Alejandro Lopez and the Jumping Stick

Alejandro Lopez 2

My grandfather passed away yesterday. He possessed certain knowledge and skills that were unheard of to me and my 90’s suburban Super Mario Bros. existence.  These are the things I find myself remembering today:

The way Grampy could hit a can off a post from 30 yards away with a smooth stone and a slingshot.  Anyone who thinks the story of David and Goliath is nothing more than a comforting historical myth should have seen Grampy in action.  Steady. Confident. Precise.  I’d yelp at the metalic ping of the stone hitting the can and run over to inspect the damage.  “Let me try again” he’d say, and I’d dust the can off, add some gravel to give it weight, bend it into shape and set it back on the post, eager to see him do it again.

The way Grampy could throw a horseshoe was a thing of beauty.  He’d bend his knees, put one foot in front of the other, and in a single fluid motion he’d pull back the horseshoe, pivot forward, and let the weight of it carry itself forward in an effortless release.  I would spend time swinging the horseshoe back and forth, trying to get a sense of the weight, but there was none of that with Grampy.  He knew what it weighed, how it felt in his hand, and he knew how it would fly.  Each throw was the same – a slow and gentle arc with exactly one horizontal rotation.  I always thought the horseshoe wasn’t going to get back around in time – it moved so slow! – and that it would just careen off the side of the pole.  But at the last second it would complete its rotation and open up, just in time to catch the pole and ring around it.

The way he could take two sticks and make them jump.  He’d take two twigs and twist them together and set them down on one of the planks of the wooden picnic table on the patio.  “You ever seen a Mexican jumping stick?”  Then – they would just jump!  Completely on their own.  I asked him how to do it, but he’d never tell me.  “Just twist them together”…I never did get it.

The way he’d get up early and sit on the back patio with a cup of coffee and a pumpkin empanada and stare into the Hill Country brush.  He could spot a deer or an armadillo or the occasional road runner quicker than anyone – even in his mid 70’s. He’d point through the mesquite trees in one direction and ask if I saw anything.  I’d stare and stare, and just about convince myself that he was making it up, and then the deer would shift and come into focus in front of me.  My uncle would take him ‘hunting’ later in life.  Grampy would sit all day crouched down in a deer blind with a pair of binoculars.  He didn’t have the heart to shoot them anymore, he just wanted to watch them move with their quiet grace and freedom.

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