Early in our days in Sonora
I went with my husband to a field camp
by jeep. Then bony backed mules.
The eight Mexicans there were shy as
we said Buenos días to each other.
Next morning they answered my Buenos días
with Buenos días le dé Dios.
It became like that.
I stayed in camp all day.
They went out to hammer rocks in
country known as baranca –
place of broken boulders.
My husband and I slept that night
in the small cook shack cabin.
The Mexicans in sleeping bags
circled close round the fire.
Next morning fear was in the camp.
Talk was in rapid nervous Spanish.
We heard gato – cat and pero – dog
and a word we did not know — Onca.
The Mexicans said I must not be left alone.
Our Spanish was not good
in those early days in Mexico.
We thought gato would be a lynx.
That night the Mexicans stayed up late talking.
In the morning the second dog was gone.
In spite of anxious warnings from the Mexicans
I stayed in camp reading by the river.
After lunch — to the relief of the Mexicans —
my husband and I went back to our town
by bony backed mules and jeep.
Years later– in Tucson’s Desert Museum —
we saw a sign saying Onca.
We turned a corner towards it — then
suddenly faced a brown, black and gold
Painted Jaguar —
huge and confident looking.
I felt my full foolishness.
The Mexicans in that long ago camp —
wanted me safe – in spite of myself.
They were my blessing.