Randy Quiroz

Friendly cattle-herding dogs
Cani Curiosi by Gregory Antollino

The Burden and the Blessing

September 21st, 1851

Diego and I spent the night at a small villa owned by a friend before continuing eastward toward the agreed upon meeting place.

 When our horses tired, we slowed to a trot and rode alongside each other. I broke out the leather drinking bag I’d filled before we left, and, after taking a swig, I tossed it to him.

He took a long pull and coughed. “José! I expected wine.”

“I know.” I chuckled. “But tequila is better.”

 He wiped away where he’d dribbled on his mustache and beard. “When is the meeting?”

“Tomorrow morning. That way we get good rest tonight.”

“Excellent.” He tossed me the bag, then pointed to low-hanging branches ahead. “José, watch out.”

“I’m not that drunk yet.” I removed my sombrero and leaned down as I passed beneath, then took another deep drink. “This whole thing was a bad idea from the start.”


“Buying this property. After all the fast times with the Californios, I thought it would be nice to relax as rancheros.”


“Who knew it would be such hard work?” I said.


“And the heat made it worse.”

“Complete nightmare.”

“And the horse thieves, and the Indian raids.”

“José, I know.”

“Who would want to live like that?”

He shrugged. “No one.”

“Worst of all, it’s boring. I’d much rather live in San Francisco or Los Angeles. More fun and adventure there.”

“True,” he said.

“All the fiestas and rodeos we held. And still it’s not worth living here.”


“Nine wasted years.” I spit at a crack in a rock that looked like a target and missed. “Sure, the rancho is big,” I said. “But that’s a problem. No one could possibly put in all the work required to make it into a real town or city.”


“Even with an army of vaqueros.”


“I’ll be happy to sell it,” I said. “That will take a great weight off my shoulders.”  

“You and me, Primo—the same.”

“At least, this mistake will be over soon.” I tossed him the tequila.

He caught it, drank, and sealed it. “I just hope you can get back some of what we paid for it.”

“We paid too much,” I said, spitting again. I wanted to hit a horned lizard, but my horse, Miope, must have scared them off.

“I thought eight hundred dollars was a reasonable price for thirty-five thousand acres when we bought it.”

I shook my head. “Today, I could buy a homestead in the heart of San Francisco for that much.”

“If you sell it for the same, only two hundred will be yours,” he said. “Unless you expect more for doing the negotiation.”

“No, Diego. I wouldn’t expect that from you or my brothers. You’re familia.”

“Well, I hope you get eight hundred again this time.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get it, maybe more.”

“You’d do better to grow a beard,” he said. “Makes you look a little smarter.”

“Calling me a pendejo?”

“No, no.” He laughed. “You just look like a boy.”

“Too hot for that extra hair, Diego. You’re just lucky we hired others to do the sweating on the rancho.”

He threw the bag back to me. “What about all the work before we bought it? All those hides, all that tallow, to pay it off.”

I took a longer swig of tequila, deciding, instead of just enjoying it, I wanted to get drunk. “We’re lucky Governor Alvarado let us pay with goods. Otherwise, there’s no way we could have afforded it.”

“I thought that was Uncle Don Antonio’s influence. They’re good friends, aren’t they?”

“Yes. I think you’re right. My father did help us, somehow.”

We slowed on approaching a turn in the road—a place bandits often waited to ambush careless travelers. While I didn’t have any real money with me, I had the deed to the property we wanted to sell.

I put away the tequila and drew my pistol.

Diego lifted his shotgun from its holster and cradled it as we made the turn around a large boulder.

No one.

After another mile, I broke out the tequila again.

Diego sidled up to me and snatched it. He raced forward to a shady spot ahead and dismounted. “Let’s take a rest.”

“A siesta?”

“No, just a rest.” He lifted the drinking bag high and guzzled. He’d be drunk soon.

I grabbed a piece of jerky from my pack, tore it, and tossed him half. “When the Americans took over, I thought we’d lose our land. But no.” 

“We got lucky.”

“Yes,” I said, “thanks to some shrewd negotiating.”

“The Treaty of Guadalupe something…”

I laughed. “Don’t ask me. I ignore those details. Leave it to the bureaucrats and politicians.”

“Have you told your father we’re selling the rancho?”


Diego cocked a bushy eyebrow. “He won’t be happy about it.”

“You’re right. My father said this was our chance to prove ourselves. All it proved to me is I was never meant to be a ranchero.”

“What were you meant to be, José?”

