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Born with Irrigation Boots On

By Estevan Rael-Galvez

My dad is one of the hardest workers I have ever known. He has never been a religious man, but to know him is to recognize a deep spirituality, literally grounding his belief in the tangible world around him, combined with a type of faith that is shared by farmers across time and space.

 "The sheep and the water," he would say, "do not know that it is Sunday," teasing my mother and yet revealing a core belief.

This will always be the image of my father. Even now, nearing a century of working the land and carefully tending to his animals, he is most comfortable when he is close to his ranch. My own image of my father is one that is also shared by anyone who has ever taken the time to visit with him. My great  uncle, tio Arcenio Martinez, loved telling me the story of my father's birth:

“I was young and remember vividly when my sister was about to give birth to your father,” began tio Arcenio.  Although there were many Galvez grandchildren by 1927, because Idela was the oldest of the Martinez siblings, this was the first grandchild to be born of the Martinez-Arellano family.

“He was born out in the llano," tio Arcenio said, pointing his lips to the west. "Ya no hay casa. There is no longer a house there.”  It reminded me that my dad still loves telling the story that he was born on the prairie and not in the village of San Miguel de Costilla.

Idela’s mother, Dulcinea Arellano Martinez was anxious since she thought that her daughter had been working too hard lately. Antonio, Idela’s husband had also been working the farms in Costilla all summer. It had been a wet summer with lots of rainfall and runoff from a good winter. The alfalfa was doing well, and this mixed with the sheep, kept him running all summer.

That day, the sun was barely beginning to fall with dusk at its heels. Young Arcenio, Idela’s young brother came running into the field. Antonio could barely hear what Arcenio was yelling until he came closer, ‘The baby is coming,’ yelled Arcenio.

Antonio jumped out of the ditch, where he was moving waters and began to run, shovel still in hand. He ran all the way through the village to his recently built home in Costilla’s llano, carrying the shovel the entire way without thinking of its weight.

Arcenio was not far behind and both burst through the door. The partera had already arrived. Doña Gertrudes was Dulcinea’s cousin and she had been expecting the summons and quickly came.

“Idela ya estaba a la ultimas, llorando, gritando…” Arcenio remembered.

The young Arcenio was not allowed in the room, but could see through the crack in the door. He had never experienced this sort of drama and was completely drawn in by the event. Before he knew it, he heard the baby cry. There was a gasp, which at first scared Arcenio but then curiosity itself drew him past the cracked door, around Antonio, past his mother Dulcinea, to where the partera stood holding the baby. All those around him were starring on with eyes wide open, jaws dropped.

“I was there,” Arcenio continued and then paused.

I leaned a little closer to hear what he would say.

 “I was there,” he repeated.

His face, aged by time, looked down at me, as if he were about to reveal the greatest secret of all.

“Your dad was born with irrigation boots on.”

He paused, smiled and left my young mind imagining.