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Excerpt from the forth coming novella: 
              Spirit Ridge
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

1954 ~ Southwest part of the state of Sonora in northwestern Mexico.


                               Mexican Honeymoon

As she stood in the sweltering Sonora sun, she traced with the squared off tip of a 
perfectly manicured, red-lacquered fingernail, one of the bullet holes they had 
made in the aluminum siding of her husband’s brand new Airstream Trailer. 
Jerry, her husband of one week, was franticly pawing through the glove box of 
her 1953 Chevy Bel Air convertible, a gift from her last husband Ralph. The car was 
aqua and white, with a white top and red interior. The polished chrome glistened 
in the morning sun. Ralph had given it to her a year ago to drive to Reno to file for 

Moments earlier she had been seated inside the Airstream enjoying a quiet 
breakfast when suddenly the morning was shattered by a barrage of bullets 
strafing the rounded top-side of the Airstream. The machine guns roared 
as hundreds of bullets passed through the airstream and out the other side.

Jerry yelled, “Get down!” 

He simultaneously reached out and pushed her and the child to the floor, 
upending the table with its glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice, plates of 
crisp bacon, and a platter of fried eggs basted with bacon grease and seasoned to 
perfection with salt and pepper. 

Before she could comprehend what was happening or shake the breakfast off her 
pink whale-boned halter top and starched white shorts, the door flew open.

A gold-toothed Mexican with a machine gun appeared in the doorway yelling 
something, which to her, was just a bunch of unintelligible gibberish. He looked 
the stereotype of the Cisco Kid’s fat sidekick “Pancho”, yet was as menacing as 
Gold Hat in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Jerry told them to get up slowly and exit “The Silver Bullet”, the name he had 
proudly christened it the week before when he purchased it. 

The child was, as usual, biting her fingernails. She stopped nibbling, and copying 
the grownups, raised her thin arms in the air as they descended the metal step to 
the rocky ground.

“Pancho” who seemed to be in charge had large sweat stains under both arms, a 
bandoleer worn diagonally over one shoulder and across his broad chest, a hand 
gun holstered at his hip, and a ridiculous sombrero with a rattlesnake hat band 
complete with fanged head and rattle. He motioned for her and the child to go 
stand against the trailer. 

One of the other men poked her ample rear end, with the muzzle of his gun, and 
roughly turned them around to face the aluminum side of the trailer, then stood 
guard while “el jefe” demanded of her husband, 
“Sus papeles, Señor.” 
Jerry looked at the man puzzled.
“Sus documentos…papeles.”

The night before, they had pulled off the main highway, which was no more than a 
deeply rutted, one lane road, more like a cow path than a highway. They were 
hot and tired and irritable from the long drive. While Jerry was preparing dinner, 
she and the child swam in an irrigation ditch, the child annoyingly bobbing up and 
down like a tea bag because she didn’t even know how to swim. Petie imagined 
taking her to the country club and having her perform this Lipton’s Tea-bag 
act in front of all her fashionable friends and shuddered at the thought of how 
embarrassing that would be. She’d have to enroll her at the YWCA for swimming 
lessons as soon as they returned to the states from their Mexican honeymoon

She hadn’t wanted the child to come with them in the first place. It never 
occurred to her when she broke up Jerry’s marriage to the girl’s mother that he’d 
fight for custody of her. Nor did it cross her mind that in this day and age the courts 
would award custody to a single man. But they did and now she was stuck with her. 

As she looked at the fat, squat, distorted reflection of the men in the shiny 
aluminum side of the Airstream, she wondered if they would want to rape her and 
if they did, hoped, they would at least take her inside the Airstream and not do it in 
front of the child or her husband. Then she thought maybe they would take the 
child, and in her heart of hearts she wished they would.

Now “el jefe” was yelling at Jerry, “Andale!”

In his nervousness, Jerry grabbed every piece of paper in the glove box and thrust 
the entire bundle into the man’s pudgy hands. It was unclear if they were 
federales or bandoleros, but since they had the guns, Jerry didn’t bother to ask.

