Fading to black

skilletTHE TWELVE-YEAR-OLD boy walked into the kitchen on a warm summer day. It was time for breakfast — eggs and grits and ham steaks or bacon. A coffee percolator on the counter plucked away, but he didn’t drink coffee, not way back then.

The only way to get into the kitchen unless you entered through the long screened porch from the back yard was from the dining room, so he entered from the dining room.

The first thing one encountered was the old refrigerator immediately to the left. Just beyond that was a heavy, antique table covered with oilcloth. That table abutted a casement window that opened to the yard where things also were eaten at times, dinners and watermelon and apple pie.

New ImageHe was sitting at that very table one evening with his grandmother when he heard the harp music coming through the window.

He was a bit older than 12 when that spooky thing happened, and the source of the harp solo was never explained to anyone’s satisfaction.

To the right was a fireplace which was always lit on winter mornings, but this being summer, school vacation, up from Florida, there was no fire. And just beyond the table was a wall-to-wall counter, left to right, and cabinets above.

Lemonade, and tea too, would be made on the left side of that counter. Glancing toward the right, you’d see a sink and beyond that the stove where cornbread, which was wonderful with red-eye gravy, was cooked in a cast-iron skillet.

An eternal fixture on the left side of that counter was a heavy, gray ceramic jar open at the top. That jar was always full of salt that you pinched and sprinkled with your fingers.

Above the sink was another window, one that looked out not at the yard but toward a pasture for Hereford cows and the one, happy bull. That was when the boy was 12. Later, that pasture was turned into a grove of pine trees, when the government started paying farmers to take it easy.

Back to the kitchen. The wooden walls were shiplapped, as were the walls in the entire house, and there was a nice-sized pantry just to the right before you walked out the door to the screened porch. The kitchen floors were linoleum.

After breakfast on a summer morning, there were a number of  options for a 12-year-old boy. Here’s a good one:

He left the dirty dishes for Willie the maid, and walked out the kitchen door, continued about five feet to the screened porch door, and stepped down to concrete steps. There were plenty of cats, sometimes up to 25.

Granny liked cats.

revolverAbout five years later, the boy turned a .32-caliber, chrome-plated, Smith & Wesson revolver on one of those cats, a mangy, sickly one who was suffering. Gunning down a cat is not a pleasant experience, even if it’s best for the cat in the long haul.

But that came later. Today is a sunny summer morning, and the boy walked straight ahead, passing the small building on the left that had been his sister’s playhouse and then a larger building, also on the left, where his father had written short stories after World War Two. Then there was a gate.

Stepping down about foot on the other side of the gate, there were dirt ruts of a road heading left. It was a good route to walk because it was not public. It was private, though people from far and wide would come, knock on the door, ask permission, and then drive down that road to fish in the pond,

On this summer day, the boy aimed for that pond. The dirt road separated the pasture on the left — the same one visible through the window above the sink in the kitchen — from a grove of pecan trees on the right. The farm made money from cotton, corn, peanuts, beef and pecans.

The walk to the pond was not long, maybe a quarter mile, and the pond was somewhat sunken. You had to walk down an incline to the pond’s shore. The word pond is misleading.

It was a large lake though it was called a pond, and it was surrounded by towering cypress trees, many of which grew in the water itself, providing shade. Here is the experience of the pond: silence, at times broken by bird songs.

boatAn old rowboat rested on the water’s edge.

A man with silver hair and wrinkles, though far fewer wrinkles than many his age, awoke, and there was a beautiful Mexican at his side. He popped a Hershey’s Kiss in his mouth, bit down, smiled, and was soon asleep again.

Zapata Tales, revisited

THOSE WHO HAVE passed through this corner of Mexican cyberspace for more than three years will remember its previous incarnation, The Zapata Tales.

That old boy is gone now, offline, but I took a peek recently and found some photos and other items I will share — reissue — today. Some things are worth repeating.

Let us start with a post, the final one, from The Tales. It was also where the title of this website originated — The Unseen Moon, which came to me out of the blue even though I have since seen it used elsewhere.

* * * *

The Old Wolf

It had rained most of the night, but not now, so he stood quietly so not to waken his mate. He left the cave to trot the short distance to the overlook. Clouds were clearing and he sat on his haunches and viewed the incredible distance, the morning valley below and the faraway mountains.

They had left the old home because Homo erectus became more of a worry down in the valley. Now they lived in a different cave that was very high and well hidden. Homo erectus was no threat here.

They lived in peace, eating the occasional rodent and rabbit that were becoming more difficult to catch. He was not as quick as before and gray covered his snout. One fang ached now and then.

