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.
Nick, for one, quit laughing about seven minutes after Bud and Shorty had left—that is, his mirth died in conjunction with the
flamboyant return of Joe Mondragon, who barged into the store accompanied by five big stern-looking people, two of whom carried rifles.
marked by defiant disregard for danger or consequences
She was crazy,
foolhardy—she and Joe and anybody else in this town who thought the small farmers had (or even deserved) an outside shot at survival against Ladd Devine’s conglomerate, the state, and the Government of the U.S.A.
Moving—now that he’d decided to hunt the bird—with a deliberate and cunning
dexterity, Amarante removed his huge Peacemaker from its scabbard, and, holding it in both hands after laboriously cocking the hammer, he aimed for almost a minute at the blackbird, then pulled the trigger.
excuse, overlook, or make allowances for; be lenient with
Bernabe Montoya knew he should have called a halt to the target practice right then and there, but like everyone else he was curious, so instead of saying no he said nothing, and, of course, having
condoned the first demonstration, which ended with bottle fragments no bigger than BBs falling on all their heads like rain, he was powerless to stop the subsequent carnage.
The other mothers did not react in quite such a
vituperative manner, but they all more or less chorused similar sentiments: “What do you want to write about my boy for? Dead is dead, rest in peace. I don’t want to be reminded he was working for the government when he died, or that the meat he killed nobody was allowed to eat.
a soft wet area of low-lying land that sinks underfoot
Immediately rivers rose, spreading out into the bottomlands; irrigation ditches overflowed; fields that were already pretty soggy became dyed-in-the-wool Okefenokees; and all the roads, which had been skillfully constructed by master craftsmen so as to have absolutely no drainage, turned into
Carrying some American flags, the state flag, and a sheriff's
posse flag, Joe, Claudio Garcia, Eliu Archuleta, Sparky Pacheco, Nick Rael, Eusebio Lavadie, and a few others rode their horses into the arena and lined up for the National Anthem.
That is, he became what might be called a police informer, supplying a certain amount of drug information that enabled the various police agencies to meet the quota of busts they needed to make themselves look good: he delivered reports on
transients, too, turning in, for example, a whole slew of runaways in return for being allowed to cohabit with his own particular runaway, Lady Elephant.
unequivocally evident that if Bobby Joe went for his little .32 they would kill him harder and faster and with less emotion than most men, marked for extinction, had the opportunity to get killed.
But Bernabe Montoya, being the
staunch upholder of law and order that he was, had to travel three miles south to the official dump, and when he got there this particular morning, in spite of state and local ordinances to the contrary, the dump was burning, and about a hundred ravens were stalking around in the foul-smelling smog, eating breakfast.
And although no cop, vigilante, or even teen-ager with a slingshot ever spent five minutes on guard at the dump, at the end of a week Onofre Martinez dictated a letter to Jon Nickerson from Sammy Cantu, elaborately explaining that unfortunately an around-the-clock
vigil had netted no culprits.
sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
But anyway, there he was in his customary lookout beside a large dead cottonwood log, letting his eyes drift lazily from Joe’s
robust bean plants to the permanent rainbow that was still glimmering faintly but persistently in the dusty afternoon sunshine choking Milagro, when that same coyote angel reappeared, limping desultorily off the Milagro-Garcia highway spur and along the Roybal ditch bank to Amarante’s outpost.
Hurriedly, in reverse, he sped back to the roadside marker, and, after the dust cloud had drifted away from his vehicle, gazed perplexedly for a full sixty seconds at the
insolent inscription on the cross before angrily kicking open his door and circling around the car and ferociously tugging that hallowed symbol from the ground and chucking it irreligiously into the rear of the station wagon.
In due course conflicting rumors claimed the theft had been engineered by Horsethief Shorty (acting for Ladd Devine) or by the state police themselves, in order to deprive Milagro’s more humble (and more militant) citizens of their God-given constitutional right to buy and bear and flaunt and discharge all manner of lethal instruments in the no-holds-barred shooting
conflagration which was certain to break out soon.
He had even paid off-duty state policemen good money to patrol the highway and the town at night, but somehow the culprits were never caught: because the cross planting was just another prank by the mystical and
ubiquitous El Brazo Onofre?
the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability
But the thing is, Linda had forgotten about that time, those glorious evenings, the solitude,
camaraderie, and the green football field, the gentility and serenity of those times, the peppy, shining brown girls dressed in sweatshirts and baggy letter sweaters and short-shorts, chanting lazily while moving happily through their cute, sexy routines, unassailable for a moment, secure.
Then too, maybe someday—if Zopilote Devine had his way—all the subdivision houses he was planning would pay their respects to Milagro’s cultural heritage by having realistic-looking plastic pinon piles in their backyards, adding just the correct dash of authenticity to make their flimsy split-level ranch houses
indigenous to the area.
Terrified that somehow Joe Mondragon was going to halt all the Miracle Valley projects, and if he did that Bud’s fortune, which could be frosted with caviar and Cadillacs if Ladd Devine pulled off everything that was planned, would take a