Perhaps ten minutes north of our home, in the Mexican State of Colima, seven kilometers north of Santiago, lies a valley of magnificent beauty. Apropos to the ensuing, it is triangulated by Cerro del Toro, Cerro dela Vaca and Cerro los Monos the mountain peaks of Bull, Cow and Monkeys.
Early one morning recently, with our good amigos Paco and Rosie acting as guides, to this idyllic dell, my wife, her best friend, and I drove.
Along a mango lined dirt road, serenely nestled in this lush and verdant vale is Paco’s Uncle’s ranch. On it, fresh in from an evening of casual grass grazing, cattle milled, as such creatures in such environs are wont to do. The herd was comprised of ninety Brahmas of assorted colors: buckskin, dark tan, tan/white, and white and one large black and white cow of dominating stature. With a proper sense of bovine egalitarianism, cows and bulls alike sported horns – some of singular magnificence in their sweeping symmetry.
Casually, comfortable in their own hide, they patiently perused their surroundings, chewed their cuds and balefully ignored their intruding gringo visitors.
Slowly they randomly moved about the handmade pen comprised of posts made from stout tree limbs and hand strung barbed wire – some strands rusty worn and others a newer, dull gray. Ten of their number,
oblivious to their bleak, imminent future, stood penned apart, awaiting transport to market.
Occasionally, and seemingly without reason, members of this bovine mob bellowed in a deep, rich, sonorous bass pitch and timbre of which far away lighthouses must surely yearn. Here, the sound seemed to merely accentuate the pastoral tranquility of a magnificent Mexican morning.
Shading the tejaban watering pen, in which the cattle have gathered, are large Perote, Higera and Luasima trees. Over the pen of the butcher bound bulls, one Perote growing from a small, nearby hill, leaned so precipitously as to be nearly parallel with the ground.
A non-school day, near us, surveying her familial domain, from atop a tan cow seated there by her obviously proud father – sat Joshephina, the eight year old daughter of the herd’s owner, Jose. To we three US ex-pat gringos Tommy, Patty and Judy – who grew up in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, respectively the rustic scene was rather reminiscent of the rural U.S. Midwest and South of our youths.
Bringing us back from musings of days gone by, a vaccaro deftly separated a nursing cow from her companions, tethered her calf nearby, and lashed her hind legs so as to hobble her. Squatting near her flanks Paco then deftly kneaded her udder of warm, whole milk leche fresca into three plastic mugs. Then, into this fresh and frothy milk roughly two teaspoons of raw sugar and chocolate were mixed, followed by a generous splash of de alcohol de caña de azúcar clear (and clearly potent) sugar cane alcohol.
All but defying description which could do it proper justice, this most basic of concoctions harkened gentle farm memories from days long past and while evoking new almost wickedly salacious “If there be bovine beauty, might this not be such?” taste sensations, bathing, sweet and brightly, on the most tired and calloused of our taste buds.
Not a drink, we are sure, for the unadventurous or urban raised faint of heart. However, as we experienced it, a double mocha latte at its Madison Avenue marketed best could not have appeared as attractive nor could it possibly have matched the fresh and unique taste of this most delightful of morning beverages …ala rural Mexico!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation – Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.