Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART I: CHAPTER OCHO
EVEN CINDERELLA HAD A BALL
ONLY THE LONELY:
Estrellita danced away from the bay as the red horse nibbled
the air at her.
"I don't think he likes me," she said.
"I am sorry he is not working out," Ramón said as he rubbed
the horse's nose, "I guess I should have picked another
horse. There was a pinto there that might have been good."
The bay allowed him to fit the bridle on without complaint.
From the stables, Francisco led another horse for exercise,
and he waved at them.
"I don't mind, now that I know *you* were the one who chose
it," said Estrellita, "But I have another horse. I think
this one should belong to you."
"That would be great!" said Ramón with a grin. Then he
sobered and said, "But Papa always told me that a
horse-trader shouldn't get too attached to a horse. He
might have to sell it sometime."
"Do you always believe your Papa?"
"That's different. My Papacito would never lie to me. Has
your's ever lied to you?"
"Well... he has kept stuff from me. I mean, like not
telling me everything I should have known."
"*I* think you should take this horse. He likes you, and he
is smart. You should call him something like 'Rayo'," she
studied the bay's markings, "Or 'Relampago'."
"I'm not sure about 'Rayo'. But I will accept him, and
thanks," Ramón hugged the horse's neck and added, "If I
could leave him here, Papa would not tell me to sell him."
Estrellita flipped the leather strap she had been playing
with. "You'll have to think for yourself, someday," she
said, "Your Papa won't always be around to tell you what to
The cowboy called Lonesome rode up as Estrellita left, and
he tipped his black felt hat to her. She walked past him
from the corral.
"Good afternoon," he said to Ramón, continuing to watch
Estrellita until she entered the stables.
"Hello," said Ramón.
"Mind answering a question for me?"
"Maybe. What is the question?"
Lonesome pushed his hat back and leaned on the fence rail.
"I was wondering why they call you 'Macho'."
Ramón considered his hands before he answered. "It was
because I told them I would not fight girls."
"So how come you wrestled that Comanch girl, once upon a
"That was earlier."
"I was wondering... who won?"
Ramón's reply was muffled as he bent to pick up the traces
from the reins.
"Sorry," said Lonesome, "I didn't catch that."
"She was older than me."
"No shame in that, kids grow fast. How old were you at the
time? Did you beat her?"
Ramón stared at the ground. "What difference would it
make?" he asked.
"Just curious. Who won?"
"I did. At least they said I did. She had me down with my
face in the mud and I got scared. I started hitting her."
"What was wrong with that?"
"You don't hit when you are wrestling. I learned that
later. But I started hitting her, and I couldn't stop,"
Ramon rubbed his nose and continued, "And she was pretty and
I kept hitting her, and hitting her," Ramon sniffed once,
"They said I won, because she was a smart-aleck girl who
needed a lesson, but all I remember was hurting her. I
swore then that I would never fight another girl in my
Lonesome released a long breath between his teeth in a faint
Ramón finished saddling the bay and led him toward the gate.
"He don't seem like he's got a peg loose, does he?" Lonesome
inclined his head toward Ramón as the boy closed the gate
and swung up onto the bay.
"Who is to say?" Francisco shrugged.
"Well, I heard some stories about him. Just thought it was
a little odd, him dressing up as a girl, and all that."
"Ahhh. Then you have not seen him when he, how you say,
'dresses up like a girl'."
"Listen, what he does is his own business. I'm just
curious, that's all."
"I have seen many strange things in my years. Machito is -
how you say, very unusual. But he is a boy who I have seen
grow up from his mother's breast, and I know who he is, or
else I would not believe it. Now, why this thing happens to
him, I do not know."
"Lot's of stuff I don't know. Most of the time, I have to
ride away without asking."
"But you would like to know, yes?" Francisco pulled at his
"Well, yeah. Like how come your boss, a Spaniard, is
walking around free when just a few years ago ya'll were
killin' em left and right."
"A few years ago, there was the revolution, and we become a
free people. Like your United States. It is a glorious
feeling, but there were many things done we are not so proud
to talk about. But Don Pedro, he has always been a good
man, so there are not so many people who want to hurt him.
He has been hurt enough. So some of us, we take care of
"Well, he ain't no saint, judging from that trophy room of
his. Did he really go up against a bear?"
"In his younger days, he was a fighter. A good hunter.
Then one day he was captured by some Indios in South
America. That was when he hurt his back, and could no
"I kinda like the old badger, myself."
