Coming Home to La Petite Valley
I'm getting to be an old man. Now and then I think back on my past. I'm sitting on the ground on the bluff looking down on the ranch where I was born. I've lived here all my life, except for the time when I was away fighting during the civil war. People would look at me and say I had made a big mistake taking up arms for my country, but they don't know how I feel about that. I'd say I came home strong and with a sense of righteousness and that the war made me that way. What I faced when I came home would make most men throw up their hands and walk away in despair.
I found my wife Winnie dead and her killer had taken over my ranch. She still lay where she died. I loved her and needed to make it right! I've had another wife, Abby, up until a couple of years ago. I loved her too, and maybe a little more than the first one, but then why wouldn't I? She was with me for many more years and gave me five children. Good kids all.
Today the ranch looks the best it ever has. There are a lot of buildings for the family sprawled around and the ones built of wood are all painted white. The adobe outbuildings are a tan colored shade from the clay they were made with.
The valley looks like it was going to be a good year for cattle and horses. Grass is good. There isn't a catclaw or mesquite bush on any of the grazing land. Most of the valley is like that. The Mennonites had found a use for that kind of brush and showed the rest of us how to make fences of it. It still makes better fences than that barbed wire someone invented a few years ago. Beef cattle and horses ... it makes me hungry and proud to see them grazing.
I glanced at the burying ground close by. My two wives had stones here, but only Abby was under one. Pa and Ma were here too. I smiled when I remembered Pa's few words uttered one time, "Riley, if any one of them Mexican hands should die and don't have family, I'd be proud to have them in the same ground by me."
There were seven stones that bore names such as Pedro or Juan and could have been intercession for Pa to find his way into heaven, but I knew not needed. I think the gate was open for him. He was the one who claimed there were none better at handling cows than the Mexicans. This was some different than the way he felt when I first hired Mexican Pete and his cousins.
I could see from my perch the first sign of dust rising from the road, way to the south. That would be the townspeople and the Mexican community coming for this day. The Mennonites bunched together would be behind them and all were headed here to the ranch. I looked west and the ranchers with their families were near, riding tall and proud.