Dusty Feet-A rancher kneels in Prayer, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 1988

Wayne Cook

Joined August 2008

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Dusty feet, boot clad
Kneeling in dedication
Belief that God will touch
Touch the man who humbly bows
Was he yesterday,
Walking among his horses?
Staring, steely eyed at cattle,
Placidly eating on the hillside…
His pants frayed from years,
Scrubbed white shirt to meet the priest,
Has any priest attended his work?
God has….
The words are mumbled,
‘neath the brow of his sweating head
No sun forgives him on this day,
No, not the orb high, exalted,
But God, God kneels with him,
Accepting his prayer,
“Dios, Favor….Bendigame,
Mis hijos, mis caballos,
Mi familia, este dia…..
No hablo bien, Dios…
Soy solo un vaquero.
Vivo en las montanas,
Y cononzco trabajos y dolor.
Te pido hoy…..Amen.

Alejandro has worked this land, unendingly for 10 years, his hands hardened by the friction of rope and leather. The heat of the sun, drying his one tender skin, the skin of his once childish play, now gone, with the innocence of his wandering in the grove outside his grandfather’s home….

The custom of this remote Mexican village, outside Cuernavaca, and the economics, he, and his wife and 8 year old son, now live in rooms off the sala, within the patriarch’s house. The family has lived thus for hundreds of years, perhaps back to the wildness of Pancho Villa, who left many years ago to worry the army and the Texas Gringos with his disgruntled spirit.

Alejandro does not see the changes of politics on the horizon, in a changing and hostile world, the encroachment of terrorism from the south, has not spit upon the 50,000 inhabitants of Cuernavaca, so comfortably hidden down the hill from Mexico City. Only the ridges of his land, and the cactus hugging the slopes.

This day, he invited Father Onesco to his rancho, to give a blessing to the family, the workers, and the land. In his remoteness, Alejandro worships God under the shade of the orange trees along side the ancestral white stucco of his great, great Grandfather’s home. But to day, he and the 20 men, women, and a very few children, are gathered in the horse corral, dressed in their best jeans, white shirts and crimson scarves, to both honor Onesco and God in one swoop. Clothing has been scrubbed, ironed, and starched, all by hand to decades old washboards, by these ranch women, as there is no electricity very far outside Cuernavaca, in 1988. While the rest of the first world triumphs in space walks and fine Parisian wines, cheap oil from Arabia, and even exploration of the stars, Alejandro lights his home with kerosene lamps from a store in town, whose streets, patterned with dusty tread marks, number in the poorer parts of Mexico, even with the main road, asphalted from Mexico City, and young city people racing the night moon on the straight stretches, south from the night glow of the enormous city.

Amid the sounds of crackling, polished and oiled leather, the stiffness of starched sleeves and rustling dresses, each man kneels before the homemade altar, where Onesco dispenses with a murmured blessing. Only the coughs and movements of bodies, the buzzing of flies around the sweaty faces, and the horse droppings, disturb the complete silence, this far from the city, just 50 miles from the shantied outskirts, and deseil smudged skies of the capital.

In an hour, the blessings will be finished, and a dinner will be served as Vaquero and Padre, celebrate the completion of a year of plenty. This time, God’s touch was beneficent, midst the near desert conditions of the hacienda. Only the sombreros separate these ranchers and the sun-burnt men and women 800 miles to the north, outside Dallas.

Only 800 miles, and almost 200 years.

Artwork Comments

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