Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER QUATRO
ROMANCING THE HORSE
Don Pedro de Muerte was a big man, with reddish gray hair
trimmed short in a military style. He moved about in a
wheelchair, a trundling contraption brought from his native
Spain. The wound which had cost him the use of his legs was
a thing of legend in the village, for he was said to have
been a great soldier in the mountains and jungles of South
He watched the family approach, smiling with his eyes while
his mouth took on a firm line. "Hey, horse-trader!" he
called, "Why do you make your family walk when you have so
Papá laughed at him, "Because I work for the tightest, most
miserly patron in the whole of North America!" he replied,
"If my wife did not work for you, we would have to go
Don Pedro accepted his embrace, patted him on the back
vigorously. "You got a good woman, there," he said, "You
better take care of her."
"She takes care of me," said Papá proudly, "My boy, he does
good, too." Ramón watched Mamá to see her reaction to the
unfamiliar praise. She seemed not to notice.
"Are you ready to get the horses?" asked Don Pedro. His
wife, the Doña, had brought out a tray of pastries and
coffee cups. Marie, the servant girl, lugged the kettle of
"First, there is something you must know," said Papá , "Can
we go inside? We must be alone to talk to you of this."
Ramón wondered what he meant. After Marie had pushed Don
Pedro into the cavernous den and departed, Papá lifted a cup
of coffee. "This should be hot enough," he said.
"Papá ! No!" cried Ramón.
"Machito, he must know," said Mamá. Ramón turned to her in
confusion. He could understand Papá doing something
foolish, but why would she betray him?
"Why?" he asked.
"Manuel, is this another of your jokes?" asked Don Pedro,
while the Doña moved behind him, "The boy is frightened of
"He is frightened of discovery. He is one of mine."
Ramón's head whirled. One of his?
"Machito," said, his father, "Look at me!" and he poured the
coffee on himself. The Doña gasped as he disappeared and a
badger waddled out of the clothing heaped on the floor.
Ramón gaped in dismay. His father turned into a badger? He
also was cursed!
"This was why I did not want you to follow your grandfather
on his path," said Mamá, "But of course, it is too late,
"Is your whole family cursed?" asked Don Pedro.
"Only these two, the father and now the boy," said Mamá,
"And perhaps the grandfather. But with the grandfather it is
harder to tell."
"But that means the boy..."
"... Cannot return to the school, as you wished," said Mamá,
"The school is run by the church, and while I attend church
regularly, I do not think my piety would help my son if he
should change in front of a group of friars. They have put
people to the torch for witchcraft for doing less than
"And that is why you asked me to refuse the school's
request," said Don Pedro as he studied Ramón.
"Yes," said Mamá, her head bowed. "Now, I have shamed my
husband and my son in order to do this."
"Nonsense," said Don Pedro, and to his wife he said, "Give
them some cold water, will you?"
"I will never get used to it," said the Doña as she
complied. She handed the water to Mamá and turned her back
before Mamá upended the tumbler of water onto the badger.
Papá scrambled back into his clothing.
"But what does the boy turn into?" asked Don Pedro, "If you
don't mind my asking, that is."
"Ramón?" Mamá said, "You don't have to tell him. He will
"It is okay, Mamá," said Ramón, "If Papá can do it, so can I."
The coffee had cooled somewhat, but it was still warm enough
to effect the change. Again, the Doña gasped, but the tone
of her voice was different.
"How wonderful!" she exclaimed, "It is like seeing a
"I am *not* a butterfly!" cried the girl whose hair was
dripping coffee onto the expensive carpet.
"Señora Caballo, I apologize for doubting you," said Don
Pedro as he appraised the girl, "If this had happened in
that boy's school, we could hear the padres' screams all the
way from here in Villarica."
"Papá, why do you tell him this?" asked Ramón, "And why do
you show that you have a curse, that you turn into the
badger, when you would not even tell us?"
"Your mother knew, as did the Patron," said the elder
Caballo, "But we thought it wiser not to burden you."
"Burden me? Burden *ME*?" Ramón felt her throat constrict
until he had to swallow to ease the tension. "Did you ever
think that I might need to know that I was not alone in
this? That I could get some understanding from someone else
who had to endure this... this nightmare?"
"I think I'd better leave you alone," said Don Pedro,
motioning the Doña to roll him out.
"Wait!" cried Ramón, "There is something else. You knew
about my father's curse. Are you cursed, too?"
"Don't be foolish!" snapped the old man, "Why should I do
something as stupid as that? Besides," he added just before
the door closed, "my wheelchair wouldn't fit through the
He left Ramón pondering as Mamá approached with the cold
A TURN OF EVENTS:
They assembled before the big house, where Don Pedro had
provided horses for them to ride. Ramón climbed onto his
black mare and waited while his father and two vaqueros
finished their coffee and mounted.
