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One time in the late '30s we were preparing for a big game: General Jaime Jesus Qui?ones of the Mexican army was bringing a team from Juarez and we had arranged a barbecue. A publican friend in Roswell contributed beer for the occasion?64 cases of it?which I'm afraid resulted in a sort of equestrian bacchanalia. Local kids had been recruited with the promise of all the soda pop they could drink to pick the stones off the field. A roller made of poured concrete was dragged behind a pickup truck and, although the field after this bore little resemblance even to the usual polo field, it was, for us, like Meadowbrook. But on the Friday preceding the Sunday of the game, disaster threatened: Two of the Herreras, including the star, and another player named Juan Baca came to me and sadly announced they were leaving for South Texas early the next day. A labor procurement agent had lured them with high wages to go and pick cotton. They departed ruefully, toasting our success in swigs of tinto.
Our place at San Patricio was little more than a camp in the '30s. The two old adobe houses on the property were barely habitable, so much of this time my wife and children were in Pennsylvania. With the polo infection racing in my veins, I found myself selecting my cook always with less interest in his cooking than in whether or not he could ride like hell and was willing to risk his neck on our polo field. Spills were commonplace and there were occasionally broken bones, but nothing serious.
As time went along and our team became locally known, polo-playing friends would make us presents of gear they no longer needed. In this way we collected a big assortment of mallets, balls, helmets, bridles, polo boots, riding breeches, six horses, four saddles and one pair of magnificent Peale Boots made in London. These boots we all tried on and we finally agreed that they fit Pi?o best. They became his. One day, soon after this transaction, we played a game in Roswell. Following the game, the cavalry colonel who had been our referee invited the players to his quarters for drinks. I had noticed our host, a newcomer in Roswell, earnestly conversing with Pi?o in border Spanish. Later he came up to one of our other players and asked:
"Don Jose, that is Se?or Pi?o?is he a big rancher?"
"No sir, I don't think so."
"Has he some mining interests in Lincoln County?"
"Just what does he do?"
"Ever since I've known him, he's been working as a hand on Pete Hurd's ranch. Why?"
"Well," said the colonel, "if that isn't a pair of Peale Boots he's got on I'll eat a bale of barley hay!"