South to Mexico, the final installment of the Wes Crowley series, was co-written by Harvey Stanbrough and Gervasio Arrancado. South to Mexico opens with Wes crossing over into Mexico once again, for what probably will be the final time. It contains a touch of the tall tale, a touch of magic realism, and the wide-open spaces of the sea and the desert, both of which are filled with angry gods who conspire to pit man against the elements and man against himself. Wes makes new lifelong friends and retires a few more enemies on his way to Mexico and the rest of his life. Most importantly, he learns who he truly is and the value of love, magic, a family, and a good horse.
Search Tags: western, Old Mexico, romance, the sea, Arizona Territory, New Mexico Territory, Texas Rangers
Below is an excerpt from the beginning of South to Mexico.
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an excerpt from the beginning of South to Mexico
Not quite a week after Wes Crowley had parted company with Ben Iverson and Oney Johnson in Willcox, Arizona Territory, he and Charley, his horse, were crossing into Mexico again south of Douglas.
Rain had moved through during the night. The air was clear and sweet with the scent of acacia and creosote. Charley’s hooves clopped sharply on the hardscrabble shale and lava rock surface as he and Wes moved southwest at an easy pace.
The bright olive arms of the saguaro and organ pipe cacti strained more crisply against the blue sky. The green of the prickly pear and the fishhook barrel cacti were brighter against the drab brown background of the ground. Even the silver spun by the needles of the cholla seemed to glisten and shimmer more brightly.
The last time he’d ridden into Mexico, it was in pursuit of his former lifelong friend, Otis McFadden. Mac had acted in collusion with the enemy. He had betrayed his oath to the Texas Rangers and abandoned his friends. Finally he’d chosen to slink away in the night instead of facing up to what he’d done and trusting his friends to see him through it.
Still, in the end Wes was glad that he hadn’t killed the man himself. He and Mac had been spared just enough time to make their peace before his friend had slipped from this earth.
This time he was hunting nobody but himself and his own peace of mind. On such a crisp, clear morning, his ghosts seemed less onerous. Three stood out:
The Comanche war chief, Four Crows, had died at Wes’ hand, but with his pride intact, an honored, even revered, enemy. His passing had ushered out the age of the Comanche in north Texas.
Mac, in betraying his oath, had lost the respect of everyone involved: the Indian, who had scalped him; Marisól Martinez, his former lover, whom he had abandoned out of hand; and Wes, his former lifelong friend.
And Marisól herself, with whom Wes had grown close and fallen in love after Mac had snuck away in the night. Marisól was targeted and killed in the final Comanche raid on Amarillo.
The perpetrator of that raid, a would-be Comanche war chief named Walking Man, was not among Wes’ regrettable ghosts. A spineless coward, he had murdered Marisól, a woman living alone, as a misguided act of vengeance for Wes having killed Four Crows in battle.
But Wes had ridden a final time for the Rangers, to what had become known as the Battle of Phillips Bend. At that place along the Canadian River, Walking Man had paid dearly for his error in judgment. His abdomen ripped open by a bullet from Wes’ Colt, he had leapt into the river in a bid to escape. There he was struck repeatedly on the face and neck by water moccasins. It was an ugly, slow, painful and richly deserved death.
The memories of Four Crows and even Mac would fade with time. Wes hoped to carry his memory of Marisól with him for the rest of his life. To that end, he was headed for her childhood home deep in Mexico.
* * *
A week into his journey, Wes welcomed the sound that filtered across the desert. Tap-ptang! Tap-ptang! Tap-ptang! There was a pause, and then the pattern was repeated. Another pause, and the pattern repeated again.
Wes grinned. Canoso! He urged Charley into an easy canter for the remaining half-mile into town. On the near end of town he slowed Charley to a walk again and turned toward a small barn. The sign over the large double door read Caballeriza y Herrador ~ Canoso. Below, in smaller letters in English, it read, Livery Stable & Blacksmith ~ Canoso. On a newer third line it read Manuel Sifuentes, Propietario y Alguacil.
A short Mexican man was standing at an anvil just inside the door. He was hammering out a horseshoe, but he stopped and looked up when Wes dismounted. “Sí, señor?” Then his eyes lit up and he smiled. “The Ranger, Wes Crowley!” He laid down his hammer and stepped around the anvil. “How are you, my friend?” He offered his hand.
Wes grinned and shook his hand. “I am well, mi amigo. How are you, Manuel?”
The grin still on his face, Manuel shrugged. “The sun comes up, the sun goes down. There is nothing new under the sun.”
Wes pointed up at the sign. “‘Cept that, maybe. You’re the new sheriff, eh?”
Again Manuel shrugged. “It has become a hobby. I have no jail.” He glanced past Wes. “Here comes mi diputado… my deputy.” He gestured with his chin.
Wes turned around. The young store clerk he’d met a couple of months earlier was striding up the street toward them.
Manuel said quietly, “You will remember his name also is Manuel, pero Manuel Ramón Canoso… his great great grandfather was the first to settle here. Since he has become my deputy, to save on confusion he now is called Ramón.”
Wes nodded, and as the young man approached, he put out his hand. “Good to see you again, Manuel, my young friend. Except I hear it’s Ramón now, and you’re a deputy.” He grinned.
The younger man grinned. “Señor Crowley, it is always a pleasure, sir.” On his chest was a five-pointed star. Two lines of hand-stamped text read Alguacil Diputado.
