The Heritage Chapter 8 A Chance Encounter
When Johnny had arrived back home in Clayton, the Mondragon family had
found out that Freddy had been set free. Freddy was back with the
Americans after being held as a POW.
He had suffered immensely during his captivity, but with a willingness to
survive, he made it. Although he was not the same person in his Marine
uniform when he returned. Julian now had an artificial leg and was enrolled
in a tech school studying auto mechanics.
Sam returned home to his family and was now planning a enroll as a full-
time student in a Bible college. Johnny would contact the state college that
offered him a scholarship to play football.
After speaking with the athletics director of State he was promised a tryout.
With the time before they could not commit to a scholarship. However, by the
beginning of the first season game, Johnny knew he had not lost a step as a
Before he could grasp the passage of time, Johnny completed what was now
his third year of college, and with the passage of another summer and his
usual routine back in Clayton, he would enter his fourth and final year. It
was almost two-thirds of his senior year of football that he would rip up his
shoulder and would end his career on the sidelines of the gridiron.
The university honored his scholarship, and he continued to complete his last
year of school and perhaps the start of a career in the business community
probably with some significant business. Things were changing back in
Clayton, and not for was seem to be its best. The Cassidy's who controlled
most of the money in Clayton and the surrounding county and now they had
their hands in local politics and moving to enter the arena of state politics.
The Cassidy's who started with the largest ranch in the area had taken control
of the mining and lumber industries and with this, most of the retail outlets
and the bank.
Vincent Cassidy was known to be a mean and ruthless man and one who
would stop at anything to get what he wanted. Cassidy had inherited a small
fortune and the ranch from his father who had grubstaked the founder of
Clayton after hitting a rich vein of gold in the hills above what was now the
town named after him. It was on the Cassidy ranch where Agipito Morales
had been stomped to death while trying to break a horse or so it was the story
the Cassidy’s passed on to the local authorities at the time. It was also the
Cassidy’s that would lay claim to the land and the little house, la casita that
was once the property of Johnny’s parents after the death of his father.
The irony of Cassidy's inheritance including his marriage to Claytons
daughter who happened to be a few years older than her husband Vincente,
but unlike her husband was known to be a soft kind lady despite her own
wealth. She would give birth to two children a son who would follow almost
lock step in his fathers' footsteps and later a daughter who would grow up to
be a striking beauty with flaming red hair. Wayne, her son, would grow to
figure his wealth was the key to him getting everything and anything he
wanted. This status for Wayne would also make him a weak minded, and as
mean spirited as his father and cruel to anyone who crossed him; however, he
would always call on help to finish his fights.
Time had now passed but not so the disposition of the Cassidy's or at least
father and son, but not so the daughter Mary Ellen as she was named. Sadly
Mary Ellen would grow up without her mother who would pass away shortly
after giving birth to her lovely red hair daughter, and Mary Ellen would be
raised by a nanny and at times to some ladies who were supposed to be her
aunts but were, in fact, the women her father would live with from time to
time. Never the less where Wayne would grow up to be a poor excuse for a
man, Mary Ellen would become a strong and learned business women who
would run her father's business while Wayne played at being the big boss.
Soon after graduation Johnny would secure a position not in the world of
business as he had hope but as the assistant city manager in a community
some forty-five miles from Clayton. It was here he gained an exposure to the
working of government, some of its shortcomings and the need to know and
understand the rules and laws of governing a community. He was now
pushed to somehow get back to school and work towards becoming an
attorney where he could hopefully establish a more even playing field between
the leaders of government and the citizens it governed.
Once again, the challenge would be financial as attempting to go to law
school which was far more expensive than the college tuition, he had just
completed but also getting accepted into law school. He applied in a private
law school in Denver and figured with the use of his additional GI Bill he
obtains for his service in Korea and working for some firm in the city he
could perhaps get his law degree in at least three years.
It was also during this time when he would drive back to Clayton to visit his
family to see how they were getting along he could also see if Sam was
around for a visit. Julian was now running for his father an auto repair
service shop and selling used cars, the leg he had lost in the war did not slow
him down in the least. His tio Agipito and tia Tonie were moving a bit slower
but were happy to have the whole family back home in Clayton. Freddy was
struggling with the effects of the years he had spent as a POW but was
making every effort to continue in his education as he wished to now be a
teacher. Then there was his sister, cousin, Doris who had completed here
degree to become a License Practical Nurse and was now reaching to become
a Registered Nurse.
