Monday, 24 August 2009

Brushfires & Busted Bones: Felices Fiestas!

It was a great fiesta weekend, what with the guitar concert, the huge chorizo barbeque, the fireworks and dancing into the night.

Too bad one of our guests fell down the stairs. And maybe the brush fire wasn´t such a great idea.
But we´ve all survived worse weekends, I think.

First things first, though: Here we had two houseguests: Adam, the handsome young Fulbright-grant guitarist from Chicago; and Gareth, a Catholic seminarian from England who walked from Worcester to Santiago, and was setting out to do two or three weeks of painting and repairs and cooking here at The Peaceable over his summer break.

Saturday´s fiesta Mass was a high point. Moratinos was in full Homecoming mode, and everyone wore their summer Sunday best, and brought the granny and aunts and cousins along. We year-round ladies had practiced a number of hymns in advance, so when the St. Thomas statue was carried aloft ´round the plaza, our “Alabanzas” did not sound half bad! The church was swept, mopped, and dusted, then filled with fresh flowers. The sun shone hot and bright, the kiddies played with antique games, and the whole world seemed to smile all morning long.

Maybe because I was there to help with so much of the preparations, I felt very much a part of the celebration this time. I´m not watching any more. I am participating. It was moving, and made me feel very thankful.

Then, on Saturday evening, Gareth fell down the stairs. He did something to one side of his foot, he said. He hopped around a lot, but refused to go to the doctor.

Saturday night of Fiesta Weekend means fireworks. The sign on the church door said the display would start at 10 p.m., so I took the dogs off to Sahagún in plenty of time to miss the terrifying racket. Down by the River Cea, miles from the fiesta and guests and hubbub, we had a nice walk in the shimmering dark. We pulled into Moratinos again just before 11 p.m. In the sky above exploded the very first petard of the night´s big display.

Una ran for the shower stall and spent the next few hours shivering in terror. My purpose defeated, I headed down the street to the plaza to join in the ooh´s and aah´s and bathe in the rockets´ red glare.

Last year the Boys launched the fiesta display right in the center of the main street. Neighbors complained afterward about embers and sparks bouncing off their roofs and into their gardens, so this year the the launch zone was moved down to the truck scales, where the Camino leaves the town. It was still quite close to the plaza, but seemingly out of the danger. I joined about 75 people on the corner, watching while José and Hilario and some of the younger cousins lit fuses and ran through the smoke while the sky exploded over their heads.

It was the big green crysanthemum bomb that did it. It sped skyward in a spray of golden sparks, but the secondary ignition happened early – too low to the ground. Glowing green fireballs came down on both sides of the pavement and shattered into the dry brush and the stubble. Flames suddenly shot upward, well above the head-level.

Seventy-five people inhaled, wondering if this was for real. The men in the middle didn´t seem to notice the pillars of fire to their right and left, at least not until the smoke plume blew over the pavement and into their faces. Suddenly we all remembered how windy it was. The fire roared and widened. Then someone shouted. “Agua!”

In an instant the pavement was pounding with silhouette figures, all of them running, all of them swinging a shovel, rake, or blanket. They were us. Men shouted for keys, the keys to the pump house where the big municipal water hoses are kept, but no one had them, no one knew who did. Then the water appeared – garden gates opened and out spouted green garden hoses. Someone put a paint bucket into my hands, and I ran, too, over to the fuente, I turned the crank and Agapita was there with her two mop buckets, then Segundino was there with a big rubber manure-mover. We filled up and ran, down the plaza, over Calle Ontanon, straight at the flames and the flailing figures in the ditches, dozens of us.

Great arcs of water seemed to hang in the air as men and women old and young ran back and forth, flinging dishpans and pails of water at the threat. Roaring round the corner, its headlights blazing, came Estebanito in his tractor, the one with the crop-sprayer tank on the back. He drove through the flames and out the other side, then wheeled round to face the fire. Water sprayed out, under heavy pressure, and the fire´s westward movement stopped dead.

The bucket brigade stomped and soaked the rest, til every last ember was out.
It took five minutes, tops. Nobody was hurt, although a couple of children and dogs were badly frightened. (Toby, Milagros´ little dog, was found hiding in the corner of a neighbor´s bathroom.)

We finally put down our buckets. We all joined in a collective round of applause. All together, we´d saved our town! Which called for a drink. The little brick-and-board fiesta bar was open in the corner of the church porch, so off we all went.

Sunday morning was spent not at church, but at the hospital in Palencia. Care there was friendly, professional, and very efficient: Gareth´s foot was duly x-rayed, found to be broken, and put in plaster within an hour. They had no crutches at the hospital, for reasons I couldn´t clearly understand. All the pharmacies were closed til Monday, so we had to make due with a couple of hiking poles.

We were home in time to feast Sunday afternoon on the massive and fragrant lasagna Gareth made on Saturday morning. We hopped over to the church and let Adam knock us dead with a concert of classical Spanish guitar. (People came all the way from Sahagún to hear it, including our electrician and his family. They even bought a CD!)

And after the concert Paula, one of the summertime people, took Gareth by the wrist. She just happened to have a pair of crutches in a closet, she said – would he want to use them?

And so the fallen man is relieved of his hopping, and joins the growing ranks of the Peaceable Kingdom Dismemberment Society. I will finish the paint job outside myself, unless some other willing worker shows up. I will help Juli feed the orphaned kittens using a syringe. I will cook for a houseful of men. I will continue to spoil my dogs.

I will continue to be amazed at how good it is, (almost) all of it.


Cora Lee Cole said...

Reb, Now I understand why we didn't read anything from you this weekend. Life is in the fast lane! Please tell Gareth to LISTEN TO HIS DOCTOR. Beth still suffers from her broken foot because she did not listen.
You write so well I could almost taste the smoke! Cora Lee Cole

PL said...

I fear that if I came and visited the Peaceable Kingdom I too would become part of the Dismemberment Society, such is my karma.

Looks like a Via de la Plata redux will be on the calendar for me in the fall of '10; I shall simply wave from afar as I turn to the northwest.

Anonymous said...

wild times in moratinos!
do any of those kittens look like murph?
(if so, save one for me.)

claire bangasser said...

What a great post!