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Caló: Aguila with the snakes

Órale, the featured word today is ‘aguila.’ It’s the Spanish word for eagle. In Caló it’s used to mean alertness or beware. Somebody who’s watching out for something is said to be aguila. Likewise, when you tell somebody to be aguila you mean to say they should be on the lookout. 

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

The sun had set over the Sierra Rica mountains. Young Boy, only days out of school after having finished the first grade in the Southside, was sitting at his grandmother’s kitchen table, watching her heat coagulated cow’s milk over a skillet on a wood stove. She had curdled the milk by pouring a tea of burst silverleaf nightshade pods into it. The heat evaporated the water in the milk and created a wide tortilla-like cheese curd known as an asadero. 

Boy was hungry. He hadn’t eaten since he arrived in OJ on a ride from the Southside that morning. 

His grandmother saw the little boy staring at the asadero she was making and remembered to feed him.

“I’ll give you this one when I’m done. In the meantime, go to the shed by the corral where the chickens lay their eggs and see if you find one. Just be aguila with the snakes,” she told Boy.

Boy looked up at her, his forehead frowning. 

“Pos, like I’ve told you before, if the chickens are squawking or none are there, it’s likely a snake has gotten in. So don’t stick your hand into the nest. Roll the egg out with a stick. Also watch where you’re stepping. Go before it gets so dark you can see,” she told him.

Boy trudged down the sloping farmyard to the corral. The chickens weren’t squawking as he approached the adobe shed they shared with farm implements. He peered through the half-open door and saw a few chickens sitting in nests they had made in old piles of alfalfa. All good signs.

He looked around and spotted an egg in an empty nest. He took a slow, careful step forward, and the hens began to cackle. This reminded Boy that sometimes the hens would try to peck his hand when he reached for their eggs. 

“Aguila,” he told himself.

He thought he would reach in quickly, but the hens seemed to sense his plan and cackled louder. He leaned backward slightly, feigning that he was desisting. The chickens quieted down a little. Boy looked down to locate the spot where he was going to step forward, aguila that it was free of snakes, chicken poop or misplaced tools. Then he lunged forward, grabbed the egg and stepped back without incident. The chickens seemed to forgive him for it, as their cackling didn’t grow. 

Boy walked back to the house with the egg secure in one hand. 

He showed his grandmother the egg, and she nodded.

“Aguila it’s not culeco,” she said, hoping the egg had not been fertilized.

Boy shook it to see if he could feel any mass knocking against the shell.

“It’s good,” he told her.