The Legend of El Gringo Grande

While in Zihuatanejo, Mexico last January on a writing retreat, my husband Al and I walked over a beautiful stone bridge that spanned a canal. This was a flood water control canal, and as this wasn’t the rainy season, there were only about 3″ of water in it, flowing across the beach to the bay.

During the day, this canal was filled with birds: ibis, snowy egrets, greater egrets, pink spoonbills, all feasting on the minnows that were silvery thick. Beautiful. At sundown on our first night there, we saw a snowy egret try to fly away with the rest, but his leg was caught in something and he couldn’t get loose.

Al had a restless night, thinking about that egret. Named him Edgar. In the morning, we borrowed a pair of scissors from the front desk of our hotel, and went to rescue Edgar.

The canal had 8′ concrete walls and a concrete floor, except for the south side by the beach, which had broken away. Al couldn’t see that the floor was broken from his vantage point, so he endeavored to wade into the canal from that side. Soon the water was up to his hips and it was clear that he couldn’t go any further. From my vantage point on the bridge, I could see the deep hole and encouraged him to go back out to the beach and come in on the north side, where the concrete floor was intact. This is what he did.

A Mexican man came up to me all in a panic and said, “What is he doing?” I pointed at poor Edgar, still sitting there about thirty yards up the canal, and told him what Al was about. “There’s a CROCODILE in that hole!” the man said.

“Al! Al!” I yelled. “Crocodile!”

Al looked around. “I don’t see any crocodile,” he said, and continued on his way.

Soon, a crowd gathered. The gentleman who had warned me about the crocodile now became the emcee of the event, giving everyone who gathered in the morning light a blow-by-blow description in both English and Spanish, of what they could certainly see with their own eyes.

Then someone called the fire department. I can only assume that having a tourist eaten in the canal is not good PR.

A Bombero (fireman) conferred with Al over the wall , then two of them went to the beach side of the canal where they saw the croc and they trained their M-16s on it until Al was safe.

Al calmly picked up the bird and while it pecked at his hands, he cut it free from the entanglement of fishing line.  

Big applause by everyone crowding the bridge.

Then he picked up the rest of the yards of old fishing line and one of the firemen told him a better way to get back out of the canal. The Emcee said to me: “Your husband, he’s”–he flexed his bicep–“grande!”

“Si,” I said.

Then he turned to the crowd, puffed out his chest and made an announcement. “Mr. and Mrs. Al,” he said. “You Americans come to Mexico and RESCUE OUR BIRDS!” Wild applause.

Al knew nothing of any of this. He just came onto the bridge, pockets full of old fishing line, and wanted to go have breakfast.

For the rest of the trip we called him El Gringo Grande. He liked it until he found out that it didn’t mean “great man,” it meant “big man”.

I say it takes a big man to brave crocodile-infested waters to rescue a bird.

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5 Comments

Filed under Goodness, Social Consciousness, Writing

5 responses to “The Legend of El Gringo Grande

  1. Little Charlie

    THAT’S MY UNCLE!

  2. capncrusty

    You go, Al!

    By the way, did you know that “al” in Spanish means “Big guy who rescues birds, crocodile or not”? Few people do.

  3. Sam and Don

    So glad that you wrote and published this. Love the story.

  4. Stacy Allen

    Such a great story. I laugh every time I hear it. Thanks for commiting it to your blog. Hilarious! Please give El Gringo Grande my best.
    Stacy

  5. Anne Weiner

    I think, in this case, the word “grande” should be interpreted as “big-hearted” and “altogether splendid.”

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