The old black jeep shutters and rattles down the pothole filled road. Even the potholes have potholes. As the jeep merrily bounces, I too am bouncing. Trying to stay in the seat but mostly airborne as I clench the roll bar with my right hand. I would use my left hand to grab onto anything, ANYTHING…, but there is nothing to be had.
I am somehow managing to stay mostly inside the door of the jeep, so I now take advantage of my time to quickly glance over to the pilot. He has a large smile on his face which causes his upper lip to disappear under his bushy mustache. This smile is what we call a SEG (shit eating grin). My study of George Leavitt is short lived as the jeep snaps my neck. I turn just in time to discover we are leading into the mother of all potholes! I flash back to a cheesy 60’s SiFi film where I am the reluctant passenger of a doomed spaceship heading into a black hole. I close my eyes and reluctantly open them to discover to my reprieve that the travel savvy jeep has discovered a way out of the death hole! I am also relieved to discover that the road up ahead seems to be somewhat smooth. I feel it may now be a good time to glance back at the driver. He still has that SEG on his face and seems impervious to the jeeps troubles negotiating the road.
Since we left Los Compadres, it finally seems like a good time to talk. I find myself screaming over the rumblings of the jeep yelling “where are we going?” The pilot yells back, “going to help some horses.” Since project J.E.E.P. (Jaltemba Equine Education Project) has come about, word of mouth has brought some attention to the owner of horses that need care.
Much to my surprise we do actually find the place. We turn into the old rancho, with a large concrete and brick arch. As we drive thru the arch, George explains that this was once a grand place, but used only as a working ranch and for many parties held by its previous owners. I can see in my minds eye the spectacle of its former story. A place people from the town would come to attempt to prove their horsemanship and achieve bragging rights with their friends. This was a place where Grandfathers and Grandmothers could teach Mexican traditions of horsemanship to the children and grandchildren.
The current owner is a well meaning man and is doing his best to maintain his lifestyle. He is able to feed his animals, but due to the hard times is unable to give them proper medical attention. He has therefore contacted George to ask for his aid.
We are met by the local vet, Dr. Tello and his assistants. The horses are in a pen with ugly looking Mexican cows. Our goal, is to separate the horses from the cows, so the vet can “doctor” the horses for parasites and give vitamins. George and the assistants are able to capture the horses so the Dr. can vaccinate them. I was able to photograph them!
The owner was so grateful for our help, that he donated two days labor to clean up the brush from the Hilltop Refugio, where the refuge horses will eventually be kept. He also gave us two watermelons for our perilous trip home.
Written by John Webber
To learn more about the J.E.E.P. project, visit the Hilltop Refugio / Jaltemba Equine Education Project (J.E.E.P.) webpage. You can make a donation to the organization there as well.
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