Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

March 19, 2002

Don Juan

It’s without doubt, that Don Juan has many special qualities and talents, and everyone in Tinum thinks he’s a daring, dashing, and debonair personality. They also know he’s sure to always bring home a healthy and beautiful harvest from his bountiful fields and gardens each season. His wizardry with an axe is also rarely matched, as each heaping stack of firewood that he cuts is always compact, of equal length, and chosen perfectly aged. Yet his most remarkable skill of all, is the unique method in which he delivers fresh-baked bread each afternoon to patrons throughout the village, who eagerly await his arrival for something delicious to eat for dinner.

Meanwhile, at the town bakery, as has happened every morning at 5 a.m. for the last 43 years, Don Pepe and his assistants begin kneading large quantities of dough by hand on several lengthy heavily floured tables. They next spend hours shaping and creating a large variety of breads and sweet breads, that are then systematically baked throughout the day in a huge wood-burning oven in Don Pepe’s home. Items best baked when the fire is first started and at its hottest are introduced first. Then, as the oven’s heat diminishes later in the day, those that need to bake for longer periods of time are eventually inserted and removed with the aid of a very long baker’s paddle. The resulting golden-browned goodies are then placed in a cracked glass display case to sell to the public at about 4pm. A few of them, though, are set aside for Don Juan, who will wander the streets of the village until dusk selling the rest.

Don Juan doesn’t drag a rusty red wagon around behind him filled with savory buns, rolls, cookies, and pastries to get the job done. Nor does he carry clumsy baskets or buckets from each hand, or push a squeaky-wheeled cart. Don Juan carefully and neatly fills a large, round metal container full with Don Pepe’s fresh baked wares, and then has the astonishing ability to somehow magically balance the weighty load on top of his head, for hours at a time. He never uses his hands to keep the heavy dented blue canister in place while walking his village route, only to lift and lower it to and from his flattened noggin whenever someone wants to see what’s inside. And he frequently announces his eventual arrival to everyone by blowing a high-pitched whistle, which has many villagers trained like dogs to drop whatever they’re doing and run to their front doors for a treat. A single sweet bread costs $0.12, and two-foot-long French breads cost $0.35 each.

But probably the most amazing thing about all that Don Juan does, is that he’s somewhere between 75 and 82 years old. And when asked about how old he actually is, he’s never really quite sure. And his uncertainty with numbers doesn’t just end with his age. Even after selling bread for Don Pepe from atop his head for 43 years, and dealing with absurd amounts of orders and price calculations for all that’s been sold, Don Juan can barely add!

Anyone who buys bread from Don Juan is fully aware that they’ll have to calculate for themselves, exactly what they owe him for the amount of bread that they want to buy. Either that, or wait ten minutes or more for Don Juan to take a wild guess at it. And if customers expect change from Don Juan for payments to him of more than they owe, they have to inform him again, just how much he should give them in return. At least, Don Juan does recognize the numbers on most coins and bills as if it matters, even though his vision is poor at best. Yet incredibly, no one in the village ever swindles, cheats, dupes, or steals from Don Juan during these daily “honor-system” transactions. Instead, they usually offer him a token tip, or whatever else they always feel like giving.

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