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Back to the Mariposas
CURT SAMPSON
March 27, 2006
More than 30 years after his last visit, the golf-pro son of a renowned lepidopterist returns to the Mexican jungle, where he first learned the game, to pay final homage to his father
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March 27, 2006

Back To The Mariposas

More than 30 years after his last visit, the golf-pro son of a renowned lepidopterist returns to the Mexican jungle, where he first learned the game, to pay final homage to his father

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And you kill them how?

"You pinch their necks. There's an art to it."

While Freeman pilots the rented Suburban, fellow traveler Dan Strimple, a Dallas-based driving range owner and teaching pro, tries out his first Spanish phrases. Strimple tends to wing it when he's out of his element, so he's thrilled to learn that a number of Spanish words can be formed by simply adding an o or an a to the English word: cr�dito, cemento, sexo.

"How do you say I want," Strimple asks. "How do you say with you?"

He digests for a moment, then declares, "Yo quiero sexo con usted."

In Valles, Freeman turns south on Ruta 85, dodging speeding trucks overloaded with sugar cane. He drives unerringly to this place he used to know but doesn't anymore. Covadonga's face has changed beyond imagining, like a long-lost friend who has let himself go. propiedad federal, a sign says. What the hell does that mean? As the Suburban creeps along a dark, primeval path, Freeman mutters "Jeez," then "Wow." Tree branches with white flowers scratch the sides of the car. Saplings tickle it underneath. The hotel is a phantom amid the aggressive jungle. At the end of the path is Andr�s Morales, the caddie who never left. Now he's the pro.

"Heel-bare?" he addresses Freeman. "I can't believe you're here."

They hug. �Benito est� aqu�? Freeman asks. No. Gilbert's caddie, a rough man who was never without his white straw cowboy hat and a burning cigarette, is dead. Too much cerveza, too much fumar, Andr�s explains. And Mundo? Avery's caddie also is muerto. But Raymundo, Gilbert's mother's caddie, is the credit manager at the Ford dealership in Valles, and in a moment he pulls up on his motorcycle to exchange hugs and laughter. Back in the day, Raymundo would find tees to match the color of Louise's outfits and hand her a color-coordinated peg with her driver. His English was excellent; he wrote the Freemans a letter every year.

Green parrots screech in the giant India laurel above our heads, and the conversation stops. Andr�s observes the sadness in Gilbert's eyes. Is it the death of the caddies or the fingers of rust and rot grasping the once white clubhouse and the hotel? "Covadonga," Andr�s says softly, "almost gone."

A butterfly's life consists of four stages. The last stage, the flying part, usually lasts only a week or two. A generation of butterflies is called a flight. In the tropics, in the summer, there is flight after flight, and death and life mingle constantly.

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