Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER SEIS
GAINS AND LOSSES
Don Pedro looked out from the porch as the soldiers searched
the buildings. Sinestro seemed particularly interested in
the upstairs of the great house.
"In my youth, I would have thrown him off my land for doing
what he is doing here," he said to his wife, who stood
She pressed his hand. "In our youth, a Spaniard could walk
safely down a street in Mexico City," she said.
"I know," he said, seeing the Yanquis drawn together in a
group at the far end of the shelter, "He has taken so much.
But how much more must I give up?"
"How much more do you have?" she asked.
He put her hand to his lips. "I have everything, mi
corazon," he said, "and I want to lose nothing. But I fear
that I will be stripped of what is dear to me." A moment
passed, and he asked, "Have you seen Estrellita?"
"She was going for a ride," smiled the Doña.
The cowboys had drifted back to their end of the porch.
Calpern said, "The boys was wonderin' if us being here was
causing any problem."
"Please, do not concern yourself," said Don Pedro, "The
Alcalde has this passion for me and mine. When he has
finished soiling the ground here, he will depart. If
anything, he will avoid displeasing someone who can provide
him with horses."
"Ain't seen no shortage of horses, hereabouts. Yet, I sold
ever last spavin-legged critter I brought in," said
Calpern, "Kinda makes a man wonder what's so special about
"Perhaps the fact that there is nothing special about
them," suggested the don, "They have no markings. While
there are many horses here, each one has someone's brand on
"Sounds like someone may be wantin' a bunch of people moved
in a big hurry."
"Perhaps, my friend, perhaps."
Estrellita met Machita in the shadow of the eaves of one of
the many wings of the great house.
"Take care of her, and get her away from the house," Machita
shoved Lucita into Estrellita's arms, "I have to find a way
to get her out of here."
Estrellita looked at the dark-haired girl speculatively,
then said, "If you see Ramón, tell him the bay is saddled."
"Thanks!" cried Machita as she dodged between the bushes.
"De nada..." Estrellita stared after the vanished girl.
Holding Lucita's hand, she led the way, through paths known
only to her, into the garden.
"Who was that girl, Lucita?" she asked.
"Gentle Rain," Lucita corrected her.
"Is that her name? Gentle Rain?"
"No. *I'm* Gentle Rain."
"Oh, yeah. Then who was that?"
Lucita refused to answer, pulling toward the shelter of the
"There's nothing out here to harm you," Estrellita pointed
out. "All the soldiers are at the house."
One soldier, however, was not searching the house. She had
forgotten the guard at the stable. He could see the garden
from his vantage point, and ran out through the border of
the garden to intercept them.
"Señorita!" he called, "Por favor! Give the girl to me!"
Estrellita pulled Lucita behind her. "You can't want her,"
she cried, "She hasn't done anything."
"I am very sorry, Señorita, but that is for my sergeant to
decide. Please, let me have her."
"No!" said Estrellita, and her chin came up as she stood
defiantly before Lucita.
"Señorita! You must not interfere!" The guard stomped
across a row of beans and reached for the frightened girl.
"Run, Lucita!" cried Estrellita and threw herself at the
surprised guard. Lucita squealed and scampered away.
The guard shoved Estrellita aside and gave chase. Beyond
the fence, another soldier appeared and prepared to catch
Lucita as she ran toward him.
Estrellita struggled up from the dirt, hearing Lucita's
cries of fright and the grunt of the pursuing soldiers.
Above them she heard the muffled thunder of hoofbeats as the
bay jumped the garden gate with Ramón in the saddle.
"Gentle Rain!" called Ramón, and Lucita stopped to stare at
the horse and rider coming toward her. She held up her
hands, as though reaching for help. With one leg over the
saddle, Ramón leaned far out and down to catch Lucita and
swing her up behind him.
The bay slid to a stop, almost sitting down in the soft soil
of the garden and sending dirt clods flying over the two
soldiers. He reversed direction and bounded back toward
the great house.
Belatedly, one of the soldiers drew his pistol and fired a
shot which went wild.
Don Pedro heard the pistol fire and jerked his head up. "He
has been found," he said. The yard was full of children
running to see what had happened.
