The Gaucho

“Oh, cheer up. I was only looking.”

Katua delivered the materials for the fence the next day, and a day later two guys from the sell-almost-everything shop came to install it. One is the shop attendant who’d sold me the materials, and went on to help a man size up a horse saddle before selling a bottle of cola and a dozen eggs to the next in line. I thought of asking him about how the inventory keeping was going, but refrained.

The other who came to put up the fence is a gaucho, through and through. In all my years in Argentina, this was my first face-to-face encounter with a gaucho, a sort of cowboy. They are a noble people who you’ll see as you drive down the highways. They’ll be on horses and with hats as they drive cattle and keep an eye on huge swaths of pastureland.

I can’t understand half of what this twentysomething gaucho is saying, so the shop attendant interprets.

But they don’t hang around. They set about digging and cutting wood to build the fence. They string the wires and use turnbuckles to pull them tight. I watch as the gaucho works tirelessly, hopping over the new fence in a single bound. He and the shop attendant work hard until a downpour drives them under the cover of the patio, and a short break to drink mate.

My wife came out to offer coffee and biscuits. They thanked her and ate a bit until the rain let up and they returned to work. The gaucho hammered and pulled and dug and hopped over the fence once and then again and again.

My wife stuck around to watch.

“A good worker,” she said.

She kept watching, and then sat down to watch.

“Wait a second,” I said. “I bet I could work like that.”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “You’ve not got the body… or the muscles.”

I went inside.

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