The California Zephyr

by Joe Butterman

 

Chapter 6
Christmas With Roberto

Christmas vacation finally arrived. I had a distinct feeling of relief as we drove down to the ranch. I’d been busy at school. Having demonstrated my contempt for the diagramming of sentences, much to the annoyance of Miss Graves, I earned a “B” in English. It was my lowest grade.

     When everyone saw my report card at home, my Father lectured me on my “disrespect” in English.  Stating that sometimes, in life, there are unpleasant things that we encounter; when we meet these problems, we must “face them firmly” and endure them: the thing to do is to apply oneself “with diligence”, not let it get you down.  “Shrug it off” and go forward with “determination” and handle the problem to the best of ones ability.  I agreed with him, of course, but thought he was making altogether too big a deal about it.  After all, it was just about diagramming sentences.  I could do it if it suited me. 

     Later that weekend, I overheard Gramercy telling Daddy that, “If you think a ‘B’ in English is rebellion, you’ve no idea what ‘rebellion’ is.”   

     Daddy hedged, “Well, maybe ‘rebellion’ isn’t the right word.”   

     “Too right, it’s not,” Gramercy ruled. 

     I had continued to play the role of a kind of sexual Cyrano de Bergerac with Two Shoes and Larry.  Two Shoes had ecstatically reported that Larry had agreed to his request.  They had exchanged blowjobs underneath the bleachers on the football field.  I did not think this particularly romantic, or even comfortable; but Larry had brothers and sisters, said he was afraid to do it at the Arndt’s for some reason, and Two Shoes?  Well, Two Shoes was just Two Shoes, and if it was okay with him, who was I to complain?  You know?  It’s not like it was me that was getting a blowjob under the bleachers, or anything.  We continued to sleep together regularly and he was a fine and eager partner.  He told me that he’d stop with Larry if I didn’t like it.  I had to tell him several times that if it was good for him, it was good for me.  He finally stopped worrying.  I told him to bring Larry around some night and we’d show him it was okay. 

     I’d had Christmas shopping to do.  For Gary and Johnny I bought silver belt buckles at a silversmith I found downtown; these were in a Western motif, but were not large and garish; their initials were raised in gold.  I found them suitable belts at the men’s store where we bought my suit.  For Tonio I found a silver money clip, very restrained, chased with gold, and had Tonio engraved on it.  A small cloisonné cross on a gold chain for Mommy; a Mont Blanc pen for Daddy and another for Bobbin; a crystal vase for Grand Belle, an amethyst brooch for Gramercy (her birthstone), and so on through my list down to a Case pocket knife for Two Shoes.  I had money in my pocket for Roberto; we would take him to Parker’s when he got off the train and get him a pair of boots to ride in.  I also had a small pewter statuette of a mounted knight that I’d found while wandering in an antique shop.  I’d seen it, thought immediately of him and of El Cid, and bought it.  This had been a fun purchase for other reasons too: the store owner had been a little dismissive of me, probably because of my age, but I treated him to a pinch of arrogance as I made an offer and he observed that I had cash – instantly, he was decidedly courteous, a much improved attitude.  

     I’d also been devoting time to my new business.  As I had hoped, Kennecott Copper had started marching back up when the strike was settled, about two weeks after I purchased it.  It was now at 31 1/8, I had a stop loss in place at 29 7/8’s, and a sell order at 32 1/2.  My plan for it was to collect the pending dividend and then sell at the market price.  My account was now worth almost $8000.  Bobbin had recommended that I research an entertainment company that he felt was going to expand soon.  I was favorably disposed to this company because I liked Brandon de Wilde who had been a star on one of their shows, Gary had a poster of him in his room too; by themselves, these were not sufficient reasons to buy a stock, but they might bode well.  Mr. O’Flaherty and I were researching electronics; he thought that television was going to be something big.  We didn’t have one on the ranch; my Father said that the fluctuations in the electric current from our generator would cause one to run erratically, if at all.  I had watched some TV at Johnny’s last summer – not a lot, though, mostly we’d been eager to get to bed. I’d pretty much avoided TV at the Arndt’s when Mr. Arndt was drinking in front of it, which was almost every night.  More study was required. 

