Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER DOS
THE FRIAR'S WARNING:
Mamá worked at the big house, at the rancho. She walked
there, early every morning, out the compound, down the road,
and through the gardens to the hacienda. This morning there
was a lift to her step she could not explain. Her son was
home, afflicted with a terrible curse, yet the cool of the
morning and the sounds of birds greeting the breaking day
filled her with elation. She felt good.
She walked along the rows of the garden, amidst the scents
of cavendar, lilac, and sage. Berries and melons grew in
the open spaces, while beans and scallions and tomatoes
flourished in the rows. Don Pedro was generous to all who
worked for him, and he would give them any of the fruits of
the garden. But while she admired the abundance, it never
occurred to her to accept the hacendado's offers to take
what she wanted for her own family. She preferred to
bargain for vegetables at the town market.
Don Pedro had a guest for breakfast at the large table in
the dining room.
"Your son is well, I trust?" said the visiting Fray
"He is healthy, and eats like a horse," Mamá said, "You knew
he was home from the school?"
"Yes, and I must speak to you about this," said the friar,
drawing her aside, "I fear we may have caused some trouble
"What could the church possibly do to give a mere mother
Fernando coughed lightly, an affectation he had assumed to
gain him some relief from the occasional demands placed on
him at social functions. "The friars at the school are very
proud of your son," he began, "and they were concerned when
he left without waiting for their permission. They... Ah...
sent a message to the mission to tell us to Ah... request
that he return as soon as possible. They say he has great
promise as a scholar."
"I am pleased to hear this, but I could have told them
The friar smiled wryly. "Unfortunately, as you know,
Seńora, all messages must past through the offices of the
Alcalde. It is a mere inconvenience, usually, a delay as
some clerk shows off his education. The... Ah... Alcalde
decided that your son must be made an example, to show
others what happens when they disobey."
"But - Fray Fernando - "
"Shh. We are doing everything we can to correct this, but
until we do, I suggest that you keep your son at home."
"I must talk to the Alcalde at once!" Mamá sputtered,
"Ramón should not have to skulk in his home because of some
"It... it... Ah, it's not that simple, I'm afraid. We have
already objected, only to be told that it is out of our
hands. The order has been given to the Seargeant to find
Ramón and arrest him, for some theft."
"Madre de Dios! Oh, forgive me, Fray Fernando."
"It is acceptable to express yourself, my friend. Especially
under the circumstances. I would like to vent a few choice
words, myself, were I permitted. We at the mission have
sent a message to the school, but until they respond, your
son will be in danger."
It was later than evening when Ramón hurried to help his
mother with the bundles of cloth and sewing supplies she had
"I have talked to the padre while he visited at the
hacienda," she started, "He tells me that the sergeant is
going to try to catch you."
"Me? What did I do?"
"The padre says you are accused of stealing something from
the school. You did not." It was not a question. "The
people at the school sent a message for the padre to ask you
to return as soon as possible. The Alcalde intercepted the
letter. This the padre told me. The Sergeant has decided
to treat you as a criminal."
"If you are to remain free, you must hide, for a little
while. The padre says they will have the matter resolved in
a few days." Mamá lifted the pot from the fire.
"I will go to them and explain," protested Ramón.
"They will not listen. We can be certain the fathers did
not lie when they said they had simply asked the Sergeant to
tell you it was time to return to the school. But now the
Sergeant is looking for you for a crime you did not commit.
They do not want to sent you back to the school. They want
you for some other reason."
Ramón pulled himself up from the chair, to peer out the
small kitchen window. "I have done nothing," he said.
Mamá had a cup of steaming water ready. "I know," she said
as she poured it over him. Ramón felt the change as his
mother seemed to shoot up several inches and his clothes
pressed in on him in different places. He looked up at her,
a question in his eyes.
"I am thinking you may go about freely as a girl," explained
Mamá. "But first, you must learn to act like one."
"I cannot act like a girl! I would die first!" Ramón
"Look at you, you are so stubborn. Like the donkey. How
can it hurt to play-act for a little while?"
"I will not priss and prance about like some showpony!"
A look of determination came into the woman's face. "There
is more to acting like a lady than 'prissing and prancing',"
she said, "We will start by dressing you properly."
"I *am* dressed properly."
"For the jailhouse?" Mamá favored the girl with a hard
smile, "Show your face as Ramón and they will put you away
so quickly that you will not have time to 'act like a man'."
"I will not wear a dress!" Ramón had been pushed as far as
he could stand. This was indignity piled upon indignity.
"Machita, listen to me," she drew the young girl close to
her face and said, "If I lose you, man or woman, I shall
die. Except for your father, I have no one but you. You
are my future, my reason for living. I will not lose you
because of your stubbornness."
"Mamá, I would rather hide as a man than roam free as a
woman," Ramón gulped, "Leave me some pride!"
