Macho Caballo Page
Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo
PART 2: CHAPTER QUINCE
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE
It was weeks after the assault on the puebla - life had gone
back to normal for most folks in the valley, as normal as
they could be, considering the situation. For Ramón, this
meant both pleasure and torment, for while his mother was
grateful for his heroism, she was irritated that he had been
so reckless. She seemed to be especially concerned that he
had become a girl for part of the rescue - not that he had
any control over these things - and insisted that he refrain
from such antics in the future... at least while he was
female. This placed the boy in a particular bind, for while
he had no desire to change he also did not wish to become a
'sissy' just because of a little alteration in body
structure. He wanted to remain bold and 'macho'.
IN PURSUIT OF A DREAM:
Ramón leaped the low brick wall and fled through the
alleyway, and the soldier pursued closely. Perhaps it had
been only chance that the young trooper had spotted him this
morning, perhaps Ramón had wanted to be seen. Either way,
he was feeling happy. He could run. He could fly down the
alleys and through the squares, around the buttresses at the
mission, through the shops. The soldier, as close as Ramón
allowed him to get, could not match his speed. Eventually,
pursuit slowed to a stop and Ramón went back to see what had
happened. The soldier was leaning against an adobe column,
coughing for breath.
“Muchacho!” gasped the soldier, “Why do you run away?”
“That is simple,” said Ramón, “I do not wish to be caught.”
“But I have heard...” the soldier said, “I have heard the
charge against you... No one can blame you for leaving the
school to help your family...”
“There is more to the story than that, Señor,” laughed
Ramón, “The Alcalde has a grudge against me.”
“But you are just a boy,” objected the soldier, gathering
his strength for another dash, “At worst he would send you
back to the school.”
“He would put me in the jail. I have heard of your jail,”
taunted Ramón, “The rats are so big they take the food away
from the prisoners.”
The soldier made a grab for him. Ramón laughed and ran, and
the chase was on again.
Dashing over the baked clay, rounding a corner, he almost
collided with another soldier. Ramón backpeddled
desperately, but the sergeant simply turned and ran instead
of grabbing him.
“That looked like...” Ramón said, but then he backed into a
wall and brushed against a clay jug in the sun. The jug
teetered, wobbled and was about to fall as Ramón snatched at
it. He missed. The jug shattered, spraying its warm
contents all over.
The pursuing soldier rounded the corner and nearly tripped
over a girl sitting on a sill, chin in palm, frowning
“Perdone, Señorita,” blurted the soldier and hurried on.
“Está bien,” scowled Machita.
“This is a small village,” scolded Mamá, “I hear of all
sorts of things. When I heard that you have been *daring*
the soldiers to chase you, my heart almost stopped.”
“They could not catch me,” said Ramón as he sampled the
“That does not matter,” said Mamá, “I want you to promise me
you will not do this thing again. I do not want to lose
“Promise me, Bebito.”
“Very well, Mamá,” Ramón sighed.
“Good. And now it is time for lessons.”
“Again? I think Papá needs me with the horses.”
“He is in the hills with your abuelo, doing Heaven knows
what. I need you more than he does, at the moment.”
Machita was sewing and sighing when she saw a shadow pass by
the small kitchen window. Curious, she went to the door and
waited. Sure enough, there was soon a sound - a pecking on
the wood that sounded like slender knuckles. The door
cracked to reveal Estrellita in a split skirt and jacket.
“Ramón?” she whispered loudly, and before Machita could
answer, she added, “You've got to let me in! But first, are
you a girl?”
“Yes, I am a girl,” sighed Machita, letting the blond
rancherita into the kitchen.
“I had to get away from home for a while,” said Estrellita,
“They are driving me crazy! Abuelita is polishing me up
like a horse at an auction! She says I cannot see you alone
unless you promise to remain a girl all the time I am here.
I can't stand it! They have an escort outside, right now!”
“I am glad to see you,” said Machita, “But aren't you still
mad at me because your abuela was hurt?”
“What are you talking about? Honestly, Ramón, sometimes you
don't make any sense.”
“I thought you were not to see Ramón,” said Machita.
“Oh, yes, you are right. But it all seems so stupid! Why
can't grandparents make any sense?”
Machita sighed again, “No one makes any sense, anymore.”
“Yeah,” agreed Estrellita as she lifted the lid on the
stovepot and sniffed the aroma of squash and beans, “Do you
know they even had me embroidering my alphabets on a
sampler? Abuelita says it will show off my skills to a
Machita looked down at the embroidery needle in her hand as
if to say, 'What have I been doing?' and dropped the needle
as though it were white hot.