Shouts could be heard from the direction of the garden,
coming closer until all conversation was drowned out in the
booming clatter of hooves on the portico floor. The bay
swept through the portico, dodging chairs and people with
Ramón and Lucita clinging to the saddle and to each other.
At the end of the porch was the gate road, and at the gate
were two more guards. These soldiers, alerted by the
racket, readied their muskets. One shouldered his weapon,
but the other fumbled the hammer, lifting the gun only to
find the horse bearing down on him. He threw down the
musket and dived for the fence.
The bay, nostrils flared and eyes wide, had extended his
neck straight ahead and settled into a dead run straight for
the gate and the remaining guard. That person, feeling the
absense of his companion and seeing the determination of the
oncoming animal, fired his musket high and also dodged for
cover. In a moment, Ramón and Lucita were under the
cottonwoods on the main road and headed in the direction of
When the noise had died down, Sinestro stepped up to Don
Pedro and scowled. "I will remember that two fugitives were
found in your presense," he said.
Don Pedro returned his frown. "And I will remember that
they were both children," he said.
Sinestro glared at him for a moment, then said, "Don Pedro.
Señora. Señorita," for Estrellita, grimy with garden dirt,
had just arrived.
"Alcalde," said Don Pedro, stiffly.
"Until we meet again." Sinestro entered the cabrolet and
"Whooeee!" said Sandy, "That feller's madder'n a bear
with his balls in a crack!"
"Sandy, you got to remember that there are ladies
present," Calpern reminded him.
"Sorry, Ma'am," Sandy gulped.
"Quite all right," said the Doña, "I am relieved that our
friends got away."
His father's village was just over the ridge, but Ramón
guided the bay around it.
"Get ready to jump off," he instructed Lucita. She
responded by clinging more tightly to him. "We are coming
to some rocks," elaborated Ramón, "You can climb up on them
from the horse without leaving tracks."
"I don't want to leave you," whined Lucita.
"I won't be gone long, but I have to hide the horse away
from here." The bay edged toward one side of the huge rocks
beside the trail in an attempt to scrape his rider's leg,
until Ramón twitched the reins and guided him clear. He
said, "You won't be alone. Look!"
"Red Cloud!" shouted Lucita. Two figures had appeared on a
boulder beside the trail, wearing odd boots which looked
like basketwork. Red Cloud swung Lucita up into her arms
while an older youth named Wolf Walker looked on.
"You will be followed," predicted Wolf Walker.
"I don't know if they are after me, yet. I didn't see
anyone behind me," said Ramón, "How did you know I was
"You wouldn't see anything," said Wolf Walker, "You have the
eyes of a wart hog."
"I'll be back," said Ramón sullenly, "As soon as I can hide
"Don't hurry," said Wolf Walker.
Ramón guided the bay up through narrow canyons into the
hills beyond the village. Papá had several holding areas up
here, and he sought one of them. He tried to keep the horse
on solid rock as much as possible to slow a tracker if they
sent one after him. The bay was shod, worse luck, for the
steel horseshoes could made a clear track even on stone.
When he finally turned the horse loose, in a box canyon with
a brush gate, it was past noon and he was both hungry and
thirsty. He began to wish he had snatched a pocketful of
corn tortillas while he was in the kitchen. The bay had
found a spring at the rear of the canyon, so he drank his
fill and prepared to walk to the village.
Lucita ran to meet him, then returned to play with other
children. She seemed to have forgotten the morning.
"Gentle Rain will stay with us," said Red Cloud's mother, a
woman with turquoise in her beadwork and Red Cloud's eyes,
"We will see that no harm comes to her."
"My mother is grateful to you," said Ramón, "Now, I will
have to go back home to see about Mamá."
"The soldados tried to capture Gentle Rain?" asked Red
Cloud, and Ramón nodded.
"The lookout saw you out on the flat, coming from your
father's corral," said Wolf Walker.
"Huh?" asked Ramón.
"You asked how we knew you were coming."
"Yeah, I did, didn't I?"
"The soldados will come," said Wolf Walker, "We should warn
the old ones."
"It's my responsibility. I will tell them."
