This was one of my Grandmother's favorite stories, now it's important to note she would clearly make the distinction between a legend and a factual story when she told both. To her this was a factual passed down family story and so it shall remain for me too:
This woman had a real knack for telling stories, especially tales of the supernatural; it was pure theatre so I know for a fact my rendition is going to fall pitifully short. I miss her very much. It just needs her gestures, voice tone changes, and facial expressions. Everything usually lost with the written word. I'll do my best though.
According to her Mother, who told it to my Grandmother, this happened to her husbands Father, which makes him my Great Great Grandfather. Confusing right? Stay with me.
I remember when she would tell the story I would love to visualize it, him with his spurs, sharp hat, beautiful horse, the hooves of his horse clickety clacking on the cobblestones. The smell of tobacco mixed with the pungent sweet smell of the guava trees wafting in from the surrounding orchards on the hills. Love it.
My Great Great Grandfather was a young man, still hadn't married. He was known as a bit of a gallivant, something I'm told he would later pass on to his son my Great Grandfather. He liked to gamble, race horses, ride broncos and bulls, drink his tequila and rum, and of course womanize. He'd no doubt come home at all the ungodly hours and I'm sure barely being able to stay sitting on his saddle. I'm sure he gave my Great Great Great Grandmother Lorenza more than her fair share of grey hairs. Poor poor woman.
One night he put it in his head he needed to have a good time, raise some hell, cut loose, etc. I'm sure he put on his sharpest suit, polished his boots, straight razored his face smooth and curled up his mustache impeccably, rolled his cigarillos (cigarettes), and saddled his horse eager to get going as the sun had set. Off he rode much to the consternations and warnings of poor Lorenza. Off he went oblivious, after all the night was young!
To the cantina, a saloon and dancehall, he goes. I can just see the place, a layer of tobacco smoke hovering just below the ceiling, the raucous and passionate drinking songs played by the band one minute and the sweet and sad unrequited love songs played in the next. The card games and no doubt the concealed weapons. Mini rivulets of rum, and tequila in every direction you looked. All this mingled with visions of ladies of questionable character smelling like rose water with their hair piled on top of their heads and the hems of their skirts grazing the floor gliding about from table to table making sure everyone's needs were met. Scandalous. Snippets of conversations here and there of the girl that got away, the girl he wishes would get away, how business was doing good, not so good, and maybe a little talk of politics. This was pre-Revolutionary Mexico after all.
So after all this, perhaps after a good time and many drinks several hours having passed by my Great Great Grandfather decides its time to head home. After all, one more drink and he might not be able to get back on his horse. He staggers out of the noble establishment he frequented and hopefully after one try alights his horse without embarrassing himself too much. Off he goes in the directions of home.
Then, as I can tell you for a fact as now, in this part of Mexico (Aguascalientes) where this took place, except for the State Capital and County municipal towns, most towns were small little things easily able to be crossed by horse in about 10 to 15 minutes some even less, some nothing more then little villages. In between these towns are spaces of wilderness, field, or orchard. Narrow horse trails, cattle trails, and carriage and cart trails would have been the only connections between these towns at that time. The era of the automobile having not yet dawned. Well, between the towns of Malpaso where the cantina was and Ojocaliente which was home, then as now, stood narrow cobblestone lanes which were and are surrounded by guava orchards fenced by stone walls about 4ft high or so. Even now, no street lights. Just the moon to light your way.
As my Great Great Grandfather rode home the only light he would have had was the moon, the stars, and the dim light of his lit cigarette. He slowly rode through the orchard lane smoking and maybe humming his favorite tune. The only noise was his occasional cig drag, the snorting of his horse, and the sounds of the hooves on the cobblestones. His head swimming in liquor he must have had a grin on his face. Life at that moment must have been good. Suddenly up ahead he hears something but he can't quite make it out. He just knows it's a little ahead of him. So he halts his horse to get a clear listen, you could never be too careful since the chance of being shot dead by a robbing bandit was a very real possibility in those days. Is he dreaming? It sounds sort of like a baby crying. So he edges the horse slowly, ears straining to hear, frustrated that his senses are booze dulled. He goes forward and it get's louder and louder. He knows it's a baby crying. How could that be?! He thinks. So he moves on ahead until he can hear the baby crying loudly and closely. In the dark it's hard to tell exactly from where. At a certain point as he nears he can tell that it's coming from the right side of the orchard lane. So he rides his horse up close against the stone wall and gives a listen. Right, it's coming from right here just beyond the wall. On the orchard side. So from his horse he looks over the wall and can hear where it's coming from, but it's just too dark to see. He jumps off his horse and walks back a few feet from the direction he'd been riding from finds the orchard gate, walks in then back along the wall to where he left his horse. He crouches down and see's a bundle on the floor. Up against the stone wall. He picks it up and sure enough it's a baby!
