THEN THERE WAS A FATHER Chapter One “When The White Raven Flies”



Lost-Road-RossThe year was 1886, the month was May, in the state of Sonora, the northernmost part of Mexico, adjacent to Baja California and just below Arizona in the United States. These were the lands of the Yaqui - native people of Mexico. The Yaqui village of Vicam and the fortress of El Abril had been under attack for several days by the forces of Generals Marcos Morales and Miguel Martinez.

In the end there were 2000 Yaqui left at El Abril, mostly elderly, sick, and the young. A few Yaqui had escaped to the, mountains to fight another day, even though in the coming weeks many in the surrounding villages traded their weapons for food and protection.

“Sargent,” Capt. Rota shouted, "bring me that little ragged one. The one with the long  and shiny black hair like a raven. I will wager that little Yaqui  bitch can warm my bed tonight." The Sargent ran over and grabbed her by the arm as she was helping an old woman up from the dirt. The old woman resisted and the corporal slammed her in the skull with the butt of his musket. She fell limp and lifeless to the ground. The young girl just looked with at her with sadness in her eyes - there were no tears. She saw her grandmother’s blood spilling out on the dirt, mixed now with that of soldiers and her people that were killed that day. She just stood there in silence as the corporal yanked her arm roughly. Her face turned up towards the bright sun and the corporal and with that blank stare from her black eyes, the dirt and sweat streaked her face. Her eyes were as if they were in the skull of a wax museum mannequin-dull and glass like. Sergeant Montes, with a sly grin on his face showing his many missing teeth bellowed, "come with me little one. This old woman fell like a sack of masa. Was she your grandmother? Ha! Come with me quickly, the Captain will split you open like a ripe watermelon tonight, and you will become his new whore. He slit the throat of the last one the other night, she didn't shine the black leather of his boots as like a mirror. One quick twist of the wrist with that antique blade of his. Besides, you have more to offer," as he grabbed her breast through her coarse ragged shift. "I will wager a months pay that then you will have something to say." 

“Come with me you little whore. The Capitan will be sticking you tonight until you bleed like a young suckling pig. When he is happy, then all of us are happy.”

“I think I will call you Rosalita, just like my first whore when I was fourteen. Come here you little bitch and take off my boots,” he said with a sneering grin on his face. He was now comfortable in his tent, “I am your Captain and you will wash my clothes, brush my uniform to a perfect nap, and shine my boots like a mirror." With the grin becoming more sinister he said, "you will chula mi pito… mi verga and many more acts that I desire... as I command. Let’s see how you can do it right now. Take down my trousers. I’ll bet mine is your first, you little puta!"

The weeks ahead were hard work for HAIR SHINES LIKE THE NIGHT,  her native name given by her father, not Rosalita as she was called by Capt. Rota. She traveled with the army. Her chores and Capt. Rota were relentless and were taking a toll on her frail body. She had learned after a month, that if she gave in to his terrible physical requests, there was more food for her that next day. The terrain they traveled she knew well, not so much the soldiers. This was her homeland, she knew every cactus, every sun baked boulder and every dry wash and gully, at the edge of the hot, vast and dry Sonora desert. The Yaqui people were always there, even if not seen by the invaders. Quiet and invisible, not a movement of a bush or the slightest sound was made. The soldiers, their wagons and the long column snaked threw the rugged hills bordering the desert. The horses and mules suffered the most. The ones that couldn't make it, soon became the nights rations, roasted over the cooking fires, tended by the Yaqui captives (who did not partake of the sad, but delicious bounty). Water was not always available, at least for the invaders. If water was not easy to find, the Yaqui had ways of extracting water from certain roots and bulbs. They also ate small rodents, a roadrunner if they were quick, perhaps a desert iguana or some eggs from a cactus wren or a martin, stolen from a nest carved by a woodpecker in a Saguaro cactus. If they were fortunate, they could bring down a Pronghorn antelope with a silent arrow from ambush. She worked with the other Yaqui women, determined to survive and see their people once again someday. It was rigorous and hard work and sometimes she was beaten by Capt. Rota when he was drunk or she didn’t do a task to his liking. Some of the other Yaqui women became camp whores and they received more food and fancy dresses and jewelry. At least she was not passed around for the enlisted men to abuse or her life would be far more desolate.

Corporal Unai was a baker and cook for the officers. His expertise had been learned in his Basque homeland. He left his home at 13 and joined the Spanish Army and soon was on a ship to Mexico. Napoleon III had defeated the Spaniards. Pvt. Unai had been invaluable with his bread and pastry skills, had many occasion impressed high ranking officers with his creations, so now he became a member of the army of Emperor Maximiliano. This post was short lived. The Emperor was deposed and executed a year after the French left Mexico. His abilities and skills with an oven kept him in good stead, he was promoted to Corporal and assigned to the Mexican Army. He longed for a return to his mountain homeland, at least he was posted to Mexico City. After many years of ordinary service, he felt if he volunteered for a dangerous campaign, perhaps he could obtain a faster promotion, then his Basque home might be realized again. He remembers that home as green and lush, with high peaks and magnificent thunderstorms and clouds, not like this barren and inhospitable country he found himself in now. He had served in three armies since leaving, if he had to desert he would do so to get home again.

