Papalotes, Barriletes, Pavas & Cafeteras
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Daniel Halladay, born 1826 in Vermont, was an American engineer, inventor and businessman, best known for his innovative 1854 self-regulating farm wind pump. Versions of this windmill became an iconic part of the rural landscape in the United States, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa.
|In my Santa Fe Ranch bathroom
As I watched my older granddaughter, Rebecca do the backstroke at the Santa Fe Ranch pool I could but not think on how she swims so much like my mother did. Both swam without the hint of a ripple on the pool. It seemed effortless as if they were not floating on water but doing so in the air.
When I swim I do so with efficiency, no more and no less. As a product of a middle class family in Buenos Aires, only the rich could be members of athletic clubs and thus be able to learn to swim or play tennis which in most of Latin America into recent times were sports of the rich.
I learned to swim on my own on a tall circular water tank that part of the Argentine windmills that dot the Pampa landscape. I taught myself the breast stroke and to this day I consider myself a very strong practitioner of that less beautiful but most efficient swimming stroke. For years I admired Johnny Weissmuller’s style in the Tarzan films knowing I would never be able to learn to swim like that. I vicariously remember my mother swimming and now I stare in admiration at Rebecca.
Remembering my swimming roots led me to enquire with Mike East why the water windmills on his ranch so resemble the ones from my youth. His answer was a startling one, “Because they are manufactured in Argentina
and we import them!”
What is strange is that in the modified Spanish of South Texas these windmills are called papalotes.
Papalote is the Mexican Spanish word for a child’s kite. In Argentina we call a kite a barrilete (
I was afraid to ask Mike what they call kites in South Texas if a kite is not the toy but the water pump that serves as a lifeline for the sometimes drought stricken area.
In one of the forays into the La Mula pastures I lingered by one of the papalotes
(Molino or windmill in Spanish Argentine) and I was rewarded by the very particular sound of the mill’s rotors as they turned in the wind gusts.
Rebecca had suggested that I pack my father’s mate
(the gourd) the bombilla and some yerba (the yerba mate rough mixture that resembles dried cow dung!) The idea was to sip some mate when we arrived to the ranch.
We did so next to Mike, and Letty for a few evenings around 6. Letty would relax with her red wine and Mike would smoke his Honduran cigars while having his beer and his El Patrón Tequila.
We initially had a problem, a problem in Spanish/Mexican/Argentine semantics:
In my country you boil water in a kettle which we call a pava
. A pava is normally a female turkey (the male is the pavo,
guajolote in Mexico). A kettle is called a pava
because the neck of the water heating utensil resembles the neck of a female turkey. Now a device for making old style coffee is called a cafetera. A tetera
(in my country) is a teapot.
Mexicans, not being traditional tea drinkers, boil their water to make tea in a cafetera
and have no distinct word for a pava/teapot so that when I tell them that the idea of boiling water in a cafetera to make tea is silly they just scoff of my perceived Argentine superiority. It is for this reason that I did not pursue with Mike the idea that a papalote could not possibly be a windmill as it was really a child’s kite!
Melanie Malibu, Chicken Fried Steak & No Peach Cobbler In Burnet, Texas
Friday, July 15, 2011
I just saw this and hope it is not too late to get to you. There is a good American style buffet in Burnet called the Highlander. It is on Hwy 29, 1 1/2 block West of the intersection of 29 and Hwy 281 on the left (South) side of the road. I assume you mean Tuesday? If I don't hear from you, we will be at the restaurant at 12:00 noon on Tuesday. Hope to see you there.
The truly American concept of the cafeteria is hard to explain to anybody who has not experienced it at its best. In some respects my first glimpse into what the institution of the cafeteria was our daily routine at St.Ed’s High School in Austin. We would travel the line with our individual trays and servers would place on our plates what we asked for. The choice was limited but the food was not all that bad. To rest from this sort of daily faire I would sometimes go to town to the Piccadilly Cafeteria on Congress Avenue where I would opt for chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes with wonderful gravy. I would avoid the coleslaw with too much mayonnaise and raisins (why raisins?) and would head for a dessert (not all that jiggly Jell-O) but the creamy tapioca pudding to which I would add lots of cinnamon. On good days I might find some peach cobbler which I would savor with a generous spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
As American style cafeterias disappeared they were replaced by the shuffle your tray lines of airport diners and other eateries of ill repute.
So when I received the email from my friend Howard Houston as a response to my suggestion that we meet somewhere near his Texas home outside of Austin called Buchanan Dam I was delighted to see the expression “American style buffet.”
