Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER CINCO
A SHADOW AT THE FIESTA
Grampa Alboro yawned and stretched mightily. Pushing
aside the woolen rag that served as a door to his adobe
hut, he stepped up the ladder to the roof, to greet the
first rays of the morning Sun. Every day he spread his
arms and greeted the Sunboy, and every day he paused a
moment to meditate and evaluate the coming day. Some
mornings the Sun would dim and the sky would darken
while the Sunboy told him of coming events. Other days,
like today appeared to be, he could ask and wait until
noon and nothing would happen.
"Ahh, maybe next time," he exposed his white teeth in a
Sometimes, it was the face of a little boy who would
peek impishly over the hills. Again, once it had been a
dark warrior with face painted for battle, just before
the last Apache raids. Once, weeks ago, it had been the
face of a girl - the girl his grandson had chosen to
turn into. "What a waste!" muttered the old man, "He
could have been a horse. At least that would have been
This morning - nada. He became aware of the fluttering
of wings as a hummingbird fed on the cactus flowers near
the hut. "Ahh, another early riser," he said, admiring
the brilliant red vest and blue coat of the tiny
The hummingbird, finished with the flower, swooped
toward him and hovered before his face. Alboro stepped
back and the bird followed, its needle-sharp beak inches
from his eyes.
The old man swatted at the menacing bird, but it darted
away and returned immediately, as if attempting to
pierce his eye.
[Look at me.] it seemed to say.
"What do you want?" demanded Alboro.
[One comes,] it seemed to say, and darted back to the
cactus to resume feeding.
The Sun had become dim and red, the skies darkened.
"*Now* there is a message," grumbled the old man.
No one ever came to this hill. He had found the hut
many years before and settled in for that very reason.
It was away from the tribe and the village, and no one
walked these trails.
This morning, with the red Sun and the stars peeking
through a dim sky, there was a traveller on the ridge.
Alboro put on a pot of coffee to be hospitable and
awaited the stranger's arrival, meanwhile smoking a
mixture of imported tobacco cut with a locally grown
herb in his blackened pipe.
The first thing he noticed about the traveller was that
he was bald. Even his brows were clean shaven, and the
eyelids plucked. About his stout frame the stranger had
a faded robe of fine cotton, with embroidered designs
that seemed unreasuringly familiar. The mantle
shimmered, and appeared to be decorated with hummingbird
Alboro offered coffee, and it was declined.
"What path do you walk?" demanded the stranger in a rude
and imperious tone.
"I am only an herb doctor," replied Alboro carefully,
"May I ask your path?"
"I serve the war god," declared the stranger, "and the
hummingbird is his creature."
Alboro was not surprised when he turned from the coffee
pot to find the Sun bright and the stranger gone. "The
war god likes hummingbirds?" he said to himself.
The cowboy pushed up to the pine railing.
"Pardon me!" he said loudly, though Ramón was close
beside him, coiling the riata.
"Perdoname?" Ramón looked up from his chore.
"Yeah, pardon me. You seen the seenyoreeta?"
Ramón arched one eyebrow, then shook his head. He did
not want to get involved.
"I was lookin' for the seenyoreeta," the sandy haired
Yanqui tried again.
"No comprendo," Ramón smiled.
He finished coiling the riata and stepped off the fence
toward the bay. The horse watched him come near, and
there was a glint to his eye.
"Ahh. Seenyore? That there horse ain't easy to ride.
Fact is, I only seen one person stick on him, and that's
the gal I'm lookin' for."
Ramón tossed the loop over the bay's neck and pulled it
closer. He talked soothingly to the horse, praising the
flowing mane, the bright intelligent eyes, and the
powerful legs. The bay snorted, then allowed the boy to
draw him near, tensing his muscles to jerk away. As the
horse backed away, Ramón let the riata play out, then
slowly began to draw him back in again. He moved closer
to the horse and extended his hand.
The horse whuffed at the back of his hand and backed off
again. He seemed confused, casting about as though
looking for something, then returning his gaze to the
boy. He approached cautiously to smell Ramón's blouse,
then reared onto his back legs, pawing the air with his
hoofs inches from Ramón's face. Ramón stood unmoving.
"Well, I don't know whether to whistle `er go spit,"
said the cowboy.
The bay came to earth with a thump, ran to the extent of
the riata, then slowly stepped back to Ramón. He eyed
the boy from a short distance, then stepped up and
nudged his chest with his nose. Ramón got a blanket
from the fence rail and put it on the horse's back and
followed it with the saddle.
