Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Time of Love and War

This weekend I drove past the colony of ranch houses where the people in this story lived, and they have been on my mind ever since. This is an edited repost from a year ago.


Jose was born in the Tamaulipas state of Mexico. His mother died at his birth and his father turned his infant son over to neighbors to raise. Jose's green eyes set him apart from the other children. The family turned him into a little more than an indentured laborer, having him work long, hard days even before he started losing his baby teeth.


How he ended up in South Texas is a story that has been swallowed by time, but he did show up at a large ranch here looking for work. He was unsure of his age, but his scrawny frame and still growing legs must have made him about 15 or 16. 


What set Jose apart from the other workers was his cheery disposition and his keen mind. He was never cross, although his days were physically exhausting. He was intensely curious about all the world and even knew how to read and write, something most of the other hands had no knowledge of. The only thing he brought with him, other than the clothes on his back, was a small, gold crucifix that had been his mother's. He kept it close to his heart and never took it off.

The hard work and the steady, hearty meals served from the chuckwagon and the ranch kitchen soon filled him out into a muscular man.

In the evenings, after he'd put away the horses and cleaned up his small area in the bunkhouse, he'd take an old guitar someone had left behind, sit outside on the porch and strum while singing the corridos he remembered from Mexico.

He couldn't help but notice Carlota, a  shapely girl of 16 who was usually outside in the early evenings watching her younger siblings as they played near the bunkhouse area. Carlota was small in stature, but feisty in temperament. Her dark eyes simmered with a fire that burned just beneath the surface. He also caught her attention.

Jose had never had anyone to give his heart to, and now he gave it fully to Carlota. She loved him as he'd never had anyone love him before, with all the passion and flames she had inside her.

Soon, Jose and Carlota were betrothed. He dreamed of saving enough to buy land, small pieces at a time, and farming with some of the new, progressive methods he'd read of in the foreman's old Farm Journals. He and Carlota would marry and have many children with sparkling eyes.

In Europe, though, events rumbled that would forever change the destiny of not only Jose and Carlota, but of entire nations. The United States entered into World War I and Jose, a new U.S. citizen, was one of the first to enlist from the ranch. He explained to Carlota that he wanted the world to be safe for the family they would have after they married.

Carlota's heart felt like it would shred into a million pieces from the agony that gouged her inside, but on the surface, she kept her emotions in check, so as not to worry Jose.

The night before he shipped out, they spent one last evening together, and Carlota shed the restraint with which she usually conducted herself. Jose promised her he'd come back, and they'd marry and begin their lives together. He also pressed into her hand his mother's gold crucifix, telling her it would be a part of him she would have until he returned. She refused it, although she desperately wanted to cling to it, because she said it would help to keep him safe. She added to the chain two small gold beads she was saving to make earrings for their wedding.

Carlota soon realized their night of love before Jose shipped out left her expecting a child. Her family was aghast, but she knew Jose would come home, they would be married, and all would be right again.

He'd only been in Europe a month when a fierce fight against the retreating Germans left many casualties. Mangled and burned bodies marred the battlefield and identification was difficult.

When the messenger came to the ranch that horrible day with the news Jose had been killed in battle, Carlota thought she could never recover. But, she had a baby in her womb to think about who was all that she had left of Jose, and she channeled all her energy into preparing for this baby's birth.

An older man, hunch backed and never married, came to Carlota's father and told him he'd marry Carlota and take the baby as his own. Her father never consulted Carlota, just hustled her with her packed bag to the county office and to the priest for a quick marriage. Part of Carlota's heart died that day, but a small flame rekindled when her green eyed baby boy was born several months later. Her husband refused to let her name him Jose, so he went by his stepfather's name. More children were born to this couple, but only the eldest son had the striking green eyes that reminded Carlota of Jose every time she looked into them.

One afternoon, when Carlota's green eyed boy was seven, he and his half brothers and sisters played outside near the old bunkhouse where Jose used to strum his corridos.


A stranger came walking near and the children noticed him immediately because of the burn scars on his face and his misshapen leg that made walking a laborious and painful endeavor. The little ones were afraid of him, but the green eyed boy stood his ground as the man drew closer.

The stranger approached the children and spoke to them. His shoulders slumped. He pressed something into the green eyed boy's hand and made his way back down the road.

Later that evening, when her green eyed son told Carlota of meeting the stranger, Carlota's heart raced as he told her the man had green eyes, just like his, although the man's face was hideously scarred. He told her of how the man asked about who he was, and who his mother was, and about his family situation. Almost as an afterthought, he showed Carlota the little crucifix with two gold beads the stranger had pressed into his hand.

