By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
I was already running for the palomino and yelling for Julian, Eduardo and another compadre who had wandered over to hear the music, but I wasn't sure they heard me. Uncle Juan was in a drunken rage and was already tiring, so the other brothers, Joaquin and Trini, tried to get behind my father to stab him with their knives. The palomino was close by, tied under a palmetto tree. Without another thought I jumped on his back and pulled the reins in one motion. As I raced up to the gate, I was met by a horrible sight, my father had just fallen under one of the horses tied by the corral and Juan was trying to finish him off.
I screamed again for my uncle Julian and Eduardo to come and help him. They heard me this time and I saw them both leap on their horses. Julian's horse jumped the fence and, thankfully, Eduardo was not far behind. Unfortunately Joaquin Garcia saw him too, and before Julian could be of any help, Joaquin shot him in the chest. Uncle Julian died almost immediately. I was outside the fence screaming for my godfather to help them. Without hesitation he jumped the fence on his horse and at least for the moment was able to divert their attention to him.
It was terrible. Two of the younger Garcia brothers knocked him off the horse and Joaquin started stabbing him in the back. I could see the blood running down his hand. . . . I jumped the palomino and he cleared the fence easily. Juan was trying to reach my father with the machete, so he didn't notice me. I could see my uncle Joaquin coming up behind my father to stab him in the back. They were all in a killing frenzy even though there was a crowd gathering outside of the corral and there would be witnesses to the crime they were committing.
I wasn't really thinking, just reacting, when I reached into the saddlebags and grabbed my father's gun, a long-barreled .32-.20 revolver that fired bullets bigger than a .38 special. I turned the horse so that we were between Uncle Juan and my father. My father was struggling to climb up behind me when I saw that Uncle Joaquin was about to stab him in the back. It seemed like everything was now happening in slow motion, as I've often noticed happens to me when there is great danger. I remember very well that my hand was steady when I pointed the big gun at Joaquin and pulled the trigger. The first bullet hit Joaquin in the middle of his big belly, about four inches above his balls. There was a horrible look of both anger and shock on his face as he was blown back by the impact. Somehow he got back to his feet and started forward. . . . Joaquin had drawn a gun of his own. I fired again. The second bullet hit him square in the chest above his heart, and he died right there in the sand. When I finally turned my horse the others were running for cover and I knew they had guns somewhere close by.
I helped my father get on behind me and I made a run for the fence, my father slumped behind me. As we came close to the fence I saw Eduardo crawling under the gate. The palomino was a big horse and both of us were small, so we had no trouble clearing the fence. Once we were out in the open I watched as my poor godfather crawled to a small stream that ran by the corral. He screamed that his back and stomach were burning up and then he fell face down into the water. . . . He died right there before anyone could help him.
My father wanted to stay and fight, to finish it right there once and for all, but I knew he was too weak from all the blood he'd lost, so I disobeyed him and turned the palomino for home. For once he didn't argue. People were scattering in every direction to get out of the line of fire. Women were screaming and the children were crying. . . . We made it to the house without being chased. I guess my uncles had their fill for the present. I was able to get my father into the house and stop the bleeding. As best I could I treated and bandaged the deep cuts from the machete. Before I could put him to bed Jose Maria Santini, a close friend, barged into the house and begged my father to take refuge at a line camp they had higher up on the mountain. He told us the Garcias were running around like mad dogs. Joaquin was dead and they wanted revenge.
For some reason, Jose told us, everyone said it was my father who had killed Joaquin, but everyone also agreed that it had been in self-defense. This is what they would tell the local commisario. The bad news was that my uncle Julian and my godfather were dead, and another compadre of my father's who tried to help us had been badly wounded trying to cover our escape.