Neto Ruiz was El Fresno’s local gringo expert. He’d been born “on the other side” when his parents were sugar beet workers as World War II ended. He was a child when they returned “home” to Mexico.
In the early 1960s he told me of the day a young American stranger brought Pepe Rios, still bleeding, to him.
The tall American was swearing, he said, leading a sorrel gelding with Pepe in the saddle. blood leaking from waist to his left foot.
“He told me to bring him here,” the gringo called as I came up from morning milking, Neto recalled. “I found him in Arroyo Viejo,” he said. The stranger’s voice was furious, his red beard scraggly, a handkerchief on his head like woman, a gold loop in one ear. He said his name was Roberto.
“Take him to that curandero, Mario Hernandez,” I said. “He is a healer.”
“He said you were his brother.” The gringo was like a lost child, but his Spanish was good for a foreigner.
“No,” I told him. A gust of wind nearly blew Pepe out of the saddle. “He’s married to my sister, Ofelia.” I reached up to steady him, “We’re cuñados, brothers-in-law.”
“Not what he said.” The gringo clutched a long machete hanging from one shoulder.
“Was he talking awful English at you?” Pepe and I picked tomates in Texas a while back. He never got over thinking he could speak English.
“Somebody stabbed him. He needs a doctor fast,” the American shouted.
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