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Stories by Mike Humfreville

La Gringa - 1974    ( Posted March 16, 2004 )

Mary Ann and I spent the day showing off the south end of the bay, by the lagoon and the shade where we could all sit out of the sun and shift our chairs every few minutes because the shelter was the exact size of our group. We loaded ourselves into our vehicles and drove to the north end, La Gringa. Here was a long steep beach composed of smooth round stones that eased their way into a smaller bay, with a large, tidal lagoon behind. This was home to a number of blue Herron and white Egrets. When the tide was right there were blue crabs that could be caught with a small net.

La Gringa Bay is a smaller protected bay within the larger Bahia de Los Angeles. The calmness of the water at La Gringa is assured by the northern point, which stops the northwestward flowing swells of the open Sea of Cortes. The seagulls and pelicans love La Gringa because it is shallow enough to encourage the bait to the surface where they become fast food for the feathered predators.

We walked out toward the point, the northernmost part of the Bahia de Los Angeles. We could see the outline of the village in the distance to the south, a disruption in the natural colors of the desert. It was settled under the two towering mountains, with the green of the spring at their base, against the barren browns and tans of the desert.

We were walking amidst uncountable varieties of small seashells, washed up on the smooth stone beach in waves by the storms. The lines of shells ran parallel to the waters edge as far as we could see. As we walked, we gathered our personal favorites from a selection of murexes, helmets, small conches, Augers, Dove shells, Trumpets, Whelks, Periwinkles, Turbans, snails, Cowries, Olives, Limpets, Chitons, scallops, cockles, clams, mussels, oysters, sand dollars and sea urchins. MA and I had come here often to collect the Dove shells that we strung together with fishing line into necklaces that we wore over our tans.

Toward the north end of the lagoon, where the water was the calmest, there were butter clams lying on the stones at the ebbing water's edge. On a rocky point behind the lagoon, at the beginning of a long stony spit we saw a nesting and very large Osprey. From the point, where the land ended, the outer half of the sea was outside the bay. The inner was inside the point. The breeze blew off the water, cool and fresh as it traveled from the Mexican mainland across the gulf.

In the time it took us to reach the place where the Bahia becomes once again the open Sea of Cortes we had collected more shells than we wanted to carry. Nearing this remote point, a blending of the environments occurs. The rougher and cooler air and water of the open Gulf meet with the calm and warmer waters of the Bays of Los Angeles and La Gringa. Rounding the point into the deeper water the ocean was wild and the wind whipped the ocean swells into whitecaps. In the distance gulls and pelicans were working the surface for bait. We watched them surfing the wind.

Between the point and the Southern end of La Gringa bay a small pier was located about mid point on the stone beach. It had been used to load copper or something that was refined out of green rocks and carried fifteen kilometers from a mine if the depths of the hills behind La Gringa, where it was loaded into a no doubt small but sturdy vessel to be shipped who knows where. South of the pier, strung out on the beach like a strand of off-color pearls, were a number of green plywood huts. These housed ruddy local fishermen and sometimes their families. In front of several of the huts were old and worn pangas, looking exhausted and spent, flotsam from a shipwreck.

Each hut was twelve feet square and had, of course, no electricity. A 10-kilometer long, half-inch diameter pipeline, laying full in the desert sun, encouraged murky green water all the way from the Village of Bahia de Los Angeles. This putrid fluid was provided to the doors of the fish camp huts.

In the midst of the camp was an open-air fish processing plant with a number of men and women cleaning and packing fish. There were two electric freezers, old and rusted, and an even older gas powered electric generator driving the freezers to exhaustion. The workers called back and forth to each other as they filleted fish, all in good humor. Behind them were the green huts where they lived and the stones of the beach curving into the purest simplicity of blue sea and sky.

In this setting, with Mary Ann and our friends and a lonely wild stretch of beach with Rochie and Dulcie running and playing at the edge of the water, the lagoon behind us I was completely comfortable and knew that somehow I had become one with all of these things. And after being by ourselves for so long it was great to be with our close friends. We walked from the fish camp back down the beach and sat for awhile just absorbing the simple scene, so few encumberments, so many things to ponder. Back at the cars we deposited our collections of shells in various repositories and drove back out to the hut at Las Cuevitas, 3 miles north . . .

Copyright 2004-2006 Mike Humfreville

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