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Reminiscing: ‘Don Pancho’ Castro — a man of his word
Apple Pie and SalsaApril 17, 