The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Work of Love, Work of Art

Paulo points a work of art

Last week I had the pleasure and honor to be invited by my friend Paulo Mattana to spend the weekend at this ranch in the municipality of São Francisco de Paula, state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Paulo and his "cousin" Beto picked me up at my hotel on Friday afternoon and we started our trip taking the least traveled path, from Caxias do Sul to Ana Rech where we bought some fantastic home made bread among other treaties, then to Fazenda Souza and Vila Oliva, and after that by a mountainous unpaved road (that in the US could be described as a track) to steel bridge crossing a deep gorge or canyon over Rio dos Sinos over a ancienty Krupp steel bridge. After the bridge it was uphill again until we came to the touristic city of Canela, took the road to São Francisco de Paula, but left it well before town to cross the Salto dam on the Caí river to get to Paulo's ranch.

Along the way besides the beautiful sights we had good music and better conversation.

As we arrived late in the afternoon (my fault, I know it), there was little to be done besides greeting the ranch hand and his family, unload the supplies from the car, open a cold beer, not getting in the way of Beto while he prepared a "Caipira" (the typical Brazilian cocktail made of cachaça, sugar, limes and ice), which in typical Gaúcho fashion is shared by everyone, get out of Paulo's way while he served the cheese and egg-plant Caponnata, get some music on the i-Pad and talk about guns, hunting, ranching and other less pleasant subjects as politics. As you can see, really nothing to be done. Dinner was tomato and arugua salad, rice and Kung Pao chicken along a couple bottles of great red wine.

Of course, after so little to do the previous night Beto and I over slept, and by the time we woke up Paulo had breakfast well underway.

After breakfast Paulo released his German shorthaired pointers and we got into his Jeep so he could show me the property. The dogs will either run ahead or follow the Jeep and as we drove around the pastures they pointed and eventually flushed a perdiz (Nothura maculosa) and a perdigão (Rhynchotus rufescens), and in both cases I pointed an imaginary shotgun at the birds as they disappeared in the luxurious grasslands.

As Paulo drove me along the property he would tell me about his efforts to restore the land from a very degraded form of several years ago when it was void of almost any life to its present form where the soil is protect from erosion and the cattle and sheep live along the local wildlife. A true work of love.

When we arrived back at the ranch house the two boat mechanics that Paulo was waiting for were already at work on his boat, and after they finished their work we were forced to take the boat to water and test its engine. The lake formed by Barragem do Salto is realy beautiful and we took the boat several miles up river and saw several weekend camps along its shores.

As we came back to the boat launch Paulo and I decided to enjoy the misterious dark waters of the lake, and we floated for quite some time, enjoying cold beers and warm conversation.

Arriving back at the ranch house again we had two pleasant surprises: the lamb barbecue (Gaucho style over hot coals, off course) was almost ready and our friend Armando Rezende had just arrived. A good barbecue (my friends from Alabama will remember me that this is grilling) is food to both body and soul, and after feasting on copious amonts of lamb, fresh salads, tender home made bread, and some libations we had to retire, some to bed others to the veranda, and enjoy soft conversation while the first heavy rain pour of the afternoon washed the skies.

During the rain Paulo showed us one of his most prized possessions, a little .410 single shot hammerless shotgun that his father, Mr. Alfredo Mattana, made in the early 1950's while working at Eberle (Mr. Mattana eventually retired from Eberle after fifty four years of service!) The gun is an exact copy of a Beretta Model 412 single shot hammerless shotgun, and according to Paulo his father made three of them, one for himself and two for close friends.

Paulo shot his first perdiz with this gun, and after his father passed the gun went to one of his brothers, that embellished the gun with great taste. Eventually, after the premature passing of his brother, Paulo received the shotgun from his sister-in-law, and it is truly a work of art.

After the first rain (which was quite mild compared to the storm that came at night and made us think about the campers at the the lake shores) and before the impressive subtropical sunset, Armando and I had the pleasure and honor (I know that I good author should not repeat himself, but I am not a good author) to shoot Paulo's shotgun at some aerial targets. But that is another story...

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