16. Four Ride Away
THE PRIM LITTLE French clock held captive in the wild forest of my shelves has just chimed the hour of two a.m. and all Poso Nuevo creatures are sound asleep except me. I drank coffee at midnight before we left the dance at Sahuarita.
Mary and Edward stopped in town with relatives. I might have stayed with my friend Lolita and been half way home on my weekend trip if I had not had to drive back here with Socorro and Ramón. They have slipped in to crowd their bedfellows and are surely asleep already. When we saw the light as we drove up I wondered if My-Mother had waited up for us. Then I remembered the night lamp that burns before her shrine.
The forty miles of it we tore through after midnight—and the six or seven hundred sections of surrounding land so open to view by day that we feel their vastness even on nights too dark to see—form great areas of scenery apparently suspended in shadowy mystery. In our wide sparsely settled corner of earth, harboring no factories, mines, or crowded thoroughfares, there is little activity visible at any time; but by day our brilliant sun and restless winds give the illusion of vigor and liveliness. When the sun is gone and the wind swishes softly, the quietness that haunts lonely places is depressive. The stillness, not so much of degree as of quantity, has a saddening effect however grand and peaceful it seems.
Yet I laugh if someone asks if I get lonely. I don't have time for rest, to say nothing of the additional contacts and activities of the non-lonely. Perhaps, however, there is deep down inside a suppressed emotion or yearning that accounts for the endless chain of multiple-action I indulge in. Is it a fellow feeling for these underprivileged children that prompts me to take the trouble and expense of escorting the four graduating pupils with me here and there over the country to give them social experiences no one can have in these remote environments?
This much I know—I can't educate kids by keeping them shut up in a tidy supervised room reading about the annexation of Texas and the ancient Chinese methods of agriculture. To live with them in something like pleasant progression I must go out with them, share dangers and good times with them, give them contacts that will wake them up to their possibilities. If pupils are bored they will be sullen, impudent. Monotonous routine does not arouse the spirit. If school is quartered into fifteen minutes of arithmetic, fifteen minutes of history, fifteen minutes of spelling—and grammar, reading, and penmanship, on and on (Go day; Come day; Lord send Sunday) the reaction at each dismissal time is: I'm glad I got out of that!
Human needs surely must interrupt systematic schedules. Yet such interruptions take their toll. Instead of this late hour and hundred fifty mile drive at night, I might have shooed the kids off at four o'clock and tackled the disorder of my room. This is Little Cowpuncher week, so it hasn't received the usual lick and promise. I can only hope that whoever enters here will realize that this is the den of a busy woman. It is my workshop, furnished with odds and ends of somebody's discards. Generally I can find my way around, and I'm happy because the mice can't get in, my feet can be kept warm, and the bed is a comfortable place to read. Too bad about the cleaning. But the loss of sleep is serious.
Instead of chaperoning the young to a neighborhood dance I should have been resting against the ordeal of Saturday-in-town. Of all the disagreeable, disintegrating, soul-destroying tasks, the worst is doing Saturday errands
There are, of course, other errands and appointments besides shopping. During this long ordeal I stamp about on unyielding stone and pavement, punishing my feet (too often) with wooden heels, with no chance to relax and freshen up, so that I am always in distress over my appearance. It is impossible to look nice when you've dressed before daylight, humped for two hours over the steering wheel on a cold morning drive, and go tearing around all day with no opportunity to do more than dab on powder and lipstick. As I rush down Congress Street, arms bulging with clumsy ill-wrapped packages from the five-and-ten, my hair wandering from under my seldom-cleaned hat, I meet city friends—smart, collected, groomed for inspection—never frowsled by haste.
