Hey, Folks, nice to be here at Sweethearts of the West. Thanks for asking me to expound on…
Well, let me think.
My latest book, Promise the Moon, is a departure from my usual Native American, mid 1800’s stories. It’s set in 1898, Southern California, and though I write about horses…soooo dear to my heart, and specifically showing Western Equitation…I also included the budding avocado and orange industry that my hero pursued as his vocation on his San Diego County ranch.
Why did I do that? It boils down to, I usually write what I know something about, and research what I need to layer my stories with historical fact or my vision of what happened in the era. This is fiction, remember? LOL Sooo…when we lived in San Diego County for 20 years we owned and rode horses, but what took us there from LA County and the aerospace industry in the first place was avocado ranching.
So mount up and follow me down my
Memory Lanetrail. My husband didn’t like avocados, still doesn’t other than guacamole, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have a wonderful life in the country. We also grew oranges, limes, kiwi (the fruit not the bird), and cherimoya.
For those folks who put an avocado pit in the ground or in a jar of water and think they’ll grow a tree that will ultimately produce avocados, it will but it probably won’t bear much resemblance or taste like the avocado it was grown from. Producing avocado trees are the product of grafting to a sturdy host tree from a producing tree. Take a tip from a former grower, don’t just reach up and pluck an avocado off the tree. Nope, you gotta clip close to the base of the stem and leave the little nub or the avocado will rot before it ripens.
How many of you knew that? LOL
As I mentioned, my husband left the aerospace industry to farm avocados, which we knew absolutely nothing about! He went from designing rockets to the moon to designing irrigation systems for avocado groves. Stepping off a cliff, so to speak, has never stopped us from trying something new. J
Okay, let’s talk about Garrett Montez, my half-Mexican/half-Anglo hero (A hunk, but that goes without saying. J) and the grove he planted. I didn’t specify a variety of avocado, but at that time it’s likely it could have been Fuerte, which came from
, where Garrett was raised, and means vigorous. And for me, it’s the most tasty variety over Hass, which is now the most common variety in Mexico . But there are many others. Btw, the first avocado tree planted in the California was in US ; however, Florida produces 60 % of the avocados grown in the California . US
The aquacate was imported from
The screech and roar ground on and on. Tree limbs shook. Jesu, they must be right on top of the
fault. With each turn, Garrett saw Hank still clinging to the horse’s headstall. One more jolt and
he feared the draft horse would win the battle. If the wagon rolled over Hank, he’d likely be killed. Then Sancho lunged to grab the other horse’s headstall.
“No!” Garrett bellowed, but it did no good.
Now, both men flailed about like wet sheets in the wind. To hell with Rocco. Two of his men were about to be killed. He kicked free of the stirrups and swung his leg over the saddle horn. He hit the ground running and leaped onto the wagon. Circling the reins off the brake, he braced his
knees on the front boards, fighting the animals’ strength, and pulled back, drawing the horses down.
By the time he got the draft horses calmed, the rolling and grinding had ceased. Hank released his death grip on the headstall, then walked over to drop under a tree. Sancho released his hold and wound his arm around like a windmill, holding his shoulder.
“You okay?” Garrett asked.
“Sí.” On wobbly legs, Sancho joined Hank. “Dios!” the boy exclaimed quietly as he collapsed on the ground.
Garrett stood high on the wagon, glancing around. “Anyone hurt?”
A few muttered, “No.” Others shook their heads.
“Whew!” Eduardo said.
“I have to get to the house.” Garrett leaped down, then scanned the wagon road between the
trees. “Damn.” Rocco was nowhere in sight. Looking back at Eduardo, Garrett continued, “You men with families, go check on them.”
Still speaking, Garrett back-pedaled. Lifting his arm, he pointed at Hank. “You, and you.” He stabbed his finger toward Sancho. “Let the damn horses run if we have aftershocks that spook them. If we lose a wagon, we do, that’s all. You got that?”
Saluting, Hank grinned and Sancho nodded.
Satisfied, Garrett turned and loped away. He hadn’t covered more than a half mile when
he spied Rocco between a row of orange trees, contentedly munching tufts of grass.
