Chapter 11: The Month the Babies Cry

Chapter Eleven: First day Home

“Juanito,” Veronica whispered. “Wake, hijo.”

Juan opened his eyes. At first he seemed bewildered, then his eyes changed into the eyes of yesterday’s little boy, one smitten by a memory. “Buenos dias,” he said. “¿Esta mañana?”

She pulled him to her and kissed him on the crown of his head. “Yes, my little one. Rise and go with Miguel to gather eggs. Vaya con Miguel para huevos. Miguel, speak to him in English and in Spanish. He must learn to speak English if he is to be a rancher here someday. Put him into some of your clothes. It is cold, so let him wear two shirts until I can make him a jacket.

Donde esta mis padres?”

Sus padres han pasado al próximo mundo.”

Con los angeles?”

Si. Con los angeles. Está bien, Juanito. Está bien.”

Miguel helped Juan into the shirts and then into a pair of pants. He cinched the britches up and tied the waist with a piece of string. “I will make you suspenders tomorrow, but for now the string will do for a belt. Ven, mi nuevo hermano. Tenemos trabajar. We must visit the chickens. Papá is already outside working. Then we will have breakfast.

Juan smiled and nodded. “Si! Estoy listo.”

Miguel took him by the hand and led him outside.

*          *          *

Micah slept better and in a deeper sleep than he had expected. He woke to the smell of coffee and biscuits. He sat up, swung his feet to the floor, and said, “Mornin’, Erin. I sure ain’t used to anyone cookin’ for me. You should have woke me. I would have helped you.”

“Don’t talk foolishness,” Erin said. “I could feel it in your body that you’re bone-weary. I’ve looked forward to making your breakfast again for a long time. After all, I’ve got to get your strength up for all those chores I got lined up for you to do.”

“I’ll get to them soon enough. I guess you heard of the Ranger unit being formed to go after the Comanches that raided some families along the Brazos.”

“Yes, and by the way you ask it, I guess I should expect you to go with them.”

“Ramon will be by directly. We’re going out to see my parents’ graves, and then into town to talk to the unit leader. You can’t tell—I may not like him and may turn around come back home.”

“You and I both know you’ll go out looking for the Indians. You just can’t help yourself when it comes to doing the right thing—or starting a fight.”

“Daddy’s awake!” Skye said. “We can go down now.” The twins clambered down the ladder and both of them made their way to Micah. He clutched them to himself and felt his heart crack. How on earth have I made it without seeing them? he asked himself.

Ramon arrived at Micah’s house not long after breakfast. He embraced kissed Erin and the twins, and said, “I have gifts for the twins.”

Skye and Benjamin hurried over to him. Skye spoke first. “Since my brother’s a donkey, I bet you brought him some oats!”

Erin thumped Skye’s head. “That meanness of yours is getting tiresome, little girl.”

“For you, Benjamin.” Ramon held out a small burlap sack. “Pecans.”

Then he held out a small silver mirror. “For you, Skye. But you must share it with your mother. I’ve engraved both of your names on the back.”

Skye too the mirror by the handle and held it up to study her reflection. She turned the mirror over and whispered the inscription Ramon had made:

To Erin and Skye

“I’ll never part with it, Mr. Chavez. Never.”

Ramon patted each twin on the head. “You are loved like my own children, hijos.”

Micah kissed Erin and the twins. “Say a prayer for your daddy.” Outside, Ramon handed Micah a sack of corn. “For your horse. We’ll probably be gone several days.”

“Colbert is used to eating grass, but I don’t reckon he’ll mind some grain. Likely it will spoil him though.”

“You weren’t given grain for your horse during the war?”

“We got some now and then, but we always ate it ourselves. Once or twice, when there weren’t no grain for the horses, we had to eat the horses too.”

Micah rode with Ramon to his parents’ place. The cabin his father had worked so hard to construct had burned to the ground, and the stone chimney stood like a hollow tombstone over the blackened ground and charcoal timbers. He remembered seeing the many houses in Louisiana that General Banks’ men had burned as they retreated in disgrace down the Red River.

Under a juniper tree, rose a flat piece of carved sandstone that marked his little brother’s grave. Micah didn’t read the engraved words on the stone, but he knew them by heart:

BENJAMIN WARREN EVANS BELOVED SON

OF RACHEL AND JOHN EVANS FEBRUARY 1856-1860

Next to his brother’s grave stood the sandstone tombstones that marked the graves of his father and mother. They dismounted and tied their horses to the juniper.

Micah spat. “The place is in rough shape. The land looks empty without the house.”

“It is not the land that is empty, hijo, but your heart. The land and spring are still good and they are yours.   It will be a good place to raise a family. It is better land than where you and Erin now live. I will help you rebuild the cabin if you want.”

Micah said. “Pa always said he would never leave here.”

“It broke my heart to bury my friend. I have dug many graves in Texas, but I never thought one would be his. I hope you don’t mind, but I brought a priest here after you went to war and asked him to give their bodies a blessing.”

Micah nodded. “That’s alright. They were Methodists, but I reckon they are mighty pleased.” Micah knelt and touched each mound of earth, then each gravestone. “It ain’t right that there’s so much death in this place.”

Ramon placed a hand on his shoulder. “No, it is not right. The Comanches do not fight with honor, nor with mercy. We should go now, hijo,” Ramon said. “After this Ranger expedition, I have work that must be done and I know you do too.”

“Ain’t no shortage of work, that’s for sure.”

Micah studied the charred timbers of the house, the graves, and the desolation of the sight dug in his heart like a knife. “I’m glad you both died quickly, and without violence,” he whispered. “But I reckon there ain’t no easy way to die.”