Baxter Black: A Day To Remember
It’s funny how the world goes around. Francisco and I were checking cows, making a big circle early in the morning to beat the heat. It’s peaceful out there. We’ve got grazing rights for 200 cows in 18 sections of Lowell Love grass, twenty-foot high mesquite and assorted cacti, canyons, arroyos and rattlesnakes, 40 miles north of the Mexican border in Arizona.
We were deep in the monte, ‘scrub land’, when Francisco asked if I’d like to see where my son found the dead man.
Eight years ago when my son was 16, he and Francisco were making a “juelta,” a big circle (as in “Dar la juelta” – Take a dally). I didn’t speak English to my son until he was 10 years old, so he and Francisco communicated in Spanish. On that fateful day, Cindy Lou and I were visiting our friends in northern Idaho in the Whitebird Hill area. The cell phone rang…it was my son…he was stuttering…he was looking at a dead man…he wasn’t sure the man was dead…he had wheeled his horse to go find Francisco!
I stopped him and ordered him to retrace his tracks to make certain he could find his way back to the corpse after he found Francisco. They both had cell phones. Francisco phoned the local deputy sheriff who knew the country, and went to meet them. My son posted guard over the body. That was June 20, 2010. So when Francisco asked if I’d like to see the spot where it all happened, I said, “Si.”
I had no doubt he could locate the exact area eight years later because I’ve come to realize that many cowboys have an unbelievable ability to remember terrain, cows, horses, tracks, holes in fences, lock combinations, landmarks and incidents. They are like fish in their own aquarium, only their aquarium is 12 thousand acres full! He crossed a couple of arroyos and bottoms, rock slides, 40-foot mesquite trees, tangles in the unforgiving scrub and then pointed.
I dismounted, worked around and tried to picture how the scene was when my son first arrived in this exact spot eight years ago. The victim was obviously an illegal alien, probably Mexican, traveling with a group. His compadres had taken his shirt, shoes and personal belongings. He had been dead a couple days.
Did he die quickly, assuming they stripped the body after he died? Did they say a few words over him? Did his family ever find out his ending? Who knows?
Francisco made a tight circle and found the remnants of a faded blue baseball cap snarled in the brush. I pulled it loose, walked back to the spot and buried it. We took off our hats. I said a prayer in Spanish.
The coincidence that we’d ever cross paths on that same date 8 years later allowed us to pay due respect to another fellow traveler who was just lookin’ for a home.
Vaya con Dios, Amigo. Which means, “Go with God.”