A Coming of Age Story, Set in Old Santa Fe
I had written a story back in 2009 that was inspired from thoughts of a little gray burro named Pedro that we had as a pet when we were just kids growing up in a small community just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I had adopted a one-year old wild burro from the wild horse and burro adoption center here in Reno in 2012. After spending years gentling Pedro and trying him out with children on local events, I was confident I had the right burro for the job. He was to become the live version of Pedro in my story, A Burro’s Tale.
A Burro’s Tale is the story of a young burro and his desire to be accepted by the other burros in the stable. To be accepted, he must prove his worth by completing his first day of work. Being younger and smaller than the others, he had yet to be chosen for that first day of work.
The story is a coming of age story for little Pedro that all children can (or will) relate to. Like the other burro’s in A Burro’s Tale, children can be mean and not allow other children to be readily accepted into their group. One particular day, when all of the other burro’s in the valley had been rented, Pedro is finally provided with the opportunity to prove his worth. It is the story of the first Christmas and Pedro was there. OK, Enough about A Burro’s Tale.
The day I had selected to start my pilgrimage was November 10th, 2019 and I was to return December 4th. I had targeted ten states and fourteen cities throughout the Southwest to meet groups of children. The children would have the opportunity to meet the real Pedro and each child would receive a gift of their very own copy of the illustrated version of A Burro’s Tale.
My first stop after leaving Reno was Sacramento, CA. Followed by Santa Monica and then Phoenix. Each of the groups of children we met were over the top excited to meet and pet Pedro, and they loved their story of the first Christmas. Young children have not learned how to hide their emotions yet, so everything you hear and see is pure. That purity is not only beautiful, but was changing me with each stop along the way.
The next stop was Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe and the surrounding area is where I was raised and the background for A Burro’s Tale. The two days I was able to spend in Santa Fe before meeting with the little children on Monday, began to transform my travels into something more spiritual. The ever-present smell of pinon wood coming from the fireplace, softened the chill in the air and brought me back to a simple, beautiful time in Santa Fe.
The event in Santa Fe was every bit as successful as I could have ever hoped for. The children were beautiful and the young lady that covered the event did a stellar job. Maybe the most special part of this event is that my sister and my mother (about to turn 90) were both able to be there that morning with Pedro, the children and I.
Next: Off to El Paso and the purpose for the sharing of this story.
El Paso was to be the fifth city on this pilgrimage. Initially I had begun working on meeting the children at a volunteer organization called Annunciation House. All along I was having trouble nailing down the particulars of this visit as I could not seem to find a person in charge there. Being concerned about not having children to meet with in El Paso I secured another location that was thrilled to have Pedro and I.
Just before departing on our pilgrimage I had finally gotten confirmation from Annunciation House that Pedro and I would be able to meet with whatever children were there on the day we arrived. Annunciation House has a transient population of adults and children that have been dropped off there by ICE while it is determined where and when they will be transported elsewhere. Not merely Mexican, but Portuguese, Brazilian, Asian, etc.
I arrived in El Paso a day early as I try to do whenever possible. It is necessary for Pedro to rest in between events. Not only from long rides in the trailer, but mentally. He needs 24 to 36 hours to process the prior event of meeting people, smells, sounds etc. So, with that day of rest I like to travel to the location we will be meeting with children to get familiar with the lay of the land.
After meeting the principal at Saint Joseph’s Elementary School (founded in 1929) in downtown El Paso, I stopped at the Annunciation House to talk with my contact there, regarding Pedro and my visit
the following afternoon. I learned at that time that there were only 6 children staying there at present, but was told that could change overnight. I also learned that the event could not be filmed in any way, so I would have to cancel any media coverage. So be it.
My alarm was set for 5:30 AM as is usual for these events. By the time I get a shave, shower, coffee and breakfast it is 7:00 AM. Getting to Pedro, getting him loaded and ready to go, 8:00 AM, to arrive at the location by 9:00 AM. That leaves a little time to get Pedro dressed in his fancy rig and ready to meet the children at 10:00 AM. The event at Saint Joseph’s was a tremendous success! The children loved meeting Pedro and receiving their copy of A Burro’s Tale. As always, Pedro also loved all of the attention from the children and the teachers.
By the time I got Pedro reloaded in the trailer and off and running back to the hotel, it was around noon. Back at the hotel before 1:00 PM. Time for a bite. I don’t recall what was for lunch because it is really of no consequence. I thought I might catch an afternoon snooze (Pedro was still loaded in the trailer) and I was actually questioning whether I was going to do the Annunciation House event at all. After all, it was only 6 kids and I had to cancel any media coverage. Besides, it would be there and back during rush hour traffic in a city I did not know my way around. One more reason not to go.
THANK GOD! I thought I had slept for some time, but it had only been a couple of minutes. I splashed some water on my face, jumped in the truck and headed to the Annunciation House. As I pulled in there were about a dozen kids jumping up and down yelling Burro! Burro! They did not know his name as they had not yet met Pedro. We spent an hour or so with the children and gifted them all with a copy of the illustrated version of A Burro’s Tale in Spanish “El Cuento de un Burro.” Of course, the children loved Pedro, and he loved them.
There had been a young man in the group observing the event. The young man could have been 13 or 18. It was hard to tell as he was in a wheelchair and had no limbs from the waist down. His mother was steering the wheelchair and was smiling ear to ear. It was obvious that she could tell how much her boy was enjoying this event. The young man had a Red Sox baseball cap on and a nice letterman style sports jacket. He had taken an interest in Pero’s business cards that I was handing out to the volunteers and the adults and requested one for himself. The other children took notice and were now also interested in having a card of their own.
I went to the truck and retrieved a plastic wrapped bundle of 50 cards and presented them to the young man in the chair. He nodded to me and promptly put the packet of cards in his pocket and zipped it closed. It was not needed to discuss; he would be the one in charge of dispensing them to the other children that he felt deserved to have one of the precious cards.
The children were tiring of the gathering and beginning to chase one another around. I had loaded Pedro back in the trailer and dusk was upon us. It was time to get Pedro back to the boarding facility and get a bite to eat. I bid my farewell to the volunteers and parents that were gathered and the children yelled Pedro’s name. I stopped on my way to the truck and stooped on one knee to say goodbye to the boy in the chair. I held out my hand and introduced myself; Mi nombre es Patricio, y tu nombre es amigo? He answered in a Spanish dialect of course, Jesus, and he put his little hand in mine.
My drive back to the boarding facility for Pedro and to the hotel after that felt like hours. I have done many things that I am not proud of in my life, but I have never known shame like I experienced that day.
When have 6 children been less important that 60?
I have seen the face of Jesus and I held his hand in mine.