The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Oaxaca Part 4: Lafe's Only Rule on Hiking Up a Mountain

I woke up with no scorpion bites, which is always a good thing. And as far as I know, there were no more mad dashes to the latrine in the middle of the night either.

We had a quick team time that morning. After that, a bunch of us hiked up the mountain to get an early start on the pond. As per usual, it took me a while to hike up the mountain, so Esther and I hung out in the back. We could still see the group out in front of us when we heard some gunshots. I saw the group up front hitting the dirt, so I told Esther that I thought it would be a good idea for is to hit the deck as well. She asked me if someone was shooting at us. I told her that I didn't know, but when you hear gunshots the prudent thing to do is duck. I kept on thinking of how easy it would be to pick someone off walking up the mountain.

Luckily, there were no snipers, just a couple of guys shooting birds. Aaron yelled out to them and they stopped while we passed. When Esther and I passed by, the one guy held up a couple of birds and just grinned.

We started back digging the hole. There were actually more people helping out than there were shovels, so a few of us would sit and chill (though there is nothing chilly about Mexico) out and wait for someone else to get tired. We probably worked up there for an hour or so, when a few people decided to go back down for breakfast. That is when Lafe Benson's rule of hiking up a mountain came in to effect.

It is only one rule, but it is ironclad.

"When you hike up a mountain, you stay up there. You don't go down and then go back up."

So Rick, Matt S. and I stayed up there and kept working on pond. After about an hour, Jason and Ryan came back up the mountain. Jason and Ryan were not going to work in the clinic that day and instead work on the construction crew. The mural team was working on the mural down at the base clinic.

After a few hours, Lorenzo came down from his house to help out. Lorenzo is Margarita's husband and the owner of the fish pond that we were building. He came down and introduced himself and his little son, Mateo. We called him Mateo Dos, since Matt S. was Mateo Uno.

Lorenzo just picked up that pick ax and just started to go to town. He was kicking all our butts working. He made all of us feel like wimps. So we picked up our shovels and started back after it. Lorenzo spoke Spanish pretty well so we could communicate with him pretty good.

After a while with the pick ax, Lorenzo grabbed his machete and was gone. We kept on digging, but after a while we could see Lorenzo on the side of the mountain cutting down trees with his machete. It was pretty impressive. At first, the sight of a man carrying a machete is a bit disconcerting. But most of the men down there carry them. You wonder if they carry it as a tool or a weapon, and in all actuality, probably a little bit of both. But Lorenzo was a master with the machete. A few swings and down went the tree.

He dropped off a few of the trees and came back to help with us. By this time, we had the hole about 5x4 meters and almost 80 cm deep. Now we were working on making a trench around the pond so the pond wouldn't flood out and making a trench so that the pond could be drained. Ryan and Jason were working hard on that drainage trench with the pick ax and a spade shovel. Eventually, Lorenzo got down in there and started back with the pick ax. As we were finishing the trench the usual conversation went something like this.

Lorenzo: "Bien?" Is this Good?
Us: "MMMMMM, Poco mas." Mmmmm, little more
We would point out this one rock that was in our way.
Lorenzo: "Si" Yes

Then the whole conversation would happen again, only this time Lorenzo would tell us we needed to get a little bit more.

By the time Aaron got back up the mountain, we had pretty much finished the digging. He got the drainage pipe out and started fitting it. At that time, I had to tell the only Plumber's joke I know. I guarantee you that every Plumber knows this joke.

What two things do you have to know to be a plumber?

Crap (Insert other word if needed) doesn't run uphill and payday is on Friday.

So while Aaron was working on the drainage, the rest of us started to move a bunch of dirt that had collected near the pond. By this time, the mural team (Esther, Cindy and Bethany) came back up and helped out. Once again, we took shifts on moving the dirt. When I was taking a break and drinking a little bit of water, I was trying to teach Mateo Dos how to give a high five. He wasn't quite sure about it at first, but after a while he got the hang of it.

