21 Jul, 2010 | Posted by: bswenson

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My Story

# 27

It was hot the whole time we were at the Padre’s. Hot, I mean really hot.
No one seemed to have a thermometer in Spain so I really don’t know how hot it was. Maybe 110. At the Padre’s it was a dry hot when we came but when we left, it was a sticky hot. I guess the barometer dropped. I really don’t know what that means. I used to hear my father say that. “It’s going to be hot today,” he would say. “The barometer must’ve dropped.” We didn’t have any air conditioning at our house. In fact, I don’t think any of our neighbors did either, so you just accepted a hot summer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in those days during the war in the 1940’s.

The windows were all open at the Padre’s to catch any breeze that came through. Every now and then a quiet breeze would cross through where we were sitting. It was such a friendly feeling. You sat there all hot and sweaty and then this breeze would waft across the table and move a piece of paper or a feather sitting there. It’s a really fine natural pleasure to have a breeze like that cool you off momentarily. It didn’t last long. Only a second or two. But you knew there was always going to be another coming through again soon. A friendly breeze. Next to an ice cream cone on a summer day, I think a momentary breeze like that on a hot summer day is one of my finest pleasures.

In Spain, they have that long break at midday they call siesta time. It’s just too hot to work, even to think. The heat of the day in Spain calms down after sundown and the countryside cools off. Even the tiny little bugs that are always flying around getting in your eyes sometimes disappear. Then in the morning, it’s refreshing. Nice and cool.

In other parts of the world, just before the dawn and light blue sky arrive the birds begin to chirp and announce that a hot dusty day is coming again. But you know what? In this part of Spain, up on the plains, there are no songbirds. I guess because there are no trees and bushes or any kind of vegetation where they can live. It’s just a silent early morning except for the clomp, clomp, clomp of a horse-drawn wagon off in the distance.

Shortly after leaving the Padre’s, a wind came up and we were heading into it. . Low rumbling clouds were waiting for us up ahead to the west. We didn’t have goggles so we just squinted our eyes as we moved into it.
”Oh Jeeze!” I thought. We’ve never really had any really big storm on this trip. We’ve been lucky. Please, let’s not have it now. We’re out of money. We’re nearly out of gas. We’re in a part of Spain out here on the plains where hardly anyone lives. This is like traveling from Yuma, Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I don’t know if there’s a road between those two, but it sounds awfully barren travel.

Anyway, the storm started out with small gusts of wind that every now and then picked up the gravel from the road shoulders and hit us square in the face. It wasn’t the kind of steady wind that blows sheets off a clothesline or women’s hats off into the street. But I wouldn’t want to fly a kite in it.
It was a summer storm. Just like the kind that always brews up anywhere on the planet on a hot summer day, from USA to USSR. One of those hot July dog-day tempests that drops the temperature 10-15 degrees very quickly. It’s the kind that if you’re in your car, riding along on a summer day, windows open and rolled down all the way, your elbow hanging out the side, and then you hear the sound of water pellets splatting the dusty metal roof of your car, making a rifle range sound on top. You quickly roll up your windows.

Out on the plains, tumble-weed-looking things, the kind you see in the Cowboys & Indians movies were flying eastward and low over the fields. If there were trees out there, (but there weren’t any except the new saplings that had been planted for miles along the highway by the Franco people,) they’re be bending in the wind, losing leaves and branches. This was not the kind of storm where you hear the thunder way up high where the eagles fly, it was more the kind where the crackling comes shooting along the low ceiling of clouds, down where the crows fly.
Sometimes this kind of rainstorm passes overtop as though it only wanted to let off a little steam. Other times you unfortunately are in the place where it makes its decision to crank up its ferocity and dump a ton of rain on you or sometimes-even hail.
Well this day, it started with those thick, fat, pellets of rain, threatening to let the dam burst if it wanted to. The dark clouds of this storm were low and moving with gusto overhead. You could almost reach up and touch them. They’re always accompanied by cracks of thunder atop them, as though the lightning man is riding herd right along with them, looking down to see which iron fence post or cow it wants to zap with its blitz of lightning. It’s the kind of storm you want to run for cover.
But where? The horizon was bare. No grove of trees. Nothing.
In the driving wind and rain we came upon a cross roads with a small sign we could see that pointed to Tajuna to the left. “Let’s try down this way!” I yelled to Rudi behind me and turned to drive south. The clouds began breaking up here to the south. Soaking wet, we could see a small town down in a valley and came upon some buildings on the outskirts. It turned out to be a pub/grocery store, a kinda watering hole for local farmers. We went in and several local farmers gave us a stare as we entered the dark place. And then one of them shouted, “Guitar!”
I think if I hadn’t been toting my guitar strapped on my back and we would’ve walked into that place without it, we would’ve been stared at the whole time until we left. That’s the kind of feeling I got in this part of Spain. We didn’t look “normal” to them and immediately they would have been suspicious of us, especially since we didn’t have black hair like typical Spaniards.
To me, it was a shame to see a country with a population that was so suspicious of each other and especially strangers. We didn’t find anything like this in France. Maybe we would’ve if we had been in France ten years earlier when you never knew if your neighbor was a French Resistance fighter, or a secret spy for the Vichy government. As I said before, it’s an ugly feeling to be in a society where neighbor report on neighbor, where friendships can turn into a bad blood. I didn’t know I had it so good back in the ol’ USA. And as I said before, Rudi didn’t seem to notice this feeling of distrust because he had grown up in the Nazi era.

For myself, there’s nothing more terrifying than to be in a room with people and notice that a person thirty feet away is looking at you while writing in a small notebook

“Is it raining outside? You’re all wet!” The store owner greeted us with an amiable smile.
“No, but it his over the hill to the north.” I managed to let him know.
One of the fellows in the corner yelled “Guitar!” again.
“Another asked, “Are you professionals?”
That gave me an idea. I took off my cap, and held it out, and said “Si, senor!”

Rudi winced. I guess he thought I was stepping too low and he didn’t want to be associated with me.
“I returned a glance that said, ”Hey! They sell food here. We can make some money and buy ourselves some lunch.”

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