Friends with Fur: from the El Panchito Annals

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On the outside he is born as smooth as velvet; on the inside he is born as full of trem- blings as an earthquake. He knew he would be bad. Be- fore the dawn, he would be eager to start out, longing in his vitals for the senoritas. Then finally Parra would ask if he was ready.

Carramba, he was ready and waiting!

Letters from the Battlefields of Paraguay/Introductory Essay

With the lightning thrust that so often comes with the dangerous life, Pancho's fortunes abruptly changed. Unknown to Parra and his fa- vored henchman Villa, the stage was packed, not with the usual guard or two, but with a number of suspicious officers and Federal soldiers. The outlaw band literally fell upon the coach, which promptly retaliated by emptying a squad of crack riflemen.

Amid the quick gun- fire and the horsemen's wheeling, the sky exploded. The bandits that day paid with blood for the payroll they took. Ignacio Parra met his death early in the fighting, being shot from his Appaloosa horse, that had tried to break away in fear to head for the hills. Villa led the rally and reassembled the band under his own leader- ship.

That night he rode back to camp on dead Parra's horse, Estrella Azul. The return of the bandits to camp was their saddest, for in the death of Parra they had lost their original founder. The bandits faced the need, with the aid of Villa, of fitting the pieces into place in order to remain banded together. Pancho represented the logical succes- sor to the revered Parra, and so it was he who took over the leadership.

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Did he now miss that familiar interruption by Parra? Possibly the spirit of old Ignacio nudged Villa's fine friend Juan Salas, urging him to speak. Why should we remain in mourn- ing?

The rurales but bury their soldier dead. You could go by the safety of darkness ; your true men would guard you well. You waste the night talking and bragging; your little paloma is lonely when she is not with her brave bandit.

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There were, mingled with the turbulence of the constant raiding parties, many sentimental hours. When the opportunity offered, he catapulted from the hills in sudden descent upon the Hacienda Rio Grande to visit his mother and the youngsters. Yet later on, he knew, approvingly or otherwise, that his brothers and sisters moved to Chi- huahua City and left the poor madre at home, because in the old Indian tradition she could not be brought to part with a place so full of memories.

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He endured the greatest grief that a strong man experiences the day his mother died. When the news of her death reached him, the grief-stricken man succumbed to tears at the hard trick of Fate which had kept him from her in her last long hours alone. His followers saw the woeful spectacle that he presented on that bitter winter day as he stood be- side his horse moaning, whimpering like a whipped and beaten boy. Sad hours had their place upon the chro- nometer in the clockless eternities of his bandit life.

Love for Maria Luz Corral naturally strengthened in him after his mother's death.

The loss of one woman's love brought to him a concentration of love upon another woman, a love that he learned to understand, to cherish, because it grew and grew. He came to love Luz with an abiding passion. Perhaps it was Thomas Urbina or Martin Lopez or, more likely, Juan Salas who transformed Pancho into action and broke him from the spell of reminiscing which caused such anguished aching, such longing.

Then with sharp blasts on a whistle, he headed straight to the listening horses. Probably he chose the Appaloosa that stood listening nearby, ready and impatient. They galloped down the road to adventure and tender romance. There is no tree but casts a shadow, And no maiden, now and forever, but is loving. He did not fancy the slender gringa type but liked a girl with plenty of meat on her. But despite his many amorous experiences, he had but one abiding lover, Maria Luz.

When the young man Villa fell in love, he experi- enced something which the common bandits never felt, something as free as the air, as certain as the midnight sky with its fateful Lucero star. The cold- blooded Indian part of Villa stayed at camp when he was fired with love for Luz and rode away to the city. Compared to the rest of the bandits, he behaved like a man apart, the lover transcendent. When in the freshness of love for Luz, he felt much better than at any other time : the black thoughts receded as amor welled within his heart, oiling his pride, nurturing his narcissism.

