Macho Caballo Page

Las Aventuras De Macho Caballo



To the southwest of the Apache camp the ground dropped off
gradually, forming a series of gullies, arroyos and washes.  This
natural maze forced anyone entering the camp into a path visible
from hills above the open, flat area where the camp lay.  From
one of these vantage points, two young warriors stood and

Tall Horse peered out across a vista of brown, gray, and sand,
laced with mesquite trees and the gray-green of the untouchable
cacti.  He saw with the eyes of the wilderness, brown on brown,
deeply penetrating, able to spot the smallest change or any
movement out of the ordinary in the land below, where the oaks
gave way to mesquite.

A visitor from the present would say he had the eyes of the
eagle, but though he raised his head in pride he would demur. "No
eagle.  Only an Apache," he would respond.

These eyes saw the flicker of blue cloth, moving past a gap in
the brush, moving toward the camp.  It was a tiny movement, miles
away, a fleck of blue and white behind a wall of mesquite and
catclaw, glimpsed quickly and then gone.   From another ridge a
mirror flashed as Eagle Claw signaled that he too, had spied the
intruder.  Tall Horse noted the position and calculated where he
would next see the rider appear.

The worldview of an Apache warrior was both simple and complex,
immense and tiny, as all encompassing as the sky and the earth
combined and aware of the smallest divergence.  It has been said,
perhaps by those over-awed by the deceptive ease with which the
Apache moved through even the most inhospitable reaches, "They
were not simply *of* the mountains and the desert.  They *were*
the mountains and the desert."

Since they had come to this land, they had taken pains to be
aware of everyone who came near, intruders, interlopers, and
trespassers all.

How a man came to be standing guard over the trails leading to
the Apache camp was of no consequence.  Some of the sentries were
learning the way of the warrior, from the secret language and
customs of the warpath to the drinking tube the novices were
required to carry with them always.

Some gravitated to the high reaches because they felt the need to
keep the camp secure; others might choose to be alone and had
found this the most convenient way to find some peace and quiet;
still others preferred to conduct their prayers on a high point
overlooking the trails.

Tall Horse was there on business, making his way from one sentry
post to another.  He had seen the wisp of trail-dust and the
flicker of blue cloth, but waited before he announced his
observation.  He had patience, more than some.

He glanced away from the panorama below, toward the object of
that patience.  The man standing beside him met that gaze, held
it, then faltered.

"All right, all right."  Hits Standing grumbled as he dug in a
small leather pouch, "Two copper coins, right?"

"Three," Tall Horse corrected him.

"Eagle Claw demanded a fresh portion of meat from the feast, so I
am going after it right now.  That's the last time I bet with

"You were too confident that the Mexican would win."

"He was doing all right until the excitement," Hits Standing
frowned as he handed over the coins.

Tall Horse smiled as he put away his now fatter pouch.  "He has
to stay around in order to win the fight," he said. "No one has
seen him since."

Then he added, "Someone is approaching."  Being an Apache, he did
not speak these last words aloud.  Instead, he announced his
discovery by raising his head a fraction of an inch and peering
intently in the direction of the wash through which the trail
led.  In response to Hits Standing's unspoken query, Tall Horse
moved his head enough to be seen, showing that he did not know
exactly how many were in the party, and he pointed with his chin
to indicate the location of his sighting.

"I still say the tall stranger could have taken Buffalo Wattle,"
Hits Standing complained as he watched vainly for a glimpse of
the approaching riders.  "He was winning."

Tall Horse waited while his friend scanned the trail.  Hits
Standing saw only dimly the far mountain crests, but close-up his
eyesight was sharp.  While he was not the best sentry, he was
deadly in a hand to hand brawl.  Tall Horse did not aid in the
search for movement on the trail.  To do so would only humiliate
the stout warrior.

"They both lost, actually," said Tall Horse.  "They were fighting
to impress Lucha, and she had already chosen the white-eye."

Hits Standing made a sour face, having spotted the riders on the
trail below.  "I once thought she had good sense," he said.

"Who knows what women think?"  Tall Horse shrugged, and said,
"Did you have a pony outside her doorway?"

"No."  Hits Standing shook his head and grinned ruefully, "I bet
on Buffalo Wattle...Lost that one, too."

"It is not finished, yet.  She is a woman.  She may yet change
her mind.  Let's go see who our visitors are."