It is seldom possible to get away from the city before dark. Even then I often have to stop at the feed store on Oracle Road for a few sacks of grain and chicken scratch. Sometimes I tie two bales of hay on the rear bumper to take to Buddy, my cherished horse who, alas, now knows other riders better than he does me. Then, car
“I can't educate kids by keeping them shut up in a tidy, supervised room..tilted nose-up from the load, the fumes of kerosene or lamp gas polluting the air inside, I take off on the rough fifty miles to Pepper Sauce Canyon. When I eventually get up the sand wash, there is still unloading to do or supervise. Cowboys sleep when cattle sleep. As a rule they think very little of shopping and doing errands. They just won't do it. It's being cruel to ask one, however intimately related, to crawl out of his soogans at ten or eleven o'clock at night, if the weather forces him to pull on his boots, to make a dozen trips carting in the debris a woman loads up with.
I must go out with them … give them contacts.…”luggage. A poor imitation of a cowboy, I can't flop at the drop of a hat. I have to dig out the laundry, my toothbrush, skin lotions, hairbrush, and slippers before I hit the hay.
And with all that looming over the eastern horizon, I take the eighth grade to a dance at Sahuarita—far over the Sierrita Mountains. Well, the dance happened to be on Friday. Helen had invited my graduates, and I felt they should keep in touch with her. Besides, she and Rex came to our Halloween festival and are coming to our dance drama two weeks from now. We reciprocate!
Tonight I was proud of my four. They behaved well and looked nice. As we left town at eight-thirty for the twenty miles southward to Sahuarita. I gave them some gum and told them to chew their heads off until we arrived and not to touch any more until we started home. In this respect alone they were outstanding among the hordes of jaw whackers.
Socorro wore a white sport skirt, yellow sweater, and neat flat-heeled white sandals. Mary wore her little linen suit with the pink blouse. Edward, who loves to be formal, wore light trousers and his dark blue coat. Ramón doesn't have a coat, but his clothes were clean and his beautiful hair neatly arranged. Both boys looked alert with none of that deadpan rural stare.
Our boys were cramped at first because we had not brought any money. I had two dollars but I needed it to buy gasoline. Used to the Mexican way of entertaining, I had forgotten that at bailes americanos where there is expensive music and many different cliques who stay in their own select groups, the male dancers buy bits of ribbon to pin on their jackets or ties to show they are eligible to use the dance floor. Last December Mary wrote an item for Little Cowpuncher on this topic:
There is a difference in Mexican and American parties. When the Mexicans make parties they are always the ones to pay for all the expenses to entertain their guests. All can go and enjoy the fiesta as the one giving the party pays for the orchestra, the dinner or supper of Mexican food, and whatever there is to drink. The hosts pay these things.
And Americans when they are going to make a party and invite people, they ask them to pay a dollar each for the music and then to buy the pies and coffee or whatever is to eat and drink. So the Americans have the least expensive parties. But my choice would be the Mexican host. —M. H.’’
Last night at the Hernández Ranch far up in the Sierritas we had a velorio which means praying to a great saint. Those are promises which we make to our own saints. We Mexicans do. It is a night when nobody sleeps and it is the same as a party.
We had enchiladas and vinos for all night we prayed to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and from twelve o'clock until two-thirty we danced. And now the next morning we are all sleepy working on our favorite project our own Little Cowpuncher. —S. A.’’
Helen did not notice our embarrassment. She had her hands full being chairman of a dance committee at a party numbering over a hundred people of almost every social status. And at last Pascual, and Henry, his son-in-law, arrived with their group and cheerfully bought ribbons for my two young cowpunchers who forthwith stepped out to help make the dance a success. Edward dutifully danced with his hostesses, Helen and Mrs. E. Ramóon, noticing the segregation practiced in this community, held back. Both asked me to dance, but I saved my strength to dance with Frances.
She took her mother's arm and pulled her over to me. There stared at me over Quica's bright head a thick pudgy woman with a dark expressionless face. Nothing at all of Frances in her. Her small eyes were blank—neither hostile nor friendly. Her thick black hair hung long on her heavy shoulers. Her purplish lips opened wide as she chewed her gum. I spoke to her in Spanish.