Splaying his feet, Garrett planted his fists on his waist. “You crazy nag.” He whistled and Rocco raised his head, his ears pricking forward. “Come here, you.”
Rocco meandered, lowering his head twice to tear tufts of the pesky Johnson weed before he got
close enough for Garrett to catch up a rein.
Gaining his seat moments later, Garrett scanned the barns as he tore by. Everything seemed
okay. He hadn’t even realized he’d been holding his breath until he saw the house’s roof in the distance. Thank God he had built with wood rather than adobe, which simply crumbled during an
Rocco hadn’t come to a complete halt before Garrett slid from his back and sprinted to the porch.
“Mindy! Neely!” he called.
The dishsafe doors stood ajar, but miraculously, nothing had tumbled from the shelves. He noticed greens, a tomato, and an onion on the counter as he hastened through the kitchen. Salad tonight, he thought, and pushed open the swinging door. He paused in the atrium, frowning. Shards of glass glittered on the tile floor. He glanced up at the ceiling. Two of the four panes had come crashing down.
“Is it over?” Mindy asked, her dark eyes round. She sat cross-legged on the second floor gallery, both hands gripping the banister’s rails.
“Yes, sweets, it’s over. There may be some aftershocks, though. Are you okay?” His boots
crunched the glass, and then he took the stairs three at a time.
“Think so,” the girl said, shakily rising. She clutched his waist, her cheek against his chest. “I
was scared,” she mumbled into his shirt.
“It’s okay now,” he reassured.
The door to Neely’s bedroom stood wide open. “Neely,” he called, but no one answered. He looked at Mindy’s dark head nestled against him and caressed her hair. “Do you know where Neely is?”
“I saw her go out awhile ago.”
“She went out?” He frowned. “When?”
The girl shrugged. “An hour or so.”
His chest tightened.
He led Mindy down the stairs. As he reached the base, movement caught his attention. Lita stood in the parlor archway. Díos, he’d forgotten about her.
She appeared calm, but her eyes were rounded, too. “That was scary,” she said.
He agreed with a nod. “Have you seen Neely?”
“Are you sure?”
“Garrett, I would know if I had seen the housekeeper,” she said, a sneer in her voice. “I
haven’t seen her since...breakfast.”
He noted the slight hesitation and wasn’t fooled. But why would Lita lie?
He slid his fingers under Mindy’s chin. “Sweets, I must find Neely. Will you be all right alone?”
Lita stood no more than five feet away, but she hadn’t gone to Mindy after the quake. No reason to think she’d aid the girl if there were strong aftershocks.
“I guess.” Mindy’s lips trembled.
He caressed her cheek. “If it starts shaking again, go outside and sit on the grass. It’s safe out
there.” He turned toward the kitchen.
Lita called, “Garrett, a lamp tipped—”
“Later.” He increased his pace. Where the devil was she? Bursting out the screen, he scooped up
Rocco’s reins again. The horse plodded along behind while he circled the house.
“Neely!” he called time and again. Only to be met with silence.
Mounting, he set Rocco to an easy lope toward the barns. His gaze darted in every direction. He detoured by the Carreras’, but she wasn’t there. A few minutes later, when he led Rocco into the
barn, he cursed under his breath. “Dammit, where are you?”
Again, my thanks to Celia Yeary for asking me to visit today. I hope y’all enjoyed learning something about avocado farming, what some Westerners do besides ride horses, herd cattle, or search the prairie for Indians during days gone by.
My favorite guacamole recipe for you:
avocados - Fuerte or Hass California
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 oz green jalapeño pepper sauce
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp onion, chopped
3 medium plum tomatoes, diced
Scoop avocado from shells into medium bowl. Mash with fork - can leave small chunks
Stir in lime juice, jalapeño sauce, cilantro, onion, tomatoes, and salt to taste
ENJOY with tortilla chips!
Joyce will give a free Pdf of Promise the Moon to one lucky commentator. And she loves to hear from readers. Visit her at www.joycehendersonauthor.com
You may purchase Promise the Moon in print or digital format at:
The Wild Rose Press:
JOYCE, THANKS FOR BEING OUR GUEST. CELIA