     Winter came on strong the day before Christmas.  We would have a beautiful White Christmas.  But Roberto and I would not have our idyllic stay in a line cabin: they were all snowed-in.   

     Christmas morning was wonderful, as it always was.  I was up early, but was not the first, and no longer made a mad dash for the tree.  Instead, I went into the kitchen and cajoled Margarita out of a cup of coffee.  We spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries, and of course the Season’s best, in Spanish; I had her teach me Spanish words for some of the kitchen utensils.  I had learned early how to ask my way to the palace, but not a lot that was really useful, given the lack of palaces in Nevada.  “Sweetie are you drinking coffee,” My Mommy inquired as she swept into the kitchen, she treated me to her wonderful smile. 

      “Yes, Mommy, I really like a cup every once in awhile; I used to drink it with cream and sugar, but its lots better without.  I had to really beg Margarita for it.”   

     “That’s fine, only not too much.  Promise?”   

     “Promise.” 

     Margarita looked pleased as she poured her a cup of coffee.  “Will we have breakfast first,” she asked.   

     “Yes, I think, what do you think Sweetie?”   

     “Yes, I think that would be super.”  Gramercy was next.  Daddy was last.  We sat and enjoyed our coffee while Margarita prepared a wonderful breakfast. 

     Then we adjourned to the living room to exchange gifts.  Rather than dash to my presents, I distributed my gifts to Mommy, Gramercy, and finally Daddy.  They were all very pleased and complimented me highly.  A new bookcase had appeared in the living room, and one shelf was covered with wrapping paper.  I regarded it.  Gramercy said, “I thought you could use some more space, Carlos, especially since I’m helping you fill it.”  I smiled at her and went to it removing the wrapping paper, it was a set of the Encyclopedia Britannia; but not just any set, this was the 1911 edition, which was called the “scholars edition”.  I was enchanted and thanked her profusely, admiring the texture and grandeur of the books.  The bookcase was awesome, too: cherry wood beautifully finished.  There was a small package from Mommy.  When it was unwrapped, it was a jeweler’s box, inside that there was a gold identification bracelet with my name engraved on it.  It glowed and I kissed Mommy and Gramercy.  From Daddy there was a heavy rectangular box.  The box beneath the wrapping gave no clue as to the contents, but it was heavy.  I opened the box and there was a scabbarded rifle; I was stunned.  I slowly removed the rifle from the polished leather, and opened the bolt to insure that it was empty.   

     “Excellent,” Daddy said, “do you know what that is?”  

     “No Daddy, I don’t.” 

     “It’s a cavalry carbine.  Specifically it’s an 1896 Krag-Jorgensen carbine.  One of the finest weapons our Army ever carried.  The scabbard is Army issue too, from the Spanish-American War.  I thought they would go well on your McClellan saddle.” 

     “Thanks,” I hugged him.  “We’ll try it out later.” 

     From Bobbin there was a long envelope that contained a short letter and a check for a thousand dollars.  In the letter he said that he loved me, knew that my moral compass was “well in place and accurate” and hoped that I would invest his gift wisely.  Grand Belle had sent me a large package that contained a beautiful cashmere cardigan, a small leather-bound King James Version of the Bible, “suitable for travelling,” and a gold signet ring with my initials raised that would have to be “sized” at the jewelers. 

     It was later, just before lunch, when it dawned on me what Daddy had said about the McClellan.  I searched him out and asked about that.  He laughed and told me, “Yes, that’s yours too.”  What a great Christmas, the only thing that could have been better would have been if Roberto had been there; but he’d be here in two days.  Maybe it was better to have good things come in stages, rather than all at once.  Still, I missed him. 