“I sure wasn’t meant to kick around in the dirt all day, sweating under the sun with only horses and cows for company. I want action. I want to go to the city or go into battle. I want to be heroic. I was born to be an adventurer, a warrior.”

He nodded. “You and me, Primo—the same.”

I drained the last bit from the bag and shook it out before resealing it. “But, as always, when wars end, fighting men have no place in the world, at least for a while. Getting back this money should let us live like we want to, for a few years, at least.”

“You gonna sell all thirty-five thousand acres?”

“No, I’m selling thirty-four and keeping the rest for a little casa. I’ll build on that extra land so we can come back and see how the new owners are doing. Plus, I like the mountains in the area, as long as there are no Serranos around.”

“Who are these Americans you want to sell to?” he asked.

“They’re not Americans, I don’t think—not like others I’ve met. They come from the area around Laguna Timpanogos.”

“Navajo or Ute territory? Are they Mexicanos? That was part of Alta Mexico before the cession?”

“They’re not Mexicanos. And they changed the name after the U.S. took over. I can’t remember the new one. Doesn’t matter.”

“What’s so special about these buyers?” asked Diego.

“I think the regular Americans hate them. They kicked them out of the east and even sent troops with them, to make sure they moved West.”

“You’ve met them?”

Smiling makes some people suspicious. Now’s your chance to practice your poker face.

“Some of them,” I said, “—all güeros. They ran a battalion in the war. They must have liked the ranchos out here. They’re coming with their families. We’ve sent a few messages back and forth. Sounds like they’re looking forward to living here.”

“You’re already assuming they will buy?” He laughed.

“Well, they made a seven-month journey with one hundred fifty wagons and four hundred thirty settlers. What choice do they have now? Turn around? I don’t think so.”

“Ah. Good thinking, José. I forgot. You’re an excellent negotiator. Always been.”

“Let’s get back on the road.”

We mounted up and resumed our journey.

“Look,” I said, “when we meet them, whatever I say, just nod your head like it’s fact.”


“And try not to smile too much.”

“Why?” he asked. “These are not happy people?”

“No. Smiling makes some people suspicious. Now’s your chance to practice your poker face.”

“I’m no good at poker,” he said. “After an hour, it feels like work. Unless I’m drinking. But then, I’m also losing money.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s right, you’re not a gambler. Just like ranchero isn’t a good fit for me. Wrong kind of work. I’m a warrior.”

“Both of us, Primo—the same.”                    

Mission Rancho Outpost, the following morning

We greeted the travelers in the front doorway and made introductions. “I am José. This is my cousin, Diego.”

“My name is Amasa, and this is Charles.” Amasa carried a walking stick, implying he might be a little frail for such a long journey. Charles was a giant. He must have stood six and a half feet tall.

Both men were older than the ones I’d met from their battalion. They kept their baggy, white shirts buttoned to the top but wore no ties. Their dress pants wouldn’t fit the warm weather of the area, so I assumed they had different clothing for work and travel. They must have dressed like this for our negotiation.

Suddenly, my dusty brown shirt and leather chaps made me feel underdressed, unprepared for battle.

They removed their simple hats and held them to their chests until Diego offered to take them.

As we shook hands, I noted their long beards. It did make them look smart, like Diego had said. At that moment, I wished I had grown my own before the meeting.

Although Charles’ height was intimidating, I could tell he was not the one ultimately in charge. His brown hair was short in front and well-groomed, but long in the back. His intense hazel eyes roamed the room as if he didn’t like the furniture or our company. He seemed too refined, better-suited for city life than the rugged one ahead.  

Should I be embarrassed about the rough-hewn wooden chairs and table? The adobe-colored curtains matched the walls, and Indio rugs graced the floors. All the houses here were of similar design. 

I liked my hacienda with the sparse furniture and simple decorations. It was not like houses in San Francisco, but the single-story, spread-out design fit the landscape better. Strangers, however, from a different area, might not agree.

“I expected to meet Jefferson,” I said. “He’s the one I’ve corresponded with.”

“Jefferson Hunt?” asked Charles. “He’s a good battalion man, and he highly recommended this area, but he doesn’t lead our group.”

“Oh.” The change made me worry I’d flail in the dark with our negotiations. “Amasa,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve heard that name before.”

Charles frowned. “It’s from the Bible.” 

And me—such a bad Catholic—didn’t know that. I’d always counted on the priest to tell me important things … back when I went to church. “‘Masa’ in Spanish is a kind of corn dough.”

