Carlos and his little sister Meli loved playing on the dusty streets of Rosita, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in front of the hotel their parents owned. There were many games active 4 and 5 year olds could imagine and bring to life.
One evening, Carlos saw his father packing a small bag. "Papa, where are you going?"
His father looked at him seriously. "Son, I've got to go away for a few days, but then I'll be back. I need you to take care of Mama and Meli while I'm gone."
Carlos answered, "Ok, Papa, but you promise you'll be back?"
Papa leaned down and tousled Carlos' hair.
"You have my word on it, Buddy!"
That night, Carlos overheard his mom and dad talking. "Liza, they'll never come after women and children, but I want you to stay safe, anyway."
"Sam, we will be fine. I want YOU to be safe. This revolution is costing many good people their lives."
"I'll be OK, honey. You take care of yourself and the kids and Diego and I will be back once Villa has left town. You know how to get word to me if you need to, " he said, referring to a message relay system involving neighbors that stretched into the nearby mountains where he and his friend Diego would be staying.
Carlos pensively considered things in bed that night. What was his mom talking about when she said, "...costing people their lives?"
He finally drifted into sleep and awoke in the morning to find Papa gone and Mama already rolling out his favorite tortillas. He asked if he and Meli could play outside for a bit. Mama thought carefully and looked him in the eye. "Alright, but Carlitos, you must promise me you will only stay on the porch and if you hear any horses coming through you will come immediately back inside."
" I promise, Mama," Carlos repeated.
As he and Meli played, they saw the usual sights of early morning Rosita; the fruit peddler walking by with his cart, the firewood vendor riding in a wagon piled so high with mesquite that the little burro strained in his traces, and the woman who sold thread and needles from a large bag.
He and Meli played with little pieces of wood they imagined to be pistols, having a fine time shooting each other up. They were so engrossed in their game that they did not notice the men on horseback who had walked their mounts up to the hotel until it was too late to dash inside.
One man who was in front of the others was holding a real rifle, longer than Carlos was tall. Carlos and Meli stood transfixed on the porch as the man moved his horse closer to them and looked at Carlos carefully.
Carlos felt his heart beating faster as he reached for Meli's hand. He refused, though, to show any fear. The man leveled his rifle until it was pointed right at Carlos. The other horsemen watched.
Carlos thought at that moment how sorry he was that he hadn't paid enough attention to what Mama and Papa had asked him to do. He wondered if he would close his eyes when the rifle went off.
Out of nowhere, he sensed someone behind him.
It was Mama, moving faster than he'd ever seen her.
In one swoop, she covered the distance on the porch to where they were, pulled the children behind her, and wordlessly met the gaze of the rifleman. Her outstretched arms ensured not one iota of her children would be visible to this evil looking man.
The rifleman looked down the barrel of his rifle at her for a moment, then lowered it and laughed heartily.
"Senora, you tell your friends and family Pancho Villa does not shoot women or children."
And without another word, he and the other horsemen wheeled around and rode off.
Carlos would remember that day all his life and live to tell his descendants about it. I heard about it from him, as one of the many stories my grandfather Carlos told me of his life in Mexico.