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Author: Subject: Peddlers in Baja
Baja Bernie
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[*] posted on 5-10-2007 at 07:50 PM
Peddlers in Baja

From Mi Baja No Hurry No Worry

Peddlers in the Camp

The Lobster man was the first and by far the most important peddler to hit camp. He drove an old Chevy pickup. It was a basic green in color; one fender was white, another was yellow and the left rear always looked like it was going to fall off at the next bump. Ben, that ‘was’ his name, would wander into camp on Friday night just before dusk. He would stop in front of the house and holler, “You wana buy bugs—buy bugs.” He’d reach behind the seat and pull out an old brown burlap bag crawling with fresh, live langosta. Louder he would ask, “You wana buy bugs! A dozen por benty dolars. No? Ok, Ok, $10.00 señor. Oh! Señor, No, No, oh No! OK, Diaz (10) por $5.00. NO! Only dolars, US, no pesos, only dolars señor.” All this while his head and eyes swiveled in every direction. His eyes never left the dirt road into the camp.

I never understand his furtive behavior until I learned that the Mexican Government had created a monopoly when they formed the Marine Co-Op to ‘buy all’ of the local fisherman’s catch for resale. A few of these guys, like Ben, realized that they could make a whole lot more money selling their lobsters and sometimes abalone directly to the visiting gringo’s. Never mind that he could end up in jail for selling ‘illegal’, not short, langosta. Believe it! Fresh, live, lobster for 50 cents apiece. That is a small part of why we started calling this place a little bit of paradise.

The original Tamale Lady also wandered into camp early on Fridays. She was a little old Mexican-American lady and she always carried two pots of tamales covered with green and white-checkered cloths to keep them warm. Sometimes they were beef or potatoes and carrots. Occasionally they would be pollo or papas and raisins. Always they were four for a dollar—no pesos. More importantly! They were always delicious!

Once in a while she would show up with her pots of tamales on a Saturday and rarely she would show up on Sunday morning. I couldn’t understand her erratic Saturday and Sunday visits. I finally asked her why. She told me that she lived in Campo Lopez, K-58, and that she and several other American ladies always played poker on Friday and Saturday nights. She said she loved to gamble and that she only sold tamales so she could afford to play. If she lost money on Friday she would get up early Saturday and make a batch of tamales so that she could gamble that night. If she won, we lost—no tamales and she slept in on Saturday. If she lost all weekend she would make some on Sunday morning to see her through the next week. She was no spring chicken, she had lost most of her teeth, but she still had a twinkle in her eyes. She was one of those numerous gringo women who had, for many different reasons, settled in Baja.

We realized that “the tamale lady” was no more when she missed several weekends. They said that she had won a big pot just before she passed away. She was 84 years young. Her name was Celica Lowbaugh.

Madera, Madera was the cry and you would hear it early every Saturday morning. If you had forgotten what day it was—not unusual in Baja—you knew it was Saturday when you heard the call, Firewood, Firewood. Usually it would be one of the Crostwaites in his well-maintained truck loaded with oak that he had collected on the ranches in the hills behind La Mision. How much you would ask and he would always reply, “Sixty dolars es por todo.” He always settled for $40.00 because that is what he wanted to begin with. You always had to beware because it looked like a good deal until they started unloading and you found two tires and a couple of empty boxes under the wood. This has happened time after time but the same guy has been selling firewood in this camp for over 20 years and No! You don’t get to keep the tires or boxes.

The produce lady arrived on Thursday a little after noon. She drives up the coast from south of Ensenada selling her home grown, organic, vegetables in one camp after another. The ladies in camp insist, that no matter what she has, it is far better than what you can get in the stores. If you have looked at vegetables in the markets you know that they are absolutely right.

Yes! We now have a new tamale lady. She always comes on Sunday mornings and her tamales are great—same four for a dollar—but they are smaller. Her young daughter makes change while her mother smiles that Mexican smile. What is a Mexican smile? Well, let me tell you they are different, they start with the lips and spread to the eyes, they flow through the whole body, they flow directly from the heart. You are truly blessed if you have received such a smile.

The daughter who is no more than 5 or 6 years old is always very neatly dressed and she also possesses one of those smiles. I believe that she collects the money because her personality generates good tips. Once I overpaid her and when she gave the money to her mother she realized that I had given them to much money. They both came running back, laughing all the way, to return my overpayment!!

The regulars in camp don’t really need a calendar. They can tell which days it is by who is selling what. As to what time it is that does NOT really matter. You can look at the sun and get close enough. If you are hungry you eat and if you want a drink you wander up to the Cantina.

The peddlers are an interesting bunch of people. Should you take the time to talk with them you can learn a lot. Not only about what they have to sell: but also about the Mexican way of life.

P.S. You won't find real honest to goodness folks like this at Costco or Wal Mart.

My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
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[*] posted on 5-11-2007 at 11:56 AM

LOVELY Story, tells me that people are not SO much different. Same needs, same struggle,same fun, same love fore life.
Believe it or not, we got here same system, more or less. All items needed for house or daily Life comes by - :light: no need to go anywhere - except for a doctor or a pharmacy.
Or for fuel :biggrin:
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[*] posted on 5-11-2007 at 12:21 PM

Thanks for the story!:yes:
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[*] posted on 5-11-2007 at 01:56 PM

After reading your stories I start looking at the calendar to plan my next trip. Thanks for transporting me south of the border
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[*] posted on 5-11-2007 at 02:35 PM

Nice story, Bernie-----thanks


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[*] posted on 5-12-2007 at 09:29 AM

Thanks Bernie -----

I havn't read it yet but I will later today. Thanking you in advance to give it a bump to the top.
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[*] posted on 5-12-2007 at 03:26 PM

Dear Bernie: I so enjoy reading your stories .. makes me feel like I lived right there right then .. such a gift to take thoughts and feelings from your mind and heart and put them down to share .. I wish I had more time to read all but that shall have to wait until Tommy and I retire (!!) .. in the meantime thank you for another deeeelightful story! Lori
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