Frances wanted to dance. It was the first chance she had found since she left us. My big kids were dancing with the Sahuarita young people of their own age. So Frances danced with me, who had taught her to dance. She glided, floated, and improvised in ecstasy. I held her lightly, firmly, letting her show off before her mother and her new school admirers.
Plainly she was enjoying the limelight, and the grand, new sweep of popularity that had engulfed her in this larger community. It was this taint of vanity that had caused Charli to hesitate about trying to get the law to give her back to us. When she had been gone three weeks he went over and asked her point-blank whom she wanted to live with. Her answer was ambiguous.
When Pascual came bringing Marcela, I was happy watching my two little second-grade girls dance together. They were on the floor all the time, head to head, little feet flying, graceful and lively as humming birds. They danced so well they were not in anybody's way on the crowded dance floor.
It is surprising that Inez, the latest comer, excels. It has been tough work for her. One handicap has been that nobody wants to help her but me. I give her regular class drill on Wednesday mornings for half an hour, but that isn't enough. The good dancers, of whatever size, are those who practice and practice, with or without supervision, not only at class time but at recess, noon hour, and at home. Inez doesn't have a chance at this help. The Aros boys won't voluntarily dance with her, afraid of being teased by their fellows. Edward will dance with her if she specifically asks him—but he is very popular. One morning during practice Pancho was detailed to schottische with her. She missed some steps. He was furious—not so much at her as at the smirks on the faces of his brothers. He left her and stalked off the floor muttering. I know she will learn to dance because her spirit is
We have been weeks generating skill and enthusiasm for this show. We want it to be something to remember; something fitting to crown the school work of these four young people who have now finished the eighth grade. We have attempted to put this thought into this issue of Little Cowpuncher, their special number.‘‘ ADDRESS TO OUR GRADUATES TO BE GIVEN BY MRS. SMITH
Four of the pupils of “Little Cowpuncher School” are going to finish from the eighth grade on the 8th of May. Mrs. Constance F. Smith, our school superintendent from Tucson, Pima County, will give an address which means a talk. It is a great honor to our little school and we appreciate it very much. —Ramón Aros’’ ‘‘ EIGHTH GRADE TEST RESULTS
The other day Mrs. Bourne brought the news that we—all the eighth graders—had passed the Standard Achievement Tests given by the county office. The tests were a long time being corrected. But I am especially glad that I passed. I was doing the seventh and eighth grade work together. It was understood that if I could pass the eighth grade tests I could graduate this year because we already passed the Constitution tests. The average I made in all the subjects taken together was eighth grade, sixth month, which is probably the national average as we took the tests in the sixth month of the school year. I am glad I passed with Mary, Socorro, and Ramón. —Edward Hernández’’ ‘‘ LONG TIME AGO
They have been passing quietly through Arizona because they were afraid of an Indian attack. But at last they think they are safe for they have met an Indian who seems friendly and tells them there is no danger from his people.
But he is deceiving them. That night when they are happy practicing their songs and dances that they are going to give on the theaters of California where they are going, the Indian gives a sign and a tribe attacks them. Before they are driven away they steal one of the loveliest maidens (who is afterwards the May Queen in the Third Act).
In the Indian camp Mari-Rose manages to win the favor of the old Chief who is sick with melancholy and his people cannot cheer him with anything. But Mari-Rose is a dancer and she teaches some folk dances to the little children captives and the old Chief is so pleased he allows her the favor to be sent back to her people. They are happy to have her back with them and so pleased with the spring in California when they arrive that they celebrate a great May festival which ends by the winding of a big Maypole.
Some of the characters which we thought up names for are Chief
Horseface, Big Deer, Juan John, Chicken Hawk; and Sammy, Pa Hugh, Dixie, and so
on. We want to have pretty costumes and to know our dances like professionals
so that it will be the best program we have given in this school. It will be
outside. We are going to build a stage of green boughs, and have lights from
cars. We want everybody who can to come, and we will entertain all the best we
can and hope to let them see something they will always want to remember of our
little Baboquívari School.
