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My Bad Cousins

            There was no worse news, at the advanced age of 7, than to have one of my sisters confide to me that we were going to visit the "bad cousins." Visiting the "good cousins" was an entirely different matter. My father's side of the family was far more enjoyable to visit than the raucous band of Portuguese dairy farmers my mother claimed we were related to. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful afternoons spent with the families of my aunts and uncles on the Clark side of the family, a consortium of investors, professors, and teachers, when my family made the three hour trip to the small vineyard and dairy just outside of Kingsburg, California, I would complain the whole way, protesting having to visit with such uncivilized cousins. .
             Since my first encounters with the bad cousins I was taken aback by their peculiar habits of play. At any moment they were prone to wrestling amongst themselves and roping various farm animals. Furthermore, I found myself incredulous when I heard them discussing the merits of various show cattle and tractors. It was not just their antics which startled me; in every mannerism they were different. They dressed in overalls and cowboy boots and smelled strongly of cows and allspice. Most Portuguese people I knew smelled exactly like my cousins, strongly of allspice and cumin, spices which were essential to Portuguese cuisine. It was in this sense that I was an outsider whenever visiting the "bad cousins". While my cousins scampered through the vineyards outside I would sit on the couch with the parents, reluctant to dirty by slacks and polo. But while I sat on sat on the couch listening to my Uncles complain about milk prices and production, I was never completely alone. In the green lazy boy chair to my right always sat Grandpa Frank. From the moment I met him, I liked Grandpa Frank. In my seven year old mind he was perhaps the most generous person I knew, possessing a near infinite supply of Wrigley's chewing gun sticks and butterscotch candies.

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