Every tram tour we give at Santa Ana NWR is different--not because the refuge or the information we relate change but because the people we are talking to are different. Yesterday I had a challenging, and very rewarding, group for one tour. The nine riders included a group of seven from an outpatient pain management clinic and two serious birders. In addition, most of the folks from the clinic spoke only Spanish. I speak none.
To begin with, I asked the young woman who worked for the clinic to translate. That turned out to be a cumbersome proposition. I could tell that the people could understand at least some of what I said, so eventually, I decided to simplify what I said and let the environment speak for itself. We had a good time.
Since the folks from the clinic were all Valley residents, they shared some of their own experiences with the plants of the refuge. I pointed out the mistletoe and explained that the white fruit is toxic to humans but the Cedar Waxwing birds eat it and get drunk, but recover. One woman told me, through the interpreter, that on her ranch they would make a tea from that fruit and give it to their horses as a pain medicine after the mares gave birth.
I learned that the beans from the Texas Ebony tree, when green, taste a lot like garbanzo beans. I also learned that locals eat the armadillo and the javelina. The javelina or collared peccary tastes like pork or chicken, they said.
One man was very familiar with the plants that grow here. He would tell me their Spanish name, often crushing a leaf to smell it before telling me what it was. At the Rio Grande, he told the interpreter to explain to me that "his belly button was buried on the other side of the river." Everyone laughed and I asked, "Does that mean he was born in Mexico?" "Yes, that means his umbilical cord was buried there."
Most of those patients were dealing with back injuries, one with a knee injury. But every one of them took both walks on the tour. I'm not sure they were that interested in the refuge but they were very interested in living life while managing their pain. They were a real inspiration.
In addition, the two birders, seniors citizens like we are, were also inspired.