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The Bear and the Bull

The Bear and the Bull by Harvey Mendez
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Ramon has raised Toro as his pet at Rancho Ortega, but when he meets Betsy Crowley, trouble begins. Her mother forbids them to see each other and makes her father call in the rancho’s mortgage. To save the rancho, the Padrone orders Toro to fight the captured grizzly. Ramon pleads with the Padrone that Toro is too tame but his pleas go unheeded. Toro must fight the bear.
SynergEbooks; May 2003
79 pages; ISBN 9780744307214
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Title: The Bear and the Bull
Author: Harvey Mendez
CHAPTER ONE The Mexican vaquero pointed to the dead cattle in the chill of the spring air. “Look.” His partner spurred his horse down the arroyo. Dismounting, he examined bloody flanks from the ripped-apart animals. “The work of the giant beast.” “We’d better get back to the rancho—tell the Señor,” the first vaquero said. They turned their horses south as dawn’s first light spread across the mesa at the base of twin-peaked Kalawpa Mountain. Early-morning frost covered the rocks and manzanita, stretched over the land. The vaqueros quickened their pace to a full gallop. Several miles outside the town of San Juan Capistrano, the tired, dusty vaqueros galloped through the large front gate of Rancho Ortega on sweating horses. Francisco Ortega, padrone of the villa, and his foreman, Luis Montiel, glanced up from their breakfast table on the veranda of the main house. “Señor! Señor!” The lead rider reined his horse. “The grizzly is back! We found three more carcasses.” The startled Ortega pushed his chair back and stood. “Bulls or cows?” “Cows—we’ve been out all night.” “We must end this!” Señor Ortega bent his powerful frame forward, pounded his large fist on the table. “Our prize cows are for breeding with the best Spanish fighting bulls, not food for the beast.” Luis, lean and muscular, rose from his chair and turned to the vaqueros. “Get the lazadores. Our riders will bring him in.” Ramon Montiel, Luis’s thirteen-year-old son, heard the shouting and ran downstairs to the veranda. The two horsemen rode to the bunkhouse. “Papa.” Ramon caught his breath, stopped beside the table. “What is happening?” “Some of our champion cows have been killed.” Luis stared past the gate at the open pasture extending to the hills. Ramon tugged his father’s shirtsleeve. “How?” Luis turned his rugged, brown face to his son. “By the grizzly.” “Again?” “Yes. This time we will capture him.” “Can I go?” Luis looked into Ramon’s widening, dark-brown eyes. “No.” “But Papa, I am thirteen now.” “It is too dangerous. You are still too young.” Ramon rose to his full height, which almost came to his father’s chest and opened his mouth. “Enough now.” Luis extended his hand. “You stay.” Señor Ortega brushed back his gray hair, put an arm around Ramon’s small shoulder. “You will see the bear soon enough.” “I could help.” Ramon clenched his fists. “I ride well.” “No, young man,” Ortega said. “You are like my own. We do not want anything to happen to you.” Ramon looked at the tall padrone’s weathered face. “I am not so young. Remember, my Toro—I raised him from a calf.” “Yes, my little torero, you raised a fine bull, but you must stay with me until your father returns.” Ortega patted the boy’s shoulder. “Only the finest riders and horses may hunt the grizzly.” Ramon sighed. “Yes, sir.” The five lazadores rode up with Luis’s horse. Ramon followed his father down the steps, stroked the horse’s neck while Luis mounted. “We must plant the bait before the sun rises too high,” Luis said. Ramon ran back on the porch to Señor Ortega and waved. He should be going. He was a good horseman. His pinto knew what to do. He even helped train the young bulls. The bear had killed. Led by Luis, the skilled horsemen trotted through the gate toward the green hills. Ramon lingered by the steps, watched the riders disappear in the distance. Señor Ortega turned. “Ramon, get your breakfast now. I have work to do in the office.” He walked into the house. Ramon raised his left hand, shielded his eyes from the sun, and peered one more time after the riders. The cooks shooed Ramon out of the kitchen after he finished his breakfast. He walked down the hall without making any noise and looked around the open door into Señor Ortega’s office. The padrone was busy at his desk sorting through papers. Ramon watched for several minutes making sure the Señor had plenty of work to keep him there. After checking the halls, Ramon raced out the back door, headed for the rail-fenced corral. He saddled his brown and white pinto and led him to the rear pasture gate. Mounting the paint, Ramon galloped across the sagebrush to a gully and spurred his Indian pony along the arroyo toward the hills.