"Yer gonna need a bridle!" hollered the cowboy, "He's
gonna reach around and nip you sure'ern Sunday!"
From his perch on the saddle, Ramón removed the riata
from the horse's neck and tossed it to the cowboy. Then
he 'chk-chked' to get the bay moving. He spent the next
hour with his hands by his side, letting the horse get
used to him and guiding it with pressure from his knees.
Estrellita was sitting the fence when Ramón finished his
ride and began rubbing down the bay's coat.
"That is one smart rider!" said the cowboy.
"That is one smart horse!" she said. "My name's
Estrella," she added, "What's yours?"
"Everyone calls me Sandy. At yore service, Ma'am!"
the cowboy grinned at her.
"That's Ramón, on the horse."
"I thought sure he was gonna get ate up," said Sandy,
"Only other soul I ever seen ride that bay was this
seenyoreeta. Sorta hoped I'd see her here."
Estrellita wrinkled her nose. "What was she like, this
"She's prettier'n a speckled pup, `bout so tall, kinda
short shiny hair, big eyes, and man, could she ride that
"Hmmm. Where'd you see her?"
"Back in town. Picked out some of the horses for your
boss," Sandy said as he watched the bay frisking around
after it's rubdown.
"It's not my boss, just a horse-trader. He works for
the hacendado, and the hacendado is my grandfather."
"Well, I guess that'd make you the rancherita."
"Some people seem to think so."
"So you're the one she picked out that horse for?"
"She did?" Estrellita waved Ramón over. "Hey,
Ramón!" she cried, "I want you to meet my new
"Congratulations!" said Ramón as he shook Sandy's hand.
Sandy gave him a puzzled look.
"Ramón's my boyfriend," Estrellita explained to the
cowboy and grinned as the two boys looked at each other
To Ramón she said, "Sandy tells me there was a girl in
town with you, yesterday." At Ramón's concerned frown,
she added, "He said she was the one who picked out that
bay for me." When Ramón nodded, looking for an escape
route, she added sweetly, "I thought *you* were the one
who picked him out!"
PUTTING ON THE FEED BAG:
Don Pedro had called in all his help from the fields,
leaving only a few hands who patrolled the fences to
watch for marauding coyotes. Since he felt a barbecue
was in order, no one attempted to dissuade him. Very
quickly there was a half beef turning on the spit while
chattering mujeres fabricated the remainder of the meal
with delicacies from the garden.
Mamá brought Lucita, who brightened at the prospect of a
pinata smash. Soon she was lost among the other young
children clamoring about the yard before the great
The aroma of sizzling beef set the dogs to howling, and
a vaquero was dispatched to take them a distance away so
their racket would not disturb the party.
Don Pedro sat on the portico in the shade and discussed
the vicissitudes of politics and deeper subjects with
his visitors while they sipped tea. The porch extended
the full width of the building, with shallow steps at
each side and a broad walkway in front which led to a
"But you never even tried one," complained the cowboy
known as `Lonesome', "How are you going to know the
difference between a blond and a redhead until you try
"Gentlemen, you are talking to the wrong person. You
see the condition I am in right now," said Don Pedro
solemnly, "This is nothing to what would happen to me if
my wife caught me 'trying' another woman!"
"I suppose you have to keep peace in the house,"
admitted Calpern as the other hands chuckled.
"True enough. I suppose you have been married long?"
The youngest cowboy wandered up and Calpern answered in
English. "Me and the old lady met in Christmas of
'99," he said, "We drawed the same number in a pie
sale and the sparks flew. We met on Tuesday and called
the bible-thumper to tie the knot on Thursday."
"Bueno," said Don Pedro, "Ours was an arranged
marriage. My parents in Spain knew another couple who
had a daughter, and they decided that it would be
beneficial to both families for us to wed. I have never
regretted it. I would not admit it to her face, but she
is a moderately attractive woman, an excellent cook, and
a fearsome partner."
"Well, they say that when you ain't got no choice, the
best thing you can do is play the hand that's dealt.
The second best thing is if she can cook."
"And what of you, my young vaquero?" Don Pedro waved
Sandy closer, "What have you done to distinguish
yourself in the field of romance?"
"Ain't done much. I'm just getting started."
"He has a good attitude," said Don Pedro, "Me, I was
ready to take on the world at his age. I even had a
couple of conquests under my belt."
"Hey, Ramón," hollered Sandy as the Mexican boy came
in from the corral, "Come on in and join the talk."
"What's going on?" asked Ramón in Spanish.
Calpern spoke up, "You will have to learn to speak some
English, son, else some cardsharp is going to cut you
out of a deal."
