Don Ramon of San Felipe

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

I met Don Ramon through his son-in-law Carlos, a friend who lived a few roads north of my trailer in the small Mexican community of Las Mintas, south of San Felipe.

Don Ramon was an old man, somewhere near 80. He had lost a leg to the ravages of diabetes. He was also missing all the fingers on his right hand due to an accident with a printing press when he was a young man.

Don Ramon and his son-in-law Juan Carlos
Don Ramon and his son-in-law, Carlos

I took an instant liking to the old man because of his sense of humor. Often, I would load his wheelchair into the trunk of my car and we would drive into town and have a coffee at Rositas, where he would help me with my Spanish and I would give him a few English lessons in return. Mostly, though, we would crack each other up with puns and jokes.

I remember visiting him at his shack one evening. He was in bed, as he usually was. I sat in a chair nearby and we talked for a while. As I leaned the chair back, I could see the sky through the knot holes of his clapboard roof. I commented on it and he replied that the big knot hole was his 'Canal de las Estrellas'. This was the name of a Mexican television station and means Channel of the Stars. We both laughed at the wonderful pun.

Once when we were having coffee he informed me that he called lawyers platanos, which is the Spanish word for bananas. When I asked him why, he said, "Because you can never find a straight one."

I took Ramon to a local doctor when he was suffering a great deal of pain in his remaining foot. The doctor gave him some pills and told him to exercise the foot by walking with crutches every day. Don Ramon was too fond of inertia to practice the doctor's advice so I had to goad him almost daily. One morning I went into his room, thinking I would ask him in Spanish, using the word palitas, which I presumed meant 'little sticks'.

"Ha caminado con tus palitas todavia?" I asked him. Instead of his usual guilty look and head shake, he burst into hysterical laughter. I asked him what was so funny and he told me palitas meant 'suckers' or 'lollypops'. He was laughing at the mental image of himself staggering about with two huge lollypops under his arms.

Don Ramon was constantly dreaming. He had been a government employee and consequently was given a property lot in the Campo Vocacional Buracrita, north of town. He fancied the lot was a splendid location for a miniature golf course. Ramon boasted that at one time he had been a golf instructor. He thought a 'Pitch'n Putt' would do great business. So he asked me to do a little research and draw up a plan. I took him out to the camp to look at his property. It seemed pretty desolate and needed a catyclism of Nature to level it. I had my doubts.

Don Ramon's House
Canal de las Estrellas

Within a few months of his idea, Don Rmaon's health took a turn for the worse. He had been neglecting his diet and exercise. Now his second leg had to be removed. Afterward, the old man fell into a terrible depression. He refused to leave his bed, even when the family tried to remove him.

I had to return to Canada for a while and learned that Don Ramon died while I was away. I've many memories of his good nature and infectious sense of humor.