Exploring in the Old West

Two of our granddaughters 9 and 7 years old, flew out from New York a couple of weeks ago for a five week visit.  Life on the border doesn’t offer the same entertainments as the big city.  Still they have been to the zoo, gone swimming in nice pools, jumped and played at Pump it Up with their Aunts.  We have made doll clothes, and read stories.  But today topped everything.

In the morning we went out to pick grapes off the grape vines.  The grapes are nearly all gone now but there were still a few good bunches last time we looked.  We climbed over the wall to check the vines on the back side of the gate.  Sure enough there was a big bunch of green grapes.  But we could hardly see the grapes.  The bunch was covered with at least twenty bright green flower beetles, all jockeying for a position on our grapes, sucking the juice right out of the skins.  They are beautiful beetles, at least an inch long.  When I cut the stem and lifted down the bunch of grapes the beetles didn’t budge.  We had to pick them off.  Our two year old granddaughter who lives nearby is used to such activities, but her cousins weren’t sure they wanted to pick up busy, buzzing beetles.  We carried the bunch inside to show granddad the beautiful “grapes” we’d found and suddenly the beetles decided to let go and fly.  Then three little girls chased beetles around the house, held them in cupped hands and listened to their wings whir before setting them free again outside.  And we had fun.

A little later I told the two sisters they could hike down the hill behind our house.  We live on five acres, and the hill is a real hill, covered with thorny mesquite and cat’s claw, the ground uneven and rocky underfoot.  We packed a lunch and I made a few suggestions on what shoes might be best, and that maybe they wouldn’t want to carry a bag of books down the hill.  I told them that when they reached the wash at the bottom of the hill they should turn downhill and follow the wash to where it crosses the road.  I would drive down and meet them.

I jumped in the car with the two year old and off we went.  I backed out of the driveway and drove along the ridge line, I looked around, had I missed the road that cuts down off the ridge heading north?  No.  It was still in front of me.  I drove a little further and came to the road I needed.  At the bottom of the hill sure enough the road crossed the wash.  We had backtracked some coming down the hill, but still we had driven a mile and a half by road.  Too far for two little girls from New York!  I realized it has been a few years since I had kids at home climbing up and down the hill, building forts in the wash.

I put the Yukon in four wheel drive and turned up the wash.  We made it about 2/3 of the way back toward our property dodging rocks and trees, but finally we could go no further.  An uprooted tree was wedged across the wash, pushed down by the monsoon rains.  There was no way around it.  So the little one and I got out, locked up the car and walked up the wash calling out the grandkids’ names.  The two year old liked walking in the sandy wash bottom.  She pointed out lizards and butterflies and at one point she spotted a coyote and commented on the big dog.

It wasn’t long until we heard two little voices, “We can see you!”  Sure enough there were two tired girls. They were happy to see us and we were happy to see them.  They told me that they had looked for a nice green tree with grass under it to have a picnic, but they hadn’t found one.  All the trees were covered with thorns.  And it’s true.  This is a thorn forest.

We walked back toward the car in the sandy wash bottom and we looked for lizards and butterflies.  The air conditioning felt wonderful.  We drank ice water and everybody took a bath.  What an adventure.

We have beetles in a bottle and a lizard in a jar.  Tomorrow we will have to let them go.

In the late afternoon we made oatmeal cookies.  All three girls measured and stirred.  While the cookies were baking and I was cleaning up the kitchen they made dollhouses out of cardboard boxes.  What fabulous dollhouses are now under construction.  With a few cookies each the three young ladies went outside again to play in the yard.  When I looked out they had climbed over the wall onto our cleared property to the west.  There the water had run down from the last rain and formed a perfectly round mud hole about six feet in diameter.  The mud was the consistency of clay and three girls were busy making mud balls, mud tortillas and mud pies.  As the sky turned darker and evening came on the girls played together for more than an hour and a half there in the mud hole.
Yes, there were more baths.  Yes, it was messy.  But when the seven year old said her prayers, she added, “and thank you for this Wonderful Day!”

You can go to a lot of fancy places, but it’s hard to beat a mud hole, a hike, a beetle or a lizard.  And that’s why we live out here in our “boring” rural home on the Border!

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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3 Responses to Exploring in the Old West

  1. This sounds like an adventure for girls from New York! I’m sure they are making amazing memories (and have GREAT stories to tell their friends when they get back!).

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