Chapter 25

We get home and Herminio gets off his horse and opens the gate to the pen. Jose rides his horse behind the bull and guides it all the way into the pen. It heads straight for the shade of the barn, and Jose pulls way back on his reigns and makes his horse back up. These things have reverse? Herminio closes the gate.

Time to get down. Ugh! Getting off the horse is a lot harder when you do it on purpose, but it hurts less.

I follow Herminio as he walks his horse into the barn, using the reigns like a leash, and then he wraps them around a board.  Ok, just put the reigns around the post a couple of times? Really?  That’s all it’s going to take to keep this huge, strong animal here? Okay, pet the horse. Talk to it. Give it a hug. Is this guy the horse whisperer, or what?

“Okay, I’ll talk to it, and pet it, and I’ll even give it a hug, but that’s as far as it goes, after all, this is our first date.”  Herminio just looks at me. My jokes never work on Mexicans.

Okay, find the strap that goes around the belly. Here it is. Find that end and pull it through the ring. Again on this side. One more time. That’s it? “That’s all that was keeping me on top of this horse?” I ask.  “Why didn’t the saddle just slide around and have me hanging upside down between four hoofed legs as it ran around the countryside? What stopped it from doing that?”

He grins and nods. Note to self: stop smiling and nodding when I don’t know what someone is saying. It looks stupid.

Okay, pull the saddle down. Wow, it did not look this heavy. Herminio’s is probably lighter.  “Put it here? On the table?” He nods.

Pick the blanket up off the ground, okay, dust it off, put it on the table. Herminio comes over and gives me a brush and shows me how to brush the horse. “Why on earth do you need to comb a horse?  Have you seen how short their hair is?” If my hair were that short I would never have to comb it.

“Yes, yes,” he says.

“Okay.” Man, this thing—Claudia—smells worse than before. Do horses take baths?  Herminio takes the metal thing out of her mouth. The horse obviously knows the drill. She quickly walks over to a water trough and takes a drink. I’m thirsty too.


Okay, all done. Now we go to the house. Man, I’m having a hard time walking normally. I think I feel naked without my six-gun. Herminio and Jose smile at the way I walk. “Howdy pardners,” I say in my best John Wayne voice. “Why don’t you circle the wagons, while I go an’ head them off at the pass. Ba-ha-ha-ha.”

They just look at me funny. I guess they never heard of John Wayne.



Everyone in the house is busy preparing food, and Herminio is allowed to get some melon slices for us. According to my rear-end, we’ve been out all day and it should be dark soon, but the clock on the wall says we’ve been gone about three hours.

Jose grabs his bag and walks down the hall. I follow Herminio into his room and he lays out some clothes for me on his bed.  A pair of button-fly Levi’s, a long sleeve blue and white plaid button down shirt, some underwear and socks. I’ve never worn anybody else’s underwear before. I wonder if these, like the cowboy boots, used to be my dad’s.

Jose is taking the first shower. I hope I’m next. I probably smell like horse. Herminio and I go to the kitchen to grab another slice of melon, but grandma, without turning around, says, “Herminio, blah blah blah, negro?”

His eyes light up. We leave the fruit on the platter and he pulls me quickly into the living room.  “Que pasa?”  I ask.

Herminio looks towards the kitchen and sees that the coast is clear, then he cups his hand over my ear and says, “She has a spoon black.”


He grabs my arm and pulls me into his bedroom, looks back towards the kitchen, then cups his hands over my ears again, “One time I very mad. I go outside and say bad word, very soft. She hit me on head with spoon.” He bends and stretches his arm like she did it from around the corner or very far away. This must be some legendary black spoon.

“Herminio!” he shuts his eyes and his shoulders jerk up next to his ears.

That was so cool. I almost start laughing, but Jose comes into the room with wet hair and fresh new clothes on. He sees we’re having a private little chat and nods what’s up? Herminio just nods his head towards the kitchen, and Jose understands everything.

“Lavarse,” Herminio wraps my clothes up in a towel and nods out towards the hallway. I pick up my clothes and walk down the hallway where I saw Jose go a little while ago.

When I finish my shower, I pick up my dirty clothes and carry them back to the room. I wonder what a hamper looks like around here.

“Finish?” Herminio asks.

“Yeah.” I hand him the clothes and he puts them in a duffel bag kind-of-thing that hangs in the closet, and then he heads towards the bathroom with his clean clothes.

I see Jose is in the living room, so I guess we’re no longer under quarantine.  There’s a mirror on this side of the door, and I have to see what I look like, even though mirrors are my sworn enemy. The moment I see myself, I get the willies. I look a lot like that picture of my dad on the black horse.

