Halfway through our delicious, but modest meal, the much-feared event happens. Horses approach our house in a rush of noise from men and animals. The dreaded moment arrives and catches us all clustered together in the dark corner of our small kitchen. Three unfinished meals cover our deserted table.
Several loud men on nondescript
sweaty, panting horses ride up with shouting and cussing. A brisk pounding at
the door sends us further in the corner. Before Papa can open the door, this
mob forces the door open. What a violent invasion of our home! Six gringos fill
our small, modest house of stone and adobe with their foreign language and
foreign smells. One of these invaders is the sheriff of Las Animas County.
Peering from behind Mama’s
protective full skirt, I see the sheriff, now our enemy, argue with Papa in
English. Papa pleads. I don’t understand the words, but I do understand the
tone of his voice and theirs. Grabbing the sheriff’s hand, he begs, pleads, and
cries! And then, they laugh, a communication that crosses all languages. Their
laughter overflows with power, ridicule and anger. And all this is aimed at my
Papa, my hero! That laughter bounces off of our adobe walls and crashes into my
The sheriff and one man get on each
side of Papa and push him outside towards the corrals. The others move back to
their horses, light cigarettes and stand talking. Mama and I move closer to the
closed door, listening and trying to understand what is happening. I don’t
understand their words but I know they feel they have won.
In a loud voice, Papa continues to
argue with the two men who take him to the corral where the horses are. I hear
English words that I do know: “The Rose horse ranch” where we bought
Smokey as a colt. From the conversation, I see in my mind the two gringos
surveying our two horses, especially Papa’s horse. Papa continues his litany of
innocence with his voice growing louder and shriller with each statement, but
they ignore him. Laughter is their only response.
I hear Papa beg about something. The
two ruffians bring him back to the house for our tearful good-bye. The last
thing I remember hearing is his screams as they drag him from our
house. “Mi hijita, mi esposa preciosa–esperame, esperame!” His
screams for us to wait for him echo through my mind. I must have fainted
because the next thing I remember is waking to Mama and our neighbor and
friend, Pablo, standing over me with worried looks on their faces.
“Where’s Papa? Where’s Papa? ¿Dónde está mi Papa?” I scream,
demanding to know and trying to shake the cobwebs of uncertainty from my mind.
Mama falls across me on my small
bed, crying and sobbing out of control, “Papa, se ha ido! Papa’s
gone! He’s gone. Se lo llevaron. They took him away.” The weight of her body
and sound of her wails almost suffocate me.
Pushing Mama aside, I scramble out
from underneath her, search our two-room home and explode. Uncontrollable anger
rages from deep within me and I attack and destroy anything I can get my hands
on. My doll crashes against the hard rock wall; my marbles fly out the door in
Mama tries to console me in the
midst of my savage tantrum, but I push her away. I shove open the front door
and collapse on the front step. I scream, I cry, and I wail! Finally, I take a breath
and open my eyes—Paco is staring at me a few feet away. He seems apprehensive
about coming any closer. My tantrum has lost its power, so my little friend
ventures near and I scoop him up in my skirt. I gingerly hold him in my hand
while my sobs are subsiding. He seems to know that I need him close to me. I
sit there with him consoling me.
I look around and see my marbles
strewn around our front door; I don’t pick them up, but go inside, leaving Paco
outside. Mama and Pablo stop their conversation, and I slide into my bed fully
dressed. Pablo touches my brow with gentle rough fingers and whispers,
“Adios. Hasta la mañana.” I appreciate
his good-bye and the hope of seeing him tomorrow. Mama walks to the door with
him and says her good-byes.
She returns to my bed and repeats
what Pablo did; she touches my brow with her long slender fingers and whispers,
“Buenas noches.” I sigh my response and turn to the wall, heart-broken because
the most valuable person in my life has been taken away.