“It’s ‘A-masa,’” Charles declared. “And it means ‘burden.’”

“Alright.” Off to a terrific start. I liked Amasa so far, but he hadn’t said much. Charles’ confrontational attitude bothered me. Why the hostility?

Amasa put a hand on his associate’s shoulder in a calming move. “We should continue our negotiations. Our people long to unload the wagons.”

“I agree,” I said, motioning toward the round table. “Why don’t we sit down, gentlemen?” The servants pulled chairs out for them.

Amasa sat and leaned his walking stick against a wall. With his white beard and growing baldness, he looked wise. Maybe it was his light blue eyes or the gentle slope of his eyebrows that also made him look kind and sincere. He spoke softly and slowly, as if considering every word. 

All that made me worry about my negotiating position.

“We understood there would be livestock and horses attached to the land,” he said.

“All listed in the manifest.” From a coat pocket, I pulled yellowed pages and gave the handwritten list to Amasa.

After he took it, I motioned for a maid to open the window.

Lifting his eyes from the list, Amasa turned to face the fresh air coming in, and took a deep breath. “It is beautiful here, all this fertile land.”

“Would you like to tour Rancho San Bernardino before we discuss the sale?”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Amasa. “As we entered the valley, we saw willows, cottonwoods, and sycamores.”

“And mustard,” said Charles.

“Yes,” Amasa added. “Mustard and wild oats on the hillsides.”

They were just trees to me. I didn’t know their names. And I’d never noticed mustard or wild oats, not that I’d recognize them.

Amasa smiled. “Rancho San Bernardino is rich land, ripe for development. It will provide a good home for my people.”

This is going to be easier than I thought.

“I’m told the weather is excellent year round,” he said. “Does it get much snow?”

“I don’t remember ever seeing snow here. You, Diego?”

“Snow? Never.”

“It snows in the mountains,” I said. “Looks amazing from this valley.”

Amasa sighed. “We had planned to purchase land from a Mr. Isaac Williams who offered us a large ranch southwest of here. That’s the location Mr. Hunt recommended.”

Charles shook his head. “Mr. Williams cancelled his arrangement with us.”

I knew all that. Isaac was one stupid gringo. He’d married into our family and thought he could sell off Rancho Santa de Chino without getting approval. Our situation was different. Me, Diego, and my brothers owned our rancho outright. My father might not like us selling, but he had no right to prevent it.

Amasa slowly stroked his beard. “Gentlemen, we have no idea what land like this would cost. How much were you thinking?”

Before discussing numbers, I thought it couldn’t hurt to talk up the rancho a little more. “As you said, this is some of the most wonderful land in the world, beautiful like a second Eden.”

Neither man reacted. Maybe they had a problem with my Biblical reference. It was hard to know. So, I changed tactics. “Me and my brothers, and my cousin, Diego, here. We were granted this land for heroic deeds we performed.”

“How about that?” Amasa smiled and turned to Charles, who rolled his eyes.

“As such, it holds great sentimental value for us.” I frowned as if it hurt me to part with the rancho.

Charles closed his eyes and nodded. I got the feeling he was intolerant of banter like this.

“I’d planned to raise my sons on this land, but my wife’s mother has taken ill.”

Diego nodded.

Good, I thought. He’s keeping his mouth shut. “We cannot be too far away from her at a time like this. And this land is just going to waste away with no one to shepherd the livestock.” A slight Biblical nuance. I still couldn’t tell if my attempts were making any difference. “And we can’t be here to work the soil as God would want.”

I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with religiosity, so I tried another approach. “You’re not too far from the Mission San Gabriel and the settlement of Los Angeles. So, you’ll have good neighbors here.” Of course, I failed to mention the rash of horse thieves that preyed on the area.

“That is comforting,” said Amasa. “Have you had trouble with local Indians?”

“Oh no,” I lied, praying Diego could hold a straight face. “We have only friendly Indians here. They call themselves the Serrano Yuhaviatam, which means ‘The People of the Pines.’”

“What a pleasant name,” said Amasa.

Charles remained silent and stoic.

If they knew how often we’d experienced Indian raids, they’d never consider buying.

A quick glance at Diego. He was doing great, keeping quiet while I told the lies.

“Speaking of pines,” I said, “there is a ready supply of lumber in the nearby mountains, plenty for building homes for a new community.”

“Excellent.” Amasa’s entire face came alive with enthusiasm. “Can the same be said for water?”

“Absolutely. Enough for both irrigation and consumption by humans and livestock.”

