[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y name is El Charrito de Alabama,” said Esteban. “But you can call me Steve.”
I shook Esteban’s hand and noticed it felt strange and rough, like a dried baseball mitt. When I looked at it closely, I saw he was missing fingers. Esteban told me he lost those fingers at age twelve, in an accident involving an axe, a cruel boss, and the man’s daughter. Something else you ought to know about Esteban: he’s famous.
As a teenager, the rodeo came to his village and discovered the orphan cowboy twirling a lasso with his mangled hand. He could rope anything that had the gall to move. Including rabbits and rattle snakes who’d been de-rattled.
The rodeo finally landed him in Alabama. He’s lived there ever since, as a naturalized citizen. At first, he didn’t speak much English. He could only say basic phrases like, “thank you,” or “you’re welcome.” But now he can say things like, “Two Hardee’s chicken biscuits, please,” like a bonafide Southerner. Esteban also uses words like “y’all,” and they sound funny with his thick-tongued accent. But after forty years as an Alabama resident, such words are his God-given right.
No one recognizes Esteban as a famous vaquero, to most he’s just a faceless Mexican with a deformed hand. But Esteban becomes something more when he picks up his lasso. And he drops thirty years. Then, he tosses the lasso over my head and tightens it around my waist. And for a moment, he’s not a lonesome, five-foot-two field worker with a screwed-up hand.
He’s Esteban, El Charrito de Alabama.
But you can call him Steve.