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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Desert Rose

There once was a young Mexican rancher who inherited a vineyard in the hills of Cuernavaca. When he came of age, he left his home and visited the place. It was rugged and neglected, yet he fell in love with it. It was beautiful to his eyes, with tall pine trees and artesian wells. The land was hard and dry, but he decided to transform it into a paradise garden. The young rancher dreamed of a great farm, providing food and jobs to the peasants, and even dining and entertainment to travelers. He would name his farm and guest ranch the Desert Rose. It would someday grow into a bountiful blessing to the whole community.

The young man began to work in earnest, building fences, shaping trees, trimming vineyards and planting rose gardens. He built a great hacienda for the wife he might find someday. He constructed great barns to hold the corn he might grow someday. He planted one hundred varieties of roses, so that he might have a variety of blossoms to offer his future wife, and he planted many acres of fruit and nut trees, of every kind, so that he might harvest great amounts of produce someday. He drilled new wells to water all the things he grew, and went to town every day to tell his neighbors of his progress. He put up signs that said “Future Home of the Most Beautiful Farm in Mexico!”.

Everyone was thrilled. Finally someone rich and smart had moved near to their village. Finally they might be able to get jobs, buy fresh fruit, and perhaps even obtain some of his fresh water. The young rancher would tell all who would listen about his plans for the Desert Rose, and even gave tours to his closest friends to show his wonderful progress. All who gazed upon his farm were amazed and inspired, and looked forward to the day when his operation would bring prosperity to the village.

One day some village children snuck into the ranch, and went swimming in his beautiful clear pond. He caught them in the pond and chased them out and away from his place. “We just wanted to see the Desert Rose” they cried.

“No! It’s not ready yet!” he answered. He did not know why, but he was angry, and threw a rock at them. But soon, every day it became a game to the children, to sneak in, get as far as they could, and then cry to see the Desert Rose, before he would come out and chase them away. Soon, they would wait for him to answer, and then in unison, sing “No! It’s not ready yet!” One day the rancher, who was now nearing middle age, could no longer find rocks to throw at the children.

When he went to town, people avoided him. When he began to tell of his progress, they would get up and walk out, as if he was not even there. So he went back to the ranch and worked even harder. He built bigger barns, deeper wells, and more beautiful gardens. “Someday,” he told himself, “They will understand.” Meanwhile, the rancher had looked far and wide for a wife, and brought many prospective ladies to the Desert Rose. Each fell in love with him and his creation, and each eventually realized, sadly, he loved the Desert Rose more than them.

Determined, he hired a special gardener to obliterate the various trails made by the curious village children, and had sign painters repaint his “Future Home” billboards. He had all his buildings and fences painted fresh and walked amongst his rose gardens and smelled the roses. He trimmed the thorns and wove wreaths of roses, and with no one to give them to, wore them around his own neck. “Why not?” he chuckled. People from the village, wishing to buy roses and vegetables came and asked when he would begin his business, but, embarrassed at them seeing the wreath around his neck, shook his head and sent them away. “It’s not ready yet…” he wildly replied.

He cooked a great banquet to test his produce, and tried out his recipes, and quickly ordered new varieties of produce, to improve the taste. Then he hired chefs from France to come and create the very best foods in Mexico, and sculptors, who carved things out of his melons and ice blocks and his pine trees.

Finding his wine too sweet, he plowed up his vineyard and planted avocado trees instead. Unhappy with his corn, he plowed it under as well, and planted hay and purchased the finest Arabian horses in the world. He would have a great horse ranch instead. “Someday,” he said to himself, “They will understand.” He changed the billboards at his entrance to “Future Home of the Finest Arabian Horse Rancheria in the World.” He named his first Arabian broodmare Desert Rose. He felt clever, and laughed at the village people, who drove by shaking their heads and pointing.

One day a man came and asked if he could ride a horse. Any horse.

“Of course not,” the rancher answered, “This is my horse, and this is my land, and this is my …”

The man bowed low and begged forgiveness. “I’m sorry,” he pled, “My truck broke down, and my sick mother is waiting out on the road, and I need to get to town for help.”

“ Oh, I understand then,” he said, “so I will not throw anything at you, and good luck to you …” The rancher said gruffly and went inside to see the progress on the avocado crepes being made by the French chefs in his new kitchen. He was too busy to be concerned with such things.

The next day he was riding his Arabian colt, the first one born to his Arabian mare, and decided to ride into town and show him off. The Horse ran fast and began to shine as his sweat glistened in the sun. Soon they were in town, but everyone looked at him and then turned away. A child pointed at him and his mother slapped his hand, as if he had said a bad word. He rode up and down the main street, hoping some beautiful lady would notice him, strutting on is fine horse, in his fine clothes, smiling as if he owned the world. Then he heard someone whisper, “It’s the signmaker…”

“You mean the former owner of the future home of the most beautiful…” another whispered and laughed.

“Plowed up cornfields!” Someone laughed.

“Burned up vineyards!” another cried.

“Don’t forget the finest Arabians…” they laughed, as his horse threw him off and he landed in the street.

About that time the man who had asked to borrow his horse to save his mother walked by. He leaned over and helped the soiled, middle-aged rancher up off the dusty street. “My mother just passed away.” he said. “It looks as if you got the same luck you wished upon me.” He pointed at the horse, who was running wild and into oncoming traffic. A big cargo truck slammed into the horse and killed it instantly. The rancher ran to the horse, the first born of Desert Rose, and cried like a baby.

The villagers felt sorry for the poor, delusional, wifeless rancher, and they stood around him silently. No one said a word. He sat a long time and finally wiped the tears from his eyes. The man whose mother had died brought him a cup of water. The rancher began to see the villagers differently, and wondered at their kindness. He stood and thanked them for their concern. Slowly, each went his own way.

Perhaps the loss of the fine colt, and the death of the old woman would teach the man about what is valuable in life. Perhaps he might finally finish something, and care about people more than things, and stop putting off things until everything was perfect in his eyes. Perhaps he would learn to live for the moment, instead for the perfection of a tomorrow that might never come. Perhaps he would learn to love children and welcome their laughter in his pond. Maybe he would even start to really care about what his neighbors needed, instead of just what pleased him.

The rancher and the grieving man stood and talked, and made friends. They discussed the funeral plans of the village man’s mother.

“Perhaps I might visit you under different conditions,” said the village man. “I would like to visit your stables and kitchens, and drink from your deep well. In fact it would be a fine gesture for you to have a fiesta on your rancheria, and share the Desert Rose.”

“Perhaps” said the “Signmaker,” “That would be a fine thing, and as soon as I sell these foolish horses, and build a great pavilion to house all the villagers who come, and make a special wine to celebrate the day… but it’s not ready…”

“Only then can your rose bloom” said the village man. And he walked away into the desert. And he never looked back.

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