Descending the rough hillside through a deep wash, they missed
the silent explosion of mirror-flashes as sentries announced
other intruders.

Hits Standing mused, "Still, I wonder where that tall guy went.  
Maybe we could get a rematch."


Wolfwalker stirred his feet...paws...about and let his mind go
blank.  There was a shallow depression to his left, no more than
a mudhole, but wet enough.  He had trouble with the notion of
'left' and 'right' as he kept his eyes closed tightly and worked
his paws deeper into the loose sand.  Beneath the hot sand lay
cool soil, conductor of the earth currents, bearing messages of
water not a hundred yards away.

Turning into a wolf had not affected his ability to find water.
If anything, getting down on all fours made the talent even more
reliable.  It was almost as if he could sense the land around
him, clear in all directions.  Or perhaps not so clear. Something
kept him from sensing straight ahead.  There was water ahead, but
it seemed to be moving....

Closing his eyes more tightly, he tried to visualize the water
and sensed only a vague blur.

When he opened his eyes he was nose-to-nose with a javelina.  

He bounded backward in terror at the apparition which loomed
before him - a boar javelina had crept within a few feet, close
enough to rush in and slash him to death had it been able.  The
javelina stared with gleaming reddened eyes, moving slowly,
favoring a left hind leg which bore caked blood from a jagged
tear in its side.

The wolf pup backed away from the boar, bristling and growling.
This warning growl came out on a shriller note than he had
intended, and the advancing javelina did not falter.  Wolfwalker
glanced quickly about himself to avoid being surrounded.  There
was another boar coming up behind him, and more javelinas moving
in from other directions.  He pelted through an opening in the
cordon, swung wide around the javelinas and headed toward the
water he had sensed.

Though he quickly left the javelinas behind, he knew better than
to believe that he had lost them entirely.  He approached the
sunken water-hole stealthily only to find it, too, was guarded by
javelinas.  He moved on, but slowly he realized that there were
too many javelinas circling.  His escape had been cut off. 


The fevered yelping of a distant pack of hounds burst loudly into
Red Cloud's ears, momentarily tearing her attention away from the
wolf cub being surrounded below her.  The dogs were coming this
direction, though they were still too far away to have caught her
scent.  She fought down the feeling that something else must be
driving them, an inner suspicion that the hateful creatures were
being urged in her direction.  With an effort, she controlled her
urge to flee and tried to think coherently.

She returned her attention to the scene below.  Javelinas had
ringed Wolfwalker, marching around him as if to pen him in,
leaving no opening large enough for him to slip through.  Red
Cloud noted the enclosing boulders and bushes for avenues of
escape and crouched, muscles bunching for a pounce.

Wolfwalker whined apprehensively, then fell silent.  Self pity
was going to do no good.  Realizing that he had been trying to
turn with the circling javelinas, he ceased his spinning and sat
still.  By turning his head slightly, he could watch in all
directions for a sudden attack.  

The gloom of dusk had settled in, leaving the javelinas in
silhouette as they marched past, red eyes gleaming.  Their tusks
reflected red from a lone cloud in the west, glowing from the
dying sun.

Suddenly, all the javelinas stopped and faced inward.  The
wounded boar, directly before Wolfwalker, dragged himself
forward.  Wolfwalker backed away from him until he could feel the
hot breath of the javelina behind him stirring his tail hairs,
then he darted toward the boar.

The old boar, weakened by his wound, did not swing around fast
enough and Wolfwalker sidestepped his snout to slash at the
wounded side.  Puppy teeth could not cut as deeply as the teeth
of an older wolf, but they drew fresh blood and made the boar
step away from Wolfwalker for a moment.

In that moment, Red Cloud entered the picture.  Two hundred
pounds of  jaguar crashed into the middle of the swarm of
javelinas, slashing and tearing at them and forcing them to flee.
With powerful forelimbs, she threw javelinas left and right until
there was a clear space around her and the wolfling.

She paused to give the wolf cub a chance to retreat to safety
through that open area, but Wolfwalker remained nose to nose with
the boar.  The stubborn javelina had turned his attention toward
Red Cloud, trying to march up to her blind side as she faced the
other way.  Instead of fleeing, Wolfwalker went after the old
boar again.

