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El Lincome Mountain


Órale, in this episode of Caló, we’re going to retell the story of how the local folks came to adopt a new landmark; namely, the profile of Lincoln, which you can see announced on a road sign on the way to OJ. The sign indicating it was there seemed to pop up one day. People passing by noticed it right away, but it took some time for it to sink in. It was as if the mountain changed overnight, one day just another mountain indistinguishable from the others surrounding it and the next day a new remarkable look. Qué onda?

Boy was on his way to OJ the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a well-practiced drill. Don Wicho let it be known that he was headed there on Thursday, and by Friday evening the space in his pickup truck cabin was full: four vatos and a huerco.

Boy’s mother prevailed on Don Wicho at the last minute, and he said yes, as he had transported Boy several times before, most recently in September on the way from OJ back to the Southside a few days after school had started.

Boy was the last to come aboard that morning. Don Wicho got out of the cabin so he could come in and sit beside him in front of the stick shift. It was crowded. Everybody’s shoulders touched. But they had all had done it before. Everybody just had to take turns crouching forward to make space.

When they got to the mountains, a few hours into the ride, the curves on the road made them lean against each other, such that crouching didn’t help anymore. So they tried more intense conversation, first stories about ghosts and apparitions, then gun and knife fights, then heavy philosophical questions.

“Hey, you vatos seen that sign about the new mountain?” a heavyset man everybody in the Southside knew as Chachá, who was sitting by the window asked out loud.

“What?” Don Wicho asked.

The other two men in the cab didn’t say anything or even show any interest in the topic.

“What new mountain?” Boy asked.

“Simón, you can see it once you start going downhill to OJ,” the man added.

“There’s no new mountain,” Don Wicho gruffed.

“Oh, yeah, there is. They call it the Lincome cuz it looks like the president on the penny,”

“Lincome?” asked Don Wicho, incredulously.

The conversation went dead for a long time until they topped the mountain range and started the long downhill stretch to OJ.

“Where’s the new mountain?” Boy asked.

“Over there. You can’t see that it looks like Lincome until you’re right in front of it,” Chachá said.

“See?” Chachá announced a short while later.

Boy couldn’t make out the profile.

“I don’t see anything that looks like Lincome,” said Don Wicho.

“You can’t see the beard and the pointed nose?” asked Chachá.

“Chale. Lincome doesn’t have a beard. There’s some pennies in the ashtray, Boy. Check’em to see if the vato on it looks like that mountain,” said Don Wicho.

Boy fished out a penny and checked it against the mountain. Then he turned to Don Wicho and shook his head.

“See, there’s no new mountain, ese. Just the same ones I’ve seen all my life, ” Don Wicho chided Chachá.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.