"Oh, he is not the badger," grinned Francisco, "He is the
grizzly bear. Ask anyone here. They love Don Pedro. There
is talk in the town about one day we make the Spanish leave.
If he goes, I would want to go, too. But I have my wife and
my family, so I will stay."
Later, Francisco asked Sandy, "Why is it you call him
'Lonesome'? To me, he does not seem the type to be alone."
"Oh, he gets along with everyone all right," said Sandy,
"But he don't take no proddin'. What I heard was, the
bunch was in a bar in a little place called San Antone, and
a couple of hardcases called him out for talking to their
girls. Time the rest of the boys get out of the saloon to
watch, it was all over. Three guys went out, only one came
back in. Someone asked him why he was back so soon, and he
said he was lonesome for some polite company. That's when
they took to calling him 'Lonesome'."
Three vaqueros, Francisco, Pablo, and Joaquim rode guard.
Another vaquero, Estabon, drove the cabroliet as the girls,
with Doña de Muerte as chaperon, attended the dance.
Calpern rode along.
"You won't be invited in to the fiesta," said Francisco.
"I don't mind. Most of the fun at these hoe-downs is back
behind the kitchen doors, anyhow. Back there, those folks
can let their hair down while all the señors and señoritas
have to bow and scrape."
"That's true. And we can look around while they are
Calpern indicated the horse-drawn conveyance bouncing along
ahead of them, "How's our young gal doing?"
"Which one?" asked Pablo, and the others laughed. "What's
so funny?" he wondered.
"Don Pedro's granddaughter has her fondest wish," said
Francisco, with a face-splitting grin, "And she cannot take
advantage of it because her boyfriend is wearing a dress,
"Is it not a strange thing, this change?" asked Pablo, "A
marvelous and a terrible thing."
"Well, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with
my own eyes," Calpern allowed, "It's the sort of thing you
want to tell tall tales about."
"Yes, this is true," agreed Pablo mournfully.
"Hey, compadre," said Francisco, "Is something bothering
Pablo nodded. "In the morning, I shall go to the church," he
said, "What do I say at the confessional?"
"I do not know, but you do not have to confess it if it is
not a sin," said his friend, "Did you feel envy when you saw
"I can answer truthfully that I did not!"
"Tell me, my old friend, did you feel lust?"
"Not at all. I am getting old, and besides, my tastes run
to the more docile women. Surprise, yes. I was very
"You are not slothful, you have not stolen anything, and you
have not killed anyone. You are a paragon of virtue, my
"When you explain it that way, it makes things so simple,"
Pablo nodded, "Tell me, Francisco, are you going to have any
trouble getting into heaven?"
"When they see me coming, they will bar the gate!" laughed
They walked their horses for a while, and Calpern noticed
movement. "Somebody's creepin' up out there in the brush,"
he cautioned them.
"Oh, that is Red Cloud," Joaquim assured him, "She is
Ramón's Indian girlfriend."
"Well, I'll be stomped!" said the grizzled cowboy, "This
place is crawling with females!"
"She will run alongside all the way to the Rancho Algrupa,"
"Well, it's getting dark. Let's invite her to ride in the
coach," said Calpern, "I'm going to worry about her stepping
on a snake out along the trail if we don't." He alerted
Doña de Muerte, and she agreed.
The cabroliet stopped and Red Cloud climbed in, and the ride
Red Cloud drew her legs up under her, luxuriating in the
feel of the leather-covered seat, her wool mantilla loosely
tied around her neck. She had hardly worked up a sweat
while racing the coach.
"You are uncomfortable?" she asked Machita.
Machita was wearing a laced bodice of black taffeta amidst
creamy billows of skirt. "I can't breathe!" she complained.
"You'll get used to it," said Estrellita. "Don't forget, I
have to wear this gown my mother once wore. If I can do it,
so can you."
"It's not the same thing!"
"Do not breathe so much," suggested Red Cloud. She tired of
the confined space and eeled her way out the window and up
atop the coach. There she sat facing back the way they had
come, the wind blowing her hair into her face. "I am
curious, Señor Calpern," said Francisco, "How is it that you
were able to cross so much countryside with Indians
everywhere and still bring in fifty fine horses?"
"Well, I'll tell you," Calpern drew out his pipe and
dry-smoked it, "We made sure we always stood guard, we
treated everyone we met fairly and squarely, always
respected the land we were traveling through. Made sure the
culls were outermost on the herd when we bedded down for the
night. Oh, yes. And we had about a hundred horses when we
To avoid complications, Red Cloud got out at the bend of the
road, out of sight of the hacienda.
