Because Papa and his family could not speak English, he was doomed. Hatred and prejudice could have destroyed his future and Maria’s. Is that still true today? Read what happened to Papa that broke Maria’s and her Momma’s hearts.
Papa and I finish our daily chores and head for the house, hungry and ready to eat. Papa spots a five-point buck and three does. Their movement is slow and graceful. They are in no hurry to travel to the water hole east of our house. He signals me to be quiet and grabs my hand. We ease down the ridge to watch these free, beautiful animals water and graze in the cool of the evening. Their silhouettes stand out as the last rays of sunshine etch their forms against the ground.
Papa squats down on a sandstone rock ledge that overlooks the watering hole, and his rough hands encircle me as I squat in front of him. I can feel his heavy breathing on the back of my neck and smell the familiar aroma of his sweaty clothes mixed with horse and leather. I so enjoy these special times together.
He surprises me with a tight squeeze, stands up and walks towards the house in front of me. He drags his feet and the dust stirs up in small clouds. I see the nape of his neck, tanned by long hours in the sun. Tonight, it is tense and tight with the load of his world.
We sit down to supper with an unusual silence hanging over our table. We try small talk about Papa’s trip to Trinidad and what happened here in his absence. Each of us jumps at any strange sound outside during the meal, fearing the unknown. Mama lights the kerosene lantern, placing it in the middle of the table to illumine our dark kitchen. The anxious mood lingers in the dim amber light.
Usually the yellow light from the kerosene lamp comforts me in our long evenings inside our house. The shadows dancing on the walls have become good friends and playmates, but tonight it is so different. The dark, forbidding forms on the walls add to the suspense, feeling evil and scary.
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 head.
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 all directions.
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.
Maria changes through this heartless event. I won’t give away the ending, so go to Amazon and buy a copy:
Here’s a trailer for this heart-wrenching story:
Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com
BACK TO SCHOOL SAVINGS UNTIL AUGUST 16, 2019: 50%off of ALL MY DIGITAL BOOKS at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.
Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42s