Monday, August 3, 2009

Indian Royalty, Mexican Maids

Grandpa Jose used to tell stories for as long as anyone would listen. I loved to listen! One of my favorites was when he lived in a lonely prairie cabin on the Rosebud Ranch in Montana. He was a ranch hand, wrangler and cowboy poet. A real one...... chaps, spurs, branding, cutting, round-ups and a greasy hat. He would shiver at the memory of those cold, lonely winters. He never was warm again, ever!

I don't know what tribe of Indians were in that area, but he made friends with the chief and his sons. They brought him a cat, to keep the mice down. He HATED cats, but endured it as the cure for not only mice control, but company. The sons savagely taught him a better, more efficient way to wade through the castration process each spring. When all the hundreds of calves were rounded up, they would wade into the pile, bite the sack - tearing the testicles away with their teeth, quickly creating steers out of what would have become bulls. My imagination went wild picturing the bloody mess. My gag reflex always kicked in.

There was a bit of romance, but it had some loose ends. Along with the sons who became close friends, the chief had a daughter whose name was Klatawa, which means, something- going-fast-makes-a-noise. She was graceful, ran like the wind, was a legendary local beauty and I think gave the young, lanky, arrogant, bold, golden Spaniard a run for his money! His eyes always twinkled when he spoke of her. The chief had already sort of adopted him as son, so being son in law was just a step away. But he moved south to the sunshine and warmth. I always thought of it as a love story without an ending. A question mark instead of a period.

He moved to Monterey to work at the splendid Del Monte hotel, training horses and their riders. Elite, wealthy people who had all the outer accouterments to make them look like equestrians, but they didn't know anything about their horse or how to ride. Sometimes it would be the children of such.

One of the first things he did was to remove the cherub fountain in the riding ring. He didn't want the children violated when they saw the water squirting out of the chubby innocent's thimble sized genitalia.

The women were perfumed Potifer's wives mostly, lined up, signed up and clawing at each other to have lessons from him. To have his undivided attention disguised with something as innocuous as riding lessons was the prize. They were lonely and bored. He loved teaching the children. Even when they were spoiled rotten, he somehow imbued, influenced and injected them with a more noble outlook.

Grandma was a shy, poor, Mexican housekeeping maid at the Del Monte. They both had simple room and board on the lovely grounds. The young people who worked there had wonderful picnics, dances in the magnificent dance hall after hours, ate together and walked to Lover's Point on their days off. It was quite the adventure and good opportunity for her. She wasn't beautiful, but had long, thick black hair, great legs, large bosom and black, unreadable eyes.
When he payed a little attention to her, she withdrew. With all the woman throwing themselves at him, this must have been confusing and tantalizing? The first time he asked her for a walk, he brought her chocolates, which she despised. He ate every one of them before the night was over. The rest of the story is their story and we don't know for sure all the details of their whirlwind courtship. Her mother threatened her with the words, "It will NEVER work".
They were like salt and pepper! He - intellectual, refined, wealthy upbringing, blond curls, blue eyes, well read, well traveled. Her - abandoned by her father causing her mother to work menial jobs to survive and provide, spanish speaking, shy, unexposed and naive.

They married quickly. Her diamond solitaire was hawked to pay for a stay in the sanitarium when he had polio. She faithfully massaged and worked his muscles, both of them determined that he would not be crippled. He was her adventure, but she ended up funding most of them by hard work in the Levi Strauss factory where she worked and retired.

At the end of his colorful life, she was still making him cocoa and tenderly rubbing his head with the hand that had only her wedding band. The engagement ring never returned to her finger. They lived through the stock market crash, through his infidelities, through bitterness, broken dreams and beyond.

I have her wedding band. It forever symbolizes staying. I have some of his silver work, engraved by him. His buttons and bridle bit templates are a prized possessions, symbols of a call to a creative life. I have a picture of their ancient hands clasped together, his gnarled, hers silky with perfect nails. Beautiful hands.

I have hundreds of memories flooding me and their hands are the predominant, common denominator that prompts most the feelings that go with them. These will have to wait, I'm going to have to swim up to get air in the avalanche of memories that just piled on top of me.

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