Long shadows from the setting sun left deep gloom along the
trail, but the old man's feet were sure as he mounted the
rise. He paused beside an ancient, gnarled tree and faced
the last rays of light coming over the mountains.
"Good-bye, Sunboy," he said, "Don't forget to stop by
Manuel halted with him. "It is time," he said, "I am
"Um," agreed Alboro. He turned back to the crevasse where a
tiny campfire burned, and lifted the pot from the ashes.
Unceremoniously, he dashed its contents onto his son. The
resulting badger shuffled off into the dusk, and Alboro
eased himself to the ground beneath the shelter of a canvas
lean-to. He sipped from his cup of cooling coffee, relaxed
against the sun-warmed boulder, and went to sleep.
TRIPPING THE LIGHT:
The cabroliet was met at the gate of the Algrupa estate by a
pair of guards, resplendent in buff and ruffles, and
escorted to the great house with pomp and hauteur. A
doorman with Spanish eyes handed them down at the stoop, and
huge doors opened to allow them into the elegant halls. The
festivities were held in the cool of the patio, with lamps
agleam over polished tables laden with delicacies
transported at much cost from more civilized regions.
"Grapes from the coast!" whispered Estrellita, "And shrimp -
they must have paid plenty for the ice! All the stuff I
loved in Mexico City!"
"What are we looking for?" Machita asked Doña Mercedes.
"Nothing, yet. Right now, you must blend in. Do not go
anywhere away from the main rooms."
After the grand entrance, the atmosphere became calm, almost
stuffy. It seemed that most of the men they could see were
old, grayed gentlemen. The few young men present were being
jealously guarded by their young lady escorts. Machita
followed Estrellita closely, wary lest she should be
separated and lose her contact with security. Doña de
Muerte gravitated toward the hostess.
Estrellita raided the food tables first and they tried to
find a way to snack without soiling their dresses. At the
same time, they avoided the chaperons who were patrolling
the area like sharks seeking lone prey. At last a cluster
of girls appeared, and the two outsiders joined them in an
attempt to blend in.
"You mean you did not even plan a celebration for your
fifteenth birthday?" Maria said in horror.
Estrellita shook her head, "We were busy, and what's the big
"It's the big announcement to all the available men," said
Maria, "It says you are ready to be an adult. I showed off
my best gown. There were some gorgeous caballeros at the
Estrellita stood, remembering the Doña's instructions about
how to make a graceful exit.
"I'm outta here," she said.
"Hold on," said Machita, as she engaged in sampling the
salads, "I'm not finished here, yet."
"I know what happens next," Estrellita said to her, "And I
want nothing to do with it."
Machita eyed her quizzically, a half-devoured hors d'oeuvre
dangling from her lips.
"I can't wait to get married," sighed Anna, "Papacito has
already had two proposals. I hope he listens to Don Diego.
I think he is the cutest one."
"Yeah," sighed Maria, "Just think. A strong man by your
side. And in bed, too." They giggled, and Machita felt
chills go up her back.
"And babies," said Consuella, "My very own baby, suckling at
"We're outta here!" chorused Machita and Estrellita as they
made a hasty departure.
"What's the matter, Ramón?" asked Estrellita when she caught
up with her on the balcony, "Can't take the pressure?"
"I am *not* going back in there," stated Machita vehemently,
"Wild boars could not force me!"
The door opened behind them and a heavy woman in dull black
spied them. "Oh, what are you doing out in the open?"
demanded the chaperon, "Young women should never expose
themselves alone, especially on a romantic night like this!"
"Meet the wild boar," whispered Estrellita as they returned
MEETING THE HOST:
Doña Mercedes found them and led the way to a patio. "We
must say our pleasantries to the host," she said, "Remember,
at this place, it is imperative that you act with dignity
Holding court in the patio Bertran Sinestro.
"Oh, no," groaned Machita.
Sinestro abandoned his companions and made straight for the
two girls. "Señora de Muerte!" he exclaimed, "It is good of
you to attend! Señorita de Muerte. And your companion..."
He held his gaze a fraction of a second longer than was
"My niece from Mexico City, Lucha de Muerte Guiterez," Doña
Mercedes hastened to answer.
"Ah," he smiled thinly, "From one of the older families?"
"From the earliest," agreed the Doña.