"Your boy is impatient," joshed Francisco. He wore leather
chaps with silver conchos and buckles, and a gaudy sombrero.
"Like father, like son," agreed Pablo, an older balding man
wearing a woolen blouse with buckskin pants and worn boots.
"I once was in a hurry," said Papá, "Now, I know better. Let
everyone else wear themselves out first."
"Ahah," laughed Francisco, "Just when did you learn
patience? You did not have it when we were young bucks!"
Pablo swung closer to Ramón, "Someday we will tell you about
the times we went to deliver horses to the Comanche," he
said, "They had many good looking girls, there. I think you
would like to meet one of them."
"I've already met one," said Ramón, "and she almost killed
"What, did you try to kiss her too soon?"
"No, I tried to wrestle her," The others laughed until
Ramón blushed. "It was not like that!" he insisted, "It was
"It always is," agreed Pablo.
"There's the corral," said Francisco, finally, "But where
are the horses?"
There was a lone Yanqui standing at the corral. "Howdy,"
"Donde estan los caballos?" asked Pablo, then repeated in
English, "Where are the horses?"
"Well, it seems your town boss, the Alcalde, said we had to
do our business in the middle of town," said the cowboy,
"He was real insistent about it."
Papá and the cowboy rode off together toward town, and the
"What's the matter?" Ramón, unable to understand English,
asked of the two vaqueros.
"We must go to the town plaza," said Pablo, "The Alcalde has
decided that he wants to see what we are doing."
"We aren't going, are we?"
"Of course! We must go where the horses are."
"Not a good idea!" blurted Ramón, "You forget the Alcalde is
after my hide."
"He won't bother you!" insisted Francisco, "No one messes
with Don Pedro! The Alcalde would not dare interfere with
"Not a good idea," repeated Ramón, but he followed along
INTO THE LION'S DEN:
The village was quiet as they walked their horses down the
street. There was little traffic, even though it was a
market day. Ramón glanced about cautiously, feeling as
though there were eyes on him.
A train of burros blocked the way for a moment, and a white
paper caught his eye, a picture on the signboard. It was a
crude drawing, but it was recognizably his face. Beyond a
miner's freight wagon, he saw a uniformed man coming his
Ramón slid off the horse and fled the middle of the street,
almost as a shout arose. The soldier, on foot, had spotted
him and began pursuit.
Down the alley he ran, gaining on the older man, until he
came to a shallow watering trough. It had been sitting in
the hot sun all morning, would the water be warm enough? He
bent over the edge and splashed his face, just as a rough
hand on his pantalones yanked him up.
"Oh, sorry, Señorita!" said a startled soldier, "I thought
you were..." he broke off and looked down the alley where a
dozen possible escape routes could be found. The soldier
Ramón ran the other way. He caught up with his horse
shortly, but the vaqueros were not immediately to seen.
Vaulting back onto the horse, he grabbed the reins before
the horse bolted and held it still while he looked about.
Then he headed it toward the center of town.
He should get out of the village while he could, but Papá
had impressed on him how important it was to keep the
appointment with the Yanquis. `We must not offend these
people,' his father had said, `these horses are important to
Don Pedro, and we must keep the good will of the Yanquis.'
The mare, nervous since he had mounted so abruptly, tried to
trot but he kept it to a walk as he headed toward the plaza.
There he found the vaqueros, who were surprised to see the
horse with an unfamiliar rider.
"Saludos!" said Francisco, "Where is the boy?"
Ramón's mind went blank. They did not know of the curse.
How could he explain?
He was rescued by his father, who called from the center of
the plaza. Fifty or more horses were milling about in a
rope corral. "Machita!" cried Papá, "Get on over here! I
need a rider."
Francisco turned to Pablo, who also looked dumbfounded.
"Machita? What kind of a mother would name a girl *that*?"
"It's a joke," said Ramón, as he slid off the horse. He
handed them the reins and pushed through the onlookers to
"Pick out a good one for the rancherita," said Papá.
Ramón eyed the herd, picked up a riata and walked around the
corral. The horses moved about skittishly; browns, blacks,
a pinto of the kind the Yanquis called `paint', and a couple
with unusual markings. He selected one of these, a reddish
brown stallion with a white blaze zigzagging down its nose.
It was alert, with its head up, brown-gold eyes watching
"You letting that little girl do your horse work?" asked
one of the Yanqui cowboys.
"She is as capable as a boy," said Papá with a mischievous
gleam in his eye.
"Well, I hope she has better sense than to choose that bay
she's looking at. That's the sneakiest critter God ever put
on this earth."
"She better be sittin' a horse if she plans on ropin' one
of these mustangs," said another.
"She works on foot," said Papá, "Machita can ride, when
she chooses. But now she does not choose to do so. I
taught her everything he knows."
