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.
Laughing out loud, he fumbled around for a moment gathering in the picnic goodies; then they were off, jolting through town and up past the Dancing Trout, singing together now, Beatles songs and Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and even Chuck Berry; and the air, evening-cooled and foamy from their own dust, washed over them like fluffy,
diaphanous whipped cream.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been a lawyer. I don’t have the
temperament to be a lawyer. I’m not tough enough. I don’t have the kind of compassion it would take to be good. I don’t know what I have the
temperament to be, you want to know the truth.
Esquipula Gurule, his wife, Fructosa, and their children, Emma Jean, Filiberto, and Bobby, all carrying burlap feeding sacks, jumped from the truck and fanned out across the immediate area
scavenging for aluminum beer cans.
Snuffy went through a few complicated
contortions to regain his feet, wavered unsteadily for a moment, then wove back into the store to sign up for another six-pack of tallboys, some Slim Jim sausages, and a package of roasted pinon nuts.
a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)
Years ago he had been a mountain boy like most other kids from Milagro, passing time up there with sheep and goats, spending summers in a tent looking after cattle or taking care of his uncle’s scare gun, lying under the stars with the gun booming and the animals making their comfortable and stupid summer noises—All at once Snuffy experienced almost crippling waves of sadness and
to believe especially on uncertain or tentative grounds
Rather, the agent
speculated that his man had probably stayed around the lower, heavily wooded canyons where his truck had been found last night and where you’d practically have to trip over him to find him.
Although occasionally aware of, and slightly disturbed by, the action around him, the
boisterous excitement and stupid techniques (or lack of techniques) of inexperienced men on a hunt, the agent was for the most part tuned in to only his own well-trained and modulated senses.
When Bernabe Montoya’s doleful voice crackled over the walkie-talkie, the agent replied succinctly, thoroughly, and then absorbed the information, or rather, lack of information, from the sheriff with equal automatic
Shorty could mend anything, lay pipes, design houses, make adobes, read and write, talk crops and politics, and he’d parlayed his talents, some people felt, into a big piece of the Devine empire, but they didn’t
begrudge him what he had gotten, because he’d fought like a son of a bitch to get there
It was no picnic for a derelict that old to wrestle with the wheel, guiding the heavy machine, but the angels were on his side, saluting him, no doubt, with heavenly laughter as they gave strength to his feeble hands and as they gave the joyful determination of all legendary heroes from John Henry through Emiliano Zapata to his
To most Milagro citizens prairie dogs were
anathema to life, and they shot, killed, poisoned, drowned, bludgeoned, hexed, cursed, and, in general, vilified the pesky tunnel burrowers in about every way possible, because those varmints would ruin a field before you could say “Filiberto Mascarenas!”
Once he paused for almost a minute at what appeared to be thin wisps of smoke rising from a recent campfire near the fifth lake’s shore—but he
surmised, after lengthy inspection, that it was some curious configuration of mist rising, perhaps from a warm spring in the muddy ground.
For there was nobody in town, men and women alike, who did not spend some time on that porch during any given day, knocking off a soda and a peanut butter Nab or some pinon nuts or Slim Jims while the news got passed around and fondled affectionately,
embellished when necessary, exaggerated where possible, and twisted if the occasion called for twisting.
As he was going over the terrain, planning exactly how to run it, memorizing the rocks and rotting logs that could trip him up, his mind abruptly veered away into the absolute and
irrefutable realization that he had been caught in a trap.
And with that he turned around and plunged deeper into the trees, grabbing trunks to swing around and down, skidding in thick meshes of slick, rotting leaves, barreling clumsily through brushy tangles, staggering
pell-mell down through the forest and the canyons toward his car four miles below.
If he had seen a way, or if he had believed a little more in his genre’s ability to overcome their own confusion and internal disorders, he would have turned in his star tomorrow, grabbed a shovel, put on his irrigation boots, forsaken the security of his salary, and dived like a hungry muskrat into the heart of his own background in hopes of creating a better compromise for the
At last, late late that night, or rather early in the morning, Onofre Martinez passed out over his piano; Joe Mondragon slumped
insensate beside Herbie Goldfarb’s guitar; and Marvin LaBlue lost consciousness with two wrenches lying across his chest and a greasy smile on his hillbilly face.
someone opposed to violence as a means of settling disputes
A few minutes later the bear crossed through Herbie Goldfarb’s yard, but this time the high-minded
pacifist, conscientious objector, and VISTA volunteer manque didn’t notice because he was too busy dreaming about how to guillotine, garrote, gag, strangle, electrocute, bludgeon, and in general crucify Joe Mondragon for punching him in the mouth.