After my recent trip to Sonora, Mexico and before the Day of the Dead arrives in November I have undertaken to write a book of my Mexican family history to give to the present members of the family. My family has generally had a strong presence of loving fathers and this is perhaps the pinnacle of them all. Many years ago, when Apaches terrorized the land near the small town of Cumpas, there lived a man named Jose Vasquez and his young son Miguel. Jose was my third great grandfather and Miguel my second. In those days it was very dangerous to leave the village for any reason, as the Apaches were more reckless beyond its borders. Nevertheless, the day came that these two were obliged to take their chances in the wild for some time, either to gather firewood or hunt for food.
They were far from the town when Jose heard the bloodthirsty shrieks of approaching Apaches. Thinking quickly he told his son to climb a tree and stay there, and no matter what happened to stay silent. Those were the last words he would ever speak to his son in this life. As soon as Miguel was safely in the tree and hidden from view his father began yelling as loudly as he could and heading toward the murderous band, thus leading them away from his cherished young son. Miguel watched as the group took and bound his father, lit a fire and laughingly tortured his body, slicing off chunks of flesh and casting them into the conflagration. But not wanting his son to weep and thus be found Jose went to his death without uttering a cry or complaint. Later, after the smoke had cleared, the Apaches had gone and darkness had fallen this young boy, not more than ten years old climbed down from the tree, his face streaked with tears and began the lonely journey home. His mother met him at the door and seeing him alone and with a horrified expression simply said, "It was the Apaches, wasn't it?" It was more a statement than a question.
Ten years later, after the Mexican government had declared that Apaches were officially a menace to the state and offered to pay anyone who would kill them Miguel, now about twenty, traveled to the vast metropolis of Tucson and purchased the biggest rifle his savings could buy. He meandered his way back home to Cumpas, hunting Apaches as he went. When he triumphantly entered his home again, he announced that he had slaughtered seventeen of them and had thus avenged his father. He didn't bother getting the reward money; this was a personal mission of his own. Then he put down his gun and never used it again. But years later when my grandmother was a child he would gather all his grandchildren around him and tell them the story of his selfless father and show them the massive rifle he had used to avenge him.