He did not understand why his mother then sank to her knees and wailed, something he'd never seen her do. He also did not understand why men on horses rode out that night to try and find the stranger, although they never did.

The green eyed stranger was not heard from again, and when Carlota died of a stroke several years later, whispering the name Jose, people wondered why she would still have someone in her heart who'd been gone for so long.

Her eldest son once again took possession of the small gold crucifix that fell from his mother's hand on her deathbed, and in time, told his own green eyed children and grandchildren the story of love and of battlefields in Europe.

Copyright 2012

73 comments:

  1. I think you've posted this story before, but I absolutely loved reading it a second time. Such a heartbreakingly romantic and tragic story. Wasn't Carlota a great grandmother of yours? Or am I thinking of another story. You've told us so many that I may be confusing them.

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    1. karen: Yes, it is one I've edited, and as I mentioned at the beginning, when I drove past those old ranching colony houses this weekend, it really put them in my heart. These folks are no relation to me, but I almost feel like they are~

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  2. OH, Shelly. I cried. Right here at my desk.

    She sank to her knees and wailed. Oh, poor, poor Carlota.

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl: It's heartbreaking, really, and I admit to some tears for them when I drove past.

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  3. Wow. Tears are falling, dear Shelly. I remember this story from a year ago and it still touched me very deeply as I read it again today. What Jose and Calota had is the very definition of love. I'm afraid too many young people today regard love as the manipulative game they see characters playing in Hollywood date flicks and TV sitcoms. Your story reminds us that love is all about patience, sacrifice and a willingness to endure immeasurable heartbreak and pain.

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    1. Shady: If only this younger generation could fully grasp that. I think we've lost that persevering trait somewhere along the way.

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  4. So sad! Even generations later this is just heartbreaking!

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    1. Felt Family: I've often wished I could go back through time and somehow change this outcome~

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  5. This is such a powerful story. It reminds me to be patient for the things that burn inside my heart, and not make decisions that go against what I deeply feel. I know that was a different time, when women would have had an extraordinarily hard life as a single parent. It's heartbreaking to think of her pain, and his decision to disappear.

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    1. Jenny: And in our microwave society, patience is sometimes not easy to come by, but it has great rewards attached for those who hang in and don't quit.

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    1. Sinder Ella: Thank you- I've always enjoyed these two people even though they were gone well before my time~

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  7. Such is true love. What a wonderful story, and beautifully told.

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    1. Sweet Tea: True love, no matter how brief, is such an amazing thing- hope you are doing well!

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  8. Oh my gosh that was GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved it. You ought to send that in some where for publication. sandie

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  9. I had to wipe the tears that stream down my face before I could see to write a comment, this was so sad and touching I loved this

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    1. Jo-Anne: It breaks my heart to think about what could have been for them~

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  10. I too remember this from last year, Shelly. It touched my heart then and it re-touched my heart today. Such a sad situation. I wonder what did happen to Jose and did he ever find someone he loved just a bit to spend his days with

    betty

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    1. betty: Not too many people read it then, so I appreciate you doing that! I haven't been able to find out any more information yet about Jose. I would dearly love to know, though~

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  11. I follow a hundred blogs but you continue to be my favorite read.

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    1. Stephen: I am very honored- thank you!

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  12. Dearest Shelly,
    Yes, this story really gave me a strong impact last year. And I remember that I couldn't leave comment what I wish to say or satisfy myself.
    Your title expressed well that so many young people had to be separated at the war time. What a life both Jose and Calota had to lead! I can learn from this story that we need to fulfill our life whatever the situation God gave us. But I feel so sorry for Calota's short life thinking that she deserved the happy late life surrounded with children and grand kids. Her gold crucifix sure is symbolizes this story, dear Shelly!!!
    My father fought in a war and came back with weak physical situation (haha, you might know already), When young, I thought about things like 'if he couldn't come back, I wouldn't have been born' 'would his reticence character came from his experience?'... Despite his silent character, he has shown his sincere attitude for his job and love for us. I think he taught me how important to appreciate what we have without direct words.
    Thank you very much for the second chance, p;) And the way you said that her small in stature, but feisty in temperament reminds me a bit, haha.

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. orchid: You always express yourself so eloquently, my dear friend Miyako- I could never do as well if someday I was able to learn Japanese. Your description of your dad moves me, and I know he is an amazing person. War affects not only just people on the battlefield, but also many others who aren't even near the battlefield.