"!Que pobre!," poor thing!? Quien pudiera ser tal cosa!?, who would do such a thing!?! Que pecado!," what a sin! All this and more he expressed incredulously.
After all it was a cold night, this part of the country get's quite cold, not to mention the coyote, jaquar, and at that time the wolf roamed the hills and mountains who would occasionally descend to take livestock and in the hard dry years even worse. My Great Great Grandfather may have been a gallivant but he was a man of honor, although he sure did like to have a good time, there was no way he would leave this poor abandoned child here.
He took the baby in his arms went around the orchard fence and alighted his waiting horse. He had the baby in his right arm and the reins and a cigarette in his left. People didn't concern themselves with the thought of second hand smoke in those days so off he went. As he rode he slightly uncovered the baby's face to get a better look and cooed over what he saw! Mira que ojitos tan lindos!, what beautiful little eyes you have! The child looking up at him with pretty green eyes. It's cute chubby cheeks and little grin charmed him. He swaddled the child up again as it was a cold night, holding the baby close to him. On he rode in the dark, humming to himself and the child. No doubt wondering what he would do next. How would his Mother react? What type of person could do this to their baby? What would become of the child? Man its dark out tonight!
Now as he rode on something peculiar started to happen. At first he attributed this to it being very late and perhaps the tequila still swimming through his veins but he noticed his arm starting to become tired. He figured he must have been really tired since the baby on his arm seemed to get heavier and heavier. He even shifted the child from his right arm to his left and then back again. The further he rode on the heavier the baby seemed to get. The further he went the more it seemed like an extra pound was added. His little load getting heavier and heavier. To make matters worse his horse was starting to behave strangely, agitated and skittish. Something strange was going on. At some point he must have gotten really concerned or scared because he stopped his horse to support the baby in his arms and while struggling in his efforts to do so the baby's face was uncovered. Something indeed was very very wrong.
To his horror what he saw was not human. The baby's face had changed. From his arms up stared these bulging, eerily shining, blood red eyes. The face ugly, old and distorted. He saw a frightening and evil grin; mouth slightly parted showing horrible teeth. It even let out a raspy ominous and malevolent sounding laugh to make matters worse. I don't have to tell you that my Great Great Grandfather was horrified and in his extreme fright he dropped the "child." The "child" fell from his arms and beside the horse and just as it would have hit the cobblestones it vanished into a grey smoke filling the air with the distinct acrid smell of sulfur. The smell had had learned from his Mother, and that I have heard from my Grandmother is the smell of the demonic. As this happened his horse reared up and bolted forward like lightning.
Well that's all my Great Great Grandfather needed, he smacked the side of his horse pressed a little harder than usual on his spurs and encouraged his already racing horse to run the hell out of that orchard at a breakneck speed. His senses which had been dulled by liquor and fatigue all of a sudden became sharp and quick. He raced all the way home. When he arrived he woke up his parents with the sound of his racing horse. Lorenza wrapped in her shawl came out onto the courtyard to give him a piece of her mind. By the time he got there he was as sober as can be. She must have seen his paled and frightened face. From what I understand he stammered out his story about what had just happened to him and all she did was shake a finger at him and say "!Ya ves! Esto es lo que pasa cuando andas de vago y reguesas a casa en las horas del demonio!," which means, "You see! This is what happens when you're out and about like a vagabond and come in at the hours of the devil!
Unfortunately it's uncertain as to whether my Great Great Grandfather truly mended his ways or just used another route...
Hope you enjoyed!