He stood there watching, hidden in the shadows. His clothes were too small for him. The bottom of his shirt barely reached the top of his pants and his ankles were showing. Dark unkempt hair hung in his vivid blue eyes. His thin frame wasnít from growth but from missing to many meals.
He stayed very still, making sure that he didnít make any noise. If the man would see him he would make him leave. The boy didnít want to leave. He wanted to watch and remember every detail that he could.
It was very hot even this early in the morning. The man had brought his son and something large wrapped in blue material with a bow tied around it outside. The boy watched from the security of a bush by the fence. The son was excited and kept begging his father to let him open the present.
The boy was fascinated at how they celebrated Christmas on this side of the border. He remembered last year when he was five and living on the Mexican side how he was able to join in on some of the celebrations. A nun even let him have a turn at trying to hit the piŮata. He had was so much fun. He vowed that he would always remember that day.
This year was different though. They were on the other side of the border. There were no parades or piŮatas. But there were colorfully wrapped gifts and socks filled with fruit and candy. He wished that he could at least have his sock filled with the goodies but that wasnít possible.
The bad men were coming again and they had to leave real fast. This time they were able to pack almost everything. The boy was happy about that, but his mama was having a hard time finding work. She was able, though, to find a few men that would come over to their room and stay all night. The little boy would then have to go and stay in the livery until his mama came for him.
When his mama had told him that the bad men were after them again. He asked her why they were always after them. He was shocked when she answered him this time. He found out that day that his father was a very wealthy and important man where he lived. His father wanted these men to take them far away so nobody would know about them. The little boy found out that his father was ashamed of him and his mama because they were Mexican. He knew from experience that he was also part white and that made people mad. He guessed that made his papa mad too.
He watched as the father and son laughed at some private joke. Then the man picked up his son and swung him around in circles, both of them laughing and having fun. When he set his son down he pointed to the package and told him to open it.
The boy watched with excitement as the son opened the package. It was a barn with horses and cows. It also had a fence. The father and son sat down together and started playing.
The boy closed his eyes and pretended that he was the son and his father was playing with him. He listened to what the father was saying to his son and pretended that his father was saying these things to him.
He must have sat there for at least two hours just watching and pretending. Then he heard his mother calling for him. He knew that he had to go but he wanted to stay and pretend a little while longer. His mother was getting closer, calling, so he slipped away and ran to his mama. Maybe she would have enough money today for flour and beans.
Sixteen years later:
He stood there watching, hidden in the shadows. His clothes were flamboyant. An embroidered shirt was tucked into studded pants. Dark unkempt hair hung in vivid blue eyes. His muscular frame was from doing work on the ranch.
He stayed very still, making sure that he didnít make any noise. If the man would see him he would make him leave. The young man didnít want to leave he wanted to watch and remember every detail that he could.
It was chilly this early in the morning. The man and his son had brought a large package wrapped in a colorful Indian blanket with a large bow. The young man watched from the security of a stall by the tack room. The son was excited and kept telling the father he couldnít wait until the package was opened.
Two years ago the young man was on the other side of the border. He didnít celebrate Christmas. Oh, he would watch the parade and watch the children as they tried to hit the piŮata but Christmas and gunfighters didnít go together. He spent most of the day in a saloon with other men who had nowhere else to go.
The young man was fascinated by how they celebrated Christmas here. He remembered last year. He was unsure of what was expected of him. He was afraid of not doing something right or not doing something he was expected to. He didnít feel secure enough to ask anyone what he was supposed to do. After several days of trying to figure what to do by watching everyone he snuck into town to talk to a priest. He figured it was safe this way because a priest took a vow to not tell anything.
After his talk he went shopping for presents and headed back to the ranch. That night he enjoyed joining in on the fun. He still remembered the laughter and the feeling of belonging that enveloped him that day. He even felt closer to his father. That was the best Christmas that he ever had.
He watched as the father and son laughed at some private joke. Then the father put his arm over the sons shoulder and pointed at the package. He informed the son that they had better hide the package well so it would not be found.
He watched with excitement as the son picked up the package. The father and son together started looking for a good hiding place. The young man was eager to see where it would be.
The young man closed his eyes and tried to imagine what was in the package. He imagined all kinds of things that it could be. He listened as the father and son discussed and searched for the best place to hide it.
He must have sat there twenty minutes listening and imagining what it was. Then he heard his surrogate sister calling him. He knew he had to go but he wanted to stay a little while longer and find out where they were going to hide the package. His surrogate sister was getting closer calling for him so he snuck out the back door and ran to her. Maybe she would have some freshly baked cookies today for him to eat.
Johnny Lancer was a happy young man. He was sure that this was going to be his best Christmas yet and he was excited for it to come.