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July 25, 2002
Escape from La Facha

By Alex Dominguez
from the any way you can dept.

TELLADO, Ourense (JNS) _ ``This is where Don Pepe´s parents had a panaderia,´´ O Conde Pai says, mentioning the well-known New Jersey restaurateur as we roll through the small town near Celanova.
“And this is where the fereiro (blacksmith) made me a foscino (sickle). The ones in the store were only for the right hand,´´ he says.

We pull into La Facha, a collection of stone homes set among winding, steep, now paved, paths just big enough for our car to get through. Papa asks for Felicindo, a friend he grew up with.

``Si, esta adentro,´´ the young, burly man says, opening a gate in the wall revealing a tiny courtyard filled with various yard and farm equipment.

Felicindo walks out and I immediately notice he also once used a left-handed sickle because he is missing his right hand, the result of a childhood accident playing with an explosive called formanito.

``Fuhn a dia San Xose, a dia San Xose. Ainda, non se como chego na casa,’’ he said.

(``It was St. Joseph’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day. I still don’t know how I got home.’’)

They took him to Cerdal, where someone with a truck took him to a hospital in Ourense after unloading its cargo of bricks to make the trip faster.

My father says Felicindo learned to work well with the one hand, adding he had never seen anyone stronger using just one hand.

They talk over old times a little while longer, and we head off to seek out Jaime, who chased girls with my dad. We park our car at the end of a thin path, and walk under his grapevines to the house where we are greeted by three German shepherds, two of which are loose and one which is tied to the front door.

We shout for a while for him to come out, to no avail, and tramp off to a relative’s house nearby and ask her to call him on the telephone to get him to go outside.

For our trouble, we find Jaime doesn’t remember my father, or the girl chasing, until we jog his memory a little.

We drive off to visit Elias, and O Conde Pai tells me of the truck driver who once helped him. Even though my father was born in West Virginia, and thus an American citizen, Franco was not keen on letting men who could serve in the military out of the country. The truck driver took my father to the U.S. consulate in Vigo, where it was suggested he escape to Portugal.

That decided, he later went by horse to Tui, across the Rio Mino from Portugal, where he met a man who knew a priest who could get him to Lisboa for 7,000 pesetas. I ask how much that could have bought in those years.

``A cow? Ehhhh! That was enough to buy 100 cows…you could get a cow for 500 pesetas,’’ he says, not bothering to do the math.

A date was set, and in Tui, he met the priest.

``He said he was a priest,'' my father said.

At the border, the driver showed the guard some papers and they drove into Portugal, where they had lechon (suckling pig, leitao in Portugues) near Coimbra.

``Oh, was that good. I was starving,'' my father says.

Before Lisbon, the priest told the driver to pull over and made sure my father paid him.

Then, it was off by boat to America, where his sisters had already gone, and where he received the U.S. passport that allowed him to return once he was married.

Posted by Alex at July 25, 2002 12:52 PM
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