"Hey!" cried Sandy, "How come you never spoke Mexican
when we were horse-trading, yesterday?"
"Hell, son!" said Calpern as the laughter rolled
around the portico, "You don't show your cards until
all the bettin's done, do you?"
"Guess I'd better learn," Sandy said shyly.
"Good. I'm gonna leave you down here for a spell while
I round up some more strays, if'n the Don here don't
"Not at all. And young Ramón here will teach him
`Mexican' while your vaquero teaches him your
"I'd be much obliged. Of course, he'll work some, and
I'd be glad to pay his board."
"No need, we are always happy to educate you Yanquis on
the finer things in life. Besides, you have already
helped me immeasurably by furnishing the fine horses."
"Oh, yeah. I meant to ask you," Calpern stopped to
knock the dottle from his pipe, clean the stem and tamp
the bowl full of tobacco again, then puff it back to
life, "Met your mayor yesterday. He seemed to have a
pretty good opinion of hisself."
"Señor Sinestro is a liar, a thief, and a murderer,"
Don Pedro said, "He obtained his position at the
expense of the people of a town in southern Mexico, and
now he searches for wealth while pretending to govern
"Figured you and him were old friends," puffed
Calpern, "What's this about another revolution?"
"Ever and ever. We have cast off the yoke of Spanish
rule, only to flounder about imposing our own rules. We
get rid of one government and we fail to correct their
mistakes. The people who take their place get off the
track, and we have to do it all over again. It takes
time, and we make mistakes."
"You bein' Spanish yourself, don't you feel a bit out
"I have adopted this country. God willing, I will die
peaceably here. Perhaps I am a bit of an idealist, no?
My son Esteban, who is the politician, stays in Mexico
City to argue for our rights. My granddaughter flits
back and forth as though it were a stroll to the
village. There are bandits in the hills, and I suspect
she is hoping to meet one. She is an incurable
"The mayor said something about an Empire, I
"Ahh, yes. The Empire of Mexico. It sounds good.
Perhaps it will work, or it could be another case of
Napoleon. Perhaps we should try a president, as your
"Wouldn't know," puffed Calpern, "All my dealings
with politicians have been onesided. They always wanted
the biggest half of the pie. Where do you suppose this
mayor wants to fit into this picture?
"Ahhh, well. You know my opinion of him."
"Yep. Reckon if you had elections here, he could run
against a polecat and lose."
"But he has power, and greed. That makes him a
dangerous man. You must watch your back around here, my
There was a clangor from the iron triangle beside the
grill in the yard, and they filed off the porch to enjoy
the feast. Marie pushed Don Pedro's conveyance down a
ramp and out across the yard to a weathered table. The
table was sheltered by an awning on poles, and it was
burdened with platters of bread, vegetables, and
desserts. Talk was abandoned for a moment as Don Pedro
said the blessing then a restrained pandemonium began as
plates were filled and everyone fell to eating.
It was a large meal, for everyone who worked on the
rancho was there, with the exception of the outriders.
The children were fed separately, at another smaller
table, and Mamá was assisting another woman in serving
BEST LAID PLANS:
When they were full, they took their ease. Someone
brought out a guitar, another an instument resembling a
dobro, a trumpet, and yet another vaquero found a
battered violin to play, and they had music.
Thus it was that during the most pleasant part of the
day a shadow fell upon the festivities when a black
cabroliet wheeled into the yard accompanied by six
"It is always my bad luck to send the hunting dogs away
too soon," said Don Pedro. Nevertheless, he kept his
expression civil as the Alcalde disembarked from the
coach and joined the group on the portico, greeting them
amicably. He accepted a cup of coffee from Marie and
took his ease against the porch rail.
"Ahhh, children playing in the grass," he said, "I love
the sight. You must tell me, Don Pedro, how you keep
your grass so fresh and green. I am sure my brother-in-
law must be envious."
"I was fortunate in building near a spring," Don Pedro
shrugged as well as he could, "There is no great
"It is just as well. Let my brother-in-law worry that
you have something he does not. But let me get to the
reason for my visit - it is good that your granddaughter
has returned. My niece is being presented this Friday,
and we would very much enjoy having Señorita Estrellita
"We will inform her - though she chooses her engagements
herself. I very much fear we have raised an unsociable
Ramón had slipped away unnoticed when the soldiers
arrived and entered the house. It was some time later
when Estrellita found him in the kitchen and asked him
"They are only here on a social visit," she said, "There
is nothing to worry about."
Ramón nibbled on a fragment of pie. "Yeah? They aren't
looking for you."
