CHAPTER 3

TRACY

Beto Rocha

 

     On the following summer, David returned to the fields, and worked doing stoop labor, lifting up the wandering vines of the cantaloupe plant out of the surcos [furrows], and being careful not to damage the young green melons; placing the vines and melons on the wide, flat earth strips between the furrows on which they had been planted, as straightly as he could.

     An aeroplane, a shiny, overhead winged aircraft, a Cessna, painted a spiffy white and maroon, appeared flying low above the working crew, and landed in an unplanted part of the field nearby. A man, perhaps the landowner or his son, stepped out of the craft, and the overseer walked over to the pilot who waited by the plane. The man was wearing a spotless, short- sleeved khaki shirt and trousers, and as David could make out, looked well fed, and like he didn’t lack a thing. He spent a short time talking to the boss, got back into the airplane, and took off, leaving a swirling cloud of dust blowing about and around the workers.

     Hours had gone by, and after a good long spell without a drink of water, David’s throat and lips felt thick, and his mouth dry. He thirsted for a long time, because the water for the braceros to drink was in short supply. Luckily, the work begun at daybreak only lasted to quitting time, which was shortly after the noon hour.

     The previous year David had worked picking peaches, pero ahora, nuevamente le acompaĖaban tres hombres, jovenes e ilegales. Ellos eran Alejandro, Rigo, y el Chiqui, le decian haci porque era bajo de estatura. All four had started out from David’s parents home in L.A., which had become known as sort

 

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of an underground railway, a safe house para hombres y mujeres, todos mas o menos conocidos, y como es natural, tambien venian parientes. Todos eran personas procedentes del pueblo de su papa, y todos indocumentados, pues, no traian papeles. Y el, naturalmente, los invitaba a que se quedaran mientras encontraban trabajo.

     After straightening the cantaloupe vines bent over all morning, los quatro found themselves in the bunk-house exhausted and feeling sore, their limbs beginning to ache, especially their backs. The quartet spent an uncomfortable night, and in the morning were physically unable to straighten up, and go back to work. Se habian venido a un trabajo completamente desconocido por ellos y siendo pueblerinos de una region aislado del norte de Mexico, con la exepcion de David, se puede decir que ‘los habian bajado de la sierra a tamborazos’. Habian conocido trabajo del campo en su pais, despacioso y no de mucho cansansio, pero muy mal pagado. Pero en los Estados Unidos de America del norte, para los que ambicionan, ay trabajos de largas horas y a darle duro, pero encontraran que por su valioso labor, el pago sera mucho menos de lo que se espera. Y de este jale en el melon, de un dia pal otro, se quedaron esos pobres vatos todos, ‘chin-que-chados’ [an invented word, used here to replace a coarse and common word that every Mexicano has heard, speaks or has spoken in it’s various forms, and used as an expletive or an insult*], Y al dia siguiente, no podian seguir trabajando, amane- ciendo con el cuerpo doblado, porque estubieron levantando las guias del melon el dia pasado y haci en cruel mimica de las guias, se les quedaron los cuerpos entorpecidos. A pie, con dolor caminaban y no se podian enderesar para andar recta- mente hasta mas aya de una semana. Que friega!

     Y quien sabe por qual crimen les toco ese miserable castigo

 

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a los demas? But David received his punishment from God, which he richly deserved for his disobedience to his mother who was against his going north for the second time, telling him adamantly, “No quiero que te vayas! Though Isaac had, in acquiescence deferred to his son’s expressed desire to return to the fields, “Pues ve, si quieres”, diciendole eso a su hijo enfren- te de Chia, su esposa, para contrarearla. And taking this as a sign of his father’s permission he left. But later paying the consequence for breaking the Commandment of God who is Jesus Christ, which says, “Honor your father and your mother” . . . [Exodus 20:12].

     Working out of Tracy California, a small town south of Stockton in the Sacramento Valley, they stayed at a Christian woman’s boarding place on the Mexican side of town, es que los traques [rieles] del ferrocaril dividia el pueblo; los Mexicanos viviendo a un lado y los Americanos al otro. Stationed there that summer, they had landed their first job; having been transported by auto to the cantaloupe field by a labor contractor, but only to return three days later to the Christian lady’s place. Resting their bones, the four recuperated from the melon field backbreak caused by those long hours in a crouched position that the muscles of a city bred human being like David’s had never been exercised before.