"I cannot," Mamá took her in her arms, looked deep into her
eyes, and sighed. "The heavens help me, I cannot. Soon,
the soldiers may come and search every house. They know
where we store things, the hiding places. What they do not
find, someone who knows may tell them about. If you run
away, they will chase you with the Navajo trackers. If you
hide, they will find you. Only if you are *not* you will
you be safe," she clutched the girl's shoulders tightly.
"They must *not* find you!"
Looking up, Ramón saw his mother's eyes blurred with tears.
He drew his arms around her waist and sighed, "Mamá?"
She shook her head, lips pressed tightly together.
"Okay, Mamá... I'll do it."
Mamá patted her gently and held her a while longer.
"First," she said when she finally spoke, "you must learn to
wear the dress. Do not stiffen so. It is not torture."
Ramón nodded glumly. He had other opinions on the matter.
"I have some dresses I was making for the hacendado's
granddaughter. She is about your size, I think they will
fit nicely." From the shelf in her sewing nook, Mamá drew a
white garment with red and yellow flowers and green vines
embroidered about the bodice. After making certain that the
curtains were drawn and privacy assured, she turned to
"Take off your shirt," she instructed.
"Take off your shirt, child. How can I put this on you with
your shirt on?"
"But I'm wearing nothing underneath!"
"Don't you think I know this? Would you take off your shirt
as a man?"
"I have seen you without a shirt, baby, boy, and man. I am
your mother. I am a woman, I am not offended by the sight
of the breasts. Now, take off your shirt."
Ramón did so, reluctantly, feeling chilled and vulnerable.
Involuntarily, he looked down, and a blush spread from his
"Now, though it is a shame to bind up such beauty, we must
fit you with a halter. And you should wear some
underclothes. You are going to have to remove your
pantalones." Seeing the blush deepen to a brick red, she
added, "I will turn my back."
"Is all this really necessary?" Ramón sighed noisily as he
"Believe me, child, it is the only way. And this is only
the first of many things. You must practice to sit, stand,
and walk naturally and with ease. We must do your hair.
And tomorrow I must go to the market, and I want you to go
When Mamá had finished, the dress fit perfectly, though
Ramón squirmed in the unaccustomed clothing, wanting it off.
The fabric brushing against his legs sent shivers of agony
up his spine. Mamá offered him a mirror, but he pushed it
away, refusing to see himself.
"You look... Well, you are really very pretty," said Mamá,
and seeing the rebellion beginning to flare up in the girl's
eyes, she added, "And a little like a wild stallion in an
The image of a horse enduring the indignity of a skirt
struck Ramón as so comical that he laughed in spite of his
humiliation, and soon Mamá was laughing with him. It took
some of the discomfort out of his own situation.
At the plaza, going from shop to vendor's stall, Ramón
crowded close to Mamá, watching the faces of passersby. He
had never felt so exposed, so naked. Soon, someone would
recognize him and say, `Look at Macho, everyone! How
foolish he looks in a dress!'
The noise of the marketplace was a steady murmur. Some
booths were bordered on the sides by low walls, others were
merely tables laden with produce; all were sheltered by
brightly colored awnings supported by poles. It seemed
everyone in the local country was there.
"Come out from behind my skirt, little one," said Mamá, "I
cannot bargain properly while you are under my feet. And do
"I do not wish to be seen," protested Ramón.
"Nonsense! Why, this is the best place to be seen! Come,
help me carry these beans." She concluded her bargaining
with a farmer's wife, collected a large bowl of fresh bean
pods and handed it to Ramón.
His arms seemed shorter and thinner than they should have
been, but by jamming the side of the bowl against his
abdomen, Ramón managed to grab both sides of it and hold it
steady. When his arms began to ache with tension from
supporting the heavy burden, Mamá added to his discomfort by
piling several yellow squash onto the heap of green beans.
"Mamá!" cried Ramón, "I can't hold this very much longer!"
"Then place it on your head, child. Here, I'll roll up this
scarf to make a cushion and help balance it."
The bowl balanced comfortably on his head, Ramón found he
had a different problem in keeping his neck and upper back
straight so it would not tip. After a few near spills, he
found a way to keep the bowl still by keeping his upper back
stiff, moving only the lower part of his back and swaying
carefully as he stepped through the crowded market, one hand
balancing the bowl.
There were many people, going to and fro. Children played
among the stalls. Old folk sat and gossiped on benches
thoughout the plaza. Then Ramón nearly lost his entire
burden when he saw the boy looking at him. It was Antonio,
from the other side of the rancho. They had played together
during the summers, years ago. He peered straight at Ramón
as though he recognized him. Ramón's breath stopped, and
the weight of the bowl and its contents made his knees
shake. But Antonio simply stared at him, and made no move
"Is he sick?" Ramón wondered.