Ramón flipped the loop about the neck of the bay and pulled
it close. Some things were the same, the rope obeyed as
well as when he was male.
"Whoooeee!" said a cowboy, "Ain't she a corker, though!
She really knows how to swing that lasso!"
"Macho is good with la riata, true?"
"Ahhh... Machita. She and her brother help me with the
Ramón got the bridle on and swung the blanket into place.
The bay, feeling playful, brought his head around and shoved
Ramón from behind, knocking the saddle from his hands.
Ramón smiled in anticipation. This one was going be fun to
Ramón bent to pick up the saddle, but it was already up. He
looked up to see a huge grin attached to curly wheatcolored
hair, freckles, and a sunbaked felt hat.
"Here ya go, Seen-yore-reeter," said the cowboy.
`Oh, no,' Ramón groaned inwardly.
"Here, Ma'am," said the cowboy, "I better show you how
it's done." He proceeded to throw the saddle over the
horse's back and began to cinch it down. Ramón saw the
glint in the bay's eye as the horse watched the cowboy, and
"Better stand back, Senyoreeter," said the cowboy as he
stepped into the saddle, "This here horse don't like to be
The bay allowed him to settle in, took a few steps and then
stiffened his legs, bowing his back at the same time as he
bounced, which efficiently jettisoned the young cowboy. The
cowboy got up, grinned, dusted off his chaps and hobbled
over to his boss. "You want to let me try again, Mister
Calpern shook his head, "You done good, Sandy," he said,
"Can't expect to break them at the last minute." To Papá ,
he said, "Better pick out another for that rancherita. I
ain't seen anyone can stay on this bay. Less'n you geld
him, he won't be good fer anything but stud. Hate to see
anyone pickle him, though. He's got spirit,"
"Tell you what," said Papá, "I get someone who can ride
him, *and* keep him for stud, what do you want for him?"
The Yanqui boss considered. "You seem a good fella," he
said, "Providing you treat him right, I'd practically give
the sun-of-a-buck to you, half-price. Sort of had my eye on
him, myself, but I ain't got the means to keep him when I
"Hey, Machita!" called Papá, "Get on him! He's yours!"
"You mean it!?"
"This man just said so. All you gotta do is ride him."
"Bueno!" Ramón clambered aboard. The bay, startled,
jumped a foot into the air. When he came down the horse
shied sideways, reversed, and stopped suddenly the better to
roll his rider over his head. Ramón still clung tightly in
the saddle. Experimentally, the bay stiffened and bowed his
back, with the same result, then launched into a series of
violent turns. Finally, he stopped and rolled his eyes to
the side as far as he could with the reins taut, trying to
observe his rider. What he saw must have satisfied him, for
he settled down and walked placidly back to the group of
"Well, I'll be a cross-eyed mule," crowed the cowboy who
had been bucked previously. "Would you look at that gal
"Taught him myself," said Papá, but he said it quietly.
A darkhaired, sunbrowned cowboy nicknamed `Lonesome' came to
Calpern and said, "Company, boss. Sojers."
Three soldados marched up, escorting the Alcalde. The
Alcalde, a lean hard man with precisely trimmed mustaches,
smiled broadly and approached the trail boss with an
"It is good to meet you, Mister Calpern!" he said, "I trust
you are making a profit, no?" The sergeant behind him
repeated the words in English.
"I reckon I am," admitted Calpern, "If'n I have my way.
Couple more buyers and I'll break even."
The Alcalde frowned microscopically and turned to the
sergeant. "What did he say?" he asked, "I cannot understand
"Seems we need an interpreter," said Calpern, "Why not
him?" He pointed at Papá.
"The Alcalde would prefer not to use his services," said
"Well, you can tell the Alcalde here that we are fine, and
thank him for asking."
"Excellent!" replied the Alcalde, after the interchange,
"Allow me to introduce myself. I am Bertran Sinestro, the
mayor of this fine city. Thank you for conducting your
"Not like we had much choice," said Calpern, "But thank
him for having us. My men are enjoying the hospitality."
"You understand that the men you are dealing with may not
always be here," smiled Sinestro, "The politics, you
"Nothin' lasts forever," Calpern leaned against the
makeshift gate and fumbled with his pipe.
"First, there is the revolution, always the revolutions, and
now the Empire. Soon, the Spaniards, they may all go away.
The people who replace them will remember that you did
business with Don Pedro. Then who will you sell the horses
"Reckon I'd find someone with a big spread who needed
horses," the trail boss scratched his neck as he thought.
"Perhaps me, no?"
"You plannin' on takin' up ranching? That takes money.
"I have big plans, Mister Calpern."
"Well, I'd have to see what the lay of the land was, before
I'd start making promises."
Sinestro turned to his sergeant. "See that they leave
immediately after their trading," he told the sergeant, "I
don't want them in town any longer than necessary."