     The landlady, middle aged, and living alone in her small, well kept, home, took pity on her inquilinos [lodgers], com- forted them in her quiet way. She enjoyed the company of the young men, like sons she never had. She laundered their clothes, and rented the space they occupied for a very modest fee. She would cook and serve them two meals a day, an early breakfast, and lunch at mid afternoon, after which, the men expressing their gratitude with profuse appreciation for her kindly attention, each saying to her, “Muchas gracias seĖora,

 

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gracias,” as they got up from the kitchen table; opening the squeaky screen door, and stepping down onto the hard bare earth to head for their rooms, she would respond to each one after his turn, in sing-song saying repetitiously, “Dale gracias a Dios, dale gracias a Dios,” like as if to say, give thanks to God, and not to me.

     David and his companions would get up before dawn in hopes of getting a job. They would go to a location in an empty field nearby, where, if chosen by the contratista, los pocos escojidos [the few chosen] would be transported to the field by bus or truck. Most of the time David, because of his youth was not picked to go, and David had to stay behind on many occasions. The contractor knowing the U.S. child labor laws, chose to exclude him, but when many hands were needed the law was ignored.

     Tracy is a small farming town west of Highway 99. David recalls that mostly Mexicanos, and some African Americans [they were spoken of as colored then] lived on one side of the railroad tracks, and the white Americans on the other. The Americans, universally, spoke English only, and if any among them spoke another language, hid the foreign tongue they knew. They all spoke to non-English speaking Mexicans through an interpreter, if they talked to each other at all.

     David era muy andariegas [a wanderer], pero poco fueron las veses que se cruzaba los traques para irse a caminar las calles del otro lado del pueblo, se sentia prohibido andar en el lado Americano. Traia muy poco dinero, pero en rara ocasion se le antojaba comerse un chuchuluco [golosina, i.e., candy bar] y se iba para ya al otro lado del pueblo. Encontraba que las calles estaban muy limpias y la tiendita, a donde de vez en cuando iba, siempre estaba ordenado y repleto de todo tipo de

mercancia comestible. Hacia su pedido en Ingles y se lo daban.

 

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Pero no le hablaban. [Scripture .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  ]

     Se le hacian muy callados y serios los Americanos de alli. El, en Los Angeles tenia amistades Europeos y Anglo Sajones que se juntaban con los Mexicanos nacidos en Los y se portaban mas o menos genialmente unos con otros. Pero aqui en este pueblito eran de una disposicion enteramente diferente y David, por primera vez en su corta vida, y aunque era U.S. citizen, se sentia muy aislado y solo entre los Americanos del pueblo de Tracy.

     David, fond of the movies, had scraped up enough coins to

Go see the “Robe”, a flick playing at the local movie house, and on another day of non-employment, crossed the tracks and headed for the theater. It must have been a Saturday for there were youngsters of both sexes going in the same direction in small groups, and as he walked along silently by himself, a stranger among those other young persons, and he a blosso- ming young man, now full of almost innocent, romantic desire [y le gustaba mucho las hueritas], incomprehensive, at that time, of the strongly held attitudes of those of the dominating society, historically hostile toward those of his own culture. He imagined the impossible to be possible: the unreality of meeting up with a local girl, a fair daughter of that Anglo town, and he a son of those her ancestors had invaded and con- quered and made their servants, sitting together in the dim, flickering light of the silver screen, holding hands. Que locura!

     He paid for his seat, and was handed a ticket at the booth, and although he entered the movie-show along with the others his age, no one spoke to him or looked his way, un-like Mexican people who generally jostle one another and yak, even though they don’t know each other, yet treat each other with cordial familiarity, depending on the situation, and appearance of the

 

 

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other person, of course. David found a seat in the balcony, no one occupied a seat near him, and seeing no other Mexicanos besides himself, loneliness set in, and for the first time in his life experienced alienation, and felt like a ghost.

     David meandered about much more often on the Mexican side of Tracy, feeling greatly at ease among those folk, but there wasn’t much of it, there was only half a dozen streets or so that a street sweeping machine never saw. Se le hacia raro esa falta de limpieza, “Que no pagan taxes los de aqui, igual que los de alla?” le vino esa pregunta a la mente. He thought it odd that the streets were un-swept, “Didn’t those of this side pay taxes, as well as those of the other side?” was a question he asked himself as he ambled along. The Spanish speaking community resided in a barrio located on the outskirts of town just across the tracks, and he often walked the wind swept, broken side-walks passing by wood-framed houses, well set back in fenced yards decorated with plants and flowers, but no lawns, un-like the neatly trimmed, and generously watered greenery of the lawns, and gardens on the other side.

     En las yardas del lado Mexicano, stuff that chilpayates leave around could be seen strewn about on the dry earth packed down by children’s bare feet; an esquincle’s abandoned milk bottle with the rubber nipple still attached, as were bits and pieces of broken toys. There were also half buried marbles stuck in the earth. Habian catotas [siendo tambien canicas] casi enterradas en la tierra, and candy wrappers scattered here and there.

