What a vacation!
We all assembled in Buenos Aires…and then made the trek up into the Andes.
Our ranch is on the very edge of human habitation. If it were any drier or higher, the place would curl up and blow away…which is what seems to be happening.
“It was much wetter here 20 years ago,” Jorge, the ranch foreman, explained. “This whole valley would be green in late springtime. You could fatten up the cattle and sell them at the end of the summer. But there is less water now. It hasn’t really rained here in almost two years. Unless we get some rain soon, we’ll have to sell the herd.”
One of the predictions made by earth scientists is that the dry areas on the edge of the tropics will become even drier. We don’t know if we believe it. But that is what seems to be happening here. This time of year, there is only a trickle of water coming down from the Andes. The whole ranch…trees, people, cattle, grass…all survive on that water.
“Yes, and there used to be more people, too. Look at that house over there. There was a family living there. And another one just up the valley. There are abandoned houses all over here. The people just moved away because they couldn’t support themselves. Not enough water.”
We had gone on horseback over to a little valley about two-hour ride from the main house. The last time we were there, the little ‘rio’ that ran through the valley had a nice flow of water in it. This time, you could strike a match on the bottom of it.
Jorge looked up. The sky was clear and blue. Only a little wisp of cloud hung over one of the nearby mountains.
“Yes, it’s too bad. The price of beef is way up. But we don’t have much beef to sell. Our cows are thin. I don’t know what they eat. There’s no grass. Of course, we bought some hay…but it was only an emergency ration.
Your editor bought the ranch, figuring that a beef operation was a better place to keep money than a bank account. He would have dollars…or pounds…or euros in a bank account; he doesn’t particularly like any of them.
But at least dollars don’t need water. Or grass.
And you don’t get hurt checking on them.
We ate lunch in the valley and then headed back to the main house. The air was so thin, and the sun so strong, that your editor was feeling a little lightheaded. Maybe that was why he thought he could mount his horse like Gene Autry in a rodeo. As he put his left foot in the stirrup, Muerte…or whatever his name was…started to move away. Rather than rein him in and forcing him to stand still, your editor attempted to mount up on-the-fly. A more experienced rider might have pulled it off. But when Markets and Money honcho hit the saddle, old Muerte started to buck, and off we went, head over heels, until we did a kind of Fosbury Flop onto the sun-baked dirt.
Jorge got down off his horse and looked concerned.
“Señor Bonner, are you going to be able to get up?”
Jorge had one of those looks on his face. When we speak to him, we always speak in Spanish, of course. And our Spanish is not very good. Jorge is too polite to laugh. Instead, he gets a quizzical look on his face, as if to say: what in the world are you trying to say?
The previous day, for example, we had wanted to ask him to pick up some desserts at the store. There is a delicious Argentine cake called an ‘alfahore,’ made with dulce de leche. But we got mixed up and asked him to get some ‘alfombras” for dessert. Immediately, he got that look on his face. Alfombras are carpets. We had just suggested that we would like to eat some carpets for dessert.
Lying there on the ground, we understood his question. And we knew it had an answer. But at that moment, we didn’t know what it was. Instead of getting up, we rolled over…
“Oh…we better get the cactus needles out first,” Jorge suggested.
Markets and Money