"Is who sick, child?" Mamá had heard him.
"Antonio. He just stared at me."
Mamá merely smiled, "No, he is not sick. He is a boy."
"That's no answer," Ramón continued to puzzle over it.
Finally, he stopped, grasped the bowl carefully with both
hands, and turned fully around. His heart stopped for a
second. There were two more boys with Antonio, the three
just looking at him. Gawking.
"They have *got* to be sick," he decided, before carefully
turning about to follow his mother.
Before they reached the end of the street, there were more
boys, and a couple of men, some glancing at him then quickly
away, others staring openly. "They are so rude!" Ramón
fumed, his earlier embarrassment forgotten. He glared at
one, but gave it up when the recipient of that glare simply
grinned goofily back as if he had been awarded a prize.
"Why are they *doing* that?"
"I have told you before, and you would not believe me. You
will not listen to your mother. So let them stare. They do
Lucita drifted along the trail to the big road, scuffling
her bare feet in the dust and searching the skies for
nothing in particular. The spring rains were late, and the
dew was fading quickly in the warm sun. On the big road,
there were some men. They were filling a hole where winter
rains had washed away the stones. Rain stopped to watch. The
woman she tried to think of as her 'Mamá' had warned her to
remain in the house, but she was impatient for them to
return, and 'Mamá' and the other person were late.
There were birds singing to her from the brush, and rabbits
pushing through the grass. The dust felt cool upon her
feet. She paused for a moment to watch the workers. They
were straining to move a boulder which had fallen into the
roadway, levering it over to the ditch beyond.
Suddenly, she couldn't breathe, and the movement of the
large stone filled her with dread. When she heard the
boulder roll into the ditch, breaking tree limbs and
crushing rocks, she screamed and fled.
Ramón was weary by the time they had walked from the village
to the house. The bowl seemed to grow heavier by the mile,
and at last he lifted it down and carried it in his arms to
relieve the strain on his neck.
"But why were they staring at me?" he asked, "They did not
know who I was."
Mamá smiled her mysterious smile and said nothing.
"And Antonio. Dancing like a rooster. It was as if he
*wanted* me to watch him."
"Perhaps he did," agreed Mamá.
They were within sight of the house when they heard Gentle
Rain's high piping shriek. Ramón started to run, found the
bowl an inconvenience, hurriedly sat it down spilling beans
and squash and ran on. "Rain!" he called.
They found her huddled under a bench in the main room, stiff
with fright. Ramón lifted her up and held her and she clung
tightly while Mamá went back to get the bowl. Rain would
not release her hold on Ramón's neck until Mamá took her and
put her to bed, singing softly to her.
It was late in the afternoon, between the gold of the day
and the purple of the dusk, when they had a visitor.
Hearing the sound of hoofbeats, Mamá looked about worriedly.
The horse stopped just outside the patio.
"Machito! You there?" called a female voice.
Ramón released his breath. "Estrellita!" he said.
"I will go out and talk to her," said Mamá, pushing him
toward the earthen jug filled with drinking water. "You must
get out of the dress, first. Then, douse yourself before
she sees you."
Remembering his condition, Ramón hesitated. His first
thought was to face the hacendado's granddaughter and tell
her the whole truth. She had always been a friend. His
second thought was to run for his life.
"You hurry and change. You were about to go straight out
there, weren't you? How would you explain the dress?" Mamá
asked, with a trace of humour in her voice. She did not add
her thought, [And how would you explain who *you* are?] She
hurried out the door to talk to the rancherita, knowing that
otherwise Estrellita was likely to invite herself in.
Ramón found the buttons awkward to manage, placed as they
were on the back of the dress instead of the front. As he
struggled to get them undone, movement in the mirror caught
his eye. He froze, seeing himself in the reflection. The
girl in the mirror lifted her hand to her cheek, her large
eyes echoing his own shock. He turned away hurriedly, to
scramble into his own clothes and dash cold water onto
Estrellita, the hacendado's granddaughter, had come to
visit. She was still mounted when he came out, a slim
sandy-haired girl on a handsome buckskin pony.
"Well, I heard you were back," said Estrellita as he closed
the door, "Look at your wet hair. Did you work that hard,
or did you fall into the water?"
"Estrellita?" Ramón said in surprise, "You sure have
changed. I thought you were still a pip-squeak."
"Humph. I am no mouse, silly. Hey, I have just got back
from Mexico City, myself. I want to get out and see the
ranch. You want to go riding? I brought your favorite,
Trueno." She indicated the second mount, a black mare with
"More like Truena. She's a mare, why can't you give her a
mare's name?" he joked as he took the mare's reins, waved
good-bye to his mother, and scrambled into the saddle.
"When she was given to me, I was too young to know the
difference," she pouted.