     Behind la vecindad Mexicana were small huertas [orchards], and a larger field of dried corn stalks bordered one side of la vecindad. Shady cotton wood trees lined the main street that led to the American side they were probably as old as cotton- woods get, bountiful with leaves which were beginning to turn

 

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yellow and brown. The roots had lifted up the once flat cement sidewalk under most of the trees, which was cracked and lightly capped with fallen leaves. Lizards climbing on the trunks stopped to peer at him, or scrambled around the tree to hide from view as he passed by.

     There was a strange little shack, most likely it had been a food stand, jutting out from a yard next to the sidewalk close by the graveled embankment of the train tracks, one narrow end of the shack was up against the walkway. David had heard that a prostitute lived and worked there at her trade. He was curious, but he never saw anyone near the place, and he never walked about the town at night.  . . .”Come here and I will show you the judgment of the infamous whore”. . .with whom all the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery.” . . .”She was holding a gold wine cup filled with  the disgusting filth of her fornication; on her forehead was written a name,”. . .”Babylon the Great, the mother of all the filthy practices on the earth.” Revelation 17:1-2, 4-5.

     Rigo had not been among those lucky to go to work one day, and it was another day of unemployment for David as usual, and he found himself alone in Rigo’s company. They shared a room together, as did Alex y el Chiquilin who roomed in an other, but those two were at work that day. David enjoyed reading, he had brought a few classical and historical novels with him from L.A. to pass the time, but being in a disinter- ested mood, and doing little else, lay back on his bed and stared at the ceiling, which had been painted many times over with washed out colors of seafoam green, pale pink, beige, and with other tints equally as dull. This could be seen because the paint was peeling in places showing multi-layers of previous applications of colors. Hanging from the ceiling was an

 

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electric cord, which had a single light bulb connected to it; un-lit during the day. His bed was up against the wall, which had a tall, double paned, vertically sliding window, with a thick wood frame around each pane of glass, open at the top and bottom allowing the hot air in on that late summer morning. The dusty glass let in the sunlight; the window had no screen, but it did have an olive drab paper shade that was pulled down by a string attached to a fifty cent size plastic ring, and when yanked, would climb upward in a hurry into a tight roll. The window looked out onto a large backyard of hard packed earth, dry and almost barren of any growing thing, except, in about the middle of that bit of desert was a singular, scrawny almond tree that was cared for by the landlady, evidenced by a worn rubber tire, which encircled the tree at the roots to form a rese- voir for the water. Y es que la seĖora lo regaba. The backyard was next to a street, que era un polvoderon cuando hacia viento, and to the right of the rooms was an alleyway, and on the other side of it was a small, non-descript house.

     Rigo was an impulsive and unpredictable person, and David being self-centered in his youth, paid no mind to. David, also a dreamer, and lost in his imagination, was suddenly brought back to reality, when Rigo, out of the sky blue, proposed to him that they should do such and such a thing together; suggesting to David that he be his partner in an act of sodomy. And David not having any inclination to regard an invitation of that sort with any favor, he had never suspected Rigo of having homo- sexual tendencies, found the criminal solicitation exceedingly repulsive, and began to yell, not so much at Rigo, but to make a clamor so that anyone else who might be nearby, would take notice that all was not right with whoever was shouting.

     Rigo,taken aback and alarmed, had no moment to persist, but tried to calm David saying, “Te voy a conseguir una mujer,

 

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ahorita vengo”, [I’m going to find you a woman, I’ll soon be back], and he immediately went outside, crossed the alleyway and disappeared into the small house. Some while later, he  returned, and said to David, “Es que le ofreci tres, pero ella quiere mas, no traes dinero?” pero David no tenia, “I offered her three Dollars to take you on, but she wanted more. Have you any money?” but David had none.

     . . . “for those who are immoral with women or with boys or with men” and have not repented of it, . . . That is why God has abandoned them to degrading passions: why their women have turned from natural intercourse to unnatural practices, [lesbianism] and why their menfolk have given up natural intercourse to be consumed with passion with each other, men doing shameless things with men and getting an appropriate reward for their perversion.

     In other words, since they refused it was rational to acknowledge God, God has left them to their own irrational ideas and to their monstrous behavior. And so they are steeped in all sorts of depravity, rottenness, greed and malice, and addicted to envy, murder, wrangling, treachery and spite. Libelers, slanderers, enemies of God, arrogant and boastful, enterprising in crime, rude, rebellious to parents, without brains, honor, love or pity. They know what God’s verdict is: that those who behave like this deserve to die – and yet they do it; and what is worse, encourage others to do the same.”

1 Timothy 1:10, Romans 1:26-32.

 

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