Rosalita often had to work for him in his camp kitchen when there was a special Army official visiting the camp and an elegant banquet was to be prepared. As her belly became more pronounced, many of the tasks were more difficult for her. “You should sit and rest. Do not worry,I will do that for you," as she was taking several pans of fragrant sweet rolls he had finished to be proofed in the cabinet, said a kind Corporal Unai. She had added some coals from the fire in the bottom to give off enough heat for the proper rising. There is no question she was about five months along. An older Yaqui captive who had had six children examined her, "young woman you will give birth to a son when four moons pass. I wish that I could get some more help to let you  not toil so," Unai added. Her physical condition did not find Capt. Rota from not having her every night, now even more than before she was to give birth.

They came out of the early morning sun, silently and with intent. The sentries were taken without any notice, until one who was coming back after relieving himself behind a thicket, let out a shout as his throat was slit by a silent Yaqui. The Mexicans were tired, hungry, thirsty, and ragged. Any fight they had in them was dulled by early morn sleep and weakened reflexes. "Sargent, what is happening," a stumbling Capt. Rota stammered. Just at that moment HAIR SHINES LIKE THE NIGHT rose swiftly from the bed, maneuvering her large belly, grabbed his prized engraved knife from under the bed and plunged into his liver and twisted with all the force that she could muster. He turned his head around and looked at her, "you bitch,you stabbed... me." At that point she plunged it into his chest and the blood poured from his mouth, he fell on the carpet in his tent - dead. Corporal Unai threw back the flap and charged into the tent,sword raised ready to strike. He saw this tiny pregnant woman, in a dark red blood spattered nightgown, Capt. Rota's knife in her hand. The blank look in her eyes was the same one as that day of the battle, when she was taken and her grandmother was murdered. He would never forget that look, those dark eyes with no emotion in them.

She had known that her people had gathered their forces, now rearmed and that the numbers had grown. They had followed and watched the army for several weeks and Corporal Unai and she had became confidants during this grueling journey. She reminded him of the determination of the women of his village. The plans were passed on to him and he said,"No matter what happens, I will help you."

"Your kindness has been a joy to my heart and to my unborn son. You have said you are unhappy being a soldier. You will come with us?" He just nodded and a calmness came into his eyes that she had not seen before. "Come with me now. Make no haste! Gather your things. Your people have done their task. There is no one alive. Thankfully, only a few Yaqui were lost. They are packing up what horses and donkeys are left,along with the food."

"So you are going with us?" She asked not believing he would."Yes. I will go with you. Your son will need a father. A father that will teach him to bake a fine bread and learn the right way for a man to act,but mostly how to treat his mother. He will have an amazing mother, I have seen this with my eyes," said former Corporal Unai with a slight tear in his eye.


"Father, may we speak about things that may upset you?"

"Of course,Porfirio, always you and I may speak," said Unai. 

"It is time for me to leave our village, my home. I must try to help my people more than I have. I want to go to Chihuahua and join with Pancho Villa and fight against the government."

"Have you told your mother this thing you must do, Porfirio?"

"No, I am reluctant to do so,it will hurt her badly."

"You have seen your mother endure much. Since you were born in our village, twenty-eight years ago, there have been many hardships, much death and unhappy times, have there not?"

"Yes, that is why I must do this thing," he said with conviction.

"You feel that you can do what others of your tribe have not?"

"I only know that you always longed to go back to the land of your birth. To the green mountains, the rain and the snow you have many times told us stories about. Yet you did not go."

"Yes,I have not gone, Porfirio. It was important to stay here in our village and take care of you, my son. Not to mention your three sisters and two brothers and your mother. Have I not taught you that a man keeps his word? That a man takes care of his family, no matter what," he said emphatically.

"What about your wife, Porfirio. She is only thirteen and with child. Would you take her on a dangerous journey that most likely will end in pain and hardship for both of you?"

"HAIR LIKE THE SETTING SUN and I have talked many many times about this, Father. She is ready to follow... to go with me and help us with our task," he stated clearly.

"If you are both determined to follow this through, then you will have to tell your mother. She is strong. It will hurt her deeply, as it does me, but I see this is what will happen in your lives now."

"We will both tell her, tonight after the evening meal."

"Good. That is good, Porfirio."

"Yes, father?"

"When you leave I will not be there. I am not as strong as your mother, that is all I will say. Here, take these."

"But father, this is your beloved watch and your compass that we used to find our way so many times, both  from your father."

"Yes, I know. You must have them now. You are my oldest son and you are going where you have never been. The path is perilous. You will not always have other Yaqui to look after you and your wife. You must take an extra horse, and a donkey too. Eat the donkey if you can not hunt enough food. Your family must be well fed. That is all I have to say." He turned and walked away, shoulders slumped, looking down and moccasin clad feet shuffling in the dirt. Porfirio felt such an ache in his heart. What had he done to his father? The man who taught him to be a fine baker. Taught him to be an honorable man. Showed him the way to treat a woman. Taught him to practice relentlessly to be the best in his village on the back of a horse. He knew he would never see his father again, and he knew Unai knew this too. He looked up at the row of peaks shadowed against the sunset. It would be very hot in the morning for their journey east to Chihuahua. He must remember to take extra skins full of water, along with the donkey.

He was proud to be a Unai, as he was proud to be a Yaqui. Perhaps there would be a time when his travels would lead him to his father's homeland. He would see it for himself... resplendent with colors of green, high jagged mountain tops and then the stories Unai recounted to him and his siblings, so many times, would come alive. Porfirio would look to his side and his father would be standing there, smoking his pipe as always, his old worn and patched Basque beret a tilt on his bald head and hardly containing how proud he was of his Yaqui son.

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