Wes tapped the star lightly with one finger. “I hope you aren’t getting a lot of business.”
He grinned. “No señor. But that is well. We have no jail.”
Manuel the elder swept one arm in a broad gesture. “But we have a great deal of cemetery.”
Wes glanced around and laughed. “You do at that. I hope you never have to start planting people in it.”
“No, that has not happened yet, except the three men you met during your previous visit. One friend showed up to ask questions of Jorge, the bartender, but Ramón and I persuaded him to be on his way.”
Wes looked from one to the other and back. “Really? Well I’m proud of both of you. It takes time and guts to talk a man out of dying when he’s got his heart set on it.”
Ramón shrugged. “The shotgun did most of the talking.” He glanced at Manuel, then said, “The constable talked and the man listened, but most of the time his eyes were focused on the barrels of my shotgun.”
Wes nodded. “Hard not to notice the business end of a ten-gauge.”
Manuel said, “He seemed smarter than most. He rode east and hasn’t been back.”
Wes looked at Ramón. “You still runnin’ the store too?”
He nodded. “Sí, señor. Anything you need, come by.
Wes looked at the sheriff. “So how’s our friend in the cantina?”
Manuel laughed. “Still there, but not as timid as he once was. The man I was telling you about, the friend of the men you killed? The first shotgun he saw was the shotgun of the bartender.”
Ramón took over. “Old Paco marched the man down the street to visit with our sheriff. I happened to see him come past the store, so I grabbed my 10 gauge and ran out. But he had the whole thing under control.”
Manuel said, “When the three of them got here, Paco looked at the man, then spit in the dust at his feet. Then he looked up at me and said, ‘He is yours. If I see him again, I will kill him.’ I think that did a great deal to lay the groundwork for the speech I gave him.”
Wes whistled. “That’d do it for me for sure. Two shotguns makin’ a spectacle of me right down the middle of the street.” He shook his head, then looked at Ramón. “I’ll stop by to get some supplies if you’re open for business. I’ll need everything like before: tortillas, frijoles, harina, café y tasajo.”
Ramón grinned. “Y en español! Muy bueno, señor… y los albaricoques?”
Wes laughed. “Yep. I do love those baby peaches.”
Ramón looked at Manuel and grinned. “Alguacil mayor, I think you won’t have any problems with this desperado.” He glanced at Wes. “I’ll go now to fill your order, señor.”
“Gracias, mi amigo.” Wes waved as Ramón left. He turned back to Manuel. “That’s a good young man.”
Manuel nodded. “Yes. Will you be staying?”
Wes shook his head. “No, not this time. Got a lot of thinkin’ to do, a lot of ground to cover.”
“So you found your friend?”
Wes looked at him for a long moment. “You were standing here when he came riding up, Manuel. You gettin’ old in the head?” Wes grinned.
“Oh sí sí, I remember that one. Pero yo hablo de su amigo otro. The one with the big hat, señor… the one the more recent friend asked you about.”
Wes looked at him, then at the ground, then at Manuel again. He nodded. “Yeah, I found him, Manuel. He’s buried now, up along the San Pedro.” He gestured vaguely to the north. “About forty miles from here.”
Manuel hesitated, then said, “I am sorry for your loss.”
Wes shrugged. “Well… just what it had to be.” He looked away for a moment, then back at Manuel.
“And now you are on another search… but a more open ended one perhaps?”
Wes nodded. “That I am, my friend. Do you know of the state of Guerrero?”
“I have heard of it. It is very far from here to the south. Farther even than Mexico City. It is on the coast, I think, with the Pacific Ocean.”
“Now what do you consider ‘very far’?”
Manuel shrugged. “I have not been there myself, but others have said the trip took some months. Maybe two months? Three? Maybe four? It depends on your speed I suppose, and difficulties you might encounter along the way. You will go there?”
“That I will.” He grinned. “Have to see a man about a train.”
Manuel nodded as if he understood and pointed to the east. “You see the large mountains there?”
“Those are the Sierra Madres. Keep those in sight but always on your left and they will guide you to Guerrero. In four or five days they will disappear. Do not be fooled. Continue due south. They will reappear again in a few days.”
Wes nodded again and stuck out his hand. As they shook, he said, “Thank you, Manuel. I won’t forget you, my friend. Maybe I’ll see you again someday.”
Manuel shook his hand. “I hope so. All things are possible, mi amigo. Vaya con dios.”
Wes nodded and mounted his horse. As he turned Charley around, Manuel said, “I hope you have good luck with the man and the train.”
Wes glanced back. “Thanks,” he said, then waved as he rode toward the store.
Ramón met him out front. He reached a package up to Wes. “I know you are in a hurry to be on your way, señor… mi amigo.” He grinned.
As Wes took the package, he nodded. “I am at that.” He stowed the package in a saddle bag, then felt in his pocket for a coin. He offered it to Ramón. “This cover it?”
Without looking at the coin, Ramón slipped it into his pocket. “Gracias, mi amigo. Y gracias para todo. Thank you for everything.”
Wes leaned down and offered his hand. As they shook, Wes said, “Y gracias at tu, mi amigo, y para todo.”
Wes turned Charley and waved.
Ramón waved. “Vaya con dios, mi amigo.”
Wes nudged Charley into a canter and they rode south out of town.
* * *