Redneck Tale # 34 – Carlos, Salvador and their secret menudo recipe
Neighbors to keep you wide awake
There is the possibility that my neighbor brothers were of the illegal immigrant flavor, but that could be considered to be a matter of taste. To describe them as spicy, peppery, or full of something would, on the other hand, be most appropriate.
The small house next door had been empty for a time. In a city as large as this one, that is a bit of a scary situation. People of all sorts wander around in these big places and, if the weather speaks to them, and if shelter beckons, one or more of those wanderers may decide to move in. So, when Carlos and Salvador came along and rented the place, it seemed like it might be time to celebrate.
Along with Carlos and Salvador came a host of friends and relatives, but the two managed to keep them all in line. There were pretty ladies, some of whom were "showing," and there were lots of little children, those who had already "shown." Friends, possibly some more relatives among them, would pop in from time to time, particularly on weekends. Weekends were for parties next door. It was always fun to watch our neighbors having fun.
The wide and empty backyard became a soccer field. There was no ordinary net to be used, however. When the football hit our fence – that was a goal, and those occasions were often and gave rise to loud whistling and cheering. Not speaking Mexican-Spanish, we did not understand the cheering words, but the whistling came through loud and clear.
Those kicks for the goals missed more times than they hit. You might ask, "How can the kicker miss a 150-foot long fence?" Easy enough. The fence was only four feet high. Footballs soar. That kept us busy chasing the misses and tossing the footballs back over the fence. Tossing back beat having hefty footballers leaping our fence all the time. It was our price of admission to the games.
Another feature of those weekend gatherings was the seating of a semi-circle of spectators about 10 feet in front of one of the bedroom windows. A TV set had been placed on the inside, facing the window. Usually the TV audience consisted of a half dozen or so menfolk, older men who were not able to kick soccer balls over our fence.
The making of a secret recipe
Earlier in the mornings of such weekends, Salvador and Carlos set up their impromptu cookstove on the concrete patio. They put a large propane torch in between some concrete blocks and, on top of the blocks, they perched a really large aluminum cauldron. Into the bowl would go the makings of gallons of menudo. The torch was lighted and the menudo was soon bubbling away. It took lots of menudo to satisfy the big crowd to follow.
I was out back one weekend morning when little Carlos, Jr., about 4 years old or so, came outside to the bubbling menudo pot. At first I thought the kid might scorch himself, but my worrying was not needed. He unbuttoned the front of his little pants and wee-weed into the pot. Now, I ask you...
At first I thought to holler at the kid. "Nope. That will only scare him and make him cry." Then, "should I tell Carlos and Salvador that the kid had peed into their menudo?" "Nope. They’d likely beat the you-know-what out of the little guy." Then came some serious thinking. "Well, it is unlikely that the tyke has a seriously catching disease, and even if he does, that boiling menudo will certainly take care of any germs – and the kid just may have come onto the ‘secret spice’ to end all secret spices." Everyone at their party seemed to enjoy the menudo. I knew then that I had done well.
Bye Bye Birdie
I came home one weekday afternoon to find both Carlos and Salvador up in our big oak tree. They were clambering around up there, yelling back and forth at each other. Now and then one or both of them would stretch out their arms as though they were grabbing for something. Then more clambering. I approached closer. Aha! They were chasing after a little blue and white bird. Just as they got close to it, the bird fluttered over to the next branch. Then the men grabbed up a fishing net and tried to get the bird into captivity that way. Nothing worked. The bird finally became tired of the whole silly game and flew away. Carlos told me that it was their pet parakeet and had been let out of its cage by the 4-year-old. A most busy and enterprising child, that one.
A big blow for cleanliness
I came home on another weekday afternoon right at the same time Salvador arrived home from his grasscutting job. On his back was strapped one of those leafblower gadgets, the kind with the annoyingly loud gasoline motors. He went inside their house by the back door, but he forgot to close the door. That was strange, given that the outside temperature was about 95 degrees, maybe even higher.
Then I heard the leafblower motor start up, nice and loud, too, considering it was inside the house. All of a sudden a huge cloud of dust and dirt came flying out the back door. I had never before seen a whole house get "blown out" like that.
A recommended fuel stop along the way
You have to know that it was a sad day for us when Carlos, Salvador, and their ample families moved away. Before they left, they told us that they were heading for Chicago where they had more family and more friends.
I couldn’t help myself, I confess. I asked Carlos if he would be taking his big menudo pot and the secret menudo recipe with them. With a serious look on his face, Carlos told me that the pot belonged to Salvador, that he, Carlos, was keeper of the "family recipe," and that, "Yes, it is all going with us." Then I bid Carlos and Salvador good-bye and asked them if they had planned where they would be buying gasoline to get all the way to Chicago. I suggested one stop where I knew fuel to be both good and cheap.
I kept a solemn face through that final conversation – until I was again inside our own house. Have you ever laughed so hard that tears flowed and your belly began to hurt?