Party time in Smith Valley |

Party time in Smith Valley

by Ron Walker

I know the planets are aligned badly when I see a lake forming in my backyard.

“Jose will know what to do,” I murmur to myself. About 15 years ago, Jose, and I planted 300 shrubs and trees on our newly acquired five acres. It’s now a miniature eco-system. Night falls, and the level of the lake continues to rise.

Next morning, I call Jose and “yes,” he will come over and have a look.

“We will need two valves,” he says, sagely, peering into the drowned control box.

Soon I’m on my way to Home Depot. The up-side of the valves’ malfunction, is an invitation to Jose’s son, Diego’s 23rd birthday party that very evening.

I feel like I’m back in Mexico when Orllyene, and I arrive at Jose and Eva’s home. Infectious Mexican music is playing, a big dog is barking and a commotion is heard in the kitchen.

“Eva, did Jose tell you that he’d invited Orllyene and me to the party?” I ask, and of course he hadn’t. It’s not important. With a heart as big as Jalisco, Eva gives us each a hug. Orllyene sits at a long kitchen table and I settle on a bar stool. We will be having homemade tamales, made from handmade tortillas for dinner. Eva’s tamales are legendary in Smith Valley. Come to think of it, Jose is legendary in Smith Valley. Jose has always been the “go-to guy” here. If you have an emergency, he’s right there. He may be doing a big landscape job, but it will just have to wait until you are OK.

Orllyene drinks her ginger brew and Jose offers me a “Bud.” We are now officially part of the Verdugo family inner circle. How nice; a real whoop-de-doo, Saturday night in Smith Valley.

Orllyene chats with Maggie, Jose’s sister. Maggie was a special ed. caregiver at our k-12 public school. During that time, Orllyene read stories to the kids, and I got them up dancing, doing Kiddersize.

“I doubled my salary in just two years at the bank,” Jesus tells us.

Jesus is Jose’s older son. He tried landscaping, ranching, and it just wasn’t for him. Now he and Donna are getting married and she delights in telling Orllyene how happy she is.

Lorena, arrives. She’s the “girl” of the Verdugo family. She’s raising five children and she is a full-time sheriff deputy in the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office.

“Lorena brings Ruby and Esequiel over in the morning, then I pick up Pearla, Esmeralda and Juan in the afternoon after school,” says Eva, the proud, and mighty gramma.

A delicious looking birthday cake sits on the counter. It has waves of white frosting, tinted blue. I ask who made the cake. Eva looks flustered.

“My mother and I made it. It’s a three- milk cake, but you’ll have to ask her what kinds of milk she uses,” she says.

She then takes the lid off a pot the size of a Hummer to see how the tamales are doing. Maybe I’m feeling a trifle lonely, but this loving family is curing all my woes.

With the sun setting behind the Pine Nuts, Jose walks Orllyene and me to our car. As he holds the car door open for Orllyene, I thank him for inviting us for the delightful evening. How easy it is to have a good time, when the main item on the menu is love.

Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at