His mate, whom he loved so, had caught a burr in a back paw. She never got it out, and it festered. He did all the running now, and sometimes he came back to the cave breathing heavily.

wolf-8978911But with a rabbit. He would always have a rabbit or something like that. It had to be done if they were to eat and continue.

There had been pups over the years. Those were very happy times, the little ones climbing over his chest and biting his ears. He loved that. But they had gone.

They had found their own mates and walked far away.

This cliff edge where he sat now was a favored spot.  At night he saw the moon, and he howled at it. He didn’t know why he did that. He only knew that he had to, that it was absolutely required.

How would the moon hang in the sky without his songs?

He thought about how he had met his mate so many years ago. They were young together, and they played among the trees farther down the valley. One day she smelled like a ripe pine nut, and they got married in the bushes. She had never given him anything but joy.

* * * *

The years had passed. The pups. Hunting and being hunted by Homo erectus. Fresh mountain summers and cold winters of snow, which were the hardest times. But most times were good. Few were bad.

In both the first cave far below and this new higher home, distant from Homo erectus, they had slept all those nights atop brown leaves with their bodies touching. Their spirit of love had never waned, and it was warming in the winter, cooling in summer.

* * * *

As he sat this morning on the cliff watching the clouds disperse and the sun rising over the distant damp crests, he thought of these things as he did more and more in recent weeks.

And his fang ached.

He stood with a deep sigh and walked toward the cave entrance. His mate would be awake by now, waiting. But she was not. She lay where he had left her. He drew near and nudged her with his old nose.

The cave was quiet. He heard spiders climbing the walls. A hollow sound crept from the farther depths where they had never dared to walk, deep in the cavern. His heart grew chill. His love had died.

He sat and stared at her. He inhaled deeply. He turned to look at the cave entrance where there was more light. After an hour he stood and walked back to the overlook. It was a brilliant morning.

He asked the unseen moon: What am I going to do?

* * * *


Let’s turn to photos now. This is my wife looking at our lake from a very high point about six years ago. I like the woman. I like the lake. I like the mountains. I like the nation, warts and all.

A corner downtown.
A street downtown.
A clay bowl.
A clay bowl.

My first year below the Rio Bravo, before I married, before I built the Hacienda, I drove alone in my shiny new Chevy hatchback to Querétaro. Passing an art shop, I saw this bowl through the window. I bought it.

Today it sits in the Hacienda living room, full of Hershey’s Kisses. You wanna kiss. You know where to find one.

Feet in the hammock.

Years back, I used to spend hours, reading, dozing, daydreaming, marveling, in the hammock on the upstairs terraza. Now I almost never do that. Don’t know precisely why. The hammock is still there.

Cloudy mountains.
Cloudy mountains.

This is not far from our house. We see this every weekday morning when we do our power walk around the neighborhood plaza. Sometimes there are clouds, sometimes not.


A few years back, we had a new cistern dug. I went spelunking with a camera.

* * * *

The Zapata Tales  had a column running down the right side, particularly interesting remarks culled from readers’ comments. I put them there for two reasons: 1. They made me feel good. 2. They were a lure to new readers who might have just glanced about and departed.

Here are just a few:

You never cease to amuse and amaze me.

Pretentious dolt!

You have brought so much joy and a little irritation.

You disgust me (a paraphrase).

Wise, wry writing from a beautiful place.

What a nice piece of heaven you share.

You’re like a drunk uncle.

You’re a right-wing wacko.

God, you are hysterical!

You are a treasure on the electron highway.

There were many more, but you get the idea. I rarely get those types of comments on The Unseen Moon. Not quite sure why. I have mentioned that my mind has changed. One reader, on hearing that confession, suggested seriously that I seek medical help due to senile dementia or perhaps impending lunacy. I have yet to do that.

The Tales  were more lyrical and romantic thanThe Moon.  Life settles down. The Tales  were referenced in Carl Franz’s People’s Guide to Mexico, the tour book popular with hippies who eat brown rice and drink goat’s milk.

* * * *

Remains of monster maguey.
Remains of monster maguey.

I planted this maguey when it was quite tiny. It grew. And grew. And grew. I had to get rid of it. These two fellows first cut the fronds off, leaving the base, which was unearthed and toted away.

I’ll never make that mistake again.


A street in the neighborhood. I could tell you who lives here, but then I’d have to kill you.

Scene inside the Hacienda.
Scene inside the Hacienda.
Local beauty parlor.

* * * *

The Zapata Tales ran for six years. The Unseen Moon has shone for three. The daily readership count is about the same. The former focused on my life in Mexico, the latter, not so much.

Things change. Minds change. I doubt I will seek psychological help. What’s the point?

Old wolves don’t need no stinkin’ shrinks.

I hope you enjoyed the lupine Tale and photos.

It’s going to be a wonderful day.