The man stepped away backwards, turned mechanically and went back to where 
some of the other men were standing idly about or leaning against a filthy Land 
Rover, smoking cigarettes. He began to sort through the stack of papers which he 
had laid out on the hood of his vehicle. Looking first at their birth certificates, hers 
from Connecticut, Jerry’s from Michigan, then the child’s tribal ID card, the car 
registration, and whatever else Jerry, in his haste, had given the man. After a few 
moments he gasped and in the exhale breathed the words, 

“Madre de Dios!” Mother of God!

Crossing back to where Jerry was still standing with his hands in the air next to the 
convertible, the man said, 

“Señor, lo siento! I am so sorry I did not know. Please forgive us. Where is you 

Jerry told the man he was on his honeymoon and they were just driving south until 
the road ended.

The man looked at the woman with her hair up in pin-curls, the cheeks of her large 
butt peeking out under the cuffs of her shorts, then at the child, perhaps 
wondering why anyone would take a child on his honeymoon. Then he looked 
back at Jerry and announced,

“Please, Señor, we will give you safe escort to the next border.”

Petie and the child turned their heads to see what was going on. The man was 
almost bowing to Jerry and scraping the ground before his feet as he profusely 

Jerry motioned for her and the child to get into the car. PRONTO!

The men piled into the Land Rover and together with the Rover in the lead, they 
drove the hot dusty miles to the next roadblock, the oversized tires on the jeep 
spewing rocks and grit into the dust laden air.

Once they were on the open road, Petie adjusted the rearview mirror in order to 
remove the metal, spring-hinged clips from the pin-curls they held in place, on her 
headful of bobbed, bleached-blonde hair. She looked into the corner of the mirror 
to see what the child was doing. She was sucking on her index finger and tugging 
at her hair as if she was willing it to grow. 

A few months ago, when the child first arrived from the foster home where the 
courts had placed her, gripping in front of her knees with both small hands, the 
handle of a beige Samsonite suitcase, her grandmother’s monogram JMR for 
Josephine Morong Runnels imprinted in gold letters just below the broken lock, 
Petie had taken one look at her tangled hair and wagged her head from side to 
side. She, who kept her own hair short and easily manageable, had no intention of 
combing or brushing someone else’s unruly hair. The next day Petie marched the 
child, against her will, down to Howard, the local hairdresser. 

The child had looked so tiny sitting there in the big barber chair, draped in a smock 
intended for a grown up. Tears spilled down her face while Howard lopped off her 
long braids. Gads, you’d have thought he was cutting off her arm or something! 

Petie thought she looked much better with her Buster Brown hairstyle. The child 
refused to look in the hand-held mirror Howard offered her when he was through. 
She just closed her eyes, shook her head, and went to wait by the door as Petie 
paid him for disfiguring her. Her braids, two black snakes, mocked her from the 
floor beneath the chair. She wished they would coil up and strike Petie and 
Howard on their calves and ankles.

Two months later the child’s mother managed to save enough change out of her 
per capita payment to make a phone call. One by one she dropped the buffalo 
head nickels into the coin slot of a pay phone on the Rosebud reservation to make 
the call to her daughter in Los Angeles.

In her native San Poil, the child sobbed into the telephone. 

“They took my hair–I thought you died”

At 5 the child already knew the only time you cut your hair is when a parent or 
grandparent dies, or for a slight trim on the full moon of August, to make it grow 
longer, stronger, thicker.

Her mother’s whiskey-soaked, tear-laden voice echoed down the line,

“Don’t cry my little sweetheart. It will grow back.”

They spoke for a brief moment and then her mother’s tender, gentle voice 
disappeared over a havoc of telephone wires somewhere in the mid-west over 
dust bowls and prairies that separated them from each other. It became a whisper
in the wind somewhere out over the Rockies, then was gone forever.

Petie took the crackling, heavy black receiver from the child’s trembling hand with 
the fingernails bitten down to the quick. 