“What have you been doing?” Estrellita wondered.
“Oh, just sitting here,” said Machita as she shoved the
sampler beneath another cloth.
COOKING UP PLANS:
It was a relief being a boy again, when Sandy rode by to
visit. Sandy had been there when Calpern and the cowboys:
Frank, John, and Jasper, had stopped on their way back up
North. Lonesome had remained until his wound could heal.
Jasper had made a small package which he presented to Sandy,
and Sandy asked Mamá to keep it cool for him. Ramón asked
about this package, later that day.
There was a small hill above the fields where it was
possible to see beyond the trickle of a river, to the hills
and pass where sometimes elk fleetingly appeared. Two
youths observed the view idly.
“Jasper does most of the cookin’,” said the lanky wheat-
haired cowboy, “He left me some sourdough starter.”
“What would you do with sourdough?” asked Ramón.
“Makes good bread,” admitted Sandy reluctantly.
“I thought only women made bread.”
“Well, Jasper does our cookin' on the trail. Which reminds
me. I was wonderin',” drawled Sandy, “What do ya'll cook in
those pots? Seems like there is always one by the stove”
“Oh, these?” asked Ramón lazily, “Only the corn we soak in
lye to prepare them to make the tortilla dough.”
“Yeah? That's sort of the way my Ma makes hominy.”
“Perhaps. Then the masa is rinsed and ground some more into
flour. When you are ready to make tortillas, you must blend
in enough water to make it moist, but not enough to make it
watery. It takes much skill and practice to know when it is
“How'd you know so much about making tortillas?”
“Uhhh.. Never mind. Sometimes, I must help with the
cooking. This is not a manly thing to do,” Ramón said,
“Sometime, I'll show you how to cook cornbread and stew, if
we get the chance.”
“Well, how'd you learn so much about cooking cornbread?”
“One winter, my Ma took sick and we decided that someone
else had to cook. I learned how to make meals for six kids.
There just ain't no pleasing some young'uns, but they ate
what I fried. On the trail, Jasper does all the cooking, so
I don't get much chance to show off what I know.”
“With my father after me to help with the horses while my
mother wants me to help cook, I am getting no rest at all!”
“Yeah? How about some time we get together and make up a
meal? That would surprise your Mamá!”
“It cannot be easy on him,” said Pablo as he cut a hide into
thin strips to braid into a riata, “He must be torn between
the need to be a man and the frightening insecurity of being
a woman. Truly, it is a conflict which must bear heavily
upon his soul.”
“Truly,” agreed Francisco.
“We must be prepared for the day when his mind breaks, God
forbid,” Pablo mourned, “One day he may lose the distinction
between which is which, and he will not know what he is.”
The two boys returned from the field, and they were talking
animatedly as they passed Francisco and Pablo. Pablo
laughed, “What do you two talk about that's so interesting?”
“Oh, we were only comparing recipes,” said Ramón, “... and
then you bring it to a boil, but you don't stir...”
Pablo watched the two until they were out of sight. “Both
of them!” he declared, “What am I going to do, now?”
SHOPPING FOR MAMA:
His education was on hold until they could figure out a way
to get around the curse while he was at school. The padre
at the mission came by to visit once, to Mamá's dismay, and
pleaded with her to let Ramón return to the big school. The
Alcalde maintained that he had to pay for his truancy, and
had his soldiers keep vigil in the village. Ramón could not
even go to the market as a boy. Consequently, it was as a
girl that he met Alita again.
Machita was shopping for Mamá, who wanted some herbs and
seasonings for a chicken dinner.
“Machita!” cried Estrellita. She was wearing a split skirt
of soft leather, a white brocade blouse and the flat wide
hat favored by the southern vaqueros. “Have you seen the
new booth? There's a merchant in from the West Coast, and
he has some great stuff!”
“I wouldn't care,” shrugged Machita, “I don't have any use
for jewelry or combs.”
Estrellita urged Machita along with her. “Go with me,
anyway,” she said, “That's the only way my duena will take
her eyes off me. I feel like a cow up for sale, they watch
me so closely.”
“I have felt free as an eagle all morning,” said Machita,
“The only time I have been out of the house is when I go to
the market. Mamá's afraid someone will see me when I'm
“I wish we could trade,” simpered Estrellita.
Machita favored her with a hard look. “No, you don't,” she
“Well, anything would be better than this treatment! I
would not be surprised if they locked me in at night!”
“Don't you check your door?” Machita laughed.
