The words drifted down Castro Street; “Just a bunch of wetbacks. Ship ’em back to Mexico. They are taking our jobs.” Turning to scan the crowded sidewalk, I looked for the face connected to the voice dripping with disgust. I could not tell.
I seethed with anger, playing repeatedly the overt racism, misogyny and privilege I saw and heard in my community daily. Gay men, particularly white, successful men can be worse than the Georgia crackers who support Trump. People of privilege. I wanted to ask if he was willing to spend two hours in the Central Valley harvesting the vegetables and fruits he purchases at Whole Foods.
When I was six, Papa planted that burning anger aimed at ignorance, racism and privilege deep in my spirit.
Every afternoon, I got off the dusty school bus and made me way a mile down the caliche road from the front gate to the main house on the ranch. Every afternoon, I walked into that huge house cooled by a southern breeze, set my books on the table and headed out the back door for the horse barn where I would find my papa astride his gelding, my mare saddled and ready.
There was always a mother cow to find, a water gap that needed mending, a stray calf separated from the herd. We rode out each day to perform whatever minutia was necessary to operate a successful ranch, to check in with Francisco, the ranch manager and his crew of vaqueros.
One afternoon, I walked into the barn and Papa, not looking up from the pocket size notebooks he always carried, asked me what was wrong. He and I shared a deep connection, call it telepathic or intuitive, so he always knew when something was up.
I began checking the cinch, the bridle and bit, the blanket, tightening here and there, adjusting her bridle so the bit didn’t dig into her soft mouth, avoiding his question.
“Nothin’,” I answered.
“John,” a touch of iron hardening his voice, “What is wrong?”
“Nothing really, Papa. It’s just a bunch of those wetback kids picking at me at school.”
I heard the leather creak as he came out of his saddle. I could feel his anger and I turned toward him.