I came for good reasons but I stay for entirely different ones. Del Rey, California is a slow quiet town, with one main street, and a lot like what I call “little Mexico”. The Radio station claims we’re somewhere in the “grapevine”, but the map says we are about 30 mile South by Southeast of Fresno: fruit country. At hand are nectarines, grapes, avocado’s, olives, oranges, tangerines, and plums, I am right in the middle of America’s fruit central. It’s a stunning array of systematic process’ from seed to fruit all year long. I think the growing season is somewhere around 300 days. Now in February, the blooms are already coming out. I have watched the mad dash to get ready for this event; tractors, sprayers, and crews of Latino workers at every mile. The workers fill the air with cat calls and song, like I am nearby to some cantina. It’s refreshing actually, to hear such merriment among co-workers. At lunch they cook an impressive array of taco fillings in which everyone has brought something to share. They make a fire wherever they are to warm tortillas and other fixins.
As I have taken a drive or two around, I find some of the most lush and beautiful orchards and areas around. A stones throw away from Del Rey is Sanger, the nations “Christmas Tree City”, surprisingly, not that many people here even know that fact. The entrance to Sequoia National Park is just up the road , and there you will find a giant sequoia by the name of “General Grant”, which is our nation’s Christmas tree. This area near Sanger and the road to the park are filled with orange groves and rich valleys of cattle and palm trees. So picturesque it’s hard to believe.
However……I am not having the time of my life. In spite of natures work of art, there is a very dark side to this area that anyone who is not from here would be shocked to discover. In the beginning I had small adjustments to make that just come from being in a new place. My first task was finding someone, anyone, who didn’t think “bulk foods” was a brand name. Sadly I cannot even find a loaf of fresh baked bread. Just because the town is small doesn’t mean that they have to sacrifice quality. I have shopped for things from tobacco to dog food, meat markets to pot bars, and I can say that it seems that no one is demanding something better than a sub par product.
After the initial settling in, one notices the sad abundance of garbage dumped along every roadside. Garbage of all kinds; TV’s, consoles, kitchen waste, baby items, just garbage. I have seen people drive up in their car, pull over and dump the trash out of their vehicle. Along with the disrespect for the land goes the terrible and gross neglect of animals. There are dead dogs on the road everywhere, left behind by both owner and driver to lay in the road and die. And often I find a scene like this. In a breath taking effort to rescue a bag of kittens or something the imagination invented, I found this, and it’s not the only one. I have asked about this spectacle and the locals say that there are cultures nearby who eat dogs and then dump the remains.
I have had the SPCA come and pick them up but they said that they pick up roughly 300 dogs a day in Fresno County and they just can’t find homes for all of them. He was not shy about saying that almost all of them are euthanized.
This treatment of the land, one’s self, and animals is perpetuated by the constant visual reminder that you get just driving down the road. How can this be? This paradox ; the very same people that nurture one gift of nature and abuse another? I can’t help but to feel a little desperate about this situation and yet this is not the worst of the tragedy going on in the world, but it doesn’t mean I cannot set an example. I have wrangled puppies from the grape fields for hours, I have picked up garbage along the roadside, I have donated to the SPCA, I have tried to buy products from the smaller business’ around Sanger and Del Rey, and above all I am maintaining hope. I stayed for good reasons but they aren’t good enough to keep me here, and this weekend……I am leaving.