Saturday, June 25, 2016


Here is a poem I wrote one day while contemplating old Texas and Mexico:


Juan Vargas moved on at the crack of dawn,
Deep into Texian land;
Tortillas for one, his riata and gun,
And a running iron in hand.
He rode softly along, with a hum and a song,
A senorita on his mind;
A padron in the Monte, and tamales picante,
All waited him far behind.

Juan Vargas was born where the Inca doves mourn,
In the drought of sixty three;
His mother- a goat herd, his father- a Spaniard,
"Just passing through," you see.
He grew up in the dust, the timbers and rust,
Of Montezuma's bygone day;
That past age of glory, the enchanting story,
Made the here and now feel gray.

Juan Vargas, he thought, then he thought some more,
He would leave the goats and cactus;
Up in Texas he learned, he could get him a herd
To sell to some pastor de vacas.
So he slipped out of sight, in the black of the night,
And visited Don Maldanado.
Who promised a price, and a job very nice;
If he would increase Don's manada.

So, it's on down the way, in the heat of the day,
And cut out some steers and calves;
He just needed to send, for a vaquero friend,
Then brand 'em and ride home for halves.
He'd been to this store, a few times before,
And the steers were fat and handy;
Or, so he thought, as he picked up a trot,
And he spotted some longhorns dandy.

A big steer here, cow and calf over there,
'Til he had a small herd pointed south;
Then on down a draw, so nobody saw,
And water and bed them down;
No fire tonight, no smoke is in sight,
If the padron comes gettin' antsy;
For a rustler free, and a live oak tree,
And a brand new rope for dancin'.

Up with the sun, and off at a run,
For the Rio's cool libation;
Just one more day, then he would stay,
In the Monte's sweet liberation.
With his running iron friend, give the business an end;
They would all have a bright new brand;
I'll turn the "BE" into the bar "BB",
But first, cross the Rio Grande.

You weren't fast enough, through the brushy and rough,
Juan Vargas, they're on to your trail;
If they catch you now, with the padron's cows,
You'll be blessed if its only jail.
There's Big Foot Wallace, the Commanche stalker,
With the boss of the old "BE";
Juan Vargas alone, and far from home,
Will dance 'neath a live oak tree.

The buzzards came down, to wait on the ground,
For Juan Vargas to age some more;
It's a buzzard's fiesta, and Juan Vargas' siesta,
Midst the mud and the blood and the gore.
If you ride out that way, in the heat of the day,
A haunting sight meets your gaze;
A rope hanging free, from the live oak tree,
The end of a young man's days.

Every Nana's son who's tempted to run,
From the Monte's dusty hills;
All of you hombres, consider Juan Vargas,
And beware of those Texian thrills.
Find a nice senorita, a pretty chiquita,
Get married, be happy and free;
Herd your goats every day, in the antiguo way;
You won't hang from a live oak tree.


Definitions:- Some Spanish and some Texian

riata- A Mexican lariet made of woven leather with a looped end.
running iron- A branding iron with only a bar for altering brands. It was customary in the old days to hang a man for even carrying one while on the open range. The running iron was made for only one use-- altering existing brands. This was done by adding a bar or filling in an "E" to become a "B" etc.

senorita- Unmarried lady.
chiquita- Coloquial for a pretty girl.
picante- Hot or spicey.
Monte- High place- also prairie area south of San Antonio and
in northern Mexico.
pastor de vacas- Herder or owner of cattle.
manada- Herd.
vaquero- Mexican cowboy.
padron- Owner of a ranch or hacienda.
brushy- Brush country south of San Antonio.
fiesta- Feast or party.
siesta- Nap in the midday.
nana- Grandmother.
antiguo- Old fashioned.
hombres- Men or working men.

Copyright -- Stephen Van Nattan 2011
All rights reserved


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