Some people are not born to live the life of others.
In a valley in the Argentinean province of Chubut a 20-year old something boy sits in a beach chair, in front of the cold river Mina, next to a hammock that’s tied between two trees and beneath a wooden platform, where she imagines the kids of the house spending sunny Patagonian days playing.
She walks towards him on the way back from her evening swim.
He sits quietly with a book in his hand and she remembers how she watched him walk through the door last evening feeling annoyed more guests had arrived.
“What did you do today?”, he asks, sitting in front of the river that’s running like a vein through her body.
“I wrote about Butch Cassidy. And then swam in the river”.
Just down a dirt road off RP-7 in Patagonia in southern Argentina, five kilometres from Cholila, lies the American bank robber’s old cabin and stable with no signs except for a wooden one just by the gate.
The grass is tired of the lack of rain and it’s the end of the Patagonian summer. It’s only her and her porteño friend who’s around and they walk the trail leading to the house. Standing behind the wooden fence like good respectful visitors, they silently gaze at the timber refuge until she interrupts the stillness.
“What do you think make people leave everything they know? Like their family and their homes?”, she asks him and continues; “I mean he was only 15 years-old. What makes you leave your country to live under a false name in a tiny town in Argentina?”.
“There’s something really reckless about it.”
There’s a skull from a cow hanging from the tree next to the cabin, with a bit of blood left in the dent and if they look closely enough there’s a bit of brown hind as well.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just what he wanted… What he felt like. I guess that in a society so limited in choice, creating his own life brought him outside the law.”
“Yeah maybe”, she says and rest her head against the fence until they walk back to the car.
“Can you smell it?”, she asks him and stops. Can you smell the flowers?”.
It smells like summer, like her mum’s honeysuckles on the terrace back home.
Her friend breathes in, but it’s already gone.
Standing in front of the stable with his horses, looking into the camera, dressed in woollen trousers and a cotton shirt and a hat, Butch Cassidy stares right into her eyes.
“Here”, the lady says and hands her a copy of a magazine article. “This is about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
The woman behind the counter of Rai Mapu – the café and convenience store just above the bus terminal and the tourism office in the tiny little town of Cholila with a roundabout that feels too big for a community of 3000 people – hands her a copy of an article from Todo es historía.
She brings it with her on their road trip on the dirt roads to Parque Nacional Alerces and reads about the duo sitting next to Río Arrayanes at the camping site in the national park.
“I remember how much you admired him”, her porteño friend tells her when she’s far away from Patagonia and the water that’s running under her skin.
She closes her eyes and she’s in Argentina again sticking her head out the car window driving from Trevelin to Esquel. “It’s cowboy land”, she says with her eyes fixated at the yellow fields of grass and the Andean mountains.
Back at the hostel by the river where the boy is now sitting opposite her at the round wooden kitchen table when everyone else has gone to bed, she asks the boy: “What makes you leave everything you know to ride horses and rob banks and live completely outside the law?”
She scribbles freedom on a piece of paper.
“Maybe by living under a false name, he was being himself”, the boy tells her.