When Pancho Villa fell deeply in love, he left his cold aboriginal Indian self at home; he became Spanish, warm and emotional. During such happy hours every- thing tasted dulce, muy dulce — sweeter than soft brown cactus candy. The sweets of life belonged to him. As a laughing young lover, Pancho Villa made a striking figure. In his younger days, before he af- fected the mustache which hid his adenoidal mouth but drooped and trailed away too much, many people re- garded him as particularly handsome. He had a splen- did physique, with large firm shoulders ; he stood about six feet in height, being somewhat taller and better- proportioned than the average man.

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Before his weak- ness for murdering got the better of him, Pancho Villa had warm brown eyes that looked about him steadily and full. His manners always reflected the best traditions. Long after he had, in the war, become drunk with his narcissism and had heard the voices prophesying the splendor of his destiny, he could and did impress suspicious gringo news reporters with his charm, his excellent display of taste, and his practical view of urgent military matters.

Pancho evidently had been endowed at birth with the precious sense called timing. When he wanted to, he could persuade his most skeptical critic to see the reason why a brutal action had been necessary to save time or to protect the lives of others. Such talents in a handsome man would naturally overpower the women, both the senorita and her duena, if she were lucky enough to have a chaperon along to shield her. His role as a musician also made him dangerous with the ladies.

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He played the guitar and other musical in- struments but grew fondest of singing, ringing out the honeyed love songs with a round full voice. When Luz Corral, his paloma, drew near, he accented and prolonged the dulcet notes. Luz had for him the fragrance of apple blossoms in the spring; he simply welled with song at the scent of her.

No wonder Maria Luz Corral succumbed, no won- der she married the man! Pancho seemed so different from the rest of her suitors. This one called her guera and chula, his pretty little blonde. With any of the others she would have become a typical housewife ; with Pan- cho the path promised to be strange and wicked. She chose the strange and wicked. He was her eternal lover — so rough but oh, so gentle.

They were married on Oc- tober 17, , in the small town of San Andres, near Chihuahua City, the bride's family and a few friends being present.

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The ceremony went briefly and smoothly, without interruption. But at the back of Pancho's head one thought repeated itself, the rurales might hear of the wedding and attempt to capture him during its rit- ual. If they chased him that day, they were far, far be- hind — perhaps misdirected while in hot pursuit by some companero stationed at the crossroads as a lookout for any such emergency.

The wedding being duly consum- mated, the pair of lovers must have been very happy in being finally united, considering the many separations they had endured during Villa's sojourns in the moun- tains. She was his first sweetheart, and, of his many wives, the only one he loved until his death.

Love among the other bandits partook only of ani- mality. The outlaw breed turned to the stewing brothels, los serallos, while Villa, the gay caballero, sought real romance, which dwelled elsewhere, in another, better part of town. The outlaws, foul and smelly, were a band of men unloved and unlovable, stupidly salacious, un- skilled at courtship, who had to buy love from the pro- fessionals. With jingling coins bulging their pockets, they constituted the life-blood of vice, the backbone of its economy.

Some of them broke their pattern when, in a wild act, they convulsed a country girl with early wisdom of the sexual secret. They purchased her silence with dinero, their healing cure and cheering anodyne.

Theirs was the vicious custom of a pre-revolutionary day. Only the women of the cantinas truly welcomed them, these rough and tumble hombres who strode into the bailes, restless and drunk and wicked. They pulsed with purpose at the gaming table, swore loud at the crowded bar, grew purple with lust while they danced. When a pretty new senorita entered the room, she dashed to its center, and in it danced a solo.

As round and round she swept, other girls joined her, each in her turn dancing similarly before the circle of men. Bored with gambling, taut with tequila, the bandits lighted into flame caught from the baile, argued and shoved and stumbled, with shameless oaths and lascivious leers. Probably on these occasions, to enlist the sympathy of the dancing women, the bandits rang out one of their lonely songs. If Villa joined them, as sometimes he did, he sang the mournful chant, too. The outlaws attained celebrity at the bordellos.

Even the non-professional women seldom refused them when they put every question into the melody of song: If I drink wine And ask credit of no one. If I get drunk, It is because I have money. What am I going to do If your love is what I want?