The Milkman and the Mountain

Traveling in Costa Rica

The Milkman and the Mountain

Just after daybreak I could hear him approaching in the distance.

Clip clop, clip clop – then the subtle ring of a silver bell. Standing tall, like the mountains behind him, on the bed of a flatbed wagon pulled by a mule. Summoned by that bell, women in the barrio would bring their coins and a vessel – a bowl, a pitcher, to their gate at the roadside. Ramrod straight, the milkman would dip his ladle into a tall metal canister and bring out the desired quantity at each stop. His balance was impeccable, never faltering as he navigated the cart along the main road, traffic speeding by.

Clip clop, clip clop, stop, ring, ladle and repeat.

It was difficult to guess his age, I suspected he appeared older as did most of the men in this country. Skin weathered as brown and terra cotta red as those glorious mountains in the backdrop and the dust kicked up and swirling from vehicles racing by. Muscular, wiry, wizened as this land, his daily routine, starting before dawn and producing a miniscule income. And yet, he stood proudly in the knowledge that he was providing a vital service to the families counting on his delivery.

I made a point of rising earlier than usual each morning and taking my tea on our porch along his route. Clip clop, clip clop, stop, ring, he was near. I would wait and catch his eye as he passed.

“Adios” I would offer, “Adios” he would reply with a gentle smile.