The sergeant said to Calpern, "The Alcalde regrets he must
leave to handle an urgent affair. Please enjoy your stay."
"Much grass, hombre," Calpern resumed watching the
horses. After the soldiers had gone he said almost
inaudibly, "When hell freezes over. Two-faced pile of
manure. Don't want us in town, eh?"
To Papá he said, "Señor, I'd say you and him ain't exactly
"True enough," agreed Papá, "If you wish to reconsider
selling us the horses, I will understand."
"Hell, I didn't say I disagree with you. Anytime some
hombre gets my back up the way he did, I'd walk a mile outta
my way just to spit in his eye."
Papá smiled. "Bueno," he said, and they shook hands.
"I take it your Don Pedro will be wanting more horses?"
"This many, and more."
"Gotta tell you, though, that not all my horses are going
to be as good as the thirty you got this time. Sometimes we
can find them, sometimes they just ain't there," the
grizzled boss took a long draw on his pipe, watched the
smoke plume into the sky above the mission roof, "But you
got a good eye. And if you can't make it, just send that
little gal of your'n."
Papá smiled at some inner thought, then said, "Perhaps. Or
"Take me a couple of months to get them rounded up and
fresh-broke. Meanwhile, any objections to me leaving one of
my hands down here to help finish breaking these that you
"There is no need. We have our own way of breaking
"All the same, I'd take it as a favor, you let this kid
stay and learn to speak some Mexican. He's sort of
family," Calpern indicated the sandy-haired youth, "Plus,
he seems to be kinda taken with this place."
"He will be disappointed," said Papá.
"Yep. You know that, and I know that, but he don't. Time
he got a little sand under his saddle and learned about
ALL THINGS COME TO SHE WHO WAITS:
It was late before the thiry horses Papá had bought were all
bedded down at the rancho, the rider's mounts stripped of
saddle and tack and rubbed down, and the vaquero's
paraphenalia put away. Ramón was tired. Don Pedro, from
his wheelchair on the portico, insisted that Ramón and his
father spend the night in the big house, where rooms were
waiting. They agreed.
Ramón did not even consider reverting to male form; he was
so weary he could not focus his eyes as he shuffled into the
room Don Pedro had indicated, threw off his shoes and drew
the shirt over his head. A noise from the end of the room
caused him to waken sharply. There was someone in the bed.
Estrellita had pulled the blanket up to cover herself. "Who
are you?" she demanded.
"Estrellita?" Ramón groaned.
"Wrong, whoever-you-are! *I'm* Estrella! I want to know
who *you* are! And just *what* do you think you are doing
in Ramón's room?"
The blond girl wrapped the blanket around her and advanced
"This is *my* grandfather's house, and this is *my* friend's
room, and you have some nerve sneaking in here trying to get
in my friend's bed, with your..." she glared at Ramón's
exposed breasts while pulling the blanket tighter about her
own. "...your... anyway, he's not here, so you can get
Ramón pulled the shirt back on and stumbled out the hall and
down the stairs. He found a pitcher of cold water, poured
it over his head, then collapsed with a sigh on the
horsehair bench in the great room. Almost immediately, Doña
Mercedes, the hacendado's wife, was tugging him to his feet.
"You just come right along, I've got a nice soft feather bed
in Esteban's old room. I won't tell her you are there."
The next morning they gathered at the huge table in the
kitchen. Estrellita was late for breakfast. Her eyes were
red from lack of sleep, and she ignored Ramón. She pushed
away from the table after only a taste of the pancakes.
"I'm not feeling well," she announced, on her way out to the
She was raking horse manure from a stall when Ramón found
her. "Go away," she said, "I said I'm not feeling real
"Was it something I did? You wouldn't even look at me at
"Naw," she shrugged nonchalantly, "You're a big boy. You
can do what you want to."
"Is it about last night?"
She turned on him. "What *about* last night?"
"I guess I was so tired when I came in that I fell asleep in
the front room. Señora de Muerte put me into your father's
"She did?" Estrellita said increduously.
"Yeah. I was really tired. Guess I woke her up, stumbling
"She should have put you in your own bed. But perhaps it's
better she didn't."
"Why? What happened?"
"Nothing. Let's just say I'm not very proud of myself."
"Who did you beat up this time?" Ramón ventured a smile.
"I didn't..." she stopped raking for a moment. "Do you know
any girls around here? Besides me, that is."
"No... unless you count Red Cloud."
"Well, I suppose she is a girl. But I was talking about
Mexican girls. You know what I mean. Competition."
"Against you? No way."
"It pays to be sure. I just want to know who..." she paused
and sighed. "Maybe it was a dream. Or not. Anyway, I
almost did something I would have regretted. I sort of wish
I could be regretting it right now."
Ramón kept silent and found a pitchfork to help her clean
CHAPTER QUATRO: END
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