Red Cloud held the open area with disdain, flicking away the lone
javelinas bold enough to try an attack.  She ignored the old
boar, and Wolfwalker standing him off.  Somewhere within her, she
heard the voice of caution warning her to cut short her stand and
escape.  That wisdom struggled with the taste of blood in her
mouth, the feel of peccary flesh rending in her claws, and the
scent of fresh meat.  She was hungry, and here was food, food,
and more food.

Slashing and running, Wolfwalker pulled his adversary away from
Red Cloud.  He was wearing the boar down when the remaining
javelinas counterattacked with reinforcements.  Javelinas flowed
like muddy black water across the space around the cat and wolf.
They began to die as the jaguar screamed in defiance and met them
with claws slashing, and still they kept coming.


The wheel of time had rolled on, and the spokes of the Sun
gleaming through western clouds announced the gathering dusk.
Four men on horse: Trader Larribee, Will Larribee, Olaf
Gustavson, and the Alcalde Roberto Mansino gathered about Noah
Amberly. Their talk meandered from a discussion of hunting big
cats to the more practical problem of finding lost dogs.

Roberto Mansino liked cats.  There was always a feline moocher or
two prowling about the office the Alcalde maintained in Rio
Peligroso.  Mansino was handsome in a sleek, well-fed way, the
way a cat stuffed daily with mice, cheese and milk would seem

As Alcalde, or Mayor, he could indulge a couple of eccentricities
and his habit of collecting pets was one of them.  The other was
his penchant for hunting larger cats, a passion he shared with
his old friend, Trader Larribee.

The two men had practically built up Rio Peligroso from a vagrant
village, attracting venturesome Yanquis and cattlemen from Mexico
to invest their time and lives in the harsh weather and scant
vegetation of southern Arizona.  

Senor Mansino saw nothing wrong with feeding cats on one hand and
killing them on the other.  He always admired the spirit and fire
of the beautiful beasts as they fought for their lives, even as
Trader's dogs tore them apart.  They always put up a splendid
fight.  He watched closely as Noah examined the ground.

Trader's chief tracker, Noah Amberly, spat an amber stream into
the sand. "If you hearken real good you might hear them searching
fer something."  He added, "Their trail leads east.  We'd best be
careful of Injuns."

"The Injun camps are all farther north." Trader said, "Let Luke
and Molly loose.  They'll find their kin faster than we can track

"Hell, they ain't no kin to them curs you bought from Europe."
Amberly said, "I know what Russian Wolfhounds look like, and they
ain't them."

"I didn't say they was Rooshian Wolfhounds." Trader snapped, with
a sneer on his lips, "You never seen such a sissy bunch of
long-haired skinny mutts in your life.  What I bought was Polish
Wolfhounds, all the way from Liechtenstein."

Noah paused to tighten the cinch on his saddle.  "What you got,"
he muttered, "Is mixed blood curs.  Likely came from some
alley-way outside of Paris."

"They's tougher and meaner than any wolf, not to mention they
have shorter hair.  They can take the heat better than them
long-hair types."

"They're mean because someone wore a wolfpelt and beat them near
to death."  The tracker grumbled, "Makes them hate wolves worse
than anything."

"So maybe they'll find a wolf or two before we find them.  I'd
like that."

"Hell, I could find wolves, that's all you wanted."  Noah said,
"You sure put a lot of stock in them mutts."

"Aw, Noah!" Grinned Trader, enjoying his friend's complaints,
"You ain't gettin' jealous, are you?"

"Not by a peck 'er a bushel!  But you done let them hounds get
out of your sight.  They ain't coming back.  If they don't wind
up on some bear's dinner table, they'll find themselves a nice
cushy job working for some Navajo sheepherder."

"Only Navajo around here is the family over by the trading post."
Trader laughed, "And they eat beef regular."

"You know what I mean."  Noah said, "This land weren't meant fer
hounds.  As it is, if we find them we'll be picking cactus spines
out of their paws for a week."

Luke and Molly, the two dogs, milled about until one of them
caught the scent of their missing compatriots, then, as one, they
whined in eagerness and bounded off across country.

Tense with excitement, Trader turned in his saddle to address the
Swede, the Alcalde, and his son.  "Me and Noah are going to be
riding hard." he announced, "Best keep together.  Anyone has a
horse go lame or pick up a rock or something holler out.  Will,
you keep up as best you can."