     After lunch, Daddy and I rode out, with my scabbarded Krag on my saddle.  We rode up our road, and then branched out along a trail, that brought us to this meadow that had always been left in a natural state.  God had rendered a perfect pasture and needed no help from us.  A small “crick” ran alongside one edge of it and had eroded the bordering hill, creating the perfect embankment into which to shoot without fear of damage or ricochet.  I took Dragoon’s bridle off, put him in a halter, and hobbled him so that he could graze.  I knew that he didn’t care much for loud noises.  Daddy was riding a sturdy quarter horse gelding whom he had named, in the best cowboy tradition, Lucy Long.  He put Lucy in a halter with a lead rope, and just dropped the lead rope on the ground.  Lucy would figure out what we were doing quickly enough and could care less about firearms as long as it wasn’t a surprise. 

     Daddy went over every inch of the Krag, telling me how the sights worked, how to field strip it, load it and all of the details.  I remarked on the smoothness of the action, and he told me again, that while the rifle was not the most powerful, nor the most rugged, that our Army had ever carried, it was certainly the most finely made.  We then fired fifty rounds at various natural targets on the embankment.  I’d already been taught how to shoot, but this was my first serious rifle.  I enjoyed it immensely.  After the first few rounds, I’d noted that Lucy and Dragoon were grazing with every indication of enjoyment.  Apparently Lucy had convinced Dragoon to just ignore us. 

     As we were riding home, Daddy started in on his lecture about hunting responsibly.  I told him that I had no intention of shooting anything but targets.  I wanted to be a good shot, but had no intention of killing anything unless I had to.  “Somehow.  I thought you might say something like that,” he commented; “Nonetheless, you must always be safe and careful with guns.”  We finished our ride in companionable silence. 

     Gramercy had fixed dinner so that Margarita could have Christmas dinner with her family, just down the road.  Her husband and eldest son both worked for us so they had a house on the ranch as part of the deal.  We would have our big Christmas dinner when Roberto got here.  Roast beef, rice pilaf and gravy, salad, fresh rolls, and a lemon meringue pie for dessert.  I had coffee with no comments from the other diners. 

      I was going to read for a little before sleep.  But when I lay down, I admired my new rifle, spotless and gleaming on the wall, and decided on sleep instead.  I turned off the light, counted the hours until Roberto would arrive, and went to sleep. 

     It was cold in the afternoon shade of the platform as we waited for Roberto’s train.  I had thought, for a moment, that his train was early, when I’d heard some whistling to the west, but it was mellifluous, haunting, a steam whistle and the great engine’s breath was a huge plume of smoke and steam in the frigid air.  It was a cab forward mallet [1] with a great rattling of boxcars behind it.  The engineer deigned to wave at us lesser mortals as he rolled past the station casually commanding the greatest machine of all: they really are great you know, steam engines I mean, all that complicated mechanical splendor, the sheer surging size and power of the thing.  It occurred to me that I had no transportation stock in my portfolio and I decided I should consider this option. 

     I didn’t consider it for long, because the next sound from the west was the blatting of an air horn and it was the California Zephyr; she was right on time: more importantly, she was bearing my lover into my arms.   

     Reno doesn’t have a grand train station.  It’s just a platform and a building along the right of way and its right downtown.  So when the passenger trains stop, all the crossing alarms clang and rattle and flash and stop all of the north-south traffic on the streets until the train is finished with its business and moves on.  She rolled regally to a stop at precisely the right spot, and the conductors and the porters climbed down to attend to her needs. Roberto was the first one off his car.  You could see that he wanted to run and hug me when first he saw us; but we can’t do that, so he contained himself and walked-up to my Father and I, as a gentleman would.  I shook his hand with both of mine, and then put one hand on his arm and presented him to my Father. 

 “Daddy, this is my very great friend, Roberto Celayo de Galves.  Roberto, my Father.” 

     “Sir,” Roberto said, shaking hands and bowing very slightly. 

     “It is a very great pleasure to meet you, Roberto.  Charlie has been speaking very highly of you and yours ever since he got home.” 

     They were both smiling and exchanging pleasantries as we claimed Roberto’s luggage.  He only had two suitcases, and one large package.  It was a short walk to the Buick and then we drove over to Parker’s to get Roberto some boots and a Stetson so that we could go riding.  In Nevada, the horses are always deeply suspicious of a rider who does not wear a Stetson.  Roberto tried manfully to protest, but I told him that it was part of Christmas and Daddy just smiled.  We also got him a pair of Stewart boots.  They’re quite the best off the shelf. 

