3. Pancho Behaved


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"Pancho celebrating Christmas with a burro" By Edward H.

PANCHO WAVED TO ME just now as he dashed past my window on Ramón's little speckled mare. So there are no hard feelings over the fight we had in school today. No blows were given (his weight is 117 and mine 107) but we were both angry. The outcome was that I sent him home—two doors down the line. He pretended not to care. But he missed hearing The Call Of The Wild read during literature period, and I imagine My-Mother found plenty for him to do.

The extent of her cooperation in my disciplinary measures makes me feel guilty. I think of the time I failed her last year when she called for help. She appeared at my window, peering in one morning when I was dressing. Annoyed, I kept her waiting while I stepped behind the oilcloth drape to finish putting on my clothes.


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“I don't want you to give Pancho recess today,” she said in Spanish. “Or noon hour. Because,” she explained when I stared at her coldly, “he refuses to milk the cows this morning. You know that Ramón and he milk the cows every morning. But Ramón is sick today and Pancho does not want to milk them.”

I didn't give her the sympathetic cooperation she wanted; I thought she was unjust to Pancho. Some of the others should have been made to help him. Besides, I resented her shifting her home problems to my already overloaded shoulder.

I kept Pancho at recess and asked him, in what I hope was a friendly manner, to tell me why his mother had made such a strange request. He was so mad that he sobbed and sputtered as he answered. He said she always made him work like a horse and never made Frank and Arturo do anything. It was impossible not to pity him, and not to be a little scared at the furious resentment he displayed. I praised him for being a good worker and gave him a screwdriver and ten cents and told him to take some of the desks off the old runners. The desks, outmoded, uncomfortable, too big for most of my pupils, were hard to move out of the way when we wanted to practice dancing or rehearse our plays or give a program. The larger ones sat directly on the floor. Most of the others were perched on long thin boards, hard to sweep around and easy to stumble over.

Pancho's black eyes flashed at me when I gave him the dime and he mumbled thanks (so seldom do these children have any pocket money!). And he got down on the floor and went to work, dragging his long legs around the desks and sniffling with hurt pride. I went out to the


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ball game. At noon I kept him, as his mother had asked. But I also kept all the other Aros boys and gave them a talking-to about justice and fair play among members of the family. Ramón was detained only as a witness. I publicly gave him credit for taking his share of the work. Frank hung his head and pretended to be interested in a book on his desk. Tears filled Arturo's lovely brown eyes as he stared at me appealingly. Víctor cried: “Aren't we going to eat?” My-Mother did not call on me again.

My battle with Pancho this morning was over his conduct on the playground when we went to practice baseball. He was mad because he was not chosen on Ramón's side. In spite of my entreaties and the good nature of the other boys, he never wants to play unless he can win. It was foolish of me to try to force him to be a good sport. Since there were no spectators and we have been together in this school so long that we are como una familia, he talked back to me.

Often I have wondered about the tendency of my school children, taken in groups, to know when to be loyal and respectful. I am only la maestra, their servant, in a way, and they are not really afraid of me. But they will not be disloyal publicly. I remember the lively little ones—Mexicans all, six and seven years old who spoke no English—that I had in groups of thirty-five, forty, or more than forty, each semester when I taught in the city. We would be very busy (teaching is a noisy business) and probably using some Spanish words (taboo in tax-supported schools), when a quick eye near the window would spy the superintendent coming across to our building.

¡Viene el panzón!” (Here comes Fatty!) the lookout


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would cry, and the roomful of chatterers would scurry to their seats frozen into decorum like baby quails. I don't know why—I've always wondered about it—but the identical warning developed spontaneously in group after group. We showed a united front.

Now, far from any higher authority, teacher and pupils together have developed into a social unit. In private we sometimes have noisy altercations. The children, as a rule, let me know what they think and feel, taking a defensive stand about their impulses as grown-ups do. But let outsiders come in, and the kids' loyalty is so firm that the county superintendent thinks I never have any discipline problems.

Pupil loyalty is gratifying, but a lone teacher cannot always count on it. Therefore I shall always be grateful to Pancho for behaving, that black afternoon in October when Three Points School came and not only gave us a walloping defeat at baseball, but bragged rudely and jeered at us on our own ground. I overlook much in Pancho when I think of how narrowly we missed having a disgraceful riot that day. He pitched for us. On two occasions when the razzing got rough I saw him tempted to sock an enemy with the ball. It is surprising that he did not yelp out coarse answers to the bad words hurled at him. His self-control was a special victory because it happened before our school had any real interest in baseball.