For the next two weeks we'll use practically all the school day, including play periods, for dancing and rehearsing. We have worked in the words to be memorized during language and reading periods. Now we must draw the whole dance together into a unit. Only practice can do that. There is a terrific strain on the director in a program like this where the performers' bread and future
Ramón can't have Ysidra in his class. They are both straight Aros explosives. Pancho, too. He was at the board with her to show her some arithmetic fundamentals. All at once he bellowed loudly and she bellowed right back. “Mrs. Bourne!” he shouted. “She is telling me bad words!”
One day Edward went to the board with her and Víctor to show them long division. He labored, getting louder and louder. At last he startled the whole room by crying out in despair: “My God you're dumb!”
But if a child can't make a grade in one year, he can do it in two, or perhaps three. Time is not at a premium to sun-loving rancheritos. Suppose they wore themselves and their teacher out and finished the eighth grade at the age of fourteen. Then what? They're too young to enter the field of labor. Few can go to secondary schools. Mary and Edward hope to go through high school. Their economic security may not endure for the four-year stretch, but at least they'll start next fall. And the fact that they'll enter ninth grade in a city junior high school in September has been a whip over us.
Sometimes when country pupils go to city classes they are put back—and not always just one grade. On the other hand many country teachers seem to regard it as an act of cruelty to retain a child, especially if he is physically out of proportion to his mental growth. This may be the fault of parents whose pride is jeopardized. In a one-room school, if a child is not passed he has been insulted and his family held up to shame. It took nerve last year to retain nine of the twenty-six pupils here, but this year we all enjoy the benefits.
It was our plan for each to write a little autobiography for this, their special Little Cowpuncher. But there were slips. Ramón thought he had lived so long that a story short enough to go into our paper would not do justice to his whole life. Mary worked several days on her story at home and at school. It must have had two thousand words. But I'm afraid it was destroyed. I know she showed it to me; but in the rush we're in, neither of us can remember whether she left it on my desk or took it back to hers. And when you've written your story, you're through with it. Only a Lawrence of Arabia would have the superhuman energy to write his own life twice.
I am a girl who still has a mother and a step-father. When I was about two years old my father died. I have step-brothers on account of my step-father who had a family when he married my mother. She has two of her own, my brother Franqui and I. My father and mother have seven of their own now, so that makes sixteen children that are living. And I am one of them.
I am able to do all the things my grown people command me to do. Sometimes I get a little stubborn with my mother when I don't like to wash dishes or do several things. What I like when I get out of school is to read and eat something while I am reading. I like to go walking in good weather. I like dances, shows, and I like to be dressed in good clothes. In school I am poor in my subjects. Sometimes I do well, but sometimes I am ashamed of the low grades I get. The subjects I like best are physiology, spelling, English literature, and geography.
I live a happy life with my mother and step-father. One thing I don't like is that we are so many and we all have to have the same. Some times I think I wish I were the only daughter of my mother. And I wish she didn't have so many babies. That's my true thought. I hate to take care of babies. I wish I could go places and wouldn't have to worry about small children all the time.
As I start to tell my life I will say that my name is Edward Delahánte Hernández. I am sixteen years old, five feet five inches tall, and weigh one hundred twenty pounds. I am both in the seventh and eighth grades and the teacher knows why.
In school the lessons I like best are arithmetic, art, geography, literature and history. Art is where I am strong. If it was for me to decide I would draw all day long from sun up to sun down. But of course I convince myself that just drawing won't get me anywhere.
I am a book lover. I would like to have a library of my own and so let my friends read my books. I hope that some day I will see my book shelves full of interesting books to read and study while in spare time. The books I like best are of things that will help me in my knowledge, such as nature books, adventure books, lives of great men, and books of the Wild West of both animals and men.
I have four hobbies besides art and books. I can drive a car. I have been doing it since I was eight years old. I can play the piano (by ear). I know how to handle a gun. And I know how to ride a horse.
As I was telling you, I love to know about nature. I like to plant trees, and gardens of flowers and vegetables and watch them grow. I like to have a little pond with fish in it, and many dogs and cats.
