(finished late Thursday, automated for Friday)
There’s a classic Argentine movie called La Guerra Gaucha (The Gaucho War), which is supposed to be one of their grand, national character-building sort of works, that I’ve always told myself to watch, but haven’t. It’s likely many people nowadays might see it as quaint and dated, but that’s like being a film fan and not having viewed Gone With The Wind or Farewell My Concubine. Which I hadn’t, either.
At any rate, there’s some magnificent posters for the film, done in that portraiture/40’s style, with heavy latin influence, and one of the gauchos rendered there was the spitting image of the man that picked me up, on his lazy way to run errands in town.
Tired, but excited and enamored, I tried not to stare at him too hard. I mean, it’s not like there’s not cowboys back home. Some of them even legitimate. The Argentine frontier started far earlier than the American (and Canadian) one, and was just as, if not more than, garrulous and bloody, and their stories and trials seem so close to their neighbours on the northern continent. It was difficult to not ask a million questions that the poor man could only answer a fraction of.
So I asked him what kind of farm he had, and pausing to spit out the window and stroke his salting moustache, he said: soya. Oh ubiquity.
I asked him with a bit of fading hope if he had any livestock, any cattle. He laughed and said that this was not the Pampas. Though, he admitted, his cousins did live up north in farther reaches, punching cows (maybe not in those exact words).
We listened to some mellow guitar virtuoso on his old tape deck and I slapped along on the side of his pickup, breathing in the soon to be autumn air, imagining range roads back home.
The rest of the trip was quiet until we pulled up in the (what might be a cliché) sleepy town of Azul, closer into the evening. Oscar, my first new friend on the journey, tipped his hat at me, and asked if I was sure as he dropped me off a way from the highway near the plaza. Amigo, I’m never sure, I said, and hoped my accent wasn’t terrible.
Olavarría was just a hop away and if I could hitch a ride there, I thought, a mechanic and replacement rental might happen more quickly. Checking the burner cell phone, there was barely a signal, and calling the car agency, it was clear that no one was sticking around this fine Sunday evening.
(Mostly) Undaunted, I grabbed a glass bottle of cola and some fried delicious dough from a stand and wandered around a bit, keeping half an eye out for an inn, thinking I would walk back to the highway row for one if needed. Whether by coincidence or some greater attraction, I ended up at a place that I wouldn’t have expected, but felt largely comforted by, the local cementerio.