Thanks to Dolores (our GPS) we found Burnet with no problem and we arrived ten minutes early. The Houstons (Howard and wife Lynne) were already there.
The company was as warm as the weather outside (37 degrees) and the food was as delicious as I expected it to be. I ate twice as the first time I served myself a chicken fried steak (natch!) and the second time some fried chicken. There was no peach cobbler but the bread pudding was just as good.
A trip to the restaurant’s bathrooms led to the strange sight of the tin trough (used previously by cattle to sip their water, perhaps?) Howard explained that the owners of the Highlander were unusually strange. The reproduction paintings on the walls confirmed this. We left with our appetites satiated but with a desire to see the Houstons again soon.
The best part of the meal had nothing to do with the food but with an event that led Lynne Houston to finally give our precious Malibu its definitive name. I told the Houstons how happy I was with our car’s performance and comfort. Lynn eHouston looked at us and said, “Melanie Malibu.” We all knew that instant that the name would stick!
Not having peach cobbler for dessert somehow became an alll-for-the-better situation. I mentionded to Lynne Houston that the pech cobbler she had served us a couple of years ago at her home was, "The best peach cobbler I have ever eaten," according to my granddaughter Rebecca. I asked Lynn to send us the recipe. She did. And just a few days before the girls and their mother flew to Los Cabos (July 30) Rebecca made the cobbler and it was as delicious as we remembered it!
I surprised myself and remembered the recipe for Rebecca. Hope it is as good as she remembers. Sometimes the memory is better than the real thing! Enjoyed the visit today and getting to meet Lauren. Both girls are delightful. I am sure it is the influence of Rosemary and you who make them so.
1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of flour
2/3 cups of milk
1 Large can of peaches ( 29 ounces) drained
• Heat oven to 350 degrees.
• Melt the butter in the baking dish.
• While the butter is melting, mix dry ingredients together then add the milk and make the batter.
• Pour the batter over the melted butter.
• Over the batter, pour the peaches.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 – 60 minutes. Could be less if you make a smaller amount.
I forgot an ingredient for the peach cobbler. The one that makes it taste better, I add cinnamon to the batter when I mix it. Do not know how much, Just to taste I guess.
Tell Rebecca I am sorry for the error. Glad you made it home safely. I know Rosemary is happy to be back and happy to have brought the girls home safely to their Mom. Tell everyone hellol
Monument Valley, Smaller Than Life
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Monument Valley is not bigger than life. I found it surprisingly neat, compact, even small and all managed superbly by Navajos who were friendly and even uncharacteristically talkative.
One of the spots (there are many and close at hand) for photography is called John Wayne’s Point. It is said that it was John Wayne’s favourite spot (click on the picture here to enlarge it and read the sign).
For me our expedition to Monument Valley was most satisfying. While Monument Valley itself is much smaller than I imagined it, the Stagecoach version is as huge as it always was in my imagination, as was, and is, the young man playing the cowboy and called John Wayne.
Marshal Curly Wilcox: Come busting in here - you'd think we were being attacked! You can find another wife.
Chris: Sure I can find another wife. But she take my rifle and my horse. Oh, I'll never sell her. I love her so much. I beat her with a whip and she never get tired.
Dr. Josiah Boone: Your wife?
Chris: No, my horse. I can find another wife easy, yes, but not a horse like that.
The Ghost's Jangling Spurs
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The walls of the long hallway from the spacious living room that leads to the bedrooms are lined with photographs of cowboys (of both sexes) from the past of south Texas. Some might have even hired the likes of Bat Masterson to carry some necessary acts of quick justice. Among those photographs are those of a woman (a great aunt of Mike East) Sarita Kenedy East who managed her ranch with an iron fist while at the same time finding time for a dialogue with her Catholic God. And if God should fail or need any help she had mounted a Gatling gun on the top of her La Parra Ranch to take care of any possible restless natives.
Every time I have been at the Santa Fe Ranch I have lovingly examined every one of those pictures. This year there was an important difference that affected me directly. Some of the pictures on the wall are mine and some day, when I am long gone, I would like to think that some guest might do what I did and peruse the faces and wonder who those brave and self-assured men and women were.
I might even hope that someone sleeping in one of the guest bedrooms might hear sometime around 5:30 in the morning the jingling of the spurs of a ghost. Dead or alive, that ghost would be Mike East getting ready to navigate his Toyota Tacoma or inspect La Mula on that wonderful horse, Grammercy Flow.
