“No mus.” “Envido.” “Hordago!” Words fly as they gathered around tables, four men huddled around each one, cards changing hands as fast as chips changing sides.
These men, most of them immigrants from the Basque Country who started their lives in the United States as sheepherders, were now celebrating one of the youngster’s birthdays. After years of hard work in the fields — some them still working the lands into their seventies — they use any opportunity to get together, share stories and food, and play Mus. The afternoon starts off with appetizers of cheese, chorizo Pamplona, and some of my dad’s home made jamon. The men chat over glasses of wine as the main dishes of lamb stew, cod and potato soup, and blood sausage are receiving final touches. Once lunch is served, the hall is quiet — everyone is too hungry. Lunch ends with a big bowl of arroz con leche, sweetened just enough to have the perfect flavor.
Once the dishes are cleared and the tables broken up into four-man units, the cards come out. Partners and opponents are chosen, and six games begin. Shouts of laughter, a few cuss words, and lots of excitement quickly follow. My dad’s eyes twinkle as he bluffs his way to a win. I sit down to one of the few old timers who doesn’t play Mus so well and I listen to a number of stories about life in the Homedale area as a farmer and a previous life as a smoke jumper — a history rich in experience and appreciation for what he has.
As I watch and listen, I am very grateful for what these men represent. They embody the American spirit, the drive to better themselves, to work hard to make a better life for their kids. In their way, these men from a foreign land are more American than many born on this soil; they persevered under hard conditions to create for themselves and their families the American Dream.