We also tried to put the pond liner down, but found out it was going to be too small. So Ryan and Matt S. went down the mountain to get another liner that was supposed to be bigger. So we all moved some adobe blocks around the pond. After we finished that Lorenzo and I began planting fence posts. I asked Lorenzo how to say a few words in Mixteca. Words which I have complete forgotten now. The one thing that I do remember is the name of the mountain that he lived on. I believe it was called Yocoo in Mixteca. I also asked Lorenzo if he ever had fallen down the mountain by accident. He said he hadn't. I told him that if I had lived there I am sure that I would have taken a spill down it a few times. He laughed.

Some of the team went down the side of the mountain and started to plant some fruit trees. The neat thing is that the drainage trench was going to take any overflow from the pond and use it to water a bunch of fruit tree. It was pretty ingenious if you ask me. So not only will Lorenzo and his family be able to eat and sell fish, they will also be able to collect fruit. I didn't volunteer for planting the trees because, like I told Lorenzo, I am sure I would fall down the mountain.

A few others began to unroll the chicken wire and hang the fence. We made sure to bury the fence so that no doggies could get in a have a free meal. When the guys came back up with the pond liner, they also brought a few of the Mexican girls who brought some much appreciated gift. They brought up watermelons.

Now I have said many a times that the best watermelon I have ever had was back when I was a kid. My best friend Jeremy and I would walk to a little fishing pond during those long and hot summer days. We used to walk alongside his Grandfather's watermelon patch and pick watermelons right off the vine. We would throw it down on the ground, crack it open and just scoop it out with our hand, which still smelled of the worms we had just dug up for bait. For some reason, unsanitary as that was, I always thought that would be the best watermelon I would ever eat. But I must admit, the watermelon we had down there was better. We were all just dripping sweat and exhausted from the long day. But when we sat down on the side of the mountain, relaxed a little bit and had watermelon juice dripping down our faces, it was so much better.

Which, just for the record, Bethany can spit some watermelon seeds like a champ. I would bet on her in a watermelon seed spitting contest.

After eating the watermelon, Aaron said a couple of people could go ahead and walk down the mountain. When no one really volunteered, Jason came over to Esther and me and told us to go ahead and go back to the base. So we slowly made our way down the mountain.

When we got to the base, I decided that instead of a wet wipe shower, I would try to take a real one. So I hope in the latrine/shower and begin to lather up. It was only then that I realized that there was no water. I yelled over at Esther in the other side of the latrine/shower and asked her if she had any water over there. She said no and that she had been using the bucket that is normally used to flush the toilet to rinse off. I did the same thing but made sure to leave a little bit of soap on me. I figured it wouldn't hurt.

I was still rinsing off when I heard Esther said "Oh no." I asked her what was wrong, and she said that she had forgotten to get her shirt of the clothesline. I told her to give me a minute. I put my clothes on and went out and found her shirt on the line. I threw it to her and then went down to the dinner table and sat down feeling amazingly clean. Esther came out and started Febreezing her clothes. When she sat down I told her that the shower was quite possible the best and worst shower that I have ever taken. She concurred. As we were waiting on the rest of the group to come down the mountain, Ester read a little bit of my Bible and I read the rest of the John McCain article in the New Yorker.

The rest of the group finally came down after about an hour or so. By that time, I had broken into my stash of butterscotch candies that I had brought with me. I was throwing them around to everyone, including Roberto, who was hanging around the base to talk to Aaron. Roberto wanted to know if he could get a ride the next day to go get some corn. I guess Aaron had told him that on Wednesday we were going to be going over a couple of towns over. Aaron agreed and took the pick up to go get the rest of the crew.

When the rest of the crew got back from the clinic, we ate some dinner. I did eat a bit of it. It was pretty good, some sort of raman noodles pasta.

After dinner we had some more team time. It was pretty usual except for Dr. Matt talking about giving breast exams to some of the older women. Evidently, the older women don't really like to wear shirts and none of the other doctors gave any breast exams. So I am not really sure what was going on there.

I hit the hay pretty early that night, I was buck naked tired. The only problem was that is began to rain pretty fierce right before we went to bed. Amy and Jill were out in the rain acting crazy (what's new with that?). No scorpion incidents to speak of that night either. So I just put my headphones on, and tried to get to sleep. Unfortunately the wind and rain was blowing into the room, so Kent and I got up to close the windows. I put my headphones back on, put Snow Patrol's Run on repeat, and drifted off to sleep.

Find out what happens next, in the 5th installment of my trip to Oaxaca...

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