Sunday, November 29, 2009

It Had Been a Long Time

I have lived in Spain for so long that I really feel more Spanish than American and I know our children don’t think of themselves as Americans. Between university and rejection of residence papers, after being here almost since birth, two of our daughters have moved back to the States. One now has blessed us with four grandchildren. She met her husband here at a fund-raising Burro-baseball game for our charity, ANIMO. He was a Marine based at Rota and the Americans sent up a bus-load to play a friendly game against Mojacar.
It was time to take a break and spend some time with the children and see something new. Coming from California, one of the privileged ones, or so they say, I thought the mid-west states would be very backward. I was so wrong. The people were gracious and friendly. The countryside was beautiful and the wildlife spectacular. What a change from southern Spain where the rivers are dry and the wildlife almost non-existent. We were also lucky because we hit Indian summer and our three weeks in the States was sunny and warm: not just the weather but also the people we met.
We had the good fortune to stay in the guest house of a friend of our children. It was next to the university and walking distance to the Old Town. Right next to the house was a river that ran through the city and there were parks everywhere. Lenox made great friends with an armadillo that lived under the neighbor’s house and with all the squirrels and birds. All the animals and birds seem bigger there. We took our grandchildren to the zoo to give our daughter a day off and we actually saw more wildlife just sitting on our patio than we did in the zoo.
Patsi, the woman whose house we stayed in, had a huge ranch just outside of town with four horses and lots of cows, all giving birth during our stay. I got to ride every day sometimes twice. My husband got to drive a four wheeler, a horse and a fourteen-wheeler which he drove to help bring in all the huge rolls of hay.
There is the ‘miracle mile’ with all the big shops and fast food but they have kept it all in one area. The houses in the town were all different, ranging from authentic log cabins, colonial and single storey brick or wood houses. They all had at least half an acre with an open area in the front, you couldn’t tell where one property started and the next one began, and a fenced back yard. All beautifully mowed, with a huge variety of trees and birds. Besides spending time with our grandchildren, which was a pleasure, we took in the sights. Lakes and rivers everywhere, we saw a parade for Veterans Day, Halloween was a treat, the food was fantastic and everything was relatively cheap.
Besides the escape from here and spending time with our children, for us the best part was the wildlife and riding everyday. I hadn’t ridden in about eight years I was a bit nervous at first but in a short time was galloping all over the countryside. I have always ridden bareback and that is how I rode. On the main farm you could just walk because of the prairie-dog holes but there was a lovely plowed ring for riding in and a forest that went all around the 180 acres with beautiful paths where you could see herds of deer, brown squirrels, owls and other wildlife. Nearby was a nursery with saplings in it, it was several acres and had a plowed road going all the way around it so you could trot or canter for ever. I had forgotten how happy riding makes you feel and the physical benefits you receive just by having a good time. Patsi, it turned out, was a roper so we went to several practice events and even got to ride some of her horses around just to keep them used to the atmosphere. In the arena we had to use saddles which I found very uncomfortable so will stick to bare-back. Every moment of every day was relaxing, interesting and fun.
It was a great holiday and I can’t wait to go back. It is all thanks to the organization of our children that made this trip possible. Daniel stayed home to take care of the animals and house while Jessica and Amber arranged our lovely accommodation and transport. Without their help we never could have made this trip and in the end it cost us less than staying here for three weeks. Thank you kids, we love you.
One of the interesting things that we noticed was in the grandchildren: they had all grown and matured so much. We noticed that the two school-age girls had lost a lot of their childish imagination in the arts. It is a shame that school tells you that grass is green and the sky is blue etc. because their drawings all looked the same, whereas before, they painted marvelous painting worthy of hanging in a gallery. The imagination on the story telling had increased even to lies but all in good fun. Jessica has been so lucky because she has been able to stay home to watch the change and growth in her children which nowadays is a privilege because most mothers have to work and miss out on a lot of changes both physical and developmental. We had so much fun playing and getting to know the new grandchildren.
The cows had to be counted every day and see if there were any new ones. As they were born they were given names in alphabetical order to try and keep them straight as to their age. They decided on using plants for names and I got to name three: Ivy, Hay, and Jalapeña. Lenox named one, Gooseberry. Patsi also had a mechanical bull and a big metal horse in the barn to practice as all good ropers do because sometimes you just can’t get outside to practice because of the weather or lack of people and animals to participate. At practice sessions all the cows are in a shoot wearing helmets to protect them and two horses back up on either side. The header, one who ropes the head and pulls the cow to the left, and the heeler who is a second behind and catches the feet as the header swings it around to the left and the steer kicks up its hind legs so the heeler can rope them. Then they all run to the far corner and into the shoot again. It isn’t a sport I see myself doing but it was lots of fun.

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