     On the ride to the ranch we talked about the goings-on in Anaheim, and in Reno; Roberto was fascinated by the notion of boarding in town to go to high school and asked a lot of questions about that, he knew from our letters that I was doing it, but still thought it unusual and had lots of little questions; I told him that I’d rather be at home, which was true, but didn’t fancy a hundred and twenty mile drive every day.  He agreed with that.  Daddy said, “It’s only fair to warn you that Gramercy, Charlie’s Grandmother whom you soon will meet, is going to want to know all about how you tamed Bobbin.”   

     Roberto, still a little reserved, kinda like I was around Papa when first I met him, said, “He is a great gentleman, the Patron, he is only sometimes a little stiff.”   

     Daddy thought that was great.  “You are, I think, a natural diplomat, Roberto.”  Roberto went on to discuss what Bobbin, “el Patron,” and his father, “Mi Papa” were up to in Anaheim.  It certainly sounded profitable. 

     Rather than parking in back, near the garage, as we usually did; Daddy wheeled the Buick right up to the front porch so that Roberto would be making a sort of grand entrance, his first time in our home.  As I was pulling his suitcases and package out of the trunk, Mommy and Gramercy appeared on the front porch and Daddy began the introductions.  As he was introduced, Roberto bowed slightly over their hand, and then raised each hand to his lips.  Both ladies accepted this unusual courtliness as if it were their due; but, like I said, it didn’t usually happen here, and I could tell that they were both pleased. 

     We proceeded into the house and I left his luggage in the entry hall as we went to the dining room where tea and coffee were waiting along with an assortment of pastries.  Gramercy sometimes had that vague look, as if she were considering passage on the Titanic, but it was a very pleasant hour or so and then I escorted Roberto to my room where, since I had always had a double bed, he would be sleeping.  His luggage had already been put in the room, but the minute the door was closed he took me in his arms and we kissed deeply.  He whispered “Carlito” and it was music in my ears. 

     There was a light knock on the door, “Senor Carlos por favor, el telefono.” 

     “Gracias Margarita.” 

     I would have preferred more kisses, but I guess I was becoming responsible, for I took the call.  It was my broker telling me that my Kennecott stock had hit my sell order.  I had him check several quotes, then told him to buy equal parts of the entertainment company that Bobbin had recommended, and General Electric, which Mr. O’Flaherty and I thought would be the best bet in electronics at the moment.  Plus, GE did a lot of other things, too: diversification.  I told him that I’d be in to see him after the holidays to make a deposit and to consider things.  I mentioned transportation as something for him to look into for me. 

     I went and reclaimed Roberto, helped him into his Christmas boots and Stetson, and then I took him for a tour of the ranch in my faithful old Cornbinder.  In my opinion, Roberto looked like he belonged there. On the ranch, I mean, rather than in Anaheim.  We couldn’t get up to any of the line cabins, or even very high into the hills because of the snow.  I saw Tomas cantering along on some errand on his favorite Mustang, we hailed him, and I introduced him to my darling.  They spoke amiably enough to one another in Spanish, and I followed their conversation quite easily.  I noted that Tomas was extremely deferential to Roberto and began to understand that there was a class system in Mexico, just as there is in the US.  I resolved to discuss this later with Roberto.  I told Tomas that my Father had approved riding lessons for Roberto and we agreed to start tomorrow. 

     During our tour, we stopped several times for kisses, and it was really great being able to completely relax with the one you love and call him “Cid” and all of the other sweetnesses we had come to share between us.  But it was tough, too, I wanted to show him off to everyone around; but I also wanted to rip off his clothes and leap naked into bed with him.  We probably would have ripped off our clothes and done it in the road, if it hadn’t been for the thick blanket of snow and the cold wind off the mountains.  Plus, the Cornbinder was a man’s truck from the 1930’s: it had no heater. 

