Lupe, my friend in Mexico for twenty years helped me with Marimba, my first horse. Decades have passed since I bought Marimba, a thirty-eight year old gelding, whose ribs showed through his brown coat because his teeth had grown too long for him to chew alfalfa. I crossed the border to buy alfalfa pellets and he regained his weight.
Our first day out, I rode to the beach with its smooth white sand stretching. I didnʼt consider that Marimba, who had grown up in the Valle de Guadalupe, had never heard the snap and shuffle of pounding waves. Heʼd never seen white foam breaking and creeping forward. With each break, he puffed and snorted, ears pricked forward, alert. What was wrong? I felt uneasy. My heart pounded.
A friend recommended Lupe, a Mexican Vaquero, as the best horseman in La Mision. Forty-ish, with ocean blue eyes and hair already gone silver, he spoke slowly in halting English, his voice soft. He asked, “Senora, what would you like me to do?” I answered in my broken Spanish, “Can you help me with mi caballo?”
Twice a week Lupe climbed the hill to exercise Marimba, unearthing the horseʼs old talents as a dancing horse. Marimba held his head high, picked up his hooves, spun in circles, snorted and strutted in place. Laughing, Lupe told me heʼd come from Guadalajara with his father when he was sixteen. “From him I learned the way of horses. They teach you more than you can ever teach them.” He never accepted money for his time. An occasional chicken served as payment.
Now in his late sixties, silver curls turned white, eyes once blue like the sea, now a pale gray like a cloud on a wintry day, he can barely walk – too many years of building fences and chasing cows. I began to make weekly visits, exercising his legs, helping him to walk again. In a way, I unearthed Lupeʼs old talents, just as heʼd done twenty years earlier with Marimba.
On Sunday mornings I watch Lupe and his family climb the hill across the way to the church on top. His laughter as contagious as the old days rings across the arroyo. The Mexican Vaquero, is an edited excerpt from The Philosopherʼs Daughter, a memoir, by Jennifer Stace, available on Amazon.com