"You have been offered a place in the village, and you have
refused. Now you do not speak to the old ones. I will tell
"Yeah, but I'm the one the soldiers will be after!"
"Then we will hide you, since you cannot hide yourself."
"What do you mean by *that*?"
"You live inside the walls of your village, away from the
air. You have no skills, you cannot hunt or stalk, you must
be protected like a small child. You are worse than a
"You take that back!" cried Ramón, and he launched himself
at the older boy. He grabbed Wolf by the waist and swung
him around until both lost their footing. Soon they were
tumbling down the slope toward the shallow creek, struggling
to pin each other to the ground.
Lucita came to Red Cloud. "Why are they fighting?" she
"They are playing rough," said Red Cloud, "Boys like to play
rough. It prepares them for being men... some day."
Red Cloud picked her up and they watched the fighters.
Ramón won a temporary advantage by knocking Wolf Walker's
legs from under him, but the other pulled him down also and
they were rolling down the slope again.
"They aren't hurting each other?"
"Maybe a little. But by hurting each other a little, they
learn how to hurt others more, later, when they are too old
to play. Then when they have to fight, they will know how."
"I don't want to be too old to play," said Lucita.
"These two aren't too old - yet."
The last tumble, from solid ground into the streambed, ended
the fight with the breath knocked out of both boys. "You
can tell them," wheezed Ramón, "I have to get home before
Mamá comes after me."
"That... that was what I was trying to tell you!" said Wolf
Ramón did not complain when Red Cloud escorted him home.
GAINS AND LOSSES:
"Mamá has had me sitting and standing and walking and
prissing all afternoon," complained Machita. She took care
not to step on the hem of the skirt as she climbed the
ladder onto the roof.
"Then why are you still a girl?" smiled Papá, who was gazing
into the West toward the distant purple hills.
"Because she is not satisfied! I still must help with the
cooking. Is a girl's work never done?"
Papá smiled, as though he had heard the same complaint many
"Awww, Papá, you've got to do something!" said Machita,
"She's trying to turn me into a girl! If she wanted a
daughter, why didn't she have one instead of me?"
Albierto sat and studied the sunset clouds, chin in hand,
for long moments. "You will not speak to your mother about
this," he said.
"Of course not! But why does she want me to be the girl, so
"For many years I have travelled to the Brazos river, and
traded with the Commanche," said Papá. He paused, deep in
Machita sat beside him. She had learned to go along with
Papá's habit of changing the subject. She said, "Well,
people say it is not always a good thing, to sell horses to
"It is said they may use the horse you sell to carry off
your family," said Papá, "I do not agree, but I have been
told this by many people."
"So why do it?"
"Because, when I met your mother, before I work for Don
Pedro, I was selling horses. She cost me fifteen of the
best ponies I ever had."
"You *bought* Mamá?"
Papá grinned fiercely, "You did not know this, did you? She
tells of a courtship under a roof and chaperon, for this is
what she wishes you to believe. She never spoke to me of
her past, and I have never asked her. The bunch of
Commanche I got her from said she came from down South.
They also said that the people they bought her from spoke of
"Perhaps so. I have never asked her, and she has never
said. But sometimes, when she thinks I am not looking, she
watches the children of travellers. And for years, until
she made me stop, I have taken horses to the Commanche."
"Looking for her daughter?"
Papá sniffed suddenly and stood. "You ask too many
questions," he said, "I do not have the answers to my own."
Machita watched fireflies winking in the growing dusk. "I
have never had a sister," she complained, "Now I have a
little sister, I may have had an older sister, and my mother
is trying to turn me into another!"
Papá remained silent, and Machita asked, "Ahh, Papá? If
Mamá never spoke of it, and you never talked about it, how
could she tell you to quit looking?"
The elder Caballo turned away. "You will never speak to
your mother about this," he said.
"I already said I wouldn't!"
"You remember the time I took you with me, to their camp?"
"Yeah, and they made me wrestle that girl... Say! Was that
her? Was that my sister? She was older than me."
