This dashing gent (this is done in pencil, can you stand it?) is Renaldo Valle Santos, youngest son of Estebán Santos. Like most kids who come tail end in a large family, he hasn’t had expectations put on his shoulders aside from watching out for his twin sister Canadaría and doing what his brothers tell him.
Life is pretty easy when that’s all you have to think about. And given the isolated nature of the family’s ranch out in San Felipe Del Rio, Texas, he doesn’t have to worry much about things like finding himself a wife. (Which is good, because that’s the last thing he wants.)
A wrench gets tossed in the works in the form of that handsome fellow in the bottom left corner, Henry “Hank” Burnett.
Turns out there’s a reason why Renaldo didn’t want a wife: He’d much rather have a husband. But seeing as this is a much different time than today, (1870, to be exact) how would that even work? Continue reading
As they crested a small butte, Renaldo could see another stream below, the ground fecund with growth and trees. Up here, they were at the edge of the tablelands, near where the land drove up sharply into the mountains of New Mexico. As they carefully picked their way down the side, the horses managing to avoid the scree and slippery portions with grace, Renaldo could see a solitary figure below. He looked to Hank to see what he made of this and made himself relax at the sight of the huge smile blooming on his companion’s face.
“Didn’t think he’d…” Hank cut himself off, shaking his head in what looked to be happy disbelief.
“Do you know him?” Renaldo asked.
“Very well,”Hank replied, his face splitting with a wide grin. He put his fingers to his mouth and gave three sharp whistles. The man in the distance replied with a high-pitched cry.
Meet Tsá-Cho, a.k.a. The Wrench in the Love Works. (Not what the name means.)
Mescalero Apache actor/model Rick Mora, aka my choice in casting for Tsa-Cho, should HBO come knocking. 😉
You simply can’t tell a story about Texas in the 19th Century without Native Americans (or N’Dee, Nde, or The People as they would refer to themselves) in the story. Unfortunately, Native Americans have often been cast as savages, as dutiful side-kicks, or as set dressing. The European immigrants almost destroyed them and the Nde are still feeling the devastating effects, part of which is the consistent “othering” and dehumanizing Hollywood continues with respect to these people. They’re either your spiritual guide–an object to help the white person “learn something about themselves”–or they’re illiterate, ignorant simpletons, all of which is grossly insulting. Their rich history, their massive contributions to the Americas, and their incredibly diverse and accepting cultures are often left by the wayside, or worse, aren’t even known by the general public. Continue reading
The day before the wedding, a visitor arrived at Vista Verde an entire week early. Renaldo, ready to wash up and eat dinner after a long, hard day–his side ached from roping cattle as a part of Paloma’s training, his hands were full of bits of raw hemp from the stock lassos, and one of the calves had kicked him high on the thigh–walked back from the barn using his hat to slap at the dust on his chest and thighs. He noticed a tall, striking young black man standing at the door to their home speaking with their father. They didn’t see many black men this far from civilization; with the Civil War ending so recently, many were staying close to where they’d been forced to live, were heading far out west where there were more opportunities to make a new life or were going north seeking less hostile society. Who he could be?
He was about as tall as Renaldo, maybe an inch or two more, broad-shouldered and whip-thin, dressed in well-worn, simple clothes. He had a close-cropped beard, but instead of hiding the shape of his jaw, it accented its sharpness. His light eyes, almost luminescent even at this distance and glowing like amber, were ringed with thick lashes, nearly to the point of being girlish, but there was nothing feminine about the man. With his lean but strong-looking chest, muscular arms and curved backside, he managed to carry himself with a confident air while standing idly; his body was still, but in a way that made Renaldo think of a raptor sitting on an abutment, watching and waiting.
“Oh, here he is,” Esteban said, motioning for Renaldo to join them, saying, “Señor Burnett, allow me to introduce to you my son, Renaldo.”
This? This was the legendary mesteñero, Henry Burnett?
~From Bitter Springs
Yeah, Renaldo. Not all legends are old men. Henry Burnett was not an easy man to get to know, not for me, and certainly not for Renaldo. I had to unlearn a lot of false history to allow his creation to happen, first off. The sheer lack of information readily available about black cowboys in the 19th Century is staggering. Continue reading
Introducing Abuelita, a gentle Tobiano with pretty rounded white splotches and a tender heart. But more importantly, I want y’all to meet Doc, the Wonderhorse on whom she’s based.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Artwork by Colleen M. Good
“Abuelita is a good choice,”Francisco said to Burnett, nodding toward the horse. “Gentle, good instincts.”
“Abuelita?” Burnett asked, looking between the two brothers.
“Little grandmother,”Renaldo said, grinning and running his hand along Abuelita’s copper flank. “She mothers the other horses and watches out for the foals. Gracias, Francisco.”
Francisco nodded and gave his brother’s shoulder a squeeze.
“That’s good thinking,” Burnett said. “Could help us out there. Gracias.”
The brothers looked at each other, amused at Burnett’s American-South accent as he attempted to pronounce Spanish. Burnett caught that, rolled his eyes and took the lead, walking Abuelita to where she could join his horses in one of the corrals.
“Be good, eh?” Francisco said quietly, ruffling Renaldo’s hair.
Under the cut is Real Life Abuelito, aka, Doc, the best quarter horse ever.
As we get close to December 3rd, I thought it might be fun for you guys to get to know the various characters in Bitter Springs. Â And while this isn’t a book whereÂ the animals have lines, the horses are still an integral part of the story. Â All of the horses, by the way, are based on real people.*
Pencil artwork by Colleen M. Good, cover artist for Bitter Springs.
*horse folkÂ know that animals are people, too.