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On my last trip to Mexico, I decided to visit the Sierra Tarahumara to look up some people. I didn't find all of them, but did meet a lot of good people, ate a lot of good food, and, a passion with me, walked several hundred miles of trails and dirt roads. Walked, not hiked. I'm too lazy to go for hikes (blame it on the Army, they ruined me).
On my second day in Hotel Margarita, Creel, Chihuahua, I was told about Lago Elefante, a small picturesque lake, and decided to take a walk (not hike!). Juan, Margarita's cousin, told me it was eight kilometers. What he didn't mention was that the entrance to the lake was eight from outside of town, then a few more back to the lake.
No matter. I wanted to walk. The sun was warm, the sweet scent of pine wood smoke still hinting at breakfast, the people friendly. The road very quickly became dirt, then a goat path. On the edge of town four boys, ages ranging from maybe eleven to perhaps seven, chased four horses from the woods, across the road and into a small pasture. Two of the boys were swinging lassos and screaming at the top of their lungs (and very good lungs they were, too). The two older boys lassoed a pair of horses, jumped on, and roped the other two. All this without so much as a halter, let alone bridle and saddles.
I held up my camera. Kids are kids, no matter where you go. They froze, shocked, now that they saw me. I shouted, "Viva los pistoleros de las montañas! Viva Villa!" They whooped, doing tricks and bragging about everything, then charged off up the mountain on errands important to boys just freed from the prison of school.
A short while later I climbed the path and found cow-pies. Range cattle. Believe it or not, the most deadly animals in the world are wild cattle. I've had a few run-ins with them when working on places in Arizona and Colorado, and prefer rattlesnakes and muy bravos: Snakes have better personalities.
The path cut over the road and I followed.
The sun was shining, a few clouds here and there, the sky so blue it would have made an artist cry with joy. The trees were beautiful, flowers blooming from the summer rains. And a few hundred feet up the mountain there was a small herd of cows nibbling weeds along the road.
More came through a hole in the fence. Black as sin and with horns that would give a jaguar pause, a bull stepped through. I swear, had smoke and hellfire come from his nostrils, I'd not have been in the least surprised. That demon looked perfect for the bullring, a masterpiece in breeding.
Me, I started eyeing the closest trees. Seedling pines and some manzanita. The best for climbing was more than fifty feet away and for me not in running distance as an Appaloosa cowhorse shattered my kneecap back in '80. Besides, the lowest branch was about ten feet up. No way I'd reach it, unless the bull decided to help.
He spun, staring back at the hole in the fence. He bellowed, shook those needle-sharp horns, lowered his head and pawed gravel from the path up over his shoulders and back.
A pair of Tarahumara girls, perhaps all of five and six years old, came out of the pasture carrying short switches and tapping his cows on the hocks.
The bull tensed for a charge. Man, what was I going to do? I started to shout to distract the demon when the girls screamed, snatching rocks from the ground and throwing them at him. Each rock hit and was followed by more. I think the Phillies are sending an agent, they could use some good pitchers.
Tail high, he spun and charged across the road, through the cows, and into the pines.
The rest of the cows paused at the road, looked for traffic, and wandered across with the two miniature bullfighters calmly chatting and tapping the switches.
I lowered my hand, closed my jaws, and blinked a few times: So, that was how you handle deadly range cattle in Mexico. You find a couple of kids....
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