"I'll be on your heels." Will said, "You slow down and you'll be
eating my dust!"

"Big talk for a Momma's boy." Trader snorted, "Where did you get
that pony, anyhow?  Your Momma give him to you?"

"I found him."  Will replied, only slightly subdued, "and it's
Finders Keepers."

"Landogoshen!"  Noah jumped in alarm as the roar of a jaguar
filled the land.  "Man alive!  That weren't no painter!"

"That's music to my ears!" Trader replied, "They did it!  Them
dogs done treed a cat!  Let's ride!"


As they rode into the Apache camp, Estrellita noticed that Sandy
was moving carefully and favoring his right side as if he were
sore.  She chided him for getting hurt while fighting Will.

"Guess he got in a lucky punch," Sandy admitted.  He did not tell
her about the big warrior who had buffeted him about the stable.

"Anyway, I am glad you changed your mind and let me come along."
Estrellita said, "It has been such a long time since I saw

Sandy's shoulders slumped as he lied, "Least I could do, seeing
as  how you didn't really want to stay in town." To himself he
added, "Now, if only we can survive this...."

The Apache guards seemed to materialize out of the air, appearing
so suddenly that Estrellita yanked on her reins and caused her
horse to rear in alarm.  She looked to Sandy for guidance, green
eyes wide with alarm, ready to bolt for the back-trail.

"Relax.  They are friendly." Sandy said as he slowly raised an
arm in greeting, "If they weren't we wouldn't be talking right

"I would hate to see them if they did not like us," whispered the

"You wouldn't," Sandy promised under his breath.  To the Apache
guards he said, "We are looking for a girl named Machita and a
cowboy named Lonesome."

The guard's face took on an expression of shock, incredulity, and
dismay...for an Apache, this meant that the corners of his mouth
drooped slightly.  "The Mexicans," he said very softly.

"I heard they might be in camp," Sandy added helpfully.

"What do you make of this?" Hits Standing asked of the second
guard.  The question was conveyed silently, with a turn of the
head, a point of the chin, and a miniscule lift of the right

The second guard, Tall Horse, lowered his club.  "I will take you
to them," he said aloud.

Hits Standing shrugged.  The stony expression on his face
softened fractionally into mere irritation.  "This place is
getting too crowded," he muttered.


Machita had decided that being alone in an Indian camp was not
being alone.  She was always under some sort of observation,
whether from curious children, the eternally busy women, or the
men who would raise a discreet eyebrow at her hair then seem to
ignore her.  Even so, she missed Red Cloud.  At least she had not
run afoul of Yucca.

She had waited the appropriate amount of time and had gathered a
container of cold water and a bundle of Red Cloud's clothing. She
was carrying them back to the sheltered rock when she felt a tap
on her head.  She looked about, but could see no one.

Suddenly, she was floating above the canyon, seeing with the
remarkable razor-sharp vision of the eagle.  Distracted by the
view, she stumbled and almost dropped the water-basket, the trail
and surrounding shrubbery obscured by the sight of distant peaks
and valleys.  Machita blinked and used her free hand to rub her
eyes, straining to see the ground nearby instead of the spreading
vista.  Gradually the eagle's sight faded, and she could walk

[What could have brought that on?] she wondered.


Machita rubbed the top of her head.  Again, there was no one

Wary of the blinding vision, she stopped and waited, but this
time it was not a lapse in eyesight which afflicted her. Instead,
the handle by which she grasped the water basket became rough and
coarse, until she had to change her grip to protect the palms of
her hands from splinters.  The fibers woven into the basket were
as bristly as thorns, and the pitch used to make it watertight
gave off such a strong odor that she wrinkled her nose in

[ unusual,] she thought.  She closed her eyes and
concentrated, remembering the way the basket had felt when she
had filled it a few minutes earlier.  As with the unwanted
eagle's sight, the prickly feeling of the yucca fibers faded into
normalcy and she could lift the basket to continue on her way.


"All right!  Who is doing that?" she demanded, but there was no
one.  The closest people she could see were in the main part of
the camp ahead.  [Who could have done that?] she wondered to
herself, [It felt like that old woman, but....]

The wind began to sing to her.