If I'm of any value to the world that I cannot say. Only people who read my life can judge. My parents say that they will depend on me to take care of them when thew grow weaker and I am stronger. That is natural. That is why they brought us to this world.
After Ramón Aros graduated from the eighth grade in the Baboquívari School, he went out of his family's crowded room to look for a job. When he was out trying to get a job he remembered all of his playmates and teacher and felt very sad, but that was all the chance he had to be with them.
From there on he has had very good times because he has worked and earned money enough to spend. But he will never have money enough to go all around the world because he is in a big, big family and his parents need his help. All Ramón could do was to work as hard as he could all of his life. —R. A.’’ ‘‘ WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY
Mary felt glad to have finished her school ready to go on to high school, but there was a lump in her throat when she left her old school and dear teacher. She had a summer vacation in Los Angeles to enjoy herself and have good times before she was ready to start to school again in a Tucson Junior High School.
During this time her father made a success with in their homestead. He had lots of cattle and a beautiful home. Mary spent all her part of the big hacienda, but she went to the University and to the Teachers' College in Flagstaff. She got her teaching diploma in dancing and art.
After that summer she got a job in Boston and made good money. When she had enough she went around the world and met lots of interesting people. When she was in Paris she met a very handsome Englishman who wanted to marry her. He had lots of money, but she was not ready to marry anybody yet. While she was still in Paris she received a telegram from a director in Hollywood who wanted her to take the leading part in a musical hit picture. And she accepted.
Her name came out in the papers nearly every day, and all the people wanted to see her in person. Afterwards the papers announced that she had married her leading man. She lived in Hollywood in a fine house with twenty servants, among them a chauffeur and a hairdresser. Now she has gone to New York to sing and dance in the Metropolitan. —M. H.’’ ‘‘ A FORWARD GLANCE
Edward graduated in May, saying farewell with a heavy heart to his teacher, school, and schoolmates. When he left the eighth grade he determined to get a job for three months of vacation. So he got one with a store. With this money he bought everything he needed to start the ninth grade in the fall.
There in town he suffered very much with the teachers and the pupils. One bad look from the teacher and he used to remember the kind looks of dear E. B. Every festival day that came he used to remember the lovely parties and dance dramas she used to give. Sometimes in his dreams thinking of his chums and teacher having fun, he wished he had never graduated. Once he dreamed that he had E. B. in every grade he passed until he finished high school.
Soon he graduated from high school, getting his diploma from the Art
Department, and was able to get a swell job. He bought a new car and had money
enough to give to his teacher and former schoolmates at the ranch. So he lived
happily ever afterwards.
After Socorro graduated in May she kept on going to school. She went to
high school, through the University, and through college, and now she is
teaching in New York. It is her first year of being a teacher and she is having
a grand time having parties similar to the shows E. B., her darling and lovable
teacher, had. She is also making her pupils write stories for a
Little Cowpuncher. She is getting $2000 every month
and she is sending her mother and father half of it. For her own advantage she
is putting $50 in the bank, and of the rest she buys groceries and nice
clothing and other expenses. She has her own home. On Saturdays she goes to
dances, to picture shows, to picnics with her friends. On Sundays she teaches
dancing to American girls. She has become very good at drawing, and still
remembers the art lessons William E. Ronstadt used to give her when she was
just a kid at Baboquívari School.
While Socorro was composing her “day dream,” I was seated on a desk top facing the blackboard in the northwest corner of the room giving dictation to the second and third grades. Glancing over my shoulder, unknown to her I caught the expression on her face—and found myself staring and smiling. She was sitting so still she scarcely seemed to breathe. Her left hand half-covered her paper from the intrusive eyes of her neighbors; her right hand held the pencil above the last
I used to see that look on the concentrated faces of my kids at Redington—Clara, Alicia, Carlota, Gareth, Ardell, Fidel; and Cayetano that time he wrote his own history, closing with the line: “I hope I have a good time before I die.”