     When we returned to the house, we warmed ourselves before the crackling parlor fireplace and Daddy and Roberto got to know each other a little better.  The kitchen and dining room area were all abuzz with preparations for our big Christmas dinner.  Roberto said that Papa had told him that they were related to General de Galvez through the march of many generations; but, “Papa is saddened that there were no great land grants left to us by the General.”  Daddy went off on one of his tangents about blood and heritage being more important; he told Roberto about one of my ancestors, a Mennonite, who declined his opportunity to serve in the King of Hanover’s Army and was taken out and shot for this lack of gratitude. I’d not heard this story before, but did not ask more questions just then.  Daddy went to the sideboard where Demon Rum lurked in several crystal decanters.  “May I offer you something?  Something short, in honor of the occasion,” Daddy asked.  Roberto looked to me for a cue.   

     “No Dad, thanks.  We kinda promised Grand Belle that we’d not touch liquor.”   

     He smiled at us both, “Good for you.”  Roberto grinned hugely.  He hadn’t actually promised Grand Belle, but I’d told him all about it, and I saw no reason for him not to be bound by the promise merely because he wasn’t there: we were brothers of the soul after all. 

     Daddy didn’t have a drink either.  Just then, our other guests came trooping in: there was Alberto, Margarita’s husband and their son Jorge; Matt, our foreman; and of course, the dashing Tomas – sensual and beautiful, and turned out beautifully, as the Mexican-American caballero that he truly is.  All of them received a measure of brandy, or whiskey, except, of course, Tomas.  By some magic, Margarita had divined that we needed drinks and had brought three ginger ales in cut crystal glasses.  I introduced Roberto to Alberto and Jorge, whom we had earlier missed, and we spent a convivial hour chatting in the parlor until we were called in to dinner. 

     The dining room was magnificent.  All of the best china and silver were out.  Gramercy seated us as she thought proper, so Roberto and I sat on either side of her with me on Daddy’s right which would normally have been her seat.  Daddy thought that I should offer a blessing, but I asked Roberto to, as it seemed somehow important at the time.  He did it as beautifully as ever he did at Bobbin’s table.  The feast was lavish and traditional.  Mommy and Margarita were up and down throughout the meal attending to all of the little details, as well as the next course.  I had turned my wine glass upside down and Roberto followed suit.  He whispered to Tomas, on his right, and then Tomas turned over his glass too.  It was a wonderful meal.  We all ate too much.  All the men then went back into the parlor and sat around feeling good, while the women started the clean up.  Tomas and Roberto and I discussed his riding lesson for tomorrow. 

     Margarita came to collect Alberto and Jorge; she was not allowed to wash or dry the good china.  It was an old set and was a complete service for fourteen.  Mommy had decreed that if a piece were to be broken, it would be her or Gramercy that did it, that way there would only be guilt, but no blame. 

     Roberto and I stepped out on the porch with Tomas to say goodnight.  We chatted a little about horses, and I told him how nice he looked.  He turned to Roberto as if to shake hands, but Roberto pulled him into a gentle embrace and touched both of his cheeks with his own.  I’d seen this done by Europeans in films and newsreels and stuff.  Roberto made it seem not only natural but good.  So I did the same to Tomas.  He put his hands on my waist and gave me a little squeeze.  He left for his room in the bunkhouse. 

     “He’s in love with you, ya know,” Roberto said quietly. 

     “Ya think?” 

     “Oh no.  I know it for a fact.” 

     “How do ya know something like that?” 

     “Ah, mi Cid, you are just wonderful and I love you with all my heart, but sometimes, you are just plain dense.  He TELLS you he loves you every time he looks at you, but you don’t see it.  You are his Cid just as you are mine.  Did he not hasten to turn over his wine glass when he learned you disapproved of it?  We will give him some love soon.” 

     “But I’m the boss’s son.  And.  Well.  That wouldn’t be right.” 

