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,
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
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
"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.
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.