That only which we have within, can we see without. If we meet no Gods, it is because we harbor none. If there is a grandeur in you, you will find grandeur in porters and sweeps.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I don't think you're supposed to give away your wedding gifts before the ceremony's even been held," the sheriff drawls softly, climbing out of his car as he watches the boys and ponies racing toward the river.
"I see you found him," he quips, carefully watching her flustered face.
"It's pretty hard to miss 250 pounds of man and three ponies camped practically in the entryway to one's hovel."
"How'd he get so wet in this heat?"
Despina blows an exasperated breath up her face to move aside imaginary bangs. "He's just SO frustrating! Why won't he talk to me like a NORMAL person? English, Spanish, Náhuatl, ANYTHING is better than this infuriating SILENCE! I feel shunned."
"Sitting here, proposing marriage in front of the entire tribe is hardly SHUNNING."
"I won't be coerced into a marriage that has no hope right from the get-go."
Quite an audience has been drifting out of cooler doorways into better range to take in the fireworks.
Never the strong, SILENT type, Paul Peter lowers his oar into the churning waters. "You started it when you cuddled up and grabbed his..."
"I did NOT! I was asleep!" cutting him off at near earthquake-causing volume.
"Well, four White witnesses and the entire village beg to differ. You're crucifying him for trying to make an honest woman of you. You're not playing by the rules."
"HOW can I play by rules I never heard of?" Wrapping her huff around her, Despina spins on her heel and stomps into her hovel, flopping down on the chaise lounge.
Still Cu sits, immobile.
That night at the campfire, Despina asks, "Why? Isn't that what he wanted? Water?"
Silence greets her outburst at first. Jacques eventually tackles her question. "Possibly, Cu won't accept you when you finally watered the ponies, because you made no bones about the fact that you had reacted on White humanitarian grounds, not Indian 'I pledge you my loyalty' ones. How could he accept that from a wife?"
"This whole thing is so frustrating. I've never had a proposal like this, so public, so HUMILIATING, so out in left field. I always KNEW when someone was getting close, because we TALKED FIRST. He doesn't talk to me, then proposes in public... Yikes! How do I know what to think?"
Despina subsides, thinking furiously. "Jacques, you tried to warn me, but I couldn't give the idea any credence. He just wasn't talking. I never realized how much I VALUE communication in a relationship."
She again becomes quiet. Soon, she slams her journal shut, unwritten in.
"Aren't you breaking a promise to your students?" Paul Peter leans back as though sunning his face in the pitch dark.
Eying him sardonically, she flips her journal open, scribbles briefly, then again slams it shut. "There! A night to remember, for sure. Do you have any tremendously important plans for the holiday weekend, PP?"
"That depends on if I get a better offer, or not. What's on the table in this discussion? I don't much want to run off with you and be scalped by an irate husband-candidate upon my return, especially if there's nothing in it for me."
"I was thinking you might be up for a truck ride home."
"To Iowa? Isn't that sort of far for just a three day weekend?"
"Yeah, that's why I thought a second driver might help."
"You're going regardless?"
Looking down, doing some real soul-searching, she mumbles, "So it seems."
When they return, a loaded horse trailer is hooked to her truck. Stopping in front of her hovel draws an instant crowd.
Inside, her students are excited when they find not one, but two, Pintos. Exquisite Pintos. Fiery Pintos.
"Cómo se llaman?" asks Juan, unable to ignore these prizes.
Snapping open the front door, she leans in and unhooks one of the two high percentage Arabians, while Paul Peter mans the back door. From the way they work together, it is obvious that this drill has seen a lot of practice en route.
Walking around to the back, she relieves a rather nervous Paul Peter of his charge.
"Se llama Lyre. Es un tipo de harpa, y se usa para crear la música de los cielos. Él mueva como esa música. Es de sangre Árabe, pero de color Pinto. Quiza vamos a usarlo por las yeguas de los indios que quieren usarlo."
Paul Peter pantomimes playing a harp as she tells the story of how Lyre got his name.
Handing Lyre's lead rope to an adoring Juan, she opens the door behind the mare on the other side. Paul Peter then gives her rope a flip, and Despina guides her out and down. She is eager to be with her stablemate, but excited by the strange surroundings and all the people. She also is a Pinto of Arabian blood. While not as magnificent as the stallion, she is still far superior to the local horses.
"¿Y ella? ¿Cómo se llama?"
Cu approaches, eying her stock with an appraising eye. "¿Adónde vas con ellos?"
"Al río para darle agua, y entonces a la finca de Genio."
Juan starts off toward the river with Lyre, and Miguel is delighted when Despina offers to let him lead Paradise, who does not want to be separated from her traveling buddy.
As Paradise calms down, Despina picks up Alberto and plops him down on her back. She proudly carries him along within the middle of the procession heading toward the river. Wading clear out into the center, both drink long and deep.
Suddenly, Lyre drops and begins to roll.
"¡Mira! ¡Él se baña!
"Gracias a Dios que no esté en su bañera, Alberto."
Paradise begins to paw, splattering water all over herself and everyone else.
"Pandemonium strikes the reservation," quips Paul Peter in English, under his breath.
I wonder why Cu doesn't seem to care when Paul Peter uses English, but seems to get his nose so out of joint when I do?
Arrangements are made for Juan to water the horses night and morning, or tell Despina that he will not be doing it.
One morning a short time later, an agitated Juan comes into the village early, rushing straight to Despina's house.
"Hay un problema."
Despina hurries off to the pasture with him, where she sees Lyre strutting his stuff for one of the Indian mares. The problem is that the fence is not sturdy enough to ensure that the two will stay separate.