     “Pah!  Mi tonto Cid.  You are so wise in many ways and you know an awful lot, but sometimes, ah, sometimes.  Do you think that all those men followed their Cid for all those years of trouble for something other than love?  For what?  Gold?  Jewels?  Great feasts?  Women?  They had none of those things.  No mi corazon they followed him for love.  They sent him on his last ride for the love of him!  And for their love of God!  But we will talk more of Tomas later.  The rest of the night is ours.” 

     We said goodnight to everyone and went to our room.  Slowly we undressed each other.  One might have thought we’d never done it before; but we were not moving timidly, rather we were moving as an experienced team and we were going to slowly and sensually finish our Christmas feast.  With Roberto, everything seems perfect: every touch is right, every touch is silken, every touch is part of a passionate symphony.  With Roberto, there is a unity.  There are two of us, certainly, but we seem to move as one.  Playing each other like a duet; playing a sexual song of fulfillment.  Tonight, after months apart, we wish to drink deeply of one another.  We don’t have to talk about it.  We certainly don’t fumble around with one another.  We move to the bed and we move into position and we bring each other to climax as if we were one. 

     In the morning, surprise-surprise, we were all tangled together and hard as it is possible to be, so we kissed each other into position and drank of each other again. 

     During breakfast, Margarita fussed over Roberto as if he were a long lost son who had returned from unknown perils across the sea.  For some reason, Margarita and Gramercy had decided to call him “Jamie.”  It was turning into a wonderful visit. 

     As soon as he was done eating, I dashed off and got his Christmas present.  The pewter knight.  He unwrapped it slowly and was enchanted.  “I think it must be el Cid,” I observed.  Of course, there was no label or anything.  He jumped up and returned with a gift for me.  I smiled hugely because I could tell it was books.  There were two, both first editions and both in beautiful condition, they were: The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White published in 1939, and The “Death or Glory Boys” The Story of the 17th. Lancers by D.H. Parry and it was from 1899.  I was entranced.  Books tend to do that to me anyway, but a special book from your lover is the best book of all. 

     Daddy said, “Did you say that this was ‘pewter’?”  He had been examining the knight.  

     “Well, I thought it was,” I replied, “But I never really asked.  Why?  Is something wrong?  Is it steel or something?”  

     “No.  Nothing’s wrong, but I think it’s silver,” and he handed it to Gramercy, “What do you think?” 

     She rubbed one of the horse’s legs gently with her thumb.  “It’s definitely silver.  Look at it gleam.”  She looked at us; “This is how they used to polish silver, you know, by rubbing it with their hands.”  She regarded it carefully, “I don’t think you should do more than highlight it.  Not that it matters, but if you polish it completely it will look just like new.”  While this investigation was taking place, Mommy had gone for several other packages, which she presented to Roberto.  I smiled her my gratitude.  He received several beautiful ties (I’d never seen him in a tie – yet).  There was a brown leather vest and two lovely Pendleton shirts.  Roberto thanked us all profusely.  You could tell that he was touched.  While all this was going on, Margarita had brought Tomas into the dining room, it was time to ride.   

     Tomas and I took Roberto back to our bedroom and we dressed him to ride.  I let him wear a pair of his 501’s, his new boots, and his hat.  I provided him an older flannel shirt of mine, and a well-worn fleece lined leather jacket – just in case he fell off.  I didn’t want him to damage one of his new Pendleton’s.  I made him put a large clasp knife in his pocket.  There are only two kinds of horsemen, you know: those who have fallen and those who are going to. 

     “Well,” I looked at Tomas and shifted into Spanish, “He looks good to me.  Do you think the horse will approve.  Who will he be riding?” 

     “Oh yes, Patron, Missy will like him and be kind to him.”  I smiled my approval at Tomas for Missy was the Grand Dame of the ranch, well schooled and affectionate. 

     “Thank God,” Roberto said, looking at himself in the dresser mirror, “I was half afraid you were gonna make me ride naked.”  Roberto and I laughed.  Tomas looked at the floor but I could tell he was blushing furiously. 