The jingling (jangling?) would persist as the ghost would walk down the hall of photographs, down the living room with the Texas Longhorn on the entrance to the dining room, across the dining room, past the wine cellar and into the kitchen, which is the real life and center of activity of the Santa Fe Ranch.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Snow was the quintessential stripper who might have even been insulted if you had called her an exotic dancer. I first saw her at the No 5 Orange Street sometime in the late 70s. She had white skin and jet black hair. She was the kind of woman that had I seen her in New Orleans one Christmas Eve of 1966 I would certainly not be writing about her here while sitting in my living room desk facing my Vancouver garden. I would have somehow stayed in New Orleans.
Snow was the kind of stripper that I imagined getting off a Flxible Continental Trailways bus in the hot and dusty town of Carrizo Spring, Texas, with a cheap suitcase in hand. I would have been there to receive her and I would have said, “High Snow, so nice to see you.”
I was alone in New Orleans as the only passenger in a slow cargo ship that was taking me home to Veracruz. I decided to walk on Bourbon Street. I entered a burlesque parlor and sat down at the front. I stupidly ordered bourbon thinking that was what I was supposed to drink. I watch a bored looking woman step on a stage. She plugged in something and as soon as the music began she danced without feeling or grace. If this is what a stripper was supposed to do I was not impressed. The music stopped. She unplugged the music machine (it may have been a juke box) and disappeared in the back. I returned to my ship. Everything was quiet. Everybody was drunk. I was sober.
Sometime in the early 80s my wife asked me if I would want to shoot some pictures for her company’s calendar (it was a chain of stores called Mariposa). I thought this would be fun. When we decided we would use the Cloverdale Rodeo for a location I made sure that Snow was one of our models. When we arrived at the scene of the rodeo I gave the models the clothing they would have to wear. Snow promptly took all her clothes off, outside the car in the parking lot. “You can’t do that,” I told her.” Her retort was pure Snow,” If you’ve seen it once you seen it. Who cares?” I did but I could not find a way to tell her that even though she might parade her body in strip clubs every day that did not mean that some of us felt that respect was due.
Before that month of December in 1966 I had taken photographs of every sunset from the vantage point of my Victory Ship, the Rio Aguapey. The sunsets off the Brazilian coast were especially striking. Since that time as I have become older I have often said, “Once you have seen one cave, on fireworks display and one sunset you have seem them all. And there is no need to see them again.” Or at least I might add, “You don’t need to photograph them again.”
As I was driving our Malibu to and from Texas there was not one evening (it never rained in the evening) that did not surprise me with a glorious sunset made even more special by the big skies of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Montana (even Idaho obliged one evening).
One of those sunsets, the one you see here which I took with my iPhone while my granddaughters groaned as I stopped the car to take yet one more picture, was somewhere in Utah. As I look at it I almost want to agree with Snow (she died some years ago) and say that once you have seen it once then who cares. But no, she was wrong and so was I.
El Borrado - Not
Monday, July 11, 2011
|Alex W-H by Camerino Urbina - El Borrado
It is not often that I have my picture taken. But after I had photographed that elegant cowboy, Camerino Urbina aka El Borrado I came up with the idea of having him take my picture so that anybody looking at it here would instantly recognize the not too elegant tenderfoot
that I really am. But I have to point out that I am thrilled to brag that this portrait was taken by El Borrado himself. If I happen to look just a tad elegant it could be the immediate presence of one who was.
The photo was taken with a Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD and a 90mm lens. The film was my last roll of Kodak Plus X in 220 (no longer made in either formats) and processed in Kodak HC-110, 1 to 39 for 4 minutes and 45 seconds in a reciprocating revolving tank.
The real cowboys.
Camerino Urbina - El Borrado
Camerino Urbina - El Borrado
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Of all my favourite cowboys, my absolute favourite has always been Randolph Scott. John Wayne in Stagecoach
was young and handsome but there was one important quality missing. Randolph Scott had grace and elegance Wayne did not. There is no way Clint Eastwood could be labeled as elegant in his Italian Westerns. Joel McCrea in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country
, as good as he was, could not compete with his fellow aging cowboy, Scott. Alan Ladd in George Stevens’ Shane,
in my opinion, was much too short for the quality of elegance. Somehow Henry Fonda lacked it and Montgomery Clift, in John Houston’s The Misfits
had too much angst to allow any room for it. The only cowboy who almost equaled Randolph Scott was Ben Johnson (who was a real horse handler before becoming a film star) in the 1953 The Wild Stallion.
When Johnson breaks the beautiful white stallion he does so with no force but by gently walking the horse around a tree for hours. It would seem then, that cowboy elegance comes with finesse and not with bare fists or quick .45s.
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.