Michael White on his Return to San Ysidro

Michael White Continues:

[The] next morning Cottrell and myself went on top of the hills, and I told him he might go back if he wanted to, for I was going to Los Angeles, and would contrive to get in. Los Angeles had been taken the day before by Commodore Stockton’s forces and my fears were that the Mexicans might catch me and carry me off to Sonora or kill me on the road.

We started together, and that night just before the day broke were at the Ranchito then belonging to an uncle of my wife’s (Juan Perez), now to Pio Pico.[Between 1850 and 1852 Pio Pico built an adobe home, “El Ranchito.” now the Pio Pico State Monument, near Whittier.]

After daylight I went to the shanty. The old man came out and said, “In the name of God, where have you come from?” I told him from Chino and was bound to Los Angeles. He said if I was seen by the Mexicans they would kill me. My intention was to hide in the mustard weed all day and get in at night.

We got plenty to eat, and were stowed under the bed the whole day.

In the evening after it was dark, we left for Los Angeles. My wife’s uncle sent a guide with us till we got over the river. We went on and had fun with him. Every time I heard a band of horses I would tell Cottrell they were horsemen after us and to lay down flat on his belly, and I would do so just for deviltry. He was in a constant dread of being taken. In fact, several Mexicans had been to the Uncle’s house inquiring if he had seen any Yankees, and he would answer, “No, go home to your affairs; Stockton passed here yesterday and did not hurt me or mine―did not even take a borrega [a small yearling lamb].

We got into Los Angeles sometime before daylight, went to Lemuel Carpenter’s house and got something to eat. About 10 or 11 a.m. went to Headquarters of Commodore Stockton and General Kearny. He asked me if I had been set at liberty, and I said, “No, I have taken French liberty; if the cage door is left open, the bird will fly away.” He said he did not blame me and advised me to go to my quarters. I told him I was going home. He asked me if I was not afraid of being killed on the road, and I replied that home I would go anyhow.

As I was near the Rosa de Castilla I saw about a dozen Mexicans, all armed and mounted. I was on foot. I heard them cry out, “There goes a Yankee, let’s go and kill him.” They came rushing toward me, when one of them burst out, “That’s my cousin, you must not touch him.” That was the huero [blonde] Higuera. He was in some way a relative of my mother-in-law.

He asked me if Stockton would not kill them if they went into town. “Kill the devil,” I said, “you are not a deer. You may go in and deliver your arms or go and put them away, and go to your work, and no one will molest you.” He asked me two or three times if I was sure of that, and I answered him in the affirmative. He said he would go home to his work and be done with war. I told him his country was taken and he had nothing to do but to go home and keep quiet, and no one would interfere with him. They left me and I went home without any mishap.

[there is a piece of the text missing here] clothing in the house. Not a thing was left, not even corn or anything else to eat. A day or two later I came over to Workman’s. I did not want to say that I had nothing to eat, but he divined it, and asked if I had brought a sack. I said “yes” and he gave me a sack of flour, and told me to send my ox cart the next day and he would load it for me. I did so, and got a good supply of grain and other things.

Got some questions for you, Michael White: how come you’re having to check in with Kearny and Stockton while Lemuel Carpenter and the others are just hanging out at home? That sounds like you’re enlisted, not just some guy who was looking at lumber the day the Californios “attacked” Wilson’s battalion, who somehow found themselves at Isaac William’s place. Now we know that you worked for Workman for a year while you were living in Taos, and that while he wasn’t physically at the Battle of Chino, he was the captain at the Battle of Cahuenga, and he was definitely affiliated with the Americans. The wagon
load of groceries sounds like a payment, not like a nice guy being generous to a friend who’s down on his luck.

Then we’ve got the missing text. It seems like the beginning of the paragraph was probably that you went home and the place had been cleaned out, which makes me wonder, “when was the last time you were home?” I’m guessing that Maria del Rosario and the kids are probably hanging out someplace safer, like the mission. Back to the morass of moral ambiguity – White’s family hasn’t been exactly safe from either the Mexicans or the Americans all summer, so it’s a good thing the war is over. In fact, from White’s comments to Higuera, it’s pretty clear that he identified the winning side and got on it, but he just wants things to get back to “normal.”

And there’s the money issue. If he was making bank on his ranch, he wouldn’t have taken a construction job for Hugo Reid. He’s probably still wiped out from losing all his stock three years before. Clearly, he still has an ox and a cart, and that’s something, but it ain’t much. He’s got San Ysidro and he’s got El Cajon de Muscupiabe (which he probably hasn’t given up on yet) In fact – he’s probably trying to curry some favor with Wilson, Williams, Workman, and Weaver to get Muscupiabe up and running since it didn’t work out with the Lugos. He never said, but being broke creates its own kinda logic.


~ by ravenjake on February 6, 2010.

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