Friday, July 23, 2010

Piedritas, Coahuila

Sabbath eve, July 23, 2010

Yesterday I took a quick trip to Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico to see my friend Oscar Cabello. I’ve invested a meager amount into his effort at restoring a farming and ranching community with tremendous potential but in a horribly run down and sad state. The task is beyond either of our means now that we no longer smuggle dope for money, but it’s a task we both feel compelled to tackle.

With the constant news of border violence, I have to overcome a touch of fear each time I make this trip, but surprisingly, the Mexican people I have encountered seem almost to fall over themselves treating me well when I arrive. Even Mexican border guards seem glad to see Americans, in far fewer numbers than before I am told. The contrast upon returning to the United States is quite apparent. Border guards manning our customs installations seem on edge and extremely suspicious. I’m guessing that with a past like mine, it should be expected that I’d get special scrutiny, but it’s sad to say I’m more nervous about returning to my own country than I am departing to that of our neighbors to the south.

Ciudad Acuña and most of the rest of the state of Coahuila recently suffered horrible floods from the remnants of hurricane Alex. Rainfall totals exceeded 15” over a wide swath and evidence of the disaster was apparent everywhere I looked. Oscar tells me many roads have been washed out, homes have been lost, and while there, the area suffered a widespread power outage. Oscar had to take a circuitous route, traveling first south then east and then finally back north to get to Acuña from Piedritas. Mexico’s government is broke, or near so, but they’re doing what they can to provide at least a modicum of relief to the afflicted. In Northern Mexico, a modicum ain’t much.

There was talk of all sorts of programs in the works to help peasant farmers, but talk is about the extent of it. If anything is to be done, it’ll require someone taking the initiative and doing it with whatever they can muster. In spite of this, I remain hopeful. There are appointed leaders, there are elected leaders, and then there are natural born leaders, ordained in the same way Geronimo was ordained. With almost nothing in the way of assets, Oscar has managed to mobilize the few remaining souls in Piedritas and changes are in the works. They’ve cleared a few irrigatible acres of mesquites and huisache from a large field and have planted a crop. It’s a meager crop, but it’s a crop. For the first time in years, a seed of hope grows in the town and its people.

Back home again, we worked cattle for the second consecutive Friday (on another ranch I oversee). Fortunately, this time the weather was a bit cooler and the cowboys got the job done with less stress on the animals. Cattle prices continue to be good. Our corn crop nears harvest, but corn prices are poor. People feeding corn to cattle like that. The corn I am growing is for tortillas. I don't like getting fucked. Three goddamned dollars and eighty four fucking cents a bushel seems a whole lot like getting fucked by my estimation. Grass continues to grow like mad. We resumed cutting hay today and have quite a few acres near ready for a third cutting. I like making small square bales because I have a say in the price I receive.

I’m milking three cows every morning now and Leah’s making cheese as fast as she can. I need more nurse calves as most of those I had have been weaned and sent along, but I haven’t found any for sale and those calves among our beef cows all seem to have willing mothers. The garden continues to produce peppers, okra and cream peas. Another crop of black-eyed peas is planted and growing and Eulit Miller graced me with sweet potato vine cuttings that we successfully got started. Won’t be long until time to start planting a fall crop.

The chickens continue to lay eggs despite the heat, the goats keep eating, although most of the goats we have think they’re human, having been raised on a bottle. Leah names every animal she doesn’t want me to eat. All the goats she raised have names.

A palomino filly got her legs caught in wire and tore the shit out of herself, so now we get to treat her every day for her wounds.

As if she didn’t have enough stuff to can, Leah took a trip to Fredricksburg last week and came back with some of the best peaches I have seen in years. She has made peach jam and she cut up and froze peaches as well. I ate as many as I could.

The struggle on the farm continues, but I’m glad to be able to continue struggling.

And I am glad to know there are others out there fighting a similar fight.

Life goes on.


  1. Unfortunate what happened to Piedritas. One would think a spell was put on that town, or maybe on the entire country. You know, I feel the same about crossing the border into Mexico; a bit of fear, but at the same time I feel free. Maybe is that Latin American sense of freedom, more like animals in the wild, while in the US you feel more like an animal in a zoo.

  2. Don, thanks for sending along the link. Good for Oscar and his compas. Piedritas, like all of Mexico but especially in the north, needs to catch a break sometime soon. What kind of crop did they plant? I know what they didn't plant, huh? The stuff about your own farming and ranching is very interesting and vivid. I got a hoot thinking about Leah running around naming goats before you got hungry. If it's okay, I think I'll put some of this piece on either the CPP blog or my blog with links to yours. // By the way, I took a walk over in Juarez yesterday. It's odd walking down Avenida Juarez and being the only gringo around. When I got back, the customs lady told me to take off my sunglasses. She asked, what were you doing over there? Taking a walking, I said. Taking a walk? Yeah, a walk. She shook her head. Crazy old man, she was thinking. She waved me on through.

  3. p.s. Thanks to for the google earth link to Piedritas. That's wild terrain.