There are good reasons why baseball ranks high in country schools so limited in enrollment that few of the pupils are of the same size. First, it is inexpensive. If necessary the players can make their own diamond,


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gloves, bats, and balls (many a game I have taken part in using balls made from ravelled stockings!). Another thing: it is just hard enough and easy enough to appeal to moderately active boys and very energetic girls. And because it's our national sport young Americans are almost obligated to learn it.

My first year here I failed to do my duty by the game. I had taught primary children so long I had forgotten the rules. For years my small pupils had played King's Base, and Run, Sheep, Run, and singing games such as “Florendish y Florendá. “Florendish,” believe it or not, is “London Bridge” as garbled by tiny Mexican children who have learned the game from older brothers and sisters privileged to go to school. I've had fun watching the little ones, like animated dolls, stamping around gustily singing:

‘‘

Florendish y florendá,
Florendá, florendá,
Florendish y Florendá,
Mai-fe-le-di-O.

’’

Word corruptions among non-English-speaking little ones are no cause for worry. I once knew a dyed-in-the-wool U.S. patriot who sang “My Country Teas” until she was in the fourth grade.

Although I confess I did not do my duty by baseball that first year, in the beginning I did try. Bill had bought a new ball and bat and we had no other playground equipment. Ramón and Edward were the only pupils interested. Las Moras School and Sasabe School had organized teams. And two years ago our Baboquívari


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School even won a game at the intra-school Altar Valley Track Meet held here that year. Our school won by running in a bus driver and a cowboy or two to fill out the nine. When I came, the children told me they didn't want to play baseball because there were not enough boys. Many of their former schoolmates had moved into Las Moras District, thereby becoming rivals. We had three big girls, but they begged off. I tried, half-heartedly, until one morning I caught a ball thrown by a 130-pound boy on the end of my right thumb. I gave up.

But in the spring there was another track meet, held at Las Moras. We won respectable scores at running and jumping, for we had practiced for those events. And Víctor took the pie-eating contest. After lunch we had to sit on the sidelines and watch Sasabe and Las Moras play a thrilling ball game. My kids were left out. That wouldn't do!

It was Otto's initiative that got the track meet organized. He is a true baseball enthusiast, having played on his college team and in the state league. This year he and his wife—who teaches primary grades in the school where he is principal—moved to Three Points at Robles, halfway between here and Tucson. In September I met them at teachers' meeting and asked Otto to come down and organize a baseball team for us. He agreed. We both spoke in good faith, but each with a different meaning. I thought he would go to the board and give us a kind of chalk talk, tell us the fundamental rules; then take us out on the field and demonstrate and give try-outs and figure us out a team. His was a more effective way: the old sink-or-swim method. (After all, what did I suppose his pupils would be doing while he was coaching mine?)


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Our slow mail service kept us from receiving his letter saying that he was going to bring his school to play ball until the very day he was coming. Happy with excitement, we hurried to get ready. Ramón, Luis, and Pancho crossed the big arroyo with Pascual, carrying ashes to mark the lines, shovels and hoes for the weed eradication, and gunny sacks to fill with sand for bases. They measured off a diamond which turned out to be too small. Edward drafted Mary and Arturo to help him decorate our schoolroom. They cleaned the boards, tacked up water color paintings, and found flowers for the green jars. Socorro, Ysidra, and Herlinda swept and sprinkled the floor, dusted the room, and put out new paper towels and drinking cups. The little children emptied waste baskets and dust pans, arranged the books on the shelves, and picked up litter in the yard.

We met our visitors—a surprising gang who filled two buses and two cars, and overflowed our whole yard—with sincere pleasure. The teachers were cordial. But their pupils held aloof, ganging together, looking at us coldly as antagonists. To my amazement I realized that they had come down as competitors. Wasn't Otto going to demonstrate and coach and organize? He wasn't. He brought out score sheets, already blocked and labelled, and handed me one to fill in with names of my team. My team? I was stunned.

“Who is your catcher?” he demanded when I stood in shock.

“We don't have any,” I faltered. “We have no team. We've never played.”

Disappointed, but determined to make the best of it, he called my boys, and they, in ignorance of what they


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were in for, compiled eagerly. At his urging, the six biggest boys chose positions. Our girls were smart enough to decline, so Three Points loaned us three players who were not on their regular first team, but, as we soon learned, were well imbued with school spirit.

Their top nine had been working for three weeks and this was their initial game. They were madly excited. When they ran out on the field to warm up they whizzed around like professionals, throwing and catching the ball so that it never touched the ground. They not only played with skill and enthusiasm; they had rooters—bunches of girls and boys grouped around under the mesquites to cheer their triumphs and razz our inefficiency.

