Saturday, January 08, 2005

Cactus Showdown

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Well past the main road, over dozens of moss covered stone walls and ascending the mountain, I climbed eagerly on horseback, emulating the moves and moods suggested by countless western films. I felt like a cowboy, there alone in the barren fields of Boyaca, where the depth of green horizons lay forever distant in the faded mountain range beyond us.

Crossing the large adobe portals with cracked and fallen clay tiles, rich with the wear of time and downtrodden by the careless weight of abandonment, I sensed a calm alike no other. We stepped cautiously through the creek, my horse and I, carefully placing her shoeless hooves on the shiny stones that were visible through the clear cascading water. Once past it, we stopped briefly for a drink.

I ventured into the open field I'd sought, slowly building up to a full gallop. My hat blew off and hung to my throat by its cord, snapping my head back uncomfortably. I always wondered how the real cow hands managed to keep their hats on.

I saw the patch of cacti I was after in the distance, and rode toward it.

The tall cacti towered over me and the many varied rocks they grew around. They branched out into multi-armed monsters, and formed horribly misshaped yet beautifully random patterns that only the genius of nature could devise.

I dismounted, tied my horse to a tree and silently approached them. My hand went to the sheathed machete hanging from my belt as I looked around me suspiciously, and I gingerly made my way up from the smallest rocks.

I wasn't seeing cactus then. No, I was facing the bad guys and they meant to do me harm. Before allowing them to strike first, I quickly unsheathed my dull machete and speared one of them. Water came flying out. No. Not water. Blood. I was spilling the blood of the men who meant to kill me. I chopped the head off another! Spinning, I sliced in all directions, carving the poor bastards to shreds, stabbing one, decapitating the other, cutting their limbs off one by one.

As I wiped down my weapon, I caught the sight of my brother riding up to join me. I quickly got off the rocks and untied my horse.

"What'cha doin'?" he asked me, eyeing the piles of destroyed cacti I was leaving behind.

"Nothing," I said, climbing my horse and beginning to head back downhill. "Just looking for some higos." Higos are the fruit bore to these cacti.

The sun was beating down now, making the paltry dry grass on the ground seem ablaze.

"You want to go swimming in the river later? After lunch?" I asked.

My brother just stared ahead, ignoring me. He was two years my senior, and nearly a teenager. Too cool to hang out with the likes of me.

"Mick, Mick, the great cactus killer," he sang.

"Shut up!" I shouted. "You don't know nothin'!"

We rode along in silence.

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