We were beset by turkeys. Leret, my 13-year-old son, and I sat in a hunting blind beside a small creek, trying to figure out which direction the closest gobbles were coming from, but we weren’t having much luck. There were at least four gobblers talking to us at once, from all sides. The only thing keeping us from being overrun was probably my deplorable turkey calling, which seemed to confuse the birds, and make them keep their distance.
It wasn’t entirely my fault that my calling wasn’t attracting turkeys, though. I have never tried to call anything but American turkeys, and we were hunting in Mexico, at Rio Grande Rancho, about an hour south of Piedras Negras, in the state of Coahuila. In case you were unaware, Coahuila happens to be the ‘Turkey Capital of the World,’ or, as they say South of the Border, the ‘Turkey Capital of the World.’ Of course, they say it in Spanish, but there you go.
A very nice fellow from Austin named Jimmy Cobb had invited Leret and I on a turkey hunt at Rio Grande Rancho, on behalf of the ranch manager, Roger Saracho. We happily accepted, despite the fact that neither of us speaks Spanish. Actually, I speak a little bit, because I took Miss Edwards’ Spanish I class at Mason High School (1975-76), but Leret doesn’t speak any, unless you count “Adios,” which is Spanish for “Go away,” and “tamale,” which is Spanish for “tortilla.” I, on the other hand, can also ask where the ‘baño’ is. This is very important, especially when you’ve been eating “frijoles” for a few days.
Roger has been running Rio Grande Rancho for two years, and he’s probably the nicest person I’ve ever met in Mexico. That’s saying a lot, since I’ve met some very nice people in Mexico. The whole time we were there, anytime we asked for anything, Roger said, “OK.” I was talking to him in his office one day, and commented on an empty, wooden cigar box, and he gave it to me. That’s the kind of guy Roger is.
The guest accommodations at Rio Grande Rancho are not what you would expect to find at your average hunting camp. It’s basically a small hotel, with about 16 rooms, two swimming pools, a restaurant, a hot tub, and a skeet shooting range. And, of course, Carlos.
Carlos is sort of a combination waiter/maitre de/everything else. When we first pulled up at the ranch in Roger’s Suburban, Carlos came out with a tray loaded with drinks. He hovered around whenever we sat by the pool, bringing drinks and snacks, fluffing cushions, lighting cigars and cigarettes, and generally being helpful. He waited on us at meals, and between meals, and before and after meals. Whenever one of us wanted something, we would usually look around and Carlos would be bringing it to us. He woke us up with orange juice and coffee in our rooms every morning, and was still standing around when we went to bed at night. It’s a good thing there were only five of us on the hunt, or we might have worn Carlos to a nub.
The ranch itself is a few miles south of the town of Guerrero, which is about halfway between Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo, on Highway 2. The population of Guerrero is probably about 2000, and it’s a typical Mexican town, with typical shops and stores, along with a pretty town square and a nice little community park.
One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed in Mexico is that space in towns is at a premium, even if there’s plenty of room around the town. And Mexicans use just about every bit of space they have. In Guerrero, for example, there is a spot where the main street splits into a Y. There is a grassy area in the Y, with a swingset on it. Right in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. “Go play in the street” is not a joke in Guerrero.
This is one of the most refreshing aspects of Mexico to me. If a kid gets hit by a car crossing the street to get to the swingset, the parents don’t sue the town for putting it there. They rightly blame themselves for letting it happen. They don’t consider themselves victims. They appreciate the effort the town council made to entertain their children, and go on with their lives.
If we could incorporate that attitude into American culture, we would be a much better country. If Americans took responsibility for spilling coffee in their own lap, or hitting their own thumb with a hammer, we might stop being a nation of whining, sniveling, crybabies. Or not. I don’t know.
The other thing we should import from Mexico is turkeys. Jimmy told me there were a lot of turkeys down there, but that’s not exactly true. There are way more than a lot of turkeys down there. All Leret and I had to do was find a couple of toms that gobbled in English, and we’d have it made . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who speaks even less turkey than Spanish. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Rio Grande Rancho at www.riogranderancho.com