"The Milagro Beanfield War," Vocabulary from Part 2

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.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Prologue-Part 1, Part 2, Parts 3-4, Part 5-Epilogue

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. bauble
    cheap showy jewelry or ornament on clothing
    And there was Joe Mondragon’s beanfield, completely out of place to the west, an absurd green bauble in the otherwise desolate landscape slated to become a posh golf course.
  2. minuscule
    very small
    The agent scrutinized the town, getting it down right in his mind, giving himself time for everything to register, the houses of people he didn’t know and the houses of those in whom he was interested, the network of irrigation ditches and small dusty roads, the minuscule orchards and small herds of sheep and horses.
  3. extenuating
    partially excusing or justifying
    There is in this case, however, a problem, a delicate sort of situation which exists—an extenuating circumstance.
  4. flagrant
    conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible
    We know that some people here in Milagro support Joe Mondragon despite the possible grave consequences, and simply to arrest and jail Mr. Mondragon for his flagrant illegal actions would probably cause more trouble than it would cure.
  5. archaic
    so extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period
    In Milagro, only the Dancing Trout, the Forest Service headquarters, and the Enchanted Land Motel had private telephones: all other town residents were on an archaic system of party lines installed so as to resemble a Tower of Babel built with electronic spaghetti.
  6. inadvertently
    without knowledge or intention
    Nick Rael inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when, somewhat flustered, he called Sammy Cantu to say he’d just seen a car with a chota-looking person in it go by, and was the meeting going to take place earlier than had been prearranged or what?
  7. subterfuge
    something intended to misrepresent the nature of an activity
    And, no matter how healthy a perfectly normal man, how bright and shapely a woman, he sensed they were twisted, one-eyed, half-crazed, crippled beings, awash in subterfuge, aflutter with ominous ideas and devious thoughts—like himself—with furtive hungers and reckless desires and arcane yearnings that were almost supernatural, a murderer’s row of outwardly pleasant and monotonous dumdums.
  8. melancholy
    grave or even gloomy in character
    In his lifetime the sheriff had never really forged any starting points; his sluggish brain was like a transistor radio whose batteries kept running low on juice during the most crucial broadcasts; his life had been belabored by melancholy endings that occurred before page one.
  9. wrath
    intense anger
    And if illegal use of Indian Creek water brought down the wrath of the gods in the state capital, so be it.
  10. menial
    used of unskilled work, especially domestic work
    Laughing, Joe seated himself on a dead cottonwood trunk near his beanfield, lit a cigarette, and watched the rattletraps heading down the highway toward menial fifty-cent-an-hour, maybe a dollar-an-hour, at most a dollar-sixty, a dollar-eighty-an-hour jobs in Dona Luz and Chamisaville.
  11. dispirited
    showing no enthusiasm
    The sheriff, hardly an hour into his day, was already tired and dispirited.
  12. relegate
    assign to a lower position
    Eventually old man Gusdorf had gotten royally skinned when the bottom fell out of cotton, and he wound up relegated to a sharecropper’s role forever after.
  13. inaudible
    impossible to hear; imperceptible by the ear
    Expressionless, directionless, more than awed, he moved about in the high country valleys, occasionally sucking on little snowballs, stopping often to listen to the inaudible hum, the fantastic and unhearable crinkle of that pristine frozen landscape.
  14. specter
    a ghostly appearing figure
    For several days he plodded that way, aimlessly searching for nothing, in no hurry, a minuscule curious specter inching around in that peaceful winter country, absorbing something, taking it in—indelibly—for all time.
  15. introspective
    given to examining own sensory and perceptual experiences
    Three days passed: after them, Ray Gusdorf quietly emerged from the Midnight Mountains a different human being—mature, introspective, curiously subdued.
  16. scapegoat
    someone who is punished for the errors of others
    Of course, Pacheco’s pig in certain ways had become just such a scapegoat, taking up some of the slack created by the Abuelo’s demise.
  17. unconscionable
    lacking a sense of right conduct
    And when Joe, or Amarante Cordova, or any other men in town sneaked into the National Forest to set a fire so all the men in town would have hard work at good pay for a while, they always stood around afterward with their hands in their pockets gazing innocently up at the sky, lips pursed, carelessly whistling “Dixie” as they declared the fire must have been set by that unconscionable rapscallion, El Brazo Onofre.
  18. gargantuan
