After three weeks on the road, Sal and Paciano prepared to make the last delivery of bear meat. Brother David’s map marked a rancho near the Mission San Carlos located in the busy pueblo of Monterey. El Señor Duran’s rancho was known for vast landholdings and fine breeding cattle.
“We should have brought gifts for the two little girls at Rancho Duran,” Sal said. Everyone seemed to know of this man, Duran, and his daughter. The Duran household prepared guest quarters for the men and planned to host a celebration to honor their arrival. Watchmen gave Sal and Paciano a hearty welcome. Word had spread of the food supplies they carried. Sal and Paciano settled in and rested after their journey.
Two women worked in the rancho kitchen, a bright spot in the center of a sprawling adobe building. La Señorita Maria Theresa, seventeen, the only heir of El Señor Duran, practiced making a display out of pink and yellow garden flowers. She struggled to prop up the blooms, surrounded by feathery ferns in a clay pot. This was a task her childhood companion, Ria, did so easily.
“My flowers will never be perfect like yours, Ria,” Maria Theresa said.
“Let me finish this, you dress for the guests,” Ria said. “You can play at decorating with flowers, but I have real work to do.” The Duran family was so different from Ria’s tribal clan, yet, there was real affection between Ria and Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa hosted at all the social events at the Rancho including fiestas at the harvest, fandangos after cattle branding, and special dinners after holy masses.
Ria avoided the guests and remained secluded in the kitchen. She stayed hidden near the warmth of the mud-brick oven. She sorted the familiar spices and grains from her tribal territory. More importantly, from the kitchen, she could overhear the serious talk about the pueblo becoming the seat of power for this new Mexican government. No one seemed to remember the first peoples, her people, the Chuttusgelis.
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