. He made Grammercy Flow gallop then stop on a dime. He made the horse suddenly shift from one side to another and then made the horse go backwards and again stop on a dime. I was dazzled.
This sort of horsemanship is not just that. This is useful horsemanship. I spent a day watching Mike East, El Borrado and various other cowboys castrate young bulls. In this operation the young bull is roped around the neck the moment it enters the corral. Then cowboys on a horse (Mike East, El Borrado and a third) plus cowboys on foot attempt to rope the bull’s hind legs. The object is to manhandle the animal and get it on its side so that the necessary surgery can be performed. I watched Mike East or El Borrado flip the lasso. The bull would move its hind legs and sometimes one of the legs would fall within the circled lasso end. At that point Mike East or El Borrado would command their horse backwards. Consider that a horse is capable of pulling hard enough to break that hind leg. The cowboy has to know when to make the horse stop.
The virtuoso horsemanship of Mike East’s arena has its obvious useful purpose.
I watched how easy it seemed to be for El Borrado as he manoeuvred his horse and rope. Sometimes he would miss (and so would Mike East) but a hint of a smile on their faces would indicate a comfort zone, free of frustration or of mutual competition.
It was a sight to see and I busily snapped with my cameras.
A couple of days later, Rosemary and the girls and I were to drive to Sarita, Texas for a rendezvous with my friend Lee Lytton. Mike East asked me, “El Borrado iis going back to Sarita for a couple of days. Could you take him with you?”
I did. El Borrado sat in the front and we chatted all the way on the almost 50 minute drive. In idle times El Borrado had a garage and he was fascinated by my using the downshifter on my Malibu’s automatic gear shift. He watched how I used my cruise control and smiled at the purr of the car’s six cylinders.
We arrived at Sarita and at the door of Sarita’s museum we parted company. From my trunk he removed a cooler. I knew what was in that cooler. That evening he was going to cook the “mountain oysters”. He had told me that he was going to wash them thoroughly and then split them. Then he was going to lightly dip them in egg white, bread them and then fry them.
As he receded down the street, with his spurs jangling, I could almost imagine Randolph Scott.
Such elegance and grace is a rare thing.