“Every night,” admitted Estrellita, “But one of these days
they are going to lock it. And then I will have to get out
or go crazy.”
“They wouldn't do that. The Doña is too kind.”
“I always thought so. But lately, they don't trust me. They
think I'll do something foolish.” She lifted her chin. “I
never do anything foolish... without a reason.”
“Never?” Machita grinned.
“You just shut up!”
They passed the vegetable vendors and neared the more
substantial booths of the hardware merchants. A soldier was
standing nearby the jewelry vendor, casually braced against
“Oooh, Señor Poscadero does have some new stuff!” cried
“Come on, I thought you didn't care for gaudy trinkets,”
Machita teased her.
“I can have them if I want them. That's the advantage of
being a girl. I can live the rough life and still enjoy the
finer things,” Estrellita paused, “At least I could, once.
Abuelita is trying to make me into a dainty rose blossom,
too delicate to touch.”
“At least you're a girl,” grumped Machita, “I'm not supposed
to have to do that sort of thing. It ain't right.”
“I'll worry about that later. Isn't this a lovely silver
“Come on. This would look great on you!” Estrellita picked
up a bracelet from the blanket and held up to Machita,
ignoring the alarmed look the merchant gave her. “This
turquoise goes perfectly with your eyes.”
Machita caught the bracelet and handed it back after a
cursory examination. On impulse, she asked, “Do you have
any turquoise pendants?”
The merchant rifled through a small wooden chest and
produced a slender teardrop of blue stone in a silver
setting. “Is this what the Señorita wishes?”
Machita hesitated. “Uh, I just wanted to see what one
looked like,” she admitted.
“It's beautiful!” exclaimed Estrellita, “Here, let me buy it
“I don't want it!” protested Machita, “I can't wear
“Oh, but I insist,” pouted Estrellita, “I've always wanted
to get you something that would look good on you, and this
would be perfect!”
“It's much too gaudy,” came a new voice from behind them,
“You don't want to cast your pearls before swine, do you?”
Both girls turned. “Buenas Dias, Alita,” growled
Estrellita. Machita started to say something, but remained
“I'll take that pendant,” said Alita, “It would fit in my
collection. I have emeralds and rubies from all over the
world. I need something local to balance it out.”
“Do you want it or not?” Estrellita asked of Machita.
Machita was about to shake her head, but seeing the malice
in Alita's face, she nodded instead. “But...” The words
came out as a whisper. “But I don't want you to spend money
“It's not *my* money,” laughed Estrellita, motioning to an
old woman who had been tagging along after them. The duena
came over to the booth in a stately manner, taking the time
to stop and examine the blouse worn by Alita's young male
escort. The old woman's expression said that the escort's
attire had barely passed inspection.
“Yes, Hacendita?” she asked.
“I want to buy this bauble,” sniffed Estrellita.
“Certainly,” said the duena haughtily, “Is this little thing
*all* you want?”
“For now,” Estrellita drifted away to another booth, while
Alita watched darkly after, like thunder muttering on the
“You should not have done that,” said Machita, speaking more
“Why not? What made you ask to see a pendant?”
“I was curious. Something someone said about a pendant. It
doesn't matter, now.”
“You can tell me. I can keep a secret.”
“It is no secret, only... That sorcerer said something about
a pendant. It doesn't matter, 'cause he's dead now. The
cave-in killed him.”
“Hmmm. I don't even want to think about him!” said
Estrellita, “What did he want?”
“You don't want to know. He thought I had a particular
pendant, and he got real upset when he found I did not have
Alboro grunted up the steep path, finally cresting above the
highest boulder of the cluster on the cliff over the valley.
“Here you will sit,” he said.
“What am I supposed to do?” asked Ramón.
“The rock is hard. It is hot.”
The old man looked out into the clear air, at the blue haze
on the far side of the valley.
“Sit,” he said.
“I'm sitting,” said Ramón, “What now?”
There was silence. The old man's face was impassive, though
a tic had started in his left cheek. Finally, he
“Sit,” he said.
“What am I supposed to do?” Ramón repeated, then answered
his own question, “Sit. I know.”
Minutes passed in peaceful contemplation for the old man.
His jaw muscles had begun to soften when -
“I'm bored, Abuelo.”
Alboro said nothing as he climbed laboriously to his feet
and started down the trail.
“Wait for me!” cried Ramón. Alboro spun about and pointed
his walking stick at Ramón's face.
“Sit!” he said.
Grumbling, Ramón did so. “How long must I do this?” he
wondered aloud. To himself, for Alboro was no longer there.