After the first inning, in spite of Otto's generous umpiring and advice, my little cowpunchers were stricken with shame. And they were outraged. These loud-mouthed strangers were not our friends, as the Sasabe and Las Moras pupils had always been; they were scornful opponents come to crush us with smashing defeat and brag about it. Their score rose like the dust; the desert resounded with their rude shouts and insults. Later my girls told me that they were sure Otto and his wife couldn't understand what their youngsters were saying in Spanish—a language rich in invective and obscenities. The three boys they had lent us made “outs” each time up to bat: one out, two outs, three outs. Their schoolmates rushed out of the field without having to unbend. The rooters bellowed with pleasure.

¡Verás!” shouted their first baseman as he put Frank out. “This boy don't know his rules!”

The only thing in our favor was that it went fast.


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Our big boys caught the flies and grounders often enough to make their half-innings not too long. Our halves were saved from complete farces by Ramón. He had some experience and caught on fast. He played catcher. His face was dark with heat and shame, his shirt was wet with sweat, and streams of perspiration ran off his nose. But his saddle-bowed legs flew over the ground with incredible speed as he caught every ball thrown to home-plate. When he went to bat he cracked the ball over their heads far out into the brush so the little children had to hunt it. So we did get some runs.

The heat of early October beat down. But I was cold with anger. Instead of the happy visit we had looked forward to we were challenged to take overwhelming odds; and were constantly insulted from the players and the sidelines. I began to worry about how my kids would react.

“See,” I called to Arturo, “you have to touch the boy with the ball—not just touch the base.” I wanted everybody to know we were learners only.

“Now you know what a tip is,” I shouted. “Look, boys, you can only take one base when the ball is thrown straight over first.”

I no longer hoped to put across any hints to our barbarous attackers. My aim was to influence my own boys and keep them in hand. Pancho was the one I worried most about. Arturo would complain at injustice, then laugh. Edward was certain to talk back in protest. His tongue was never still, but he is a courteous boy and there wasn't much chance of his starting a fight against such big odds. Our big boy—Ramón—as


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spunky a young fellow as I ever had in a schoolroom, was lost in battle. He played ball. In an emergency Frank withdraws into a world of his own and comes up unhurt. But Pancho is a fighter and tough as a Spanish pony. Sensitive, high-tempered, stubborn, resentful of ill treatment, he will take big odds. The teacher who preceded Helen considered him hopeless and so wrote in the school register. This appraisal I took with a grain of doubt. From what the children told me I knew that she was out of her milieu in a ranch school of Mexican-Americans. She scolded them, saying that they were lazy, ignorant, and dirty. She was quick with a blow and once struck Edward across the nose with the sharp edge of a ruler when he turned to speak to his neighbor in back of him. I imagine it was her undoing when she took on the Aros family with whom she had to live in isolation. Bill had told me that he heard she took a shot at one of the boys who was peeking in her window. After I got well acquainted with them I asked which boy it was. They told me she didn't shoot at them. She threw hot water on them when they hung about her window, and they retaliated with a shower of rocks. She brought out the gun, they said, only to hold Katie at bay when she was about to storm the fort. And Pancho took an active part in this war.

Pancho is strictly a country fellow. He had lived within a two hour journey of the city all his life, yet he told me: “I don't know Tucson.” I took him with the group one night to see the motion picture Anne of Green Gables. It was done as a reward for those who had read the book, among whom he wasn't one. But I hoped it might have a good effect on him. He showed interest in


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everything—the pretty show, the crowded streets, the bright lights, and the refreshment stand where I treated my guests to hot dogs and sodas. But I saw him shrink with awareness of his own deficiencies. He has never asked to go to town again. He remains in the background when our school attracts attention, and he hates to have his picture taken. Here in the remote rangeland where life is unruffled by the scarcity of trifles so common in the city, he can work and fight and respect himself. On his own ground he is quick to take offense. During that dreadful game he wouldn't look at me. I looked at him often enough. He was our pitcher and there was a chance that any minute he might sock somebody with a hard ball, or throw down his glove and start a riot. But, no. For once he smoldered in wrath without exploding. He behaved.

As Otto was putting his players into the bus I heard him say: “I'll get you some harder games.”

That was the lick-that-killed-grandpa as far as my decorum was concerned. Without a wave or a smile I strode back into the schoolroom and rang the bell. My beaten, abused young ones filed in and slumped into their seats. They looked up at me. Now what?

“Boys and girls,” I said, “Let's get'm! Let's work until we are good ball players and go to their school and beat the socks off them. And with none of the rudeness and insults they gave us. Let's show them how to play ball and be civilized about it. All who will help, stand!”