"I thought one would be enough to hold him. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
Cu watches her carefully.
"Juan, ¿De quién es?" Despina indicates the mare.
"Es mía," Cu responds.
Paul Peter has also arrived, and looks at her sharply. "You intend to let the MARES choose if they want to be bred to Lyre or an Indian stallion?"
"Don't the Indian horses choose for themselves the way it is now?"
"Yes, but it is done by survival of the fittest. The fastest, toughest, most hardy one wins, and the breed, while obviously not beauty contest winners, are well-suited to their uses here."
"As long as one doesn't mind riding a cement truck when a Caddy is around and can also keep up."
Cu, having come to a decision, interrupts their good-natured bantering with, "Puedes dejarlo libre?"
"Si quieres, Cu. No sé si él lucha bien, porque nunca pongo dos juntos."
With a nod, he gives Juan his permission, and the gate is lowered. After some initial horsing around, Lyre, his work accomplished, returns to the good grass in the irrigated pasture. The Indian mare also enters.
"Uh, I doubt Genio would appreciate free ranging the grass he only collected board for two head on..."
Juan catches Lyre, leading him out. The mare dutifully follows her new hero.
Paradise watches for a while, then returns to the grass.
The gate is replaced, and Lyre is turned loose. The mare wants to return to the hills, but Lyre wants to investigate all the people. He knows hands are made for petting, and he wants his fair share. Finally, she leaves, and he takes off after her.
Three days later, when Despina is returning from the hospital, she sees Lyre. She calls to him, pets him profusely, and checks him all over to be sure he has no cuts that need attention. He doesn't appear to have been in any fights.
With a final pat, she goes inside to get dressed for school. Hearing steps behind her, she turns around. Surprised, she finds Lyre right in her hovel with her.
Grabbing his forelock, she leads him out. As soon as she releases him, he returns to her house.
"Lyre, this is NOT your loafing shed."
Twitters of laughter come from the delighted children. Despina gets into Baby Blue Ram and carefully positions the trailer so that the passage between it and the front entry to her hovel is no farther apart than the trailer door is wide. She opens the door, effectively closing off the area by tipping the front of the trailer closer to the building, then unhooks.
Going around to the back, she again grabs a hunk of mane and leads Lyre out, around the house and opens the manger to let him scour the last morsel from it. While he is thus occupied, she positions Baby Blue Ram so that the back door is blocked.
Dressing hurriedly, she exits through the trailer door, carefully securing it as she leaves.
As the heat increases, Lyre, seeking shade, loads himself into the trailer, which has a roof, with the sides with back open for ventilation.
When the children are released around noon, he unloads himself and accompanies Juan to his house.
After lunch, Despina suggests showing him the river again, hoping that will fascinate him more than the people.
"Tu caballo es muy manso," Juan observes.
"Sí. He is tame. Los Árabes son muy inteligentes y tienen un gran interés en la vida de su gente. Originalmente, viven en los habitaciones de su grupo. Cuando hay una lucha, se usa las yeguas para sobrevivir. Se las traten como niñas."
Turning, she nearly bumps into a tourist's camera. Pasting a stiff grin on her face, she tries to leave, but she is well and truly snared.
"Do you speak English?"
"Sure," Despina replies with a sickly smile.
"Good. I got the horse and the kid. Why is he following him around like that? He looked as if he'd go right into the house if he could."
"He did, with his owner. He's mostly Arabian blood. Originally, on the desert where that breed originated, they lived in the Bedouin's tents. They were bred for centuries for intelligence and tractability. When wars happened, the men rode the mares into battle. The horses were treated as if they were very beloved children."
Juan shows up, hand outstretched. Es $25.00 para la lección de historia."
Despina’s eyes widen, her mouth opens to chide the scoundrel for his blatant attempt to commit what she considers to be highway robbery. These little imps know EXACTLY what to do with a college education, even though they've rarely had access to one!
As the laughing father leans forward to fish his billfold from a hip pocket, Despina glances down the road toward the hovels. Spirit Mountain’s hulking bulk looms protectively behind them. This is the only home my charges have ever known, the only one some of them will ever know. Their poverty is spirit-crushing. Guess at heart, I’m willing to help any way I can, not just in the classroom where I’m most comfortable.
The father gladly passes over the requested fee. Despina heaves a sigh of relief as the imagined crisis passes safely and profitably. A wry smile twists her lips. That’s the second time a tourist has assumed I’m a tribe member. Are they blind? Can’t they tell I’m White from my pale, freckled skin and sun-faded flaming red hair?
Last updated 3/10/10 Corrected choose twice. Added sun-faded flaming; Changed first sickly smile to stiff grin. 2/4/10 Many small changes: Paul Peter leans back as though sunning his face in the pitch dark. ; her journal open; Stopping in front of her hovel draws an instant crowd. ; Cu, having come to a decision, interrupts their good-natured bantering with, ; his permission; Changed to with the sides; around noon; Juan observes. "Sure," Despina replies with a sickly smile.. as if they were very beloved children."; education, even though they've rarely had access to one! ; road toward the hovels; Their poverty is spirit-crushing. Added college education use bit and heightened the cultural clash she’s experiencing. 12/18/09. Combined Reactions and Wedding Gifts? (Original Title of “Reactions” -- "Why Cu Doesn't React) 7/25/08 corrected sex after referring to mares. “Se las traten como niñas.” Added That’s the second time a tourist has assumed I’m a tribe member. Are they blind? Can’t they tell I’m White from my pale, freckled skin and flaming red hair? (7/23/08 corrected spelling on someone -- 9/16/04.)
Word Count: 2048