The soughing melody of the breeze whispered in her ear, with an
insect accompaniment playing from the bushes.  She twisted about
in amazement and the soft suppleness of her deerskin mantle
stroked her shoulders with such luxurious softness that she
froze, a look of concern upon her face.  Then her hair rippled
pleasantly with the tune of the breeze and she sat the basket on
the ground to touch her head.  The basket sagged against her leg
and she felt cold water trickling out onto her foot.

She lifted the basket and took a long swallow, letting the cold
liquid spill past her lips and down the front of her dress.  A
laugh bubbled out of her throat and she clamped a hand over her
mouth before it cascaded into a giggle.  She felt so good that
she dipped her hand into the water and tossed a handful high
above her head, laughing.  To think that she had ever worried
about cold water.  How silly!

However, the trickle of cold down her back was not falling water
spray.  She became aware that she was being watched.  She
straightened and looked about at surreptitious stares and
astonished faces.  There were boys who clearly did not want to
look away, although politeness demanded it.  There were older
women who seemed amused by her actions and younger women who,
just as clearly, were not pleased at all.

"Ai?" said Machita.

[I did it again!] she thought, [I did something to make those
guys stare!  What is the matter with me?]


"No you don't!" she cried, fighting the feeling of pleasant
warmth that threatened to overwhelm her, "You are not going to do
that again!  I do not *want* to feel good as a girl!"

There had to be only one explanation for her odd behavior.
Machita dropped Red Cloud's buckskin dress over a thorny branch
and left the water basket propped precariously upright on a
narrow shelf of rock.  Red Cloud could spill the water on her by
rubbing up against it.

"That crazy old woman!  She did this!  When I find her, I am
going" Machita fumed as she stomped along, the chore
of preparing for Red Cloud's return already forgotten.  "She
can't get away with putting a spell on me!"

Her rant was interrupted by a glad cry from the trail behind her.

"Sister of my beloved!  Wait for me!"

Machita sagged and slowed as Buffalo Wattle hurried up.

"Why me?" she moaned.

Buffalo Wattle had been thinking, and the expression on his face
indicated that the process had been deep and painful.  He fell in
step beside his second love to give her the benefit of his long
hours of deliberation.

"We must make plans." he said, "For, once I have wed your sister,
I will naturally have to marry you.  Because you are the younger
sister, your mother will not demand as many horses, but I wish to
offer an amount which will not offend you."

"I am not marrying you!" Machita spat, "And are you not
forgetting something?  My sister is engaged to the Yankee

"That is nonsense," said Buffalo Wattle.  "It goes against
tradition." He thought about it for a few steps, then added, "It
is unnatural.  It is a misunderstanding."

"You don't know the half of it!" growled Machita.

Over the burning of her anger, piercing even the grating
discomfort of her situation with Buffalo Wattle, she heard a
chilling sound.  From far away, distorted by wind and echo, she
heard the baying of dogs.  It was unlike the musical belling of
the hounds around Don Pedro's rancho.  This was a chorus of
snarls lifted in urgent, angry tones as the dogs followed the
scent of something they wanted badly.


The noise of the baying of dogs came again, closer and more
frantic as they voiced their eagerness.  They were still on the
trail of their prey, and Machita could tell by the pitch of their
cries that they were getting close.  Then, even nearer, another
sound split the air.  The shrill cry of wounded javalinas burst
upon her, over-shadowed by the ripping squall of a cornered
jaguar.  The noise sent shivers down her spine.

"Red Cloud!"  Machita's heart raced and her breath grew short
with fear.  Red Cloud was out there, in that direction.  Stepping
faster, Machita heading for the path to the far side of the hill.

She looked back to see Buffalo Wattle tagging along.  "Four
ponies and ten blankets would be too much, of course." he was
saying, "However, I have to maintain my status.  I cannot let it
be said that I thought so little of you...."

"Listen!  I do not have time for this!" Machita said, turning
back to Buffalo Wattle, "If you want to help, get me a weapon and
get out of my way!"

"Me?  I do not carry women's weapons!" Buffalo Wattle flexed his
sinews, "And you do not need them.  You have me to protect you.
Why would you want a weapon?"

"I do not want to be protected, you big oaf!" cried Machita, her
voice beginning to fade, "I need a spear...Or an ax...Or

She hurled herself into Lucha's wickiup, saying, "I need a
weapon, quickly!"