They arose as one with a great noise of shuffling feet and clattering deskseats that startled Pascual who was getting the bus ready to go.

“It won't be easy,” I warned, walking back and forth


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before them. “We can't neglect our lessons. We owe the state that. Besides the achievement tests are coming up. And we have this big project of practicing our play and dances for the Halloween party our guests and friends are coming to see. And to play winning ball we have to have time to practice. But somehow we'll make time! Are you with me?”

They were with me. I had to tap the bell for order.

“Now while I give the little children two days' lessons, you sit down and get two good lessons in spelling and arithmetic, and write your hearts out about what happened this afternoon. You know that tomorrow we are going to make that “Extra” of the Little Cowpuncher for Bill's wedding.”

I used Víctor's story for its brevity and mildness.

‘‘ THE BASEBALL GAME

Tuesday the Three Points came to play us ball
All the children in the school came in 4 cars to the ball game.
They came and beat us. 17 to 6.
Because we hadn't practiced.
Mary said to those girls We congratulate you for your game
but not for your manners. —V. A., Third Grade.

’’

We worked, we overworked, and the children stayed with me because we had a goal. Pascual held the bus as long as he dared each afternoon; after he left, with special permission from their parents, I kept Ramón and Pancho and Frank warming up in the bullpen. I truly believe that no school ever put more activity into short, fall days. Baseball was Otto's forte. It wasn't mine. But I had asked for it. And, surprisingly, it turned out to be true that practice makes perfect. After several days of intensive training


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we took an afternoon off and went to our friends at Las Moras for a trial game. Emma Townsend, their teacher, was an outdoor type who liked games. Unlike me, she was up on the rules. We knew it didn't matter which side won; we wanted the kids to learn. Socorro wrote this story for Little Cowpuncher: ‘‘ AT LAS MORAS YESTERDAY

Thursday we went to play ball with Santa Margarita School at Las Moras Ranch. Everybody was glad to receive us and they treated us politely all the time. We were lucky because in our last inning we raised our score. We hope next time they will have a chance to win for they are surely good sports. S.A.—Eighth Grade

’’

The next week they came to our school and took their revenge. We printed these stories in Little Cowpuncher: ‘‘ THE BALL GAME

Friday we played a ball game with Las Moras. We
let them strike first because they came.
I was without shoes and I had to run and get
the balls in the stickers.
They laughed at me when I grunted to hit the ball.
And we had a very good time.—V. A. Third Grade

’’ ‘‘ WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DIAMOND

We cleaned up a place near the school to play baseball with Las Moras. Weeds were dry and as high as our knees and full of stickers. We dragged an old gate over the weeds with the teacher's car. Every big boy got on the gate to hold it.

This place had not been used by the cattle for a year. They were gathering and holding cattle in the City Hall Pasture where we used to play baseball with Three Points. That is why we had to make a new place. And what do you think happened? That day the Las Moras were coming to play with us the cowboys turned all the cattle into the pasture where we cleaned. We had marked between the bases. We used a gallon of the teacher's gasoline and then we weren't allowed to play there.


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When they turned the cattle into our new diamond and the cows began to tramp it and lick the salt we had to work as quick as we could to get a diamond ready back in City Hall Pasture. And after all that work we had they beat us with one run.
—Ramón Aros, Eighth Grade

’’

And so one quiet sunny day in November we drove to Three Points School for a return match. We hadn't warned them and Otto was somewhat taken aback. He said they had quit playing baseball and were now playing soccer; and that some of their team had moved away.

“Oh, well,” I said, “You know how we play baseball.”

A game was arranged. Socorro reported the event for our paper.

‘‘ LITTLE COWPUNCHERS WIN A BASEBALL GAME

Tuesday we took the pleasure of redeeming ourselves playing ball with Three Points. They were not expecting us but they came out to greet us with kindly manners. Everybody was full of joy and we had lots of enthusiasm in playing them ball. We played politely.

We thought of going at recess that morning to take advantage of the nice warm day which was not windy or harmful to our game. We felt sorry because one couple of their boys was gone from their district. But they seemed to match us better. It would have been more fair if everybody had been there who came to play us here.

Anyway we defeated them just as they did us when they came down here. The score was seventeen to six. Which surprised us and we were afraid we were going to fail. We had two girls, Ysidra and I on our team, and Víctor was the smallest player on both sides. We know that Ramón and Luis our pitcher and catcher were the ones who won the game but we all enjoyed ourselves and we were very polite to the losers. —S. A., Eighth Grade

’’

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