Stay Cool, John Pool
IT ONCE WAS a common practice—and my still be—among ranchmen on both sides of the Rio Grande to scout the ‘other side’ for missing stock. This missing stock, of course, was always their own, and must be brought back at any risk.
John Pool, from the Marfa country, used to find it necessary, on occasions, to scout below the river for these stray. Just as Americans resented foreigners working their country, Mexicans from Don Porfirio on down to the then lowly Pancho Villa took John Pool’s excursions as not only flagrant violations of international boundaries but as personal affronts.
On one such excursion some fifteen or twenty Mexicans, well armed and well mounted, spotted John as he was making his weary way back toward the river. Immediately they began registering their disapproval by spurring madly in John’s direction and punctuating their yells of disapproval with rifle shots. But they were still too far out of range for their punctuation to take effect.
Old John nearly smiled to himself as he spurred into a long lope. Why, he’d beat them to the river by a mile. And he did. But to his dismay there lay the old river rolling high, wide and then some. Just too damn squally to cross! Yet that knot of riders was growing bigger and those Mexican cuss words louder.
John Pool remembered a prophet in the old Testament who asked, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” He would look back at the horsemen and then at the river, look at the river and then at the horsemen. What a hell of a choice—Like between hanging and the firing squad, or, more appropriately, the firing squad and drowning. Which would it be here? About that time treinta-treinta slugs, etching patterns on the ground around him, were pushing him closer to a decision. Then another .30—.30 ball dropped a garland of cottonwood leaves around his neck. All of a sudden that old river seemed no more than a cow trail, and it running no more than half full.