Sunday, November 23, 2008
Thanksgiving on the Bravo
In 1598 Shakespeare wrote "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Henry V." On April 20th of that year Don Juan de Onate reached the Rio Grande near today's El Paso. Twenty of the horses drowned in the water; others "drank until their bellies split." The Spanish had endured a scorching pilgrimmage across the Chihuahuan desert; El Original Camino del Muertos. Onate rode to the edge of the river, made the sign of the cross, and took possession of all lands watered by the Rio Grande. For God and King Phillip of Spain. Onate's horse reared in the air; the conquistador crossed the river with six thousand head of beef, a few fighting bulls, and hundreds of colonists. Famished and thirsty, the folks were ready to party. Don Juan called for a thanksgiving feast; the boys carved up a dozen beeves, threw chilis in a pot and handed around the tortillas and Spanish brandy. A half-bred gypsy sang the songs of Spain, and men wept for their homeland. The first thanksgiving on American ground. This thanksgiving transpired nine years before the pilgrims landed at Jamestown. I prefer our cowboy version here on the banks of the Rio Bravo. Now the tallest equestrian statue in the world stands in front of the El Paso airport. It's Don Juan Onate on a tall Andalusian horse crossing the waters of the Rio Grande. We crossed with him. And so we give thanks. We made it. So far. We crossed the deserts of love and hatred and fear. We swam the rivers and rode the twisters (as Rosalie would say.) We came this far. And "out there" is a new world and we're riding towards it. Always riding towards it. We give thanks for our families, our two sets of twins here and on the way, our music, and the people who come to listen. And for the songs…Forty years ago Bob Dylan was staying in a motel in Kansas City. It was thanksgiving day and someone called to invite him to their house for dinner. "I stayed in the motel," he said. "And wrote 'Just like A Woman.' " Thanks for that, Bob. Thanks for all of it. Time to stuff the turkey with celery and apples, and uncork the Rioja. A toast to Don Juan and Dylan. Jessica, Quinn. Nadine. Ole! Y Amor Y Gracias.