He sat and watched the eagles lofting and soaring above the
far butte. This was better than being bored. After a while
he quit wondering what he was supposed to be doing and
merely let the day slip away, idly gazing at the valley
The dry summer had choked the river down to a trickle. He
thought he caught a flicker of movement. An antelope, or
deer, was venturing down to the water for a drink. Nearby,
another movement as something stalked the first animal.
Strain as he might, he could not tell what kind of creature
each was. There was a flurry of motion and both
Again, he watched the eagles, beginning to feel the heat of
the sun as it rose higher. He looked for his hat, and it
was not to be found. His canteen was missing also.
“How am I supposed to stay here if I don't have water or
shade?” he asked, “I'm tired of this! I am outta here!”
But something held him to his position. Despite his
nickname, 'Macho', or perhaps because of it, he had to prove
himself. Abuelo was scornful of his stamina. The old man
kept saying, “You could have been something useful... a
horse, at least. If you were a female horse, you could go
to a herd and draw the stallion out. But here you are,
useless. A woman.”
“I am *not* useless!” Ramón repeated to himself, “I can do
something simple like sitting still for an hour or two.”
The day wore on, and the heat grew until the sun was a white
hot anvil pressing him down. He could no longer watch the
eagles, the river was impossible to see. The heat pushed
him back until he crouched beneath his tented blouse and
waited in a stupor for Alboro to return and tell him he had
The ants at his feet attracted his attention and he watched
them as they marched in and out of his shadow. A horned
toad crept out, gazed up at him and winked, then scurried
away. There were sparse blades of grass beside the rock and
upon them climbed a locust, nibbling the tender leaves. At
last the sun had crept past its zenith.
“Why am I here?” Ramón asked himself. A distant eagle's cry
was his only answer. He looked at the eagle, and thought he
saw the eagle looking back. At the river below, the puma
which had ambushed the antelope looked up at him for a
moment and went back to its feast.
Ramón stumbled to his feet and staggered down the trail.
Somewhere below, in the shade of a juniper, sat the old man
with canteen and hat ready. “Did you finally decide to come
out of the sun?” asked Alboro, “It is about time. Only a
fool would stay out in the sun on a hot day like today.”
“Why did you do this to me?” asked Ramón, after he had
slaked his thirst and cooled his face with the water.
“You must be ready.”
“Oh, yeah? Ready for what? What is so important that I
have to have training?”
“The sorcerer will try again.”
“He can't. I saw him die in the cave-in.”
“Perhaps so, if you say it is true,” Alboro used a branch of
the juniper to pull himself to his feet, and started down
Ramón followed. “What happened to that Sergeant Espuma?” he
“His body was never found.”
“I don't like this. You never told me!”
“What was there to tell? The man fell off the puebla roof.
Down a cliff... boom! He's dead. Maybe someone carried him
“There was no one left,” Ramón puzzled about this for a
while as he picked his way down the trail. “Wait!” he
called, “Are you saying Kaliche is still alive?”
“Can't be,” Alboro called back, “You saw him die, remember?”
Ramón hurried to catch up with him. “Well, I didn't
actually *see* him get killed,” he admitted, “But he was
there, throwing lightning bolts or something, and suddenly
the roof fell in. It *must* have killed him.”
Still, Alboro said nothing as he picked his way down the
“If he is still alive, then that means...” Ramón shuddered
to a halt. “Dios mio,” he breathed, “The pendant! He will
be after the pendant!”
SUBSTITUTIONS IN A DREAM:
It was the same priest who had come to her village when
she was much younger, a man with his hair and eyebrows
plucked bald. Then, he had approached her mother and
given her the pendant, with a tale of the good fortune
it must bestow upon the wearer.
Now he came to her rooms as she was being prepared for
the ceremony, leaving another girl in her place, taking
her by the hand and leading her away. Through dark
corridors they went, occasionally coming into the weak
morning sunlight as their path took them between
buildings. Once, she could see the pyramid. It was a
clear morning, the sun was rising higher, and she could
see with perfect clarity the priest and his helpers as
they secured someone to the altar. There was the
ritual blandishing of the obsidian knife to the sun,
then the blade flashed. She thought she heard a
piggish grunt of pain, then the priest held aloft
something red and dripping...
Lucha sat upright in fear and loathing. Why was she
having these dreams? “They killed the other girl,” she
said to herself, “they took her instead of me... I
can't believe it! I was actually *jealous*!” Her head
spun, and she said, “Whose memories are these?”
CHAPTER QUINCE: END
Macho Caballo Chapter 15 12/27/97