      Thank you so much for your beautiful comment!

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  13. Oh, what a sad story. I was hoping they'd come together again. Another tragedy like Water for Chocolate.

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    1. Theresa: I am still trying to find information on what happened to Jose. I so hope he had a better life~

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  14. I loved this even though it was sad beyond belief. It bespeaks true love and the choices we are forced to make at times. It is haunting. Thanks for posting it again.

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    1. Bossy Betty: It still breaks my heart to think of them and what could have been...

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  15. A story truly worthy of the designation, "Twice Told Tale." So worth the reread. Thank you.

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  16. Oh, Shelly, this is just as powerful and touching the second time around! What a heartbreaking and yet uplifting tale of undying love!

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    1. Dr. Kathy: She truly held onto it until the very end. It makes me want to know all the more whatever happened to Jose, and to see if he held onto it, too...

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  17. How very sad - it's amazing how real life can have more twists and turns than a made up story ...

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    1. jenny_o: There is even more to it than what I wrote here, but to fit it into one post, I had to leave some things out~

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  18. oh my gosh...what a story!! it has everything of al novel...love, despair, hope, suffering etc...and love endures, huh?!

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    1. Just Be Real: Thank you, my friend!

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  20. Dear Shelly, this story took away my breath. The poignancy of it. The enduring love. The heartache. I think you need to try and get this published in a magazine or Sunday newspaper. It spans the arc of life. Peace.

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    1. Dee: Just the tragedy of this story has always made me so sad for them, but as you said, the arc of life continues on in the succeeding green eyed generations. Thank you for your very kind words, my friend!

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  21. Another amazing story that pulls on the heartstrings...

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    1. Crack You Whip: I think I will always, always remember these two~

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  22. I am glad you re-posted since I am a new reader...add any old stories like these anytime!..just for me..wink wink.

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    1. Christine: Thank you- you are very kind!

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  23. Oh, my! What a lovely story. So emotional and poignant. Loved it!

    I had not read this before.

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    1. Nas: I'm so glad it was new for you- not many read it the first time around!

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  24. I just loved this post. What a gift you have Shelly. Thanks for sharing it.

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  25. How sad. I was hoping that somehow they would get together again. Beautifully told Shelly.

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    1. Crystal Mary: At least they had their son, and they both live on through that family line. Thank you!

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  26. This story was heart breaking to me the first time I read it and it is as heart breaking to me now. Story telling at its best! Have you ever considered entering your stories in competitions?
    You are the best!

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    1. Cindy: Thank you for your always kind words! you are such an encouragement to me~

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  27. I remember Carlotta...I somehow think that maybe he died around the same time and they are together in heaven....I like happy endings!!

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    1. Jamie: The same here- I really hope so!

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  28. Well, I guess the happy ending is the green eyed boy and his green eyed children, so they live on...

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    1. Jamie: And they evidently have numerous descendants, so it that is a very good thing~

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  29. Oh my god. Was it his ghost? I've got goosebumps all over! What an incredible story, Shelly!

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    1. Lydia: The succeeding generations think it was a case of mistaken identity when he was reported dead. His face was very scarred and he had some gruesome injuries. Why it took him so long to get back, I don't know, but no one ever heard from him again. I would so love to track down more info~

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  30. Shelly
    A tender story, with a heart full of love. I am also struck by the fortitude that Carlota showed in becoming a faithful wife and mother, despite her losses.
    Wonderfully written, as always. Blessings to you - Marsha

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    1. Marsha: She is a grfeat example of soldiering on, despite terrific heartbreak. Thank you, my friend~

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  31. WACI back to you! Thanks for stopping by!

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  32. What a beautiful and touchingly sad story. Sometimes fate deals a hard hand.

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    1. Rita: Thank you for stopping by! Yes, sometimes I wonder why some are dealt such heartache and sorrow...

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  33. Congratulations Shelly!

    You've won the Annie West Giveaway at Romance Reader!

    Please check in the comments!

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    1. Sorry, the above comment is from Nas.

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    2. Nas: Thank you- headed over there!

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  34. Shelly, what a beautiful story! One you have to read with Kleenex nearby;).

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    1. Maria: Thank you! I think this is one that will always tug at my heart when I think of them~

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  35. Why didn't Jose come back sooner and whisk Carlota away!

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    1. Missed Periods: I so wish he would have!

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