Lucha tossed her a spear and reached for her own bow.  "Where are
you going?" she asked.

"No time!"  Machita answered as she raced out of the doorway. She
stopped abruptly.  Others had noticed this sound as well, and all
around her Apache men were grabbing weapons, eager to investigate
the racket.  Buffalo Wattle remained, moving closer while warily
watching the trail.

Another fear threatened to choke her - Apache men and boys were
going to get to Red Cloud first.  They would not discriminate
between pigs, dogs, or jaguar.  All were considered fair game.
Meat for the table.  Mountain lion hide was prized for arrow
quivers - jaguar hide would do as well.

She turned quickly and dashed back into the wickiup, grabbing up
a Mexican canteen sloshing with water.  

"I have to get to her first!" she grunted, settling into a dead
run for the trail.  As she ran, she realized that she would be
too late.  The battle cry of the jaguar and the shriek of
javelinas were too far away.

[I must not panic,] thought Machita.  [I will not panic.]   Then
she saw men racing for the horse tethers to get their ponies.
They would ride their ponies and get to the battle before she
could even get out of camp.

[Okay,] she thought.  [Now I can panic!]

She could not keep up her desperate strides and slowed, cursing
the form which had stolen her male speed.  Her breath came in
deep gasps, and she could not have cried out even if her voice
had not faded.  

As her footsteps faltered she heard another sound, coming from
behind.  She chanced a quick glance.

Utter chaos greeted her eyes as cooking fires, food, baskets and
drying racks burst aside.  The alarming racket was accompanied by
the yells and screams of those unfortunate enough to be caught in
the path of a horse barreling pell-mell through the camp.  She
had time to wonder whose horse had gone crazy before she saw the
bay coloring and the white blaze.

She knew that horse --- Rayo!!!

Machita stopped, gasping for breath as she waited for Rayo to get
to her.  Her prayers were answered.  She could leap into the
saddle and race to help Red Cloud.  She could....

Rayo interrupted her plans as he galloped nearer, too close to
stop in time.  He thundered up to her, thrust all four feet out
before him, sat down and slid into her, knocking her sprawling to
the ground.

"Can't you do anything right?" cried Machita.  She scrambled to
her feet, gathering the canteen and spear.  Rayo, after swarming
upright, wanted to rub his head against her but she climbed
quickly into the saddle.  "We don't have time for hugs and
kisses!  Let's get going!" she commanded, grabbing the reins and
digging in with her heels.

Lucha was standing in her path.  There was no question in her
eyes about how her sister had obtained a horse, complete with
white-eye saddle.  She expected to ride with Machita.

"I do not have time for this!" Machita said, even as Rayo
ploughed to a stop, allowing Lucha to clamber onto the saddle
behind her.  Lucha had to throw her arms about Machita's neck
when Rayo exploded forward again.

Rayo quickly found the path, flying over the distance that had
seemed so overwhelming a moment before.  Machita bit her lip in
frustration at the loss of precious seconds, while muttering a
prayer of thanks to Mama's God and whatever spirits might be
around for the power of a good horse to make up for the lost

How had Rayo found her?  No time to wonder how he got there.  She
had a chance to get to Red Cloud.  If they could get there in
time, if the men were not already on their ponies and riding
ahead of them....

There were ponies running through the undergrowth, but they all
seemed to be alone, without riders, although there were men
trying to head them off and call them back.  One pony was
dragging a tether rope, as though he had yanked it, bush and all,
from the ground.  Had Rayo spooked them?

Machita smiled grimly.  "Good boy!" She said, "You are as crafty
as a Coyote, after all!  Let us get there, quickly!"

Off to the right came the blur of another rider, sitting with his
back straight as he slapped the ends of his reins across his
horse's rump to urge it on.  In the growing gloom, Machita could
not make out details, but the rider seemed oddly different from
an Apache horseman.  She intently urged Rayo onward, trying to
stay ahead, but the rider kept up with her.  She glanced toward
him and saw by the blond hair and blue shirt that it was Sandy.

The blond cowboy pulled closer and hollered, "Hey!  Where are you
going?  What's the hurry?"

Machita shook her head and clung to saddle horn and mane as Rayo
topped the hill and they plunged into a draw.  Explanations would
have to wait.  The sounds of pigs and jaguar fighting were
directly ahead.