The Texas-Mexico border, the winter of 1886—The Great Die Up. A raw rift separates Mexicans and Anglos. A loner cowpoke and a mute Mexican girl fight man and nature to reunite.
Out of work cowpoke Bud Eugen comes across Marta, a mute sixteen-year old Mexican girl whose family has been killed by Indians. Bud reluctantly takes her along, even though he’s never had to accommodate another person in his simple life. He’s unable to find anyone willing to take her. In spite of his prejudices, Bud grows to like the spunky girl (and her excellent cooking).
Eventually, they both find work on a border ranch. Here, the relationship between the girl and the young cowboy hesitantly grows. But banditos raid the ranch, kidnapping the rancher’s daughters and Marta. Bud, with twelve other men, pursue the banditos into the most desolate reaches of Mexico. Ambushes and battles with banditos, Rurales, and traitors are constant, and the brutal weather is as much a threat as the man-made perils. Life and death choices are made at every turn as one side gains the advantage, then the other.
The rancher’s daughters are rescued, and the exhausted party turns back. But Bud presses on alone, against insurmountable odds – determined to fulfill an unspoken promise to Marta.
A real Texas cowpoke rarely needs more than a good horse and a reliable gun while he’s on the job, but a good hot cup of coffee and a pot of frijoles sure has a way of making things more pleasant. So when Bug Eugen finds a mute Mexican girl out alone on the trail, he’s grateful for the grub she can cook, even if she can’t carry on a conversation.
It’s 1886 and Bud has just lost his job and his vaqueros friend and mentor. He’s not to blame. Times are hard and sometimes even the best cowpokes have to move on to the next job. Bud sets off with a “letter of introduction” and the promise of a job at the San Isidro working for Mathew M. Picket. But on his way there, Bud comes across a brutally murdered family who he deems had a bad run in with the “damn injuns.” Soon, he realizes that one member of that poor family managed to escape. He finds Marta, a mute girl of maybe sixteen, who has enough spunk, smarts, and fight left in her to keep any man on his toes. Especially Bud.
An unexpected bond forms between Bud and Marta. He feels responsible for her and she feels indebted to him. No matter how hard Bud tries to find a good home for Marta, it always turns out that she returns to him, usually mad as a hornet that he tried to give her away.
This story was written in first-person and is heavy on narrative, which works well considering Marta can’t speak. However, it was not written in the usual commercial-style of most novels. This story has a flair and a voice all its own. It includes many phonetic spellings, which does give the reader a sense of dialect, but sometimes has too much of it making it a difficult read. And true to the Old West, the story has its gruesome aspects with scenes of scalped and butchered families. In fact, it reads like an old handwritten, historical account. It’s blunt, factual, and realistic. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
If a historically accurate and well-portrayed tale of a cowpoke’s life in 1880s is on your wish list, this novel should definitely be in your hands. But be prepared for prejudicial phrasing – this is as authentic as it comes.