“Is it a good location for trade?” asked Charles, no longer mute.

“Yes, it’s part of a famous trading route—The Spanish Trail. Have you heard of it?”

Neither answered.

“Well, I’ve mentioned how close Los Angeles is. The port of San Pedro is also relatively close. That should help you gather supplies from farther away, maybe even from the Sandwich Isles.”

“Our hope,” said Amasa, “is that our harvest will include converts from other lands who will arrive by ship in California and move inland to our heartland.”

Ay, Dios mío, I’m a great salesman.

Charles explained, “I asked about trade because a large part of our mission here is to gather supplies as well as converts.”

“This heartland, this is the place you left?” asked Diego.

I glared at him, thinking, “Shut up. I have this covered.”

“Yes,” said Amasa. “We are two of thirteen who lead our people.”

“Impressive,” I said. “They must be very serious about this move, to send the two of you.”

Amasa smiled. And it looked like Charles came close, too. But he resisted. It made me wonder if showing emotions went against their religious values.

Now that I figured they were happy, I used my closing strategy—make them think I was having second thoughts. “My father will be very disappointed in us.” That wasn’t a lie, not exactly. He would be disappointed, but not like I was making it sound.

Diego nodded and hung his head.

I stood and walked to the window, continuing my banter, facing away from them. “Nine years ago, he used his influence with the governor to get us this land grant. He expected us to work the land, to prove we were real men. Now that will never happen.” I stared out the window as if lost in a tragic memory. Ay, Dios mío, I’m a great salesman.

Now that I had them where I wanted, I thought hard. Originally, I’d hoped to ask for eight hundred fifty dollars. That way, we’d make a small profit. Better than a loss. I turned back to Amasa.

Catching the eagerness in his eye, I knew I could ask for more. Should I ask for nine hundred fifty? An even thousand? Did I dare?

Before I could speak, Amasa said, “We probably do not have the full amount. We were hoping to ask for terms.”

My heart fell. I should have known they wouldn’t have much money on them, after making such a long journey. What was I thinking? “You want to pay for the land over time?”

“Yes, a loan against the property.”

Maybe I could ask for a thousand. They might be in bad shape and desperate.

Charles took that moment to speak. “If it doesn’t work out, Amasa, we could always look farther north. The battalion mentioned other rich land up there.”

Was this a strategy to get me to bring the price down? Or was I truly in danger of losing the sale?

I had no other buyers for the rancho. I couldn’t let them walk away, but I didn’t want a poor deal for us, either. So, I decided to ask for the original eight hundred, only.

Before I could make my offer however, Amasa said, “We only brought five to put toward purchasing land. I hope that is enough.”

Five hundred dollars? Split four ways. It was better than nothing, but a real disappointment. After paying debts, I still might be able to live the life I wanted, one night of it, in a cantina; get drunk, rent a room and a girl, and sleep in the next day.

I revised my estimate downward. “I was thinking of asking seventy-seven—”

“Seventy-seven thousand?” said Amasa. “If you can give us terms, that will be fine.”

His words caught in my head. Seventy-seven thousand? I was speechless. I had to remind myself to breathe. Was he truly willing to pay so much? I glanced at Diego.

His eyes bulged, but he held his tongue. Gracias a Dios.      

Charles said, “Let the man finish speaking, Amasa. I think he had more to say.”

I knew rushing to answer would be foolish. It would give away how ridiculously high their offer was. So, I forced myself to slow down, as if I were seriously considering whether I could settle for such a small amount. I took my face in my hands and allowed a smile to escape within, completely concealed by my palms. Then, I regained my composure and raised my head.

“I’m parched, gentleman. How about you?” Without waiting for an answer, I motioned to the maid who brought glasses and a pitcher of fresh water.

¡Ay Dios mío! It tasted so good. I was afraid I couldn’t speak further with the dryness in my throat and mouth, but the cool water soothed me. I could finally relax. A little.

Looking to Diego, his eyes were even bigger than before. He was fighting back a smile.

I sat up in my seat and looked Amasa straight in the eye. My voice squeaked a little when I spoke. “Yes, seventy-seven thousand is … close.” I swallowed hard and choked out, “If you can add … five hundred more … I believe we’ll have a deal.”

Amasa grinned and offered his hand. “That will be fine. Now, I only brought eight thousand dollars with me, intending to keep three for supplies, but I can revise that and offer seven thousand as starting payment. The rest, we will have to borrow against the land. What terms can you give us on the loan?”