“What was that all about? You’re such a crybaby!”

Now they and their escort arrived at a roadblock. Petie ran her fingers through her 
curls, and wiped a smear of lipstick from the corner of her mouth before putting the 
mirror back into position.

“Pancho” got out of the jeep, and strode to the front of the vehicle to talk to the 
men guarding the road. They spoke in Spanish and Jerry was only able to make 
out the words “Amigo de El Presidente…Friend of the President…”

Adolfo Ruiz Cortines had recently ousted Miguel Aleman Valdez as President of 
Mexico. Harry S. Truman had in January handed over the reins of the United States 
presidency to President-elect General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Jerry who had never 
met either of the Mexican Presidents nor any U.S. president, decided not to say 
anything and cautioned Petie to do the same. He couldn’t imagine for whom 
they had mistaken him. 

The Cisco Kid’s fat, sweating sidekick came back to the convertible. “Señor, you 
are in good hands. You will now have new escort”.

He then, with an almost comical flourish of his oversized taxidermic sombrero, his 
mustache fluttering in the warm breeze bowed and took his leave. 

They drove south through the towns of Hermosillo, Guaymas, Mazatlan,
Guadalajara, where at each town or village “border” crossing, the patrol guards 
performed the same charade. Each time their present escort was replaced by a 
new one and their “documentos” were handed to the new man in charge. Each 
time Jerry heard the men say “Amigo de El Presidente” as they looked at the 
papers and motioned toward him.

A few miles outside of Mexico City the last of their escort handed him back his 
papers. “Señor, you and your family will be safe now. It is an honour to meet the 
friend of The President. Vaya con Dios”

Jerry and Petie and the child went back into the trailer. Petie began to pick up the 
broken dishes and mop up the orange juice. Jerry put the table back on its legs, 
spread their birth certificates and other documents out on the table to try to figure 
out what the man had read that made him decide to spare their lives.

He looked at Petie’s birth certificate and discovered she had lied to him about her 
age by a good dozen years. He turned his daughter’s tribal registration card over 
and over in his hands, but found no clues there. At last he came to the warranty for 
the Airstream, off to the left of the page there was a drawing of a man on a 
bicycle pulling an airstream trailer with the name Wally Byam beneath. Across the 
middle in bold block letters, the words: 


Jerry began to scan the certificate.

Lifetime Warranty



Airstream Trailers. Inc. warrant each new vehicle manufactured by it to be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal use and service; its obligation under this Warranty being limited to making good at any of its factories any part, or parts, thereof which shall be returned to it by the registered warranty holder with transportation charges prepaid, and which, in its examination, shall disclose to its satisfaction to have been defective; this Warranty expressly in lieu of all other warranties expressed or implied and other obligations or liabilities on its part, and it neither assumes nor authorizes any person to assume for it any other liabilities in connection with the sale of its vehicle.

This Warranty shall be in full force and effect and valid in the hands of the registered holder during his lifetime.

This Warranty shall cover and include all labor charges for replacement or repair of defective parts.

This Warranty does not apply to any vehicle which shall have been repaired or altered outside of its factories in any-way so as, in the judgement of the warrantor to affect its stability; or which shall have been subject to misuse, negligence or accident; or which shall have been loaded beyond the factory rated load capacity.

It makes no warranty whatsoever in respect to tires, tubes, rims, signaling devices, axle and wheel assemblies, brake assemblies, refrigerator, heating, stoves,ranges, electrical fixtures, water heaters, or other trade accessories in as much as they are generally warranted separately by their respective manufacturers.

And then, there it was:

                          AIRSTREAM TRAILERS, INC.
                                By Arnold R. Costello

Pancho and his cohorts, who had limited knowledge of written English had
mistaken the signature of Arnold R. Costello, the president of Wally Byam’s
Airstreams Inc., for the President of the United States of America.

When they had finally finished laughing, Petie looked at Jerry and said,

 “I guess it doesn’t cover the bullet holes. Huh”

The child looked out the window at the barren landscape and sighed.

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