Why the Police Showed Up at the Ranch
GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – What was wrong with the thousands of generations that came before us?
All their antique courtship rituals… sitting on the front porch, chaperones, and pitching woo.
They must have been really stupid! Because all it took was a single group of Yale graduates and a few decades to mull over their experiences…
And now, we have the “right way” for men and women to get along.
As students in the 1970s and ’80s, the young Yalies were apparently as confused as everyone else. Following the party at which Brett Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself… none of them decamped for a more civilized college, complained to the dean, or even left the party in disgust.
Then, as recently as 1999, when Juanita Broaddrick credibly accused Bill Clinton of raping her (not just groping her or exposing himself), the press treated her like trailer trash.
But then, Juanita didn’t go to Yale. She went to Sparks School of Nursing. And it was still the ’90s; the media and elite were so enchanted with the Clintons that his peccadillos hardly mattered.
But now, the path to human perfection is open. How men and women treat each other is for the feds to decide, along with everything else.
The hounds of the FBI are on the case and should drag this show out for a few more days… with elite factions scrapping for power and status…
One side wants to get its man on the court. The other is taking an opportunity to show off its self-absorbed angst… and get even with its drunken classmates for insults that happened a generation ago.
While this sorry spectacle was going on, approximately 100,000 people died of starvation worldwide… the feds went about $2.7 billion deeper in the hole… approximately 400 American women were raped… and we drew one day closer to a catastrophic blow-up of the economy.
And a few years from now, even with so much competition from the Trump team, the whole spectacle is sure to be remembered as a national embarrassment, like Prohibition or Tom Friedman.
But this is a new week… We must recover our sense of humor… turn our faces to new absurdities… and look at them from a new perspective.
Place at the End
Yes, we are back at the ranch. We drove up the dusty road from Molinos on Saturday, stopping to pick up a hitchhiker – a woman in her thirties with no front teeth.
“Where are you going?” we asked.
“Up the road,” was the answer.
That was as far as the conversation went. We tried to ask who she was and what she was doing (it’s a small valley), but we couldn’t make any sense of it.
Later, we described the encounter to our housekeeper, who replied:
“Oh… That must have been Veronica. She’s crazy.”
We dropped Veronica off near a collection of little mud houses and went on our way… up, up, up… towards the end of the valley where the road, such as it is, would end.
There, at the foot of the big mountain, Rebenque, we would find our farmhouse… the school… the church… and the small village known as Gualfin, which means “the place at the end.”
It is early spring here. The grape vines and trees are budding. But it is also frightfully dry, with a gusty wind that sucks the moisture out of everything.
The road – little more than dust and gravel – runs over hills, across dry riverbeds, around rocks and mountains. Then, it crosses a bridge (built only a few years ago; when we first arrived, we had to hope that the water was not too deep to cross), and begins the long climb up to the ranch.
There used to be a crooked and dried-out sign pointing the way to the ranch. It looked so forlorn and forgotten, as if it were pointing to an abandoned cemetery.
But now, it has fallen down or been washed away. Today, you just have to know where you are going. In the early days, before we knew the road well, we would look for a rock formation that reminded us of a battleship.
The children would shout out “battleship,” and we would know it was time to veer to the left. Sometimes, the track had been washed or blown away when we arrived.
Now, there are more trucks in the valley, and in dry season – which is most of the year – the tire tracks are obvious.
You simply follow along… up, up, up… rising about 2,000 feet from the riverbed. It takes about half an hour to drive from the left turn, where the property begins, to the farmhouse… always keeping Rebenque ahead of you.
After about 20 minutes of going hard uphill, you find yourself in a huge, flat valley… and you can drive along a bit faster, watching out for cattle.
We found the cattle huddled around the water tank. They were thin, as they always are in this season. But they looked thinner than usual. And it wasn’t hard to see why. There was not a blade of grass to be seen.
Finally, we arrived at the base of Rebenque and settled into the farmhouse. Our housekeeper (who is otherwise up in the mountains herding goats), the farm manager, and his family came over to greet us.
It wasn’t long before the subject of the cattle came up.
“Yes… they’re very thin. And the cows don’t have enough to eat, so they’re aborting their calves,” our farm manager informed us.
This was very bad news. The farm is already deeply in deficit. We lose calves to the condors and the pumas. We can’t afford any more losses.
We rode out on Sunday to have a better look. The cows looked thin, but not desperate. Later, we opened a conversation with the housekeeper:
“So what’s happened while we were gone?”
“Nothing much. Gabriela didn’t run off with Omar. In fact, Gabriela and Justo are back together. Now, they’re talking about moving down to the other ranch. They think it will give them a new start… away from Justo’s mother.
“She’s always been the problem. Gabriela got together with Justo when she was only 17 years old. The mother-in-law always bossed her around and never approved of her. No wonder Gabriela wanted to get away.
“And it’s probably a good idea anyway. I mean, for them to go down the valley. Justo is an equipment operator… and that’s where you took the backhoe.”
We thought we heard a tone of reproach in her voice… as if we had stripped the ranch of its much-needed equipment. Of course, we moved the backhoe to the lower farm to prepare the canals so we’ll be able to grow corn and alfalfa to feed the cattle.
But that explanation could wait.
Meanwhile, the war with the originarios (people who claim special rights to the land because they are descended from the native people) continues.
And while we were away, we lost a battle. We’re beginning to wonder whether our team – neighbors and relatives of the originarios – wants to win at all.
“Oh… and the police came a couple times. Roberto – you know, he’s not from here, but he lives with Alicia up in the valley – started to build a house near the school. [The farm manager] told him to stop. That land belongs to the ranch. He can’t just build a house anywhere he wants.
“But he said he was an originario. So [our lawyer] went and got a court order to tell him to stop. The police came… but they couldn’t find him. And then, when the police left, he went back to building his house.
“So [our lawyer] called the police again. They came up again. But he wasn’t there. So the same thing happened. They left, and he kept building the house. Now, it’s finished. And he’s living in it.”
Later, we asked our lawyer what happened.
“We got a court order telling him not to build the house,” the lawyer explained. “But they can’t serve the court order because they can’t find him. Someone must be tipping him off when the police are coming.”