Back in the Colonia life had also become more of a struggle, the Cassidy’s’
had bought up all the lumbering rights and left the people of the tiny valley
trying to etch out a living growing gardens and raising sheep. Sam was now
the Pastor of the church in the Colonia and the Principal and teacher of the
school which consisted of grades one through twelve. The young lady who
had caught the eye of Johnny as a sixteen-year-old girl was now a young
woman and now would exchange a few words with Johnny. However, it was
the teaching of the church that a believer could not be yoked or be a part of a
non believer and Johnny, although liked and respected by the family was
considered an unbeliever. Still Johnny could hope this girl would maybe
think more of him, but that was a faint thought on his part.
It did not take long for Johnny to return to the practice of being a student and
although the courses he need were difficult he succeeded in keeping a good
grade point average even though he had to give up a lot of sleep to study and
work to earn a little money. He did now drive a car that was somewhat better
than the pickup truck of a few years back, his uncle had given him a vehicle
off the lot they now owned and ran. His living quarters consisted of one room
above a garage with a bathroom. Cooking his meals on a hot plate from time
to time his usual meal were bologna sandwiches, soup and crackers and
coffee. Johnny could not wait until the breaks from school when he could go
back home to his tia’s cooking and his room in the house they now lived in.
To say it was hard to complete the additional two year of school to receive his
law degree would be putting it mildly. Although not an individual to be said
was religious Johnny would find himself on his knees praying for help to
make it through these times, even more so than his service in Korea. At last it
was finished and now he needed only to wait and pass the bar to become a
full fledge attorney. Already fixated within his mind, Johnny first efforts
would be to give a voice to the Spanish sur-named people of Clayton and the
surrounding community to defend their rights as American citizens against
what seemed to be the strong arms of the controlling business and political
factions now in control.
It would be five or six weeks before Johnny and others would be taking the
bar exams so he now plans to drive back home and try to find some method to
support his self and not be a burden to his aunt and uncle. Around the
campus he had seen posters announcing a job fair being held for 3 days in the
student union building and thinking that he might find some kind of work in
his new field Johnny decided to see what was there. Around the main hall of
the student room tables had been set up with vendors from a number of
business not only in state but from around the region.
Walking around from table to table he did not see anything that would fit in
with the direction he was set on taking in the field of law. He had spent better
than an hour and a half and was starting to get a bit disillusion at his prospect
for a position that would fit his desire and needs. Glancing down a row of
tables he saw someone that in some manner appeared to be a person he knew
and slowly started to move in the general direction of the individual. He was
now within twenty feet of the table and the person actually two persons sitting
there when the familiar looking woman with her reddish hair looked up, both
now looking at each other.
Suddenly he heard, Johnny, Johnny Morales is that you. Wow, I can’t believe
Mary Ellen, hi, how are you? Johnny replied, yes it me.
How long has it been were the next words out of Mary Ellen’s mouth? At
least seven or eight years if not longer.
It has been a while, I think it was the year I finished my first or second year
of school that I last saw you, I think you were working with your dad in
Clayton, Johnny answered, it seems longer than that. Again, he asked how
she was doing and what she was doing here at the job fair.
Oh, I’m here with the Mike here who is the personnel manager of dads’
company. We are expanding into another area and are looking for new
employees for our expansion, Mary Ellen than introduced Johnny to a
Michael Hutton and Hutton to Johnny.
And you what are you doing here she asked Johnny.
Actually, kind of looking for a job, I just received a degree in law and thought
I’d work until I took the bar exam in the fall. Something to hold me for a
while near the folks in Clayton.
Well Mary Ellen continued I’ll let Mike show you what were looking for,
maybe we have something up your alley, she responded, however before
Hutton could start speaking, she informed him. You know we do have an
opening for an assistant HR manager at our Clayton facility.
That sounds kind of promising but I just need something that sounds less
permanent because I plan to start practicing law as soon as I’m done with the
bar, Johnny informed the both of them.
Well, Mike answered maybe we can work out something if you like the idea.
Mary Ellen than suggested, it’s almost time for a lunch break lets go get some
lunch at that place down the street and talk some more, maybe Johnny and I
can catch up on what been going on since we last talked.
Mike than said, you know I wanted to just walk around, get a bit of fresh air
and see a few sites around here, so why don’t I met you back here after lunch
he informed Mary Ellen.
Johnny was now feeling a bit uncomfortable especially being on a tight
budget and knowing the inn Mary Ellen had suggested was a bit out of his
league and now tried to talk her out of having lunch or at least at that
O come on Johnny, Mary Ellen insisted, I’ll buy lunch after all I can write it
off as an expense.
Although still feeling a bit uneasy Johnny agreed and they headed off towards
the Inn while Mike went off in a different direction.
