“Who’s out there?” he shouted. No one answered.
Amigo’s body tensed. Something must be outside. José hoped it wasn’t a grizzly
looking for shelter. “Who’s there?” he screamed louder, hoping his voice would
scare away whatever was out there.
Despite the noisy storm, he heard gravelly footsteps. Something had entered the
cave. “Who is it?” José called out again.
A voice replied, “Who’s in here?”
“Who are you?”
“It’s Pedro. Is that you, José?”
“Pedro, are you following me?” José pretended he was angry, but was secretly
glad he and Amigo were no longer alone.
“I was trying to catch up with Fremont’s army when this storm hit,” Pedro said.
Pedro’s teeth chattered from the cold and wet. Flashes of lightning lighted the
cave, and he could see Pedro’s dripping, wet hair and sopping shirt. José was just
as soggy. “Get closer to Amigo. He’ll keep you warm.”
In the dark, Pedro edged around the trembling horse and stood closer to José.
The boys leaned against Amigo, finding comfort from the horse’s warm body and
each other’s company.
“Why are you here?” Pedro asked.
“I was going to join Fremont’s vaqueros, too. Where is your horse?”
“He fell in the darkness. The reins slipped out of my hands and he disappeared. I
saw this cave and thought it would be a good place to stay dry. I’ve never seen it
rain like this. I hope it stops soon. The war will be over before I catch up with
“Papa says it’s not our fight. Why do you want to join Fremont’s army?” José
“For the money Fremont is paying vaqueros. If I earn enough money, maybe
someday, if I save it, I could buy a little rancho.”
“You are a blacksmith, not a vaquero.”
“Maybe so. But I have a horse, and Fremont won’t know the difference. Besides,
he may need a blacksmith, too.”
“Seems you don’t have a horse now,” José said.
“I’ll find him in the morning after this rain stops.”
“You have big dreams. Owning a rancho? Me, with the twenty-five dollars, I want
to buy a pair of spurs like the ranchero wears. A pair of beautiful silver spurs, that
is all I want.” It seemed strange. A day ago, he had been mad enough to punch
Pedro’s jaw. But now, in the scary darkness, something had changed, and they
were again talking like friends.
“You vaqueros love fancy bits and shiny spurs. I can make silver spurs for you.
Wearing the beautiful spurs I make will be lucky, and you will become the greatest
horse trainer in all of Alta California.”
“The greatest horse trainer?” To be the greatest horse trainer in Alta California
had never entered José’s mind. He just needed silver spurs to bring him luck and
help him be brave enough to ride the wild, bucking colts and make his papa
proud. That would be enough to make José happy.
Tired, the boys sat down, leaned against the cold, stony wall and fell asleep.
When they woke, it was Christmas morning. It was quiet outside. The rain had
stopped. In the dawn’s light, they saw strange patterns painted on the cave’s
“Look,” José said, pointing at the brightly painted designs decorating the cave.
“These must be the sacred paintings Tomas said our people painted long ago.
They are strange. That one looks like a snake, and that one like the sun. What do
Pedro stood and reached up to trace the painted lines with his finger. “I’ve heard
of these paintings, but have never seen them.”
“Don’t touch them! Tomas says they’re sacred. Spirits are here. That is why our
ancestors painted this cave.” José knelt and whispered a prayer the padre had
taught him. He no longer knew the prayers of the people who had painted the
cave. “Our ancestors must have guided us here to protect us and help us on our
journey. We should leave this cave and hurry to catch up with Fremont.” He stood
and led Amigo out of the cave. “Let’s go.”
In the fall of 1846, when José Rodriquez turns twelve, his papa says next
spring he must help tame Rancho Grande’s wild colts. He knew this day
would come. For on the Alta California rancho, being a vaquero and
training horses was his family’s tradition. Vaqueros’ horsemanship and
roping skills were legendary and their lives full of danger. Many vaqueros
had been killed or crippled while riding the mustangs. Did he have enough
courage to ride the wild ones and measure up to his papa’s expectations?
Worried, José decides only luck will help him be fearless enough to ride
the wild colts, luck he will get from a pair silver spurs and chaps made
from a brave bull’s hide. But he has no money. How can he buy silver
spurs? Then the Mexican-American war starts. And a few days before
Christmas, Colonel John C. Fremont’s battalion camps on Rancho Grande
and everything changes.
Based on true events, Spurs for José brims with action and excitement as
a young vaquero goes on an unforgettable adventure.
|Spurs for José
Wanda Snow Porter
"Ms. Porter took me into a bygone age when
California was still a part of Mexico. To a life of
cattle ranches and vaquroes.
Spurs for Jose is intended for children in
middle school, but I enjoyed it for its peak into
history and a lifestyle new to me. I think you will
too." -Barbara M. Hodges
"Spurs for Jose would make a good addition to
classroom libraries, especially history classes,
as well as for personal libraries for readers who
enjoy historical fiction, one of my favorite
subjects. So pick up a copy of the book and
ride along with Jose and his family where you'll
get a taste of the past." -Beverly Stowe
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