During the drive down and back, and during my stay, all of the normal difficulties and pleasantries were encountered, of course. The dogs jump up on an arriving person delivering preferred dog food and doggy treats. Little matter that they have been told not to jump up, it is very difficult to constrain them during those first moments.
Next, one could note that the ample rains of the late-Spring, early Summer had caused the flamboyan trees to set a second blossoming. So the approach to the Quinta was enhanced by that and other flowering things. My mother's favourite vine, the corona vine, had invaded very heavily in all the usual places and the pinkish banks of blooms were actually shimmering in the mid-day heat as we arrived. So all of that was nice. The only problem is that my flamboyan trees were not blooming, save for the one "down below" , and it was only a marginal blush. One has to repeat, "All good things come to those who wait", several times.
Next, the work Alvaro had put in to extend the water line around to the front of the house has proven to be a magnificent improvement. It has cut down on about 30 minutes of hose manoeuvring every day or two. It has also improved the constancy of flow in the interior of the Quinta. Before the pressure of the showers and lavatories would wax and wane under normal delivery about once every 20 seconds. This is not from fire-hose to dribble, but still a significant variation in pressure. Now, a person can take a five minute shower and perhaps detect one recharge of pressure, or perhaps not.
Then during the entire three weeks and a fraction, with high winds, lightning in the area, heavy rains once or twice, and other vagaries of man, beast , and nature we lost power only once and that was because one of the two big fuses in my breaker box at the in-feed had slipped down a little too far and lost contact. El Gringo Viejo is extremely technically competent, so he went through his safety procedures and moved the fuse back up about a half-inch and saved the day. Utter brilliance.
Upon arriving, it was noticed that after ten years of effort, Alvaro and to a lesser extent your humble servant managed to have created what was desired. Our corridor feels like a tunnel, formed by the wall of the house and a high wall of flowering vegetation at the very edge of the corridor to the outside. And, our parking/front patio area directly in front of the "manor house" appears to be a canyon due to the enclosure formed by high trees and bushes. While too much might be made about the growies and flowering things, our motive goes a little beyond banal poofyism. Every tree, bush, and flowering plant produces a blooming that attracts huge numbers of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and hundreds of bird species right to nearly arm's reach of our visitors. It is one of the best passive shows in the Bed and Brunch business.
Neither does El Gringo Viejo seek to coldly justify the plants and the outfall from their existence in economic or even logical terms. It is just totally pleasant. Quiet. Enveloping without being claustrophobic. Even the owner of the place can actually sit for an hour and a half and enjoy the comings, goings, and stayings of the interesting beasts, small and great.
On our last night there, a couple drove up at a point nearing day's end. This required putting on a shirt and my "good cap" and going out to the "porton" (main gate). The visitors were a Mexican couple, well-presented, driving a nice late model Ford pick-up. They said that they had been told about the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre by various friends and decided to stop by on their way back from Monterrey to their home in Tampico.
While we are situated almost "on the way" it is still about a true 50 - 60 minutes of going and coming time to drive to the Quinta from the main trajectory. We unlocked the porton and invited the couple in. The lady was effusive in her "oowing and wowing". And, in fact, they were in luck. We still had the sprinkler running with the last half hour of the daily water delivery, so everything was watered and the "emerald island" to the front of the house (our big patch of carpet grass) was glistening. Everything was showing at its best. Alvaro's Labrador, BiBi, did not bark or jump up, choosing instead to be formal, friendly, and serious, with only dignified moderate tail-wagging.
Diana told me to always turn the fan on in the guest room right after the arrival of any visitor so that the room would feel fresh and coolish in the Summer especially. I asked the folks to wait a second, accomplished that duty, and then let them in to general entrance to the main part of the house. They seemed confused a bit, because I always take off my shoes before entering, and essentially walk around in my socks, but they were informed that the could keep their shoes on. They seemed really overwhelmed at the archaic construction, engineering, and material, the glistening glossy white painted walls, the cane roof, the parts of the interior walls that still had exposed adobe blocks, and the cats, and the simplicity of the place.
