“The horse threw me. They fell upon me. Then they took my gun away. You see, they thought I was dead. There was nothing I could do!” Luis Cervantes explained apologetically. Then:
“Nobody threw me down,” Solis said. “I’m here be-cause I like to play safe.”
The irony in Solis’ voice brought a blush to Cer-vantes’ cheek.
“By God, that chief of yours is a man!” Solis said. “What daring, what assurance! He left me gasping—and a hell of a lot of other men with more experience than me, too!”
Luis Cervantes vouchsafed no answer.
“What! Weren’t you there? Oh, I see! You found a nice place for yourself at the right time. Come here, Luis, I’ll explain; let’s go behind that rock. From this meadow to the foot of the hill, there’s no road save this path be-low. To the right, the incline is too sharp; you can’t do anything there. And it’s worse to the left; the ascent is so dangerous that a second’s hesitation means a fall down those rocks and a broken neck at the end of it. All right! A number of men from Moya’s brigade who went down to the meadow decided to attack the enemy’s trenches the first chance they got. The bullets whizzed about us, the battle raged on all sides. For a time they stopped firing, so we thought they were being attacked from behind. We stormed their trenches—look, partner, look at that meadow! It’s thick with corpses! Their machine guns did that for us. They mowed us down like wheat; only a hand-ful escaped. Those Goddamned officers went white as a sheet; even though we had reinforcements they were afraid to order a new charge. That was when Demetrio Macias plunged in. Did he wait for orders? Not he! He just shouted: “‘Come on, boys! Let’s go for them!’
“‘Damn fool!’ I thought. ’What the hell does he think he’s doing!’
“The officers, surprised, said nothing. Demetrio’s horse seemed to wear eagle’s claws instead of hoofs, it soared so swiftly over the rocks. ‘Come on! Come on!’ his men shouted, following him like wild deer, horses and men welded into a mad stampede. Only one young fellow stepped wild and fell headlong into the pit. In a few sec-onds the others appeared at the top of the hill, storming the trenches and killing the Federals by the thousand. With his rope, Demetrio lassoed the machine guns and carried them off, like a bull herd throwing a steer. Yet his success could not last much longer, for the Federals were far stronger in numbers and could easily have de-stroyed Demetrio and his men. But we took advantage of their confusion, we rushed upon them and they soon cleared out of their position. That chief of yours is a wonderful soldier!”
Standing on the crest of the hill, they could easily sight one side of the Bufa peak. Its highest crag spread out like the feathered head of a proud Aztec king. The three-hundred-foot slope was literally covered with dead, their hair matted, their clothes clotted with grime and blood. A host of ragged women, vultures of prey, ranged over the tepid bodies of the dead, stripping one man bare, de-spoiling another, robbing from a third his dearest pos-sessions.