Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Dancing with Tiburcio

It was a hot night in the Foothills.

We were sitting at an outdoor table on the patio at Conrad’s. All three of us: me, my husband Len and the Anonymous Source. Ever since one particular Sunday morning, when the Presbyterians almost caught us, we’ve changed our meeting times and locations.

“Do you think we’ll be safe out here?” I asked.

The Anonymous Source shrugged. She handed me a magazine, zipped up her flight suit and left.

Len and I looked at the cover. The lead article was “Tiburcio Vasquez in Southern California: The Bandit’s Last Hurrah” by John W. Robinson. advertisement

“Wow!” I said to Len.

It was our very own Tiburcio, a California bandit who roamed our foothills. The same Tiburcio Vasquez who accosted Charles H. Miles on April 14, 1874, before escaping north through Devil’s Gate.

Robinson had this to say about Vasquez: “Tiburcio Vasquez was born to a respected Monterey family on Aug. 11, 1835. Young Tiburcio attended school in Monterey and learned to read and write with proficiency, an accomplishment of which he was justly proud all of his life.”

That explained his eloquence in the media.

Robinson continued, “His criminal career germinated one night in 1852 when, at the age of 17, he attended a fandango in the company of one Anastacio Garcia, a local brigand. Accounts differ as to just what happened, but the end result was that Constable William Hardmount was slain and young Vasquez was indirectly involved in the crime. He fled into the hills with Garcia and, through the instruction of the elder outlaw, learned the rudiments of successful banditry. His long career as California’s master bandit was launched.”

“Don’t we have some friends named Vasquez?” I asked Len. He nodded.

The next day, I telephoned my friend, Christy Vasquez Eberhardt.

“Christy,” I asked, “are you related to Tiburcio Vasquez?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” she replied.

“But the name is the same?”

Christy explained that the name of Vasquez was like Smith — there were lots of people named Vasquez.

I read her a quote from the Robinson article: “If he had an Achilles heel, it was his propensity for amorous escapades. Twice his adulterous romancing with the wives of gang members came close to ending his career prematurely (even his erstwhile friends had no desire to play cuckold to his carnal desires). It was an amorous lapse that indirectly led to his demise.”

Christy paused before responding. “I’m not related to him, despite the similarity in names, but my grandfather told a family story. They say that his mother, my great-great grandmother, once danced with Tiburcio Vasquez.”

Maybe it was right here. In our foothills.

Maybe not.

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