It took Felipe, Tomas and Juan a long while, lariats flying, to capture the young stallions, to feed them, and fasten their bridles, and tether them in pairs. But Felipe’s black charger, Lucero, dominated them, and Tomas’ mare, Popo, calmed them. On long leads they followed readily enough when Juan closed the corral gates and shouted, “Good luck.” In the still dark morning Tomas and his father rode up the lane toward the house. Gray haired Felipe, straight and strong, led the first set. Tomas, sixteen, less sure of himself, guided a pair of brown stallions that were so much alike they looked like twins.
Starving and thirsty, too tired to notice his rain-soaked, sweat-slathered clothes, Tomas was as excited as the horses. His saddlebag was stuffed with food, but he knew his father would not stop until they got clear of the ranch. A canteen of cold spring water hung from the pommel. He uncorked it and took a cautious swallow. It would take two days to reach the capital of Mexico. There, his father would sell the young stallions to Don Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. And the General would say to his lieutenants, “What splendid animals these stallions are. And who is that lad in charge of them?” And the General would invite Tomas to join his expedition and Tomas would ride Popo all the way to Cibola and ride down the gold-paved boulevards and when they had collected all the treasure they could carry, the General would say . . . “Close it up, son,” his father called.
They cleared the last muddy stretch and loped toward the house where Maria stood waiting for them.