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South Texas Living

Remembering ‘Tonto’ and a turtle

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
January 9, 2013 | 2,558 views | Post a comment

I saw on the television the other day that a new version of “The Lone Ranger” movie is coming to theaters in the near future. But the clip that they showed looked nothing like the Lone Ranger as I remember him. I remember as a young girl going to see what was probably the first movie with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. For many years before that it was a radio program. I have this memory of using silverware with the image of the Lone Ranger on the tip of the handles. I don’t know if they came in cereal boxes like some dishes or if they sold them at the five and ten cent stores. I was really young then and I don’t know if anybody else remembers that.

In the 1950s, I watched episodes of “The Lone Ranger” on television. When I heard about the movie I had to laugh to myself and think of my former assistant and co-worker at Head Start, Mrs. Machost. During my years in the classroom I had some wonderful, very competent assistants. For the first two years I had Mrs. Minnie Peña. She had been working for years alongside Mrs. Garza. Then I had Nadine (Andrada at the time), then Sue Machost, and the last one was Melissa Sendejo.

Mrs. Machost and I were very different when it came to our work habits. I was, and still am, a procrastinator. As much as I try, I always end up turning in my column just in time to meet the deadline. I was that way with homework when I was attending SAC or preparing lesson plans. Mrs. Machost believed in getting things done as soon as possible. Sue and I had some good times together. I remember the time that we went to do a home visit out in the country. Sue had to drive on a dirt road. In fact, it wasn’t even a road. It was a long driveway in the middle of a field. On the way back we saw a turtle. We both thought it would be great for our science center. So we got down to pick it up. During the process, I discovered that I was standing on an anthill! When I saw them crawling up my shoes I started stomping my feet. Luckily I didn’t get bit, and I made sure I didn’t get any ants in Sue’s Suburban. I don’t remember where she put the turtle, but we took it to the center. Our excitement was short-lived. When the coordinators learned about it, they said it wasn’t wise to expose the children to it. It might have a disease. So we had to let the turtle go.

And Sue was very thoughtful. When I revealed that once in a while I liked to munch on a peppermint stick rolled in a flour tortilla, she got into the custom of giving me a peppermint stick around Christmas.

At one point there were several turnovers in staff at the center. Sue took over as head teacher in the other classroom. For a while I found myself without a permanent assistant. I would get volunteers to help if I was lucky. The agency even hired temporary aides. Even after I got my assistant, sometimes she had to be out often because of illness. I missed her because she was excellent help. Sue would pass by my classroom on her way to the kitchen or the bathroom. If she saw me by myself she would ask me, “Are you alone again?” “Yep,” I would reply. “Just call me the Lone Ranger.” Sue was very helpful on days like that. While the children were napping, she would come to my classroom to help in any way she could. So, if I was the Lone Ranger and she was my sidekick, then she had to be Tonto. It became a private joke between us. The rest of the staff didn’t know about it.

Of course, I wasn’t Superwoman. I would get sick too and have to be out. The rest of the staff would pitch in and help. And again, we would try to get volunteers. We all worked very well together. Only once in all those years did the Lone Ranger and Tonto have a disagreement. But after it was all said and done, it seemed to strengthen the bond between them. “They” remain good friends to this day.

When I left Head Start, the staff put together a scrapbook with photos of me through the years and other mementoes. Everyone wrote something on the cover. Sue wrote, “Thanks for the memories.” Kemo Sabe says, “Likewise, Tonto.”

Hi-yo, Silver! Away!

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is

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