"Please, feel free to divert yourself anywhere," said
Sinestro, "There are three groups of musicians - an
orchestra in the house, an ensemble from France on the
patio, and of course a 'peasant band' roaming outside."
When he had drifted back to his audience, and they had been
led back into the main floor, Machita shivered. "Did you
see the way he looked at me? I think he could recognize
"Don't be silly," said Mercedes de Muerte, "He was trying to
place your family. Position is very important to him."
"Well, *someone* pointed me out to those miners at the
market when Mama was kidnapped," grumbled Machita, then
added, "Doña, please don't call me 'Lucha'."
"I do have a cousin with that name. I think it is lovely."
"Mama hated it. She said she would never give it to a
"We will have to find another, then, but you must answer to
it for now."
They cautiously explored the limits of the party. The decor
was sumptuous, the appointments elegant, and the food was
extravagant. Unfortunately, both girls had lost their
appetite, so they watched the other guests. There seemed to
be plenty, and there were many more young men and girls than
they had seen at first. It was here that they met the
honoree of the quinceñero, Alita Algrupa Sinestro.
Alita swept in, a sleek racing ship buttressed by two
galleons, swains who vied for her attention while
effectively blocking the futile efforts of several more
boys. She was svelte and darkly brunette, with exotic brown
eyes and wide, full red lips.
"Estrellita!" cried Alita, "Now my party is perfect! It was
so *good* of you to come!" Her gaze wandered over to
Estrellita's companion, and she added, "So nice of you to
bring your domestic along, too."
"Alita, meet Lucha," said Estrellita, "She is a cousin,
visiting from Mexico City, the lake area."
Machita was caught up in a totally new emotion - she was
furious at the hostess, though she only barely understood
that she had been insulted. She swallowed hard, mute with
anger, but her expression spoke volumes.
"So charming!" Alita gushed, "I bet she is a wonder with the
shopping. She has such an air of ... commonness, she must
be able to talk to the peasants on their own level!"
"I... I think I need some air," said Machita. She headed
for the patio, where she could see Doña Mercedes.
"I'll be right there," promised Estrellita. She turned on
the hostess. "Alita, must you humiliate my friends?"
"Well, you might have brought that sweet little puppy,
Ramón," simpered Alita, "I would have loved to talk nice to
him. He is a young bull, that one is!"
"For your information... Ooohh, never mind!" Estrellita
hurried out to the patio. Machita was morosely watching
yellow canaries flutter about the cage.
"Ramón, you'll just have to ignore her," said Estrellita,
"We have this old feud, going back for years. I'm sorry she
hurt your feelings."
"She didn't hurt my feelings. She made me *angry*! I
wanted to ball my fist and ram it into her face!"
"Alita has that effect on people," Estrellita agreed with a
grin, "Mostly because she knows she can get away with it.
She always has those two bodyguards with her."
"That wouldn't stop me."
"Then why didn't you do something? Those two bullies
wouldn't be able to prevent a quick smack to the face."
"I'm not afraid of them. I wanted to hit her, but that is
not the answer. She doesn't fight with her fists, and I
can't fight with poison the way she does. I suddenly
realized that I was on a dueling ground without a sword.
And I don't know all the rules."
"Well, the first rule is, you don't run away from a fight."
"I have never run away from a fist-fight, or a wrestling
match, or even a knife fight back at the school. But I
can't fight a girl!"
"I could, why can't you?"
"Because I'm not... I don't know what I am!"
"Look, everywhere you go, there are different rules for
fighting, right? For instance, in some villages you square
off with knives, in another you might start wrestling, or
hitting with fists. There are always rules. Here, with
her, the rules are: use words. Say the lowest, most
despicable, cruelest thing you can say to your opponent, but
say it so sweetly that it sounds like a compliment."
"But when I get angry I can't talk!"
"Then don't get hot. Make it a cold anger. Cold-blooded,
like a snake. Keep calm until you are ready, then strike."
"I don't know about this girl-fighting. I always thought
you were kind and gentle people. Sometimes I think I can't
do girl stuff!"
"Oh-ho! This from someone who wears my dresses? And they
fit you better than they fit me?"
"It's not like that at all! I can do it. I just have to
learn to ... think differently."
"No, you just have to get cold, and angry. And punch her
lights out... in a sweet way, of course."
"What kind of childhood fantasies are you two dreaming up?"
asked Doña Mercedes, stepping away from a servant with whom
she had been talking.
"Keeping cool, and saying nice things," smiled Estrellita.
She led Machita back into the ring.
