Burning Dragon Ranch
My friend Banjo named his parcel of land out near Gunsite Pass in the Sierrita Mountains, Burning Dragon Ranch. It is the name he gave his forge, where he melts and shapes precious metals into objects of beauty and jewelry. The Burning Dragon logo features a winged reptilian serpent coiled atop his treasure pile, jealously guarding his hoard.
Banjo and I climb the hill beside the cattle pond to watch the sun set. Banjo tosses a stone into the pond with a soft splash and lots of ripples. We make ribald jokes about iguanas and horned toads and the echoes of our laughter allows the Mexican vaquero to creep up silently.
The ancient Hispanic cowboy sits beside us quietly looking into the cattle pond, staring at something deeper than his reflection. The vaquero does not say a word until Banjo speaks first just as the twilight is ending on the eve of the last night of year and the first stars begin to appear.
“Look there’s Venus,” Banjo said, “The planet of Loooove.”
“Love hah!” the Mexican says and spits into the pond.
“Years ago,” the vaquero begins, “Mi hermano and I were swimming right here in this cattle pond, skinny dipping. Two gueras stopped to water their horses on the long ride back to Tucson. These were two beautiful blonde gringas but this was many years ago and me and my brother were handsome back then naturally bronze with the kind of muscles you get from working outdoors.”
“Soon the girls were naked too. God! They were beautiful. Well you can guess what happened next: giggling, splashing, licking, loving, and swapping. And it happened all afternoon long, and then far into the night.”
“These girls were sisters and dated a pair of powerful Tucson brothers who somehow heard what happened in these mountains at this very water hole. They were enraged when they heard that their sweethearts had been defiled by a pair of lowly Mexican ranch hands. These powerful Tucson brothers held their anger in their hearts for half a year while they plotted their revenge.”
“On New Years Eve our little sleepy Sierrita Valley was empty; everyone had gone to celebrate the holiday in Tucson. Except for the powerful anglo Tucson brothers who came out here seeking vengeance. They knew which mountains we lived in but not which ranch we worked for so they burned down every ranch, every stable, every house, in the entire valley.
On the horizon as the last of the sunset fades, crimson and reds fade to ash and the mountains turn into paper thin sillouhettes then darker shadows which resemble piles of scorched earth, or the ridges of a dragons back. We three all head to Banjo’s hacienda, enjoying some fine brandy and toasting the future success of the Burning Dragon Ranch.
“Happy New Year!’ Banjo blurts.
I hold my glass high, “To Love and happiness,” I blurt.
“Love! Hah!” and the vaquero spits into the fireplace, the water sizzling amidst the hot ash in the hearth.
We all three drink our brandy and the clock begins to chime midnight. As the old year goes out and just before the new year comes in our ancient vaquero ghost guest disappears amidst the smoke and vapors racing up the chimney of the fireplace at the Burning Dragon Ranch.