"Silly. I bet Bertran wouldn't know you from his coach
"Better not let the Doña hear you calling him by his
"Enough of that. Let me show you something."
"Not a good idea," said Ramón around a bite, "I oughta
stay out of sight."
Estrellita opened the door to the patio. "I have
someone I want you to meet," she said.
There, looking up from a conversation with a perplexed
Don Pedro, was Bertran Sinestro. The conversation
dropped into dead silence. The Alcalde did not
hesitate. "Sergeant!" he bawled. Ramón threw down his
plate and bolted through the door.
"But wait!" cried Estrellita, trying to hold on to the
Alcalde's jacket, "At least talk to him! Hear what he
has to say!"
Bertrand calmly unclenched her fingers from the fabric
of his sleeve. "This person is a wanted fugitive. Did
you see how he ran? It is obvious that he has used his
wiles to work his way into your confidence, to deceive
you into thinking he is innocent and taking advantage of
your sweet generosity. Do not worry, Señorita de
Muerte," he added, "I shall apprehend him!"
"But that is not what I wanted to do at all!" cried
Don Pedro watched him go. "Estrellita, you care for
Ramón," he said, "How could you betray him like this to
his worst enemy?"
"I didn't know!" wailed Estrellita, "I never dreamt the
Alcalde would be so... so angry! Oh, Grandfather, what
have I done? What will happen to Ramón?" She fell to
weeping on her grandfather's shoulder.
"That was not anger, my child," Don Pedro soothed her,
"You must understand the madman to discern his moods.
He is happy. He has found another way to weaken me, by
attacking the children of my closest friends."
"But why? All I wanted to do was to get them together
and try to help them clear up their misunderstanding!"
He hugged her to him and said, through her hair, "We
cannot hope to make him understand. However, if you
wish to help Ramón, you will take our fastest, strongest
horse out of the stables and tie it out in the open. If
you have time, put a saddle on it."
"Yes, I will do that. But what good will that do?"
"If I know our Ramón, he will not be easily caught. And
if he happens to take a ready mount which someone else
was planning to ride, well... who could blame him?"
Estrellita was hurrying back through the house to the
rear entrance when she passed the kitchen and came face
to face with Machita.
"You!" cried Estrellita, "Wait! Who *are* you!?"
"Can't talk now," Machita blurted, "Lucita is outside.
They will find her!" and she ran for the patio.
Estrellita paused, torn between pursuing the strange
girl and helping Ramón.
"I don't understand *any* of this!" she cried, then
slammed the back door and hurried for the stables.
"Lucita! Lucita!" Machita called, but the little girl
only looked deliberately away from her. She had found
some companions who had dolls and was busy beneath a
huge oak tree playing make-believe.
"Very well, then. Gentle Rain!" Machita hissed, trying
to remain in the shade of the heavy shrubbery. Lucita
peeked coyly over her shoulder as Machita beckoned her
away from the open. Lucita shook her head `no', and was
about to return to the carved baby crib she was holding
when she saw the soldier coming around the house. She
whimpered and ran to Machita.
Estrellita had the saddle and bridle, but she could not
get the horse. She had no sooner entered the tack room
when a soldier appeared and began to patrol about the
stable. She carefully eased to the corner of the stable
door and watched him carefully checking the stalls.
"Ligardo esputo!" she hissed(1). She could not get to
the best horses without attracting the guard's
attention, and the other horses were outside the stable
in the corral, except... except her new horse. Ramón
had finally bridled the bay and tied it in the shade
beneath a scrub oak tree. She left the heavy saddle in
the tack room and sneaked back out of the stables.
The bay was not glad to see her. He was tired of the
bridle and bit and wanted some freedom. The saddle
Ramón had used earlier was nearby, and with some effort
she swung it into place. The bay did not cooperate. It
inhaled, and she had to kick it in the belly to get it
to release its breath and allow her to tighten the cinch
strap. The bay stamped about and pulled away from her,
but she succeeded.
"This is important, you dumb jackass!" she cried in
frustration, "Try and help me a little, allright?"
The bay looked at her with a glint in his eye, as if
daring her to get into the saddle. He turned his head
toward her to the extent of the reins and nibbled at the
"Not today," she backed away from him, "You have to let
someone else ride, and if you get fickle and screw this
up, I'll personally carve you up for dogfood!"
She went back through the shrubbery to look for Ramón.
The bay nickered once softly and watched her go.
1 Literally, `lizard spit'. What it means in real life
usage, I have no idea and am afraid to ask.
CHAPTER CINCO: END
Return to main page