Machita advanced warily upon her adversary, uncomfortable
with the advantage the other girl held. [I don't know how
to insult a *girl*!] she thought. [Now, if this were some
other kind of an encounter...]
"Are you feeling better, Lucha?" asked Alita with mock
concern, "It would be dreadful if you got sick all over that
cute dress. Did you make it yourself?"
"I was wondering..." Machita said, then walked slowly around
the other girl. Alita's gown was French flounce, white with
burgundy ribbons and full skirts which swept the floor. Her
hair was bound with wine-colored ribbons and a tortoiseshell
"Like what you see?" asked Alita coldly.
"Elegant," agreed Machita, "But I was thinking about the
shape of the head. Shows good breeding."
"What!?! How dare you imply that..."
"Maria Alita Constanza Algrupa Sinestro," intoned Machita,
"Yes, a very good bloodline. You must be proud of your
"Well, I am! I suppose... What are you getting at? I don't
need a peasant to come in here and make comments about my
family! We trace our heritage back to the early explorers
"But you have such a distinguished family! It shows in your
eyes, and your walk. And your family has a prosperous
ranch. How long have they been raising cattle?"
"Not long. Just since the revolution, when we..."
"I was just thinking. De la Vaca was a famous explorer.
The shape of your head. Are you sure there was no vaca...
oops!... de Vaca in your genealogy? (1)"
Alita almost levitated in rage. "Uncle Bertran!" she cried,
spying Sinestro across the room, "Just you wait," she said
to Machita, "I'll teach you to... Uncle Bertran!"
Estrellita hugged Machita tightly and laughed so hard she
hiccuped. Eventually, they became aware of their closeness
and stepped quickly away from each other.
"That was priceless!" Estrellita giggled, "You were so
confident! How did you think of that line of attack?"
"The only thing I really know is horse-trading," grinned
Machita, "So I tried to see her as a horse. I never got
around to asking her if she was bow-legged."
Meanwhile, Alita had pulled Sinestro aside. "I want you to
get rid of that... that commoner! I don't want her at my
"Now, why would I do that?" asked Sinestro, "She is a
delightful girl. She has such bold eyes - they stare right
through you. I think I'll ask her to stay for the weekend."
"But, Uncle Bertran!"
"Very well, I won't. But I won't ask her to leave, either.
Now, be a good girl and take this envelope to your friend,
Alita snatched the envelope and headed in the opposite
At the fringes of the festivities, Machita was startled to
glimpse a familiar face in a shadowed alcove. When she
called Estrellita's attention to the place, however, the
opening was empty.
"That is peculiar. I thought I saw someone who looked like
Granpapá," she said, "Let's go look."
Crossing the garden, where sculptured shrubbery formed a
gentle maze, they heard music. The peasant band was
playing; four voices, a guitar, a tambour, and a trumpet
which sounded familiar. The music ended as they came to the
band, and one of the musicians separated from the others and
started toward the banquet in such a hurry that he almost
crashed into them.
Gordito stammered an apology. He saw Estrellita and said
hello to her, then he saw Machita. He gawked at her as
"Que linda!" he cried, "How pretty you are! You must be
the girl from the marketplace!"
"Oh, boy," groaned Machita.
"Please," cried Gordito, "What is your name?"
"She is Machita. She is visiting my family," Estrellita
supplied with a mischievous grin.
This brought Gordito up short.
"Machita? What kind of a girl's name is Machita?"
"It is a joke," growled Machita.
Gordito mulled it over, "Machita... Machita..."
Machita froze, not daring to breath. If Gordito made the
connection he could shout loud enough in his excitement to
alert the guards, and she would be trapped. She need not
"I have a friend named Machito!" cried Gordito, "This is
great! I have told him about you! I can't wait until I can
introduce you to each other!"
"I'd like to see that!" said Estrellita. Machita shushed
her, but she smirked anyway.
The alcove proved to be empty, as she had suspected. It was
a dummy opening where plants could be displayed, providing
an architectural balance to the building.
They returned to the great house, where Sinestro was again
speaking, this time to a larger audience. Machita saw a
flash of pale skin at the top of the balustrade. The bald
priest, wearing a blue and red robe, was staring at her from
(1) La Cabeza de Vaca explored what is now the lower United
States in the early 16th century. La Cabeza de Vaca is an
acceptable Spanish name. However, breaking the name down
into its components results in:
`La Cabeza' = The Head;
'de Vaca' = of a Cow.
For the humor-impaired, Machita was telling Alita that she
looked like a cow.
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