     We all went out to the training ring where Missy was waiting.  Tomas introduced Roberto to Missy, who nuzzled his arm leaving alfalfa drool on his sleeve; they started going through all the terminology of saddle and tack.  Tomas gave the bridle to Roberto, and made him tuck the bit up into his armpit beneath his jacket.  “You would not like a mouthful of cold metal, Senor, nor would any horse.  Always remember, Senor, that the blood of the Conquistadors, and of the Mexican Lancers, and of a thousand Caballeros, runs in your veins.  You will be one with the horse as it is meant to be and is expected of you.” 

     “Tomas, you will please not call me ‘Senor.’  If you feel you must, when others are present, then it is okay.  But when it is only us, you must call me Roberto.  I think you know that Carlos, there, is my Cid; I know that he is your Cid.” 

     “When it is just the three of us, Tomas,” I interjected, “You must also call me Carlos.” 

     “Will you do that for us?”  Roberto continued. 

     Tomas gave a little bow, just with his head; but somehow it implied that he had gone down on one knee as he looked at each of us, “Si Senor Roberto.  Si Roberto y Carlos.”  We were silent for several minutes.  It was an intense moment.  Kinda mystical.  It was almost like we were in a different time.  Like, you know, Ruy Diaz de Bivar was there with us in the ring.  Like maybe we’d soon be riding off against the king’s enemies.  Then Missy snorted, bringing us back to the here and now.  The lesson resumed. 

     I was watching from outside the ring when Daddy came by and told me that he and Mommy were going into Gardnerville for an hour or two.  They’d be home for dinner.  I thanked him gravely.  I knew, that others new where they were going, but I was flattered, and felt older, because he had sought me out to tell me what his plans were.  Tomas kept Roberto in the saddle for an hour, then we all took Missy into the barn to brush, curry and make much of her.  This was an important part of the lesson, too.  Tomas was entirely serious about Roberto being “one with the horse.”  We also took proper care of the tack. 

     We had lunch in the kitchen.  Tomas was on a roll about horses and tack and the trials and tribulations of being a cowboy.  He loved horses and everything to do with them, which meant, pretty much, that he had to be a cowboy; but, he noted, this cowboy business wasn’t like in the movies - you were always too hot, or too cold; too dry, or too wet, and the pay wasn’t all that good, except of course, for his current position he hastened to amend.  We were going to go out and introduce Roberto to some of the other horses, but Gramercy intercepted us. 

     “Come, gentlemen, into the parlor with me,” Gramercy bade us.  “I’ve something to tell you.”  Gramercy sat in a Victorian chair that was covered in burgundy velvet.  She made it seem a throne. The three of us stood before her, as was proper.  She was very solemn, “I am a MacKenzie from the distant Highlands.  Oft times, MacKenzie women know things; they know things that some might say they should not know.  They know them nonetheless. 

     “When I was a girl, I was preparing to sail to Europe to do the Grand Tour.  The travel agent attempted to book us passage on the newest liner afloat.  I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I would never see that ship.  I couldn’t just say that, of course; they’d want to know why and they’d try to convince me to change my mind.  So I had to make something of a scene.  But I knew that I would never see that ship. Mind, I did not know what was going to happen.  I did not know why I would not see that ship.  I just knew that I would never see her.   No one has seen her since she left Ireland.  I do not pretend to know the how, or the why, or anything about this; but I do know that I knew this.  I am not the first MacKenzie woman to know something that she should not know.  I do not think I will be the last. 

     “So tell me, Jamie.  When did you first know that you loved my Carlos?”  The parlor was absolutely still.  Roberto was still and regarded my regal Gramercy with level respect.  For the second time that day, we were all in another time and place. 

 

 

[1]Diligently trying not to get carried away, a Mallet locomotive is basically a single locomotive with two sets of drivers which makes it two locomotives in one.  They are usually articulated to be able to take the curves on the rail line.  The Cab Forwards were used on lines where there were a number of tunnels.  These were heavy freight haulers, not the fastest on an upgrade, so the smoke and cinders in a tunnel were a safety hazard.  As the name implies, the crew cab was at the front of the locomotive, not to the rear in the usual manner.  There were a number of them used crossing the Sierra’s and they were a frequent sight in Reno.