    of great mass; huge and bulky
    Bernabe released another gargantuan though inaudible Ai, Chihuahua!, and, fearing for his career, his voice almost a moan, he said, “They sure wouldn’t come into town and go around asking people to write on pieces of paper and then compare those pieces of paper with your note, sir. If you wanted somebody to want to kill you, that would be a good way to get them to be that way.”
  19. lethargically
    without energy; in a lethargic manner
    They were the first creatures Herbie saw when he opened his door each morning, sunning themselves on his stoop or lethargically arranged in the dust beside his house with green webbed feet poking out of their mouths and their eyes popping out of misshapen heads as they tried to swallow frogs.
  20. expatriate
    a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country
    Between the windows some ancient wooden santos, and a couple of newer ones that had been carved and painted by the expatriate Snuffy Ledoux, were hanging.
  21. viable
    capable of life or normal growth and development
    He envied them because they were different from him, and because, despite their poverty, their language and their culture seemed to offer a viable and dignified alternative.
  22. subsistence
    minimal resources for survival
    He ran down for them a history of other conservancy districts in the state which had effectively destroyed subsistence farmers by forcing them into cash economies where they could not compete.
  23. rhetoric
    high-flown style; excessive use of verbal ornamentation
    He did everything possible to probe and expose the hypocritical rhetoric surrounding the Indian Creek Dam—the state engineer’s pronouncement, for example, that it was “the only way to save a dying culture.”
  24. hypocrisy
    pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not have
    Panky Mondragon growled ferociously: “We deceive ourselves. We’re full of our own hypocrisy and lies. For years we have stolen our land from each other and from the Indians.
  25. penchant
    a strong liking
    After all, wasn’t it about time somebody aroused this apathetic community’s penchant for fire and brimstone?
  26. replete
    deeply filled or permeated
    To boot, Onofre’s TV antenna was so tall, so elaborate, so pronged, and so replete with squiggling copper and aluminum tubing and boosters, that it looked like a DEW-line radar interceptor in Greenland.
  27. desecrate
    violate the sacred character of a place or language
    All this was surrounded by a white picket fence built so sturdily that the Chateau Martinez was the only place in town which had never been desecrated by Pacheco’s pig.
  28. mellifluous
    pleasing to the ear
    “With more water you can grow fruit like crazy from your fruit trees,” the thugs’ mellifluous voices crooned.
  29. sabotage
    destroy property or hinder normal operations
    “And if we attempt to sabotage their next meeting—?”
    “They might burn down the Dancing Trout,” Shorty said glibly.
  30. embroil
    force into some kind of situation or course of action
    Kyril Montana had also helped Bud out of one ticklish situation involving federally controlled interstate land sales in which Bud had become embroiled during his earlier days when he was based in the capital.
  31. smithereens
    a collection of small fragments considered as a whole
    Okay, so I live behind a six-foot-high wall in an adobe mansion surrounded by spruce trees, and I got more land than twenty of those poor bastards put together, but I been dealing with them for years, I been selling and buying their land, and right now I’m tied heavily into Ladd Devine’s Miracle Valley project, which I stand to come out of sitting very pretty, unless the whole ball of wax gets blown to smithereens by a bunch of trigger-happy Chicanos or cops or whatever.
  32. despondent
    without or almost without hope
    "Who isn’t so poor he doesn’t need that loot? If nothing else, just the question of should we work on those houses or shouldn’t we will set us further against each other; it will create resentments in those who finally work and in those who refuse...So it’s a very clever offer,” she concluded, her voice suddenly tired, reduced to a despondent whisper.
  33. boycott
    refuse to sponsor; refuse to do business with
    If they’ll take anybody because they’re really serious about those cottages, then we’ll have to try and explain to people why they shouldn’t go, why they should boycott the Dancing Trout.
  34. glower
    look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
    Before all this could happen, however, Joe showed up at Pacheco’s to drop a salt block into the field, and when he discovered his cow had flown the coop he started screaming at Seferino, who just glowered lopsidedly at him during the five-minute tirade.
  35. cipher
    a person of no influence
    Buddy Gabaldon was subsequently relieved of his Milagro post and transferred to the regional director’s office in the capital where he became a mere bureaucratic cipher, plowing through mountains of paper work at half his former salary.

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