Seven thousand up front? Fools! If they only knew the price I’d intended to ask. I grabbed a percentage from the air. “Three percent?”

“Three percent monthly. We can agree to that.”


He shook my hand. “It seems we have a new home, Charles.”

¡Dios mío! These gringos must be crazy rich.

Finally, the tall man released a broad smile. I couldn’t tell if he’d been acting before or was just naturally the dour sort.

I altered the bill of sale I’d prepared in advance to show the price, the down payment, the nature of the loan, and the agreed upon rate of interest. I tried to keep my hand from shaking but feared it would be obvious.

Amasa put his hand on my shoulder. “Do not worry. We will take good care of this land and build it into a bountiful place.”

Thankfully, he misunderstood the reason for my shaking hand. I placed the agreement on the table. He reviewed it, then signed, and gave me payment from a large bag hanging from Charles’ back. I placed the deed on the table, signed it, and shook his hand.

So did Diego. He, too, was overcome with excitement.

Strangely, so were the buyers.

Feeling a little guilty at how badly we were swindling them, I offered my help in starting their community. “I’m building a small house nearby. I can’t be there all year, but please let me know if I can help with anything. I’ll try my best to be of service.”

“After your wife’s mother recovers her health?” asked Amasa.

“Uh, yes.” Almost forgot the lie I’d told. “Of course, after she recovers her health, or after God calls her.”

The religious reference still seemed to fall on deaf ears. Maybe they could tell I was not truly a religious man.

“It is kind of you to offer assistance, but we work best when we work with and for each other. We are an industrious and self-sufficient people.”

You’re gonna need to be.

That evening, on the road home

“¡Híjole!” Diego hooted. “Three percent interest, monthly. José, you are a devil.”

I smirked.

“On seventy-seven thousand American dollars?” he laughed.

“Well, now it’s seventy since they gave us the seven thousand up front. And don’t forget the extra five hundred.”

“I haven’t,” he said. “That’s the kicker of the story.”

Even when we didn’t talk, we’d break into spontaneous laughter, and couldn’t stop for miles.

“That was nice of you to offer help in building their community. Did you mean it?”

I shook my head. “No. I just felt bad about taking them for so much money.”

“Lucky he didn’t accept your offer, then.”

“Yes, I’m not sure I could face them again, not anytime soon.”

When we’d nearly reached the halfway point, I realized something. “We brought nothing to drink for the ride home.”

“Soon we’ll buy entire breweries,” said Diego. “Split four ways, that’s almost twenty-thousand apiece. How does it feel to be a rich man, Primo?”

“Papa might not respect us as rancheros, but maybe he’ll respect us as rich men.”


October 1857, Rancho San Bernardino

Six Years Later

Diego and I stood on the veranda of the casa I’d built on the thousand acres, the ones I hadn’t sold. From there, we had a spectacular view of the entire valley. Farms filled with plentiful crops crowded the landscape around Fort San Bernardino, built for fear of Indio attacks. Inside they still milled crops, but the people no longer feared Indios, so no longer lived within. They freely traveled everywhere.

“At least you have this nice little house,” he said. “You can retire here and—”

“No, Diego, I can’t. I came back to get this place in order, to sell it.”

“You have nothing left?”


“Gambling? Women? What?” he asked.

“Doesn’t matter.” I sighed. “Last year, I got into financial trouble and the only way out was to take a loan from an unsavory type who set an unreasonable rate of interest.”

“How much?” he asked.

“Five percent …” I took a deep breath. “Compounded monthly.”

“Oh, no bueno.”

“No, not good at all.” I covered my face with one hand. “Does it remind you of something?”

“Of course—the deal you made with the Mormons.”

“Well, it’s come back to bite me. Why couldn’t I have learned from that?”

“I don’t know, Primo.”

“Instead, I climbed into the same trap.”


“I don’t know. Maybe I was drunk, or maybe I’m just … estúpido. All year, I’ve been drowning in debt, trying to make payments on that loan. I’ve mortgaged all my properties.”

“Even the house in Los Angeles?” he asked.

“Yes, the house and the land.”

He pulled wooden chairs toward us. “Why don’t we sit?”

“I don’t feel like sitting.” I crossed my arms and lowered my gaze.

He didn’t sit either. “Anita may make a little trouble for me, but I’ll do what I can to help you, Primo.” 

“No,” I said. “I deserve what I’m getting.” 

I think I secretly wanted them to fail.

“Why do you say that?”

I turned away from him. “Last year. I shouldn’t have killed those Luiseño Indians in Temecula. It was murder.”