These clothes fit looser, but they’re definitely comfortable. If only I had these on when I went horse-back riding. I would have looked a lot less foolish . . . okay, maybe a little less foolish. Good thing it was only Herminio and Jose out there with me. I would swear them to secrecy, but I don’t know how to say that in Spanish.



When Herminio is finished with his shower, aunt Adriana tells Jose and Herminio to go get some tables out of the barn. She quickly returns to the kitchen, leaving my little cousin Carlotta for me to look after. Apparently I’m not supposed to get dirty again. Why am I singled out? What are they planning?

Carlotta has a red overall-like dress on and a white puffy-sleeved shirt with little red, blue and yellow trains on it. Her usually bare feet are sporting black shoes with silver buckles and white socks. She takes awkward, labored steps, and I can’t tell if it’s because her shoes are uncomfortable, or if she’s just being a drama queen.

I look out the window and see several carloads of people pull up to a tree next to the house.  I like my family so far, but I can’t help but wonder how I’m going to feel about them after this is over. Loud Mexican music, ay-yay-yay’s, coyote and stuck-pig calls . . .  This party could actually shorten our honeymoon.

I step outside, and the brightness of the sun forces me to look down and shield my eyes with my hand. Jose and Herminio are setting up a table in the shade of a tall tree in between the house and the corral, and there are a few benches and chairs scattered around, working their way past the corral towards the barn. That’s probably where the band will set up. There is always a band at these things isn’t there? Great. Live accordions. I can’t wait.

The people who arrived are gathering around the table, and Aunt Adriana brings out a large punchbowl from the house. Aunt Josie is right behind her with some plastic cups. One of the men who just arrived takes a large bag of ice out of the trunk of his car and plops it down on the table. Herminio and Jose bring another long wooden table from the barn and put it next to the first one, and then Herminio introduces me to the early arrivals. Soon everyone heads back into the house to get more stuff.

I go into the kitchen to ask how I can help, but I’m beaten back by a parade of food and chips and fruit and paper plates. Everyone puts their things on the table and then returns to the house for more, except Aunt Adriana. She stays to organize everything. Adriana is definitely second in command. It looks like Grandma is orchestrating the delivery, she is in charge of the presentation. They probably do this often. In no time at all the tables are overflowing with all kinds of colorful food: two large red-brown bowls of sliced melons, apples and strawberries; A white china bowl with green and yellow flowers painted on it, overflowing with lumpy green guacamole. I love guacamole. And right next to it sits a wicker basket filled with what looks like home made tortilla chips of tan and blue and red. Next to those are a couple of rough grey stone mortars. One is filled with a red salsa and in the other a green salsa, and large grey pestles rest inside each of them, showing proof that the salsa is handmade and very fresh. I’m so hungry after that long ride, even Mexican food sounds good right now.

Two more cars pull up and everyone is shouts and hugs. Josie comes over and takes my hand. I hate meeting new people; I feel so awkward. Oh well, I might as well get this over with.

“Hi, how are you?” . . . Sorry, I don’t speak much Spanish.”  I know a little, but I hope they don’t . . . “Hola, como estas? Mucho gusto to you too. Hi, yep, I am Francisco. Mucho gusto, Primo.”  God! Did I just say primo?

After I’m introduced to everyone, Josie grabs my hand again and leads me to the punch bowl. “Here Pancho, try this. It is very good.” She shoves a red plastic cup in front of me, filled with a dark red punch.

“Thanks Josie-Aunt-Tia Josie.” I’m never going to make it through this.

There is fruit and ice floating in the cup. Mmmm fruity. This is good. Aunt Josie smiles. She is studying me. “Very good.”  I smile again and take another sip just for her.

“Sangria,” she says.

“Oh, Sangria. I’ve heard of this” I guess when you’re done drinking you can eat the fruit. Kind of like a meal and beverage all in one. Is there alcohol in this? My stomach is so empty I feel each sip go all the way down, coating my throat and stomach in a warm glow, even though there’s ice in it.

That was good. I probably shouldn’t have chugged it like that. “I’m really thirsty.” I wipe my head to make the point in case their English is as bad as my Spanish.

Suddenly, I’m struck by a terrible thought: I wonder if they heard Uncle Carlos found me in a jail because I got drunk and. . . Oh, God! I haven’t even heard the story of what I did last night. I gotta remember to ask him about that.

People pile out of more cars and Aunt Josie wastes no time in introducing me to all the new arrivals. Every one of them is related to me in some way. I look into their faces. All smiles and Mucho Gustos. They don’t look like family. They just look like Mexicans.

A bunch of horns honking and more people coming. Old cars pull into the driveway and scatter themselves around the front of the house. If I thought the last half hour was tough, this next hour is going to suck. Josie grabs my hand. Here we go. . .

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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