Then they were conducted down the corridor to the guest room where the old, colonial style double doors open to a similar, but smaller and more whimsical setting. The lady especially was effusive, but it must be said that her husband was also humoured. He repeated several times "amazing" while the lady's favourite reaction was "enchanting". They sat on the beds, the chairs. They commented on the coolness. "Your air conditioner works really well for such a small unit." Then they were all but incredulous when I told them that only the stand fan was on, and showed them that the air conditioner was un-plugged. The wife joked that she wanted to remodel their master bath in Tampico like the one in the guest room. I'm afraid that, no matter how neat that sounds, it really is far to retro to actually live with. But for a few days, weeks, or a month it is very pleasant....like a sane Alice in Wonderland setting.
We arranged a couple of those wide, heavy plastic white chairs with a little antique table between them. They accepted the offer of a cold beer. While the host sat on his overturned 5 gallon paint bucket, we talked at some length about the "situation" and the elections past and the weather. Hummingbirds came up to within 2 or 3 feet of them, much to their delight. BiBi curled up beside the man's chair and Smokey the Cat actually came and all but sat on the lady's feet. Another couple of the little Corona beers (7 ounce), and some pointing out of the avocado's production and other stories about the plants and the birds and butterflies brought us into darkness. All three of the corridor lights were on, and the first cool, light breezes were having their effect. "Well, I guess it's on to Tampico. We can call you or email at the numbers on this card? We will come back, maybe during All Saints, because we have some people buried here, and we'll be fixing up the graves and having a little get together." They were advised that that was, not too oddly, one of our most demanded times, and that it would be a pleasure to have them. The cemetery is within walking distance....a bit long...maybe 400 yards, but easily done. They said that they would probably prefer to have the all-inclusive deal when they came back, and we went back to the gate, along with BiBi the Labrador. The lady said, "This is enchanting. It's as good or better than the Hacienda."
"You are too kind. You all are not concerned about the "situation"?" they were asked. Just a two or three months before there would have been no one driving at night on into Tampico, another two hours away.
"No. Things have gotten so much better, we said to ourselves, '....let's stop being prisoners. The highway was full when we drove to Monterrey a week ago, and we did most of that at night. You just have to be realistic. There are fewer and fewer incidents. It's gone back to a gang crime thing in the bad neighbourhoods in the cities. So we've just decided to be reasonable and go and come as we wish. Prudence and reason."
El Gringo Viejo responds, "That's my position." They departed after warm handshakes and waves, and BiBi finally expressing some emotion, laughing and barking, bounding beside them as they pulled away on the early evening drive home. It had been a pleasant interlude. A Summer's encounter on the face of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
Somewhat continuing in the same vein, our drive back up the next day was a series of encounters with very heavy deployments of very heavily armed and equipped Army personnel. Traffic was moderately heavy, especially commercial traffic. There was a lot of private traffic heading south, mainly middle and upper income people coming back from shopping in McAllen and elsewhere in Texas and preparing for this week's registrations and re-openning of school sessions. The first-class and deluxe bus count that we met as we were going down about a month ago for the four hour drive was 42 busses, and going back up it was an almost equivalent 46. That will give a person an idea of how much traffic and humanity is moving on the highways. So, as Yogi would say, "Normalcy seems to be starting to be the normal norm again."
It is well to see the doubling and tripling down of the military, even after the elections, in these areas that have had so much infestation. Perhaps Pen~a Nieto will be wise enough to "keep squeezing the neck" until the beast stops breathing. It would be a shame to lose the gains that have been made in order to have "peace in our time".
FINALLY, various agencies, Mexican and foreign, have confirmed that our area...actually centered a little to the north by a few miles....has been being beset by minor to nearly moderate earthquakes for the past four or five years. It has been El Gringo Viejo's certain opinion and observation, sometimes verified by the Mexican Seismic Institute on rare occasion, for some time now. It is an egg-shaped area about thirty miles long, running north-northwest to south-southeast to a point just barely including the Santa Engracia (us) area in the south part. The range of the quakes is from 1.9 to as high as a rare 4.0, sometimes as many as three or four times per week. So...so much for frakking....because there is no drilling for oil or gas within 90 miles in any direction of that zone. It has to do with mountain growth and tectonics, as my departed brother stated several years ago. So there we are.
There will be more later about these and other matters, probably over at the barbacoa and menudo place later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks so much to everyone for your time and interest.
El Gringo Viejo