"No. They thought it was a great joke, insulting you by
letting you wrestle a girl, even if she was much older and
stronger than you at the time. You were only eight years
old. But you didn't notice and went ahead. You didn't show
pride, or refuse because it was beneath you. Because they
admired your determination, while you were wrestling they
showed me your sister. I said goodbye to her, from across
the shelter. I could get no closer. She had the white
man's disease, I think it was cholera."
Machita found it difficult to speak around the lump in her
throat, "She died?"
Papá nodded. He was silent for a long time, so Machita got
up and dusted off the skirts. She placed a hand on Pap 's
shoulder, but could think of nothing to say but, "I won't
tell Mamá. I promise."
TO MARKET, REDUX:
Ramón was awakened by warm water trickling onto his face.
Convinced something was wrong, she hurried into his clothes
and looked around. The still of early sunrise lay about,
and only a few birds were singing.
"Did you hear anything?" she asked.
Mamá was finishing breakfast for her, and Papá was nowhere
about, as usual. "No, nothing is wrong, mi Machita. This
is a market day, remember?"
"But why make me into a girl this early? Can't I stay male
for a little while?"
"Not today. I shall need you to help me, again."
"I am beginning to think Grampa had the right idea," said
"And just what idea was that?" Mamá demanded.
"To be a hermit. When you live by yourself, you don't have
to worry about how you look."
"Well, you are not him, thank God, and you have much more
than he will ever have. You are young, you are strong, and
smart, I should hope."
Machita sighed once again and donned the dress. "I hate
this thing," she said.
"Will you wear it this time, for me?"
"Mamá, you don't have to try so hard."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm worried about Lucita, too. I just don't know anything
to do about it."
Mamá sat down and embraced her.
"I suppose I am being too *normal*, today," she said. "I
want to go to the Alcalde and scream at him that he is doing
something terribly wrong. I want to get Lucita and go away
somewhere. I want to do something, *anything*. I want it
all to stop."
"I know, Mamá, I know."
"Well..." Mamá rose to her feet, "come with me. We must go."
Machita sighed and went with her.
The market was already busy when they arrived, the hum of
commerce rising like the clamor of a beehive as vendors and
customers bargained over garden produce, textiles, and
The boys were there, too, Machita saw, perhaps more than
last time. They stood back and stared, and she tried to
ignore them. When she lifted the bowl of squash and beans
to her head, they gawked, and she growled, "Just like last
time. What is wrong with the way I walk?"
"Nothing, Machita," Mamá assured her, "Nothing at all."
Sometime during the morning, the boys were joined by older
men, toughs from the mining camps. These too watched her,
but the look in their eyes was different. Machita realized
that what she had seen from the boys was respect, almost
worship. These men had a look of hard determination to
them, a callous sneer that respected nothing. She edged
closer to Mamá.
Her eyes were caught by the glare of sunlight reflected from
a man's head, bald as a stump, and she could not help
staring. She had seen bald men before - Pablo was bald -
but this man was *peeled*. From the high, arched nose to
the collar of his faded tunic, there was not a hair. As
though he felt himself being watched, he cast about, then
turned full face toward Machita. There was an emptiness in
those eyes that unsettled her and she realized that she was
alone. Mamá had gone on to the next stall.
Trouble came, not from the crowd of toughs eying her, but
from soldiers who shoved their way through the crowd of
bargainers and surrounded Mam . "Señora Caballo, we have to
arrest you for harboring a known fugitive from the law,"
said the sergeant.
"Machita! cried Mamá, "Get away! Run!"
The soldiers and Mamá seemed to recede in Machita's sight,
until they were little and far away, too far away to hear as
the soldiers not ungently led Mamá away. When she could
move, they were gone, and there was no one who would look at
her except the men from the miner's camp. The bald man with
the empty eyes was with them, and he pointed at Machita and
spoke to the toughs. When she could move, they kept her from
Machita dumped the bowl of beans and squash in their path
For frantic moments, she dodged among the women and old men
in the market, until she reached the other side of the
marketplace. There she chose between alleyways and pelted
down the narrow passageway until she came to a stone fence.
The dress was hampering her flight, so when she found
someone's laundry hanging on poles beyond the fence, she
found shelter, ripped the dress off and traded it for some
pantalones and a shirt before running on.
She had to find Mamá.
CHAPTER SEIS: END
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