Deep in the hills of Southern California…

past the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

but before Julian and their famous apple pies

right in the middle, on Highway 78, sits Young Life’s Oakbridge

where I worked from 2000, 2001, and 2002.

And under the cabins are garages where we’d hide our ropes course gear and our extra mattresses and our lawnmowers.  And on the workbench near the tree trimmers and work gloves, you’d probably find Mago- one of the kindest men I’ve ever met- reading his Bible and checking off the chapters as he finished on a large piece of poster board hung on the back of the workshop door.

Mago was the first in his family to come to America from Mexico. He was a young father, a quiet man, and was never not smiling. Never.

About 6 months after I’d been at Camp, Mago radio-ed me to meet him in the circle driveway. He was waiting there for me with a long braided rope he’d made himself (of course), and as I approached, he began to swing it around his head. Calmly. Most natural thing in the world. Then, in a split-second, he reversed the whip’s direction and it cracked the sound barrier.

Hear me when I say it was cooler than Indiana Jones.

“You want to learn?” he asked me.

Um, yes.

My right shoulder still hurts thinking about it. But, I eventually got it and became a part of our two-man gang Los Latigos (The Whips). The next day, Mago brought me a wooden handle and some nylon rope and we braided a whip for me to keep.

“Mago. This is insane. How do you even know how to do this?” I asked.

“This? Oh. Well, before I come here… I was a shepherd. For sheep. So, this is why I know.”

Of course.


There are many things I miss about California, but Mago is in the top three.

This past weekend, I found the whip under the baseball gloves and grabbed the handle with glee. It’s been 13 years, but I still remember how.


About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

9 responses to “latigo

  • Shanda

    Giddy!! I love hearing bout your life pre-Shanda cause I don’t know much. Super cool. Super. Fun. Plus it makes you more awesome in the eyes of your kids. Will you show my kids when we come to visit? Good. Thanks.

  • Jean Akin

    If your kids ever hear you say, “Knock it off or I’ll whoop yer butt!” they best knock it off. That’s all I gotta say.

  • Phil Warners

    For me Mago was Jim. Whip making was coaching basketball — more accurately, coaching kids. Thanks for the reminder of how important that man was in my life.

  • Margie

    Wow. Waaaaay cool. Waaaay.

  • Kim Aguilar

    Wow. Whole new level of cool.

  • John

    Adding to the Mago legend… Taking off the head of a rattle snake with the blade of manual scraper; the kind on the end of a handle where you need to be within striking distance of the snake. But it was completely safe, Mago would stand on the curb of the landscaping around the circle or the box in front of the office… …you know, two or three feet away…

  • alexannielouisa

    Now that is a fun story! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Rebecca

    You know what? This sound SOUNDS like camp to me. I bet I watched you do this 8000 times. And if I’m lucky I bet I can find a photo or two of it for you. And HI, but THIRTEEN years!? What in the world???

  • steph

    just awesome!

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