In a short while, actually two blocks from the student center Johnny and
Mary Ellen arrived at the restaurant and quickly found a booth in what
appeared a quiet corner. Johnny was extremely uncomfortable with the
situation he found himself in mainly because he could not pay even his part of
the lunch in what for him was a high-end eating establishment. Attempting
several times as they walked in the direction of the restaurant to eating
someplace where they could maybe walk up and grab a hamburger or hot
dog, but Mary Ellen would not have any of this, she wanted to sit down and
have a conversation with what she considered an old friend.
Wanting to start the conversation Johnny began by expressing a word of
congratulation to Mary Ellen on her now being married. He went on further
to inform her that her aunt Tonie had shared this after reading about in the
local paper. So how is married life for you he asked.
Well she replied you know about me, but what about you are you married?
Me married Johnny answered the matter hasn’t even entered my mind, for
the past years if it wasn’t getting my education, it was spending time in Korea,
but tell who did you marry and how is life for you now?
For the next half hour Mary Ellen shared her life as the wife with a nice guy
she met in college who now was part of the Cassidy business family and like
all of the Cassidy men was dedicated to building the Cassidy empire. It
started off great she would say until he came more and more under the
influence of her father both in his endeavors with the business and now his
every growing role in politics. She went to explain that now she had resigned
herself to this life style and kept herself occupied with the role she played in
her lead role in the Cassidy business affairs.
Johnny could not detect if Mary Ellen enjoyed the role she now played mainly
because she noted that although she enjoyed her work and what she could
accomplish as a women in the field of business, she was quite not comfortable
on the methods her father, brother and now her husband employed to satisfy
their end goals.
Mary Ellen pointed out that all to often her dad would remind her she leaned
maybe too much in the ways of her mother and needed to put that way of
thinking behind her. She would also point out to her that he did not have the
confidence in her brother Wayne and his lack of dedication to work that she
had and this bothered him.
Johnny had to admire the confidence she express in her approached to the
work she was doing and yet felt a bit of sorrow for her that she lacked the
willingness to open her heart up to the emotional need he had heard from his
tia that Mary Ellen’s mother showed when she was alive.
Lunch seemed to end quickly and, in a way, Johnny was relieved that this was
now almost over, however he had a surprised coming as Mary Ellen would
suggest that perhaps they could get together after she had finished for the day
at the job fair and this time enjoy dinner together. For one evening I want to
forget about my place as a woman in the world of business and taste for a few
hours what its like to be regular, just a woman.
Johnny a few hours this evening it is not going to be me paying for you to be
with me but it will be me being able to enjoy me being myself, please will you
I’ll be honest with you Johnny shared with her, I’ve been struggling with not
having money for so long I can’t begin to think of any place to take you for
dinner or even a night club you could enjoy.
Hay, take me anywhere, someplace where I can eat some good Spanish or
Mexican food, be my real self, I’m not thinking of night clubbing now, just a
few hours to forget being part of the Cassidy clan and being Mary Ellen, the
girl from Clayton.
Johnny waited for Mary Ellen down the drive way from his place above the
garage hoping she had changed her mind and forgotten the words she had
shared earlier. He then heard a car approaching and then pulling up to
where he stood wait, the car stopped and he could hear Mary Ellen telling
him to hop in. He opened the door to the car and with a quick greeting sat on
the seat although as far apart as he could get almost hugging the door.
So, Mary Ellen said have you thought of a place where we can get some good
southwest Mexican food was here first question.
He mentioned a place called La Hacienda that serve food that almost was the
same his tia cooked at home, he had only been there once or twice but he
could still remember the taste of the food.
Tell how to get there she instructed, but first he reached for her purse and
handed Johnny a handful of bills, take this she said, tonight your treating me.
Johnny could not feel if he should be relieved to get the money but, in all
honesty, he felt embarrassed as she stuffed the money into his hand.
Sensing the awkwardness of her actions she quickly explained that as far as
she was concerned this was nothing more than a business expense to perhaps
requite a human resource manage for her dad’s company and was something
that was done quite a bit in her line of work.
Arriving at La Hacienda which was a converted two floor house on Broadway
street the couple entered and were seated by the hostess of the establishment.
When asked what they would like to drink Mary Ellen simply said I’ll take a
beer, Johnny also ordered a beer.
You know I really like this place Mary Ellen informed Johnny; it reminds me
of a place in old town Clayton I would sneak off to with friends for some good
Mexican food, what should I order Johnny she asked.
My favorite are the enchiladas they taste just like home, Johnny replied.
Okay it’s enchiladas for me too and I hope they are hot and spicy was her
Without asking Mary Ellen began to fill in Johnny what life was like in the
world of the Cassidy’s as if she almost wanted to unload parts of her life she
did not enjoy. As they waited for their meal and Mary Ellen started on her
second beer, she began to how dull it was for her to go to business or political
functions where after the meal the men would go off to another room and talk
their concerns while the women sat around gossiping with each other. There
was no music, no dancing just sipping wine, stronger spirits and boring talk.