“Didn’t they kill some Californio lancers?”

I turned back to face him. “Yes, but what most don’t know is, those lancers were killed for stealing horses.”

“You knew that and did it anyway?” he asked.

I frowned and lowered my head, again. “It was an order. I am a soldier. I had to do it. I keep telling myself that, but I’m having trouble sleeping.”

“I see.”

“And I sold Rancho San Bernardino for way too much money.”

“I thought that was a good thing.”

“The price I set made their stay here much harder than it should have been. I think I secretly wanted them to fail.”


I hesitated, then said, “Because we failed. I thought no one could possibly put in the work required to make the Rancho San Bernardino a success. I had no idea it could be so magnífico.”

“Neither did I,” he said.

“The whole valley’s become a thriving community.”

“How many people are here now?” he asked.

“Over three thousand at last count.”

He put both hands on top of his head. “Órale. None of us thought something like this was possible.”

“I guess these Mormons were right.”

He squinted. “How’s that?”

“It helped that they were farmers, not rancheros. The Indios stole our cattle and horses, but you can’t ride away on a head of lettuce.”

He chuckled.

“Honestly though, there was no trick to what the Mormons did.  Hard work made our Rancho San Bernardino a success.”

“Ah,” he said.

“But their dream will die soon.”

“Why?” he asked.

“They’re leaving.”

His eyes widened. “Why would they leave now? Their land is worth more than ever. And they’ve almost completely paid off the loan.”

“For a long time, I hoped they would fail to pay. That way we could resell the land to some other foolish buyers.”


“Yes,” I frowned. “Now it saddens me for them to have done so much, like a miracle, and then fail at the end. It’s wrong.”

“You still haven’t told me why they’re leaving.”

“Their jefe,” I said, “someone named Brigham, ordered them to leave.”

“Ah, to fight in that Mormon War I heard about?”

“No, Amasa and Charles are not going back to their heartland or anywhere in the U.S. They’re being sent to Europe.” 

“Why, if they were doing so well, here?”

I finally sat, motioning for Diego to join me. “Amasa thinks the true reason they are being called away is they were too successful here.”


. Back in Salt Lake City—that’s what they call it, this ‘Brigham’ got worried, seeing so many of his people moving west.” 

“Amasa told you this?”

“Some, but most I got from overhearing him talk with his friend, Charles. I’m not sure I heard them right, but it sounded like they’re using armed guards to keep people from leaving Salt Lake City to come to Rancho San Bernardino.”


I swept my hand across the vista before us. “Brigham recalled every Mormon settler here.”

“Will they go?”

“I don’t know. Amasa thinks as many as half may stay.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of eavesdropping, haven’t you?”

“I can’t help myself. It’s strange to see these calm people in confrontations. I had to know what was going on.”

“I understand,” said Diego. “I can see why these settlers wouldn’t want to leave. There’s a proper town here, homes, community. Rancho San Bernardino never looked so beautiful.” 

“I wonder if Brigham would feel differently if he saw the wonder they’ve created. Maybe he would have wanted to move here, himself.”

Diego nodded. “Maybe.”

“These Mormons even cleared a good road into the mountains and built a mill up there to produce lumber.”

“I heard that.”

“And now they have to leave. They even made plans for one of their religious temples, right in the center of town. Now, they’ll never get the chance to build it.”

“Why does all this bother you so much?” he asked.

“When we owned Rancho San Bernardino, I wanted to be a warrior because it seemed they had all the good times, won the most land and beautiful women,” I said. “But these Mormons bought the land at a ridiculous price. They should have failed. But their hard work made this valley special.”

“I hear these Mormon men take many wives. I wish I could talk my Anita into that.”

“Are you listening to me, Diego? I took a wrong turn. Being handsome and dashing hasn’t led me to a fulfilled life.”

He nodded.

“Papa tried to tell me, but I thought working the land was for fools. The Mormons’ determination, their willingness to work together made this place into paradise. Why couldn’t I have built something like this? Instead, I sold it. I didn’t see the possibilities. Looks like I was the fool.”

“Both of us, Primo—the same.”

Randy Quiroz was a finalist in the 2020 international Writers of the Future contest and won the top fiction award at the 2019 San Diego Southern California Writers’ Conference. He’ll soon release a compendium of short stories Tales of the Nine and his novel The Other Round Table. Contact him at randyaquiroz@gmail.com. After attending UC Berkeley, he returned home, and when the stars are in perfect alignment, he teaches high school in the Inland Empire.

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