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Stories by Mike Humfreville

The Tempests of Summer - Bahía de Los Angeles 1985, Part 19: Black Warrior    ( Posted July 6, 2004 )

When we ran low on supplies or just wanted a change of scene we would take a trip into the town of Black Warrior, Guerrero Negro, about three hours down the peninsula. This town was, back in those days as it is now, a supply hub for the Baja's central desert. We left Las Cuetitas early in the morning with me rushing everyone to stick to the schedule. The time was important because siesta in Black Warrior was more formal than in smaller villages. Not much in the town was open except restaurants between one and four in the afternoon. If we left the hut at seven in the morning we would get to town by ten and have time to do our shopping before the shops closed midday. The town had just about all you could want or need, on a basic level. In fact, all the building materials we had carried across the border were available here, and cheaper than they had been in the States. But Black Warrior was, and is, still an outpost, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of desert on three sides and on the fourth by the Pacific Ocean, a desert in its own right. The town had several markets, auto parts stores, a furniture store, numerous clothing shops, a tailor, yardage goods, an ice cream store, several dulcerias, mechanics, tire stores, a toy shop even, and everything else that was required for rural living.

When we arrived in town Michael and Kevin insisted that we visit the toy store first. Here, among the dusty boxes of packaged toys on the half-filled shelves they would invariably find a small toy car or truck that they would employ in the nests of small tunnels they had dug behind the hut at Las Cuevitas. We grew to know the storeowner as a good fellow. He was quick to recognize the two blond heads running down the street for his shop every few weeks. His store was just down the dusty way from the aging theater which seemed so out of place in this setting.

Next were the markets, each for its own products: meat, vegetables, bread, canned goods. It was a pleasure wandering through the stocked small markets of the town, shelves and a few small chillers filled with goods not available at the bay, fresh vegetables, freshly baked pastries, large glass jars of Mexican drinks. We wandered the close isles, buying more than we needed just because it was available and abundant. The prices in Black Warrior were high, but the goods were available. In Spanish the word I had learned as a child for expensive was caro, which literally means dear. An interesting correlation between languages and innuendoes.

After we had visited the toy store and the markets it was nearing siesta and the stores began closing, one by one. Their owners and workers walked down dusty paths to visit their wives, children and lovers for a sweaty reprieve from work in the midday swelter.

We stopped often at a restaurant near the highway we had discovered on a prior trip. We usually all ordered carne asada and cokes. It always surprised at their young age that they wanted something other than a hamburger or sandwich. Mary Ann and I would relax over lunch while the boys tore around in the heat kicking up dust outside the restaurant with their new cars, making motor noises, their naturally-bleached hair and tanned, oiled faces reflecting sun like natives.

By two in the afternoon we were heading back to the bay, sometimes buying gas at villa Jesus Maria, the turnoff for Laguna Manuela a few miles west on the Pacific coast. By the time we arrived made the turn just north of Punta Prienta, and wound down the Bahia road and hit the dirt road for Las Cuevitas the boys were asleep in the back seat, toy cars gripped tightly in their hands. The bouncing of the dirt road woke them rudely and a half hour later we grumbled into Las Cuevitas just in time to round up Burlap and Billy before it got dark.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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