Featuring a battle for farmer's rights with a very unlikely hero on the front lines, John Nichols's "The Milagro Beanfield War" is a comic look at what happens when people stand up for themselves when the odds are stacked against them.
(of theories etc) incapable of being defended or justified
Still others on both sides of the Indian Creek Dam question armed themselves and prepared for war, while the governor and the state engineer down in the capital chewed their fingernails, wondering how to maintain their own
Pretty soon Padre Sinkovich, who had unearthed enough skeletons to start a mail-order Halloween business, was staggering around with bloodshot delirious eyes, furiously booting innumerable bones every which way as the magnificent
tintinnabulation somewhere down there literally drove him bananas.
But of even greater interest, and perhaps also much more
germane to the pending story of the war brought about by Joe Mondragon’s illegal actions, is the incredible saga of the immortal old codger Amarante Cordova, who had played seven-card stud poker with Death ever since 1880, winning every hand.
Though unlicensed, he could steal and lay his own plumbing, do all the electric fixtures in a house, and hire five
peons at slave wages to install a septic tank that would not overflow until the day after Joe died or left town.
wishing or appearing to wish evil to others; arising from intense ill will or hatred
And he was damn fed up with having to buy a license to hunt deer on land that had belonged to Grandfather Mondragon and his cronies, but which now resided in the hip pockets of either Smokey the Bear, the state, or the local
malevolent despot, Ladd Devine the Third.
attention and management implying responsibility for safety
In fact, after an average of ten years under the sheep company’s
tutelage, just about every man, including men like Joe Mondragon’s father, Esequiel, had owed the rest of whatever resources he might accumulate in his lifetime to whichever Ladd Devine happened to be sitting on the family nest egg at that particular moment.
the use of tricks to deceive someone (usually to extract money from them)
The original Ladd Devine had not objected much to the unfair 1935 water compact
shenanigans, which somewhat damaged his sheep operations by driving many of his herders elsewhere, because he was too busy buying up those herders’ momentarily worthless land at bargain-basement prices.
having or causing a whirling sensation; liable to falling
Pacheco being an enormous, shifty-eyed, hysterically lonely man who—in the time-honored tradition of Cleofes Apodaca and Padre Sinkovich—had been losing his marbles at a
vertiginous rate ever since his wife died six years ago
For years it had been a regular thing in Milagro to see unsteady, mammoth Seferino Pacheco staggering across fields or splashing through puddles in the dirt roadways, searching for his
recalcitrant porker, which was usually inhaling a neighbor’s garden or devouring somebody’s chickens.
threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
On this particular day, as soon as Amarante had safely landed his crippled frame on a stool in the huge empty Frontier Bar and fixed a
baleful bloodshot eye on the owner, eighty-eight-year-old Tranquilino Jeantete, he said in Spanish (he did not speak English, or read or write in either language): “Jose Mondragon is irrigating his old man’s beanfield over there on the west side.”
And by noon, many citizens engaged in various local enterprises were talking excitedly to each other about how
feisty little Joe Mondragon had gone and diverted the water illegally into his parents’ no-account beanfield.
a group of diverse companies under common ownership and run as a single organization
But once the corporate
conglomerate was established, Ladd Devine the Third had been the perfect man to tone down the operation and keep it barging along smoothly; and also, incidentally, to build it into something really powerful.
Since then they had been close, and sometimes Flossie talked to Shorty about things that bothered her, or else she just described to him the
nebulous thoughts floating like lazy tropical fish through her brain, and she never felt Shorty was mocking her, not even silently in his mind.
And then Rudy Noyes would state the law, precisely, clearly, and flawlessly, and usually as he stated the law he would be riffling through the state’s book of statutes or water laws or whatever until, just at the moment he finished talking, he would land on exactly what Bookman wanted, and he’d read that too, clipped, sharp, without faltering, and with no
extraneous comments added.
“He threatened to kick my man’s butt out of there. And he said if any more feds came around his place bothering him when he was at work, he’d ‘dust their asses with buckshot’ because they were
trespassing on his private property.”
He’s talked with a lot of other people up there, also, and he wrote a story, not
implicating anybody, but in a general way running down Ladd Devine’s relationship to the town, the conservancy district and the dam and so forth, the poverty of the Miracle Valley, all that.
Bitterly he began to write, thinking as he did so that if ever all the
cantankerous streaks in people like Amarante Cordova, Joe Mondragon, and Onofre Martinez were united behind a common cause, there would be much more than all hell to pay.
With her son Eliu, her gigantic lover, Claudio Garcia, and a roly-poly hillbilly mechanic named Marvin LaBlue, she lived in a mud-plastered railroad tie house situated on a hill overlooking the Body Shop and Pipe Queen, an enterprise inherited from her first husband, a
charismatic hustler named Ray Mingleback, who had drowned on Halloween night, 1958, when his Rolls Royce dove off the north-south highway into the Rio Grande about twenty miles below Chamisaville.
marked by quiet and caution and secrecy; taking pains to avoid being observed
He cast a
surreptitious glance at Nancy’s hands and they weren’t much better: red, tough, scratched, clobbered, the fingers permanently bent from being wrapped around mops, wrench handles, shovels, and the like—she could work as hard as him, maybe even harder...
Back in his office he skimmed through each Bloom article, underlining paragraphs here and there, and after that he composed a short profile of the lawyer’s largely
innocuous subject matter which he typed up on his own machine.
feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
This resentment surfaced on those rare but awful occasions when he blew his cool, and then for brief, holocaustic moments he could be like a mad dog or a murderer; and for days afterward, afraid of himself and worried about his sanity, he would be
contrite and terribly ashamed.
At first his job was simply a way to mark the days while his wounds healed or his life slowed down to a crawl, whichever; but after a time, during his travels—which took him to towns like Saguache and Monte Vista and Fort Garland—he timidly allowed honest attachments into his life again: first, for the poor people in general whose rights he was defending, and eventually for one of them specifically, a gentle
skittish woman named Linda Romero.
When he returned to Milagro from these Chamisaville trips and hurried, hunched over, to his miserable home, Herbie plunged back into literature with a vengeance, wrote long sorrowful letters home to a girl friend and to his parents, plinked imaginary
lackluster rhythms on his forgotten, stolen, or busted guitar, and cursed the remote people and their remote village and especially himself for being unable to cope.