Johnny was glad Mary Ellen was doing most of the talking between bites of
her dinner. Somehow, he managed to fill in Mary Ellen with parts of his life
but mostly how things were with his aunt and uncle and their family.
Accounts of the effect of Korea on his cousins which were more like brothers.
Mary Ellen listen intently commenting on how difficult it appeared for the
Johnny’s adapted family. One thing after her initial comments about the
social life of the business and political lives of those around her she did not
mention anything about the business and said very little about the life she
shared with her husband of almost 5 years.
Once as they were almost finished with dinner Mary Ellen asked Johnny if
there had been any girl or perhaps now in his life. Johnny replied no not
really as I said before my only focus since, I graduated from high school was
to get a college education with the hope of a career where I could help the
people around me.
Mary Ellen next question was, well do see anybody in your future, a future
I think about it from time to time but right now Johnny answered I can’t
afford to take care of a wife much less a family, but who knows.
The finished their dinner and Johnny paid the check with the money that he
had been give earlier by Mary Ellen and walked to the car, only this time
Mary Ellen handed him the keys.
Johnny, she said, I want to go dancing. I can’t remember the last time I was
on a dance floor, it’s been ages, maybe I think a bit after I got married, but
now I feel like dancing.
I don’t know of any place to go dancing Johnny replied, beside it would be
kind of awkward for a Spanish guy to take a white girl anywhere to dance.
So, then Mary Ellen replied let’s go to a place where Spanish couples go
dancing or do, they have a problem with a white girl dancing with a Spanish
Johnny started thinking, first this girl, woman sure is working on putting me
into a fix where I may not be able to get out of. The only place Johnny could
even think of was place called Joe’s Buffet on Santa Fe street in west Denver,
a place enjoyed by those who enjoyed drinking and dancing to Mexican music.
Okay let’s try this place but remember if things get uncomfortable there we
will have to skip out and fast was Johnny resolution to the request just made
Johnny drove up and parked on the street close to Joe’s and cautiously
escorted Mary Ellen into the dark and smoky cantina on the west side. He
saw and pick a table in a dark corner of the bar and sat down with his escort.
It was still early and the band was just tuning their instruments and the few in
the place just sat around with their drinks. When the waitress came over for
their order Johnny ordered a beer expecting Mary Ellen to order the same
instead, she ordered what she called a seven/seven.
In a short while the place started to fill in with more patrons and from time to
time, they would glance at the table with the Spanish guy and the white red
hair girl. The band started playing and one by one couples started to get up
and dance to the rhythms of traditional Mexican music.
Let’s dance Johnny, Mary Ellen requested, this after two of the seven/sevens
she had been drinking.
Johnny got up slowly and escorted Mary Ellen to the dance floor to his
surprise she got right into the dance of rancheria the band was playing and
didn’t miss a step, never the less he was glad when the song ended and they
walked back to their table.
That was so fun Mary Ellen exclaimed with delight let do it again and no
sooner had they reach their table they were headed out to the dance floor for
another dance. Again, its surprised Johnny how well she could sway to the
rhythms of the Mexican music and as they danced, he tried to relax a bit.
After the second dance Johnny made sure they got to their table and this time
sat down informing Mary Ellen he needed to catch his breath after the fairly
fast dance. As they sat down Johnny saw a guy walking towards their table
and immediate thought was, oh oh trouble.
The guy greeted Johnny in a friendly manner and let him know that he
thought he knew Johnny from somewhere, maybe high school. Johnny
informed him he was from the valley and didn’t go to school here in town.
Then the only place he could possibly know him from was the Army and
asked if Johnny was in Korea.
Johnny then informed the strange that he had served in Korea and it was at
this point the guy said you were part of the guys who came out and with
orders for our company when we were in the field. He grabbed Johnny’s
hand and with a firm grip gave him a hearty shake.
Johnny said he did not remember him but he acknowledge that he was with
the unit that supplied the orders and at time fought along side the GI’s but
that was a while back.
Well dude the reason I remember you was I got hit and you carried me back
and loaded me on a jeep to get me help but some Lieutenant tried to stop you
and keep me on the hill, but you put me on the jeep and took me away, man
you saved my life. Hay get your girl and join me and my wife and friends at
our table, this is so cool.
In a short while Johnny and Mary Ellen were sitting at the table with the
strange who then introduce Johnny to everyone seated at the table with the
story of how he owed his life to the Sarge who bucked the Luey. It wasn’t
long all at the table were talking, some telling war stories, the girls laughing
at the guys, dancing and drinking the night away, with Mary Ellen joining in
and being a welcome part of the group.