The Path Out of Capão

On the first day that I arrived in Capão, I noticed a small, thin man walking down one of the many dirt road trails that led out of the village center. He walked alone ragged and dejected, eyes cast downward, smoking a short cigarette. His head bobbed heavily toward the dirt as he ambled along. He went on his way into the countryside. I went on toward the village, with a note of that fleeting and lazy wonder as to strangers.

Three days later I saw this skinny figure again perhaps not so dejected further down the same path, this time on the back of a donkey. I thought to myself, “Hey good for him. He got himself a donkey.”

Two days after that I saw the man a third time.  He was again on a donkey and behind him trailed a good-looking horse, loaded with supplies, which he lead with a long rope.  “Wow,” I thought, “riding proud, head high. His luck is really on the upswing.” I didn’t see him after that for almost a week, as I had gone to camp deeper in the Chapada country side with some Mineiro musicians.

On my return from camp, coming into the town center, I passed him again, this the fourth time on the same dusty path. He was back to a lonely, hapless plod puffing on a short cigarette. I imagined that while I’d been off the poor man had somehow lost everything in some fateful gamble, his luck spent.

The following day, as I left out of Capão for good, we crossed paths for the last time, and made eye contact for the first time. The stone-faced little fellow nodded slightly as he rode past on his donkey, a short cigarette in the corner of his mouth. I saw, suddenly, that he’d never shown dejection, nor pride.


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