know," he said, "that's bound to be a hell of a good pony. Look at the
number of brands he's got arned out. Ever' damn time they arned a brand it
means somebody stoled him."
Once, in the early
days of polo at San Patricio, the mail brought word to Eric Knight that he had
sold the rights of publication in Denmark for one of his books. A check for $35
accompanied the letter from his agent, and when Knight disappeared for a few
hours we all knew where he had gone. On a neighboring ranch there was a trim
little sorrel filly whose owner wanted just $35 for her. When Eric returned he
was leading the filly. Her name, he said, would be "Danish Rights."
This name didn't
stick, probably because the Mexicanitos who played with us found it difficult
and unintelligible. Instead, they called her "La Bamba," for her
graceful and dancing trot.
In that time there
lived, not far from our ranch, a family named Herrera. There were five
brothers, four of them in their middle and late 20s. All were talented and
dedicated horsemen. They worked variously as cowhands and horse breakers and
were always flamboyantly conspicuous performers at the local fiestas and
rodeos. There was Jose, known as El Pi?o, after a Navajo grandfather; Antonio
called El Gordo; Aristeo, called El Cadillo for his resemblance to a cockle-bur
when he was clinging to the mane of a wild meste?o. There was also Manuel,
called simply Manuelito, and Frutuoso, known as El Heuro for the habit he had
of bleaching his black Indian hair.
THE RULES OF THE
The Herreras were
obviously perfectly endowed for our purposes, and it wasn't long before they
were enthusiastic poloistas. American cowboys from surrounding ranches also
joined us, but they were always less spectacular, had less showmanship than the
Herreras. Occasionally cavalry officer friends dropped in to watch or even
participate in our rustic sport. From one cavalryman came a widely circulated
rumor about polo as played at San Patricio. There were, according to the story,
1. No knives or
guns allowed; carrying of ropes is frowned upon.
2. If a player is unhorsed, it is against the rules to run over him or belabor
him with mallets until he has remounted.
3. If the ball goes out of Lincoln County, a rider is sent to a high peak to
fire a gun and light a signal fire rallying the players to the ranch house for
a round of tequila copitas.
obviously has no basis, for Lincoln County stretches 100 miles in one direction
and 90 in another.
Another fable is
that we once applied to have the W.P.A. make a federal relief project of our
polo team. This is untrue, but it is a fact that at one time three of the
Herrera boys were full-time W.P.A. workers, which limited our games to Saturday
afternoons and Sundays.
Polo became an
established institution at San Patricio and, though no one had any money for
fancy gear, there was no lack of willingness to match games with all comers.
Our opponents were widely varied, and consisted of civilian and military teams
from Roswell, El Paso, Ft. Bliss and Juarez.