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July 12, 2002
O Conde Pai´s Jubilee Preparations Begin

By Alex Dominguez
from the history of the empire dept.

CELANOVA, Ourense, España (JNS) _ Driving past the new housing project on the way to Newark airport, my father points to the grassy area under the power lines.

``Oughff, I can´t tell you how many rabbits we got there.´´

``Do you use a dog to hunt rabbits?,´´ his xinro, or son-in-law, Robin asks.

``Oh yeah, you have to use a dog. Chispa, she was a good dog. One time, she followed a rabbit for 2 ½ hours.´´

``Did you get the rabbit,´´ Robin asks.


So begins the preparatory tour of Galicia for O Conde Pai´s Jubilee Tour (if England can have a Queen Mum, El Conde can have a Count Pop).

In 1956, my father took his new bride and his new Ford on a honeymoon tour of Portugal and northern Spain, where he had spent most of his life.

Born in West Virginia in 1931 to a coalminer from Andalucia, the family moved back to Spain the next year, first to Andalucia and then to Asturias, where O Conde Pai´s mother was from and then to La Facha, a small collection of homes near Celanova in rainy Galicia.

Almost 70 years later, we arrive in Porto late after a 12-hour delay in Paris – they tempted us with salmon over a saffron sauce at an airport restaurant to make up for the delay, but we were not to be diverted from our mission.

We stay the night in Porto, look at the kooky, curved prow, lapstrake planked river boats that used to bring barrels of wine down the Doure (River of Gold?) and drive the next morning to Celanova.

Our mission is to plan the recreation of that post-nuptial journey a half century earlier, when flush with the wealth from his newfound career as a mason-carpenter-dockhand, my father and mother took their honeymoon in that new, $3,000 Ford they had shipped to Lisboa ($350 round trip).

The stories are now legendary, how he invented free rock climbing on the cliffs near the Faros de Mera (the Mera lighthouses), working his way down to the pounding surf and back up to the thatch and flower covered moors above.

``I shot a bird and it fell down there. They said no one else had ever done that before,´´ O Conde Pai remembers.

``I was crazy about hunting then, so I borrowed a shotgun from a neighbor and drove out there. They said those birds were good to eat, but it was kind of dry.´´

No one in Mera had ever had a car before, either.

In La Facha, then an all day trip to the south, he was the first to have his car pulled from a rutted path by an ox (boi) after discovering the path wasn´t quite wide enough. Then he got four flats from the tacks used to reinforce the soles of the wooden field shoes used at the time (chancas in Ourense, thocas in Coruna).

As we motor through the rolling rocky hills, I think about how to describe the countryside and decide it helps if you hum the theme to the ``Andy Griffith Show´´ with a Spanish-Portuguese accent – small town Spain among the pines and under the cool blue skies.

Posted by Alex at July 12, 2002 01:54 PM
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