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.
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 YOU WERE A SHEPHERD.
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.