"Machito!" cried Mamá, "Don't forget... Do not be seen."
"What was that about?" asked Estrellita as the horses picked
their way out of the compound.
"The sergeant is looking for me," said Ramón, "I don't know
why, and I'm not going to ask him."
"We'll stay away from the village. I know some back
"Yeah, I bet you do. You won't get me lost, this time."
She pouted prettily. "It's more fun when we get lost once
in a while. I wouldn't mind."
"Well, I would. Besides, I can't take a chance on coming up
on someone who knows me. Let's stay close to here."
"We won't get out in the open." She paused, then added, "It
would be even better if we hid in a cave."
Ramón regarded her, enjoying the view. Estrellita was
blonde, hazel eyed, and built like a... well, she was
good-looking. Her honey blonde hair was braided instead of
shoulder-length like her mother preferred, and she held her
back straight so her chest would be more noticable. He
remembered her as being a pest, forever following him
around until her grand-mother would tell her to come home
and leave him alone. She had been a thin child with large
eyes and mousy hair, but she had matured during the year he
had been gone. Obviously, she had developed some mature
ideas about what 'play' constituted.
They rode through the brush and trees toward the mountains,
away from the houses. The sagebrush was blooming and
flowers were everywhere.
"You like to live dangerously, don't you?" Estrellita said,
catching him in a moment of reflection.
"Not me. I try to be very careful."
"Are they really after you?" she rode closer.
"Mamá said she heard it yesterday at the hacienda. But we
didn't see anything earlier, today."
"Oh, my! You walked into town with them looking for you?
That doesn't sound very careful!"
"No, I..." he had almost blurted out something about
'disguise'. Better to quit talking now, before he said too
much. "We need to go back," he said, "Mamá's worried about
"Oh, yes. I didn't know she was your sister. I thought she
was Elizabeta's daughter."
"That is what your mother is telling everyone to say. Why
would she do that?"
"Because the soldiers may come and get her."
Estrellita laughed. It was a musical sound, and he liked to
hear it. "You sound so serious! Why would the soldiers
want to take a little girl?"
"I don't know," admitted Ramón, as they turned the horses
toward home, "There are some bad things happening here, and
I am worried."
"Well, you shouldn't have to worry about *that*. Soldiers
don't go around kidnapping children."
"I don't know," Ramón repeated, "But the Sergeant is after
me, and the soldiers took away Lucita's parents. I am
afraid they will take her, also, if they find out where she
"Then I won't tell anyone," she promised, "Although I can't
believe that they would be so cruel." They rode in silence
back to the compound, and Ramón turned to her after stepping
down from the saddle.
"Thank you," he said.
"De nada," she smiled, and bent down to kiss him lightly
on the cheek. He stood holding his cheek while he watched
her ride off leading the black mare, then he walked back to
"Hey, you got the chicas, ain't you?" called a familiar
"Hey, what's this? You sound like you ain't so glad to see
"Did you know where my pop was taking me?"
"I don't know nothing, hombre. He tell me to meet you and
take you to this place, someone else will show you the rest
of the way. Then, I go home. We had corn again. How about
that, hombre? You got some luck with the chicas, or not?"
Ramón considered his friend for a moment, then relented. He
nodded his head, which Gordito took for assent.
"Hey, what *did* happen to you, you got such a long face?
Some kinda punishment, or something? You come back from
school too early?"
"Yeah, some kind of punishment, or something. You're sure
you don't know?"
"Nada, man. Hey, you been to town, lately?"
"No, I've been laying low. I think the Sergeant is after
me," Ramón answered evasively.
"Hey, no shit? You are *something*, man! Back in town two
days and already got the law after you! You are really
"Don't mention it," said Ramón sourly.
"Hey, reason I asked... Antonio tells me there's some hot
new chica in town. Said he saw her at the market."
Gordito was not watching closely, or he would have seen the
emotions racing across his friend's face. The shock of
surprise. The pale of fear. Elation, then doubt.
"He says this new chica is hot, man. She wags her ass like
nobody's business. Said she even smiled at him. I bet he
was lying. He can't get into *anybodies* dress. But I bet
"Not me," grinned Ramón shakily, "I'm too macho to get into
Gordito looked at him with puzzlement in his eyes, until he
realized what Ramón had said. "Oh, yeah! That's a good
one! I gotta use it some time!"
They talked of inconsequential things, and the subject of
music eventually arose. Gordito had brought his battered
trumpet given to him by a an uncle killed in the revolution,
and Ramón found his father's old guitar. He strummed while
Gordito blew melodies, and Mamá stood in the doorway and
listened while they recalled her favorite tunes.
When Gordito had gone, Ramón sat on the fence and pondered.
'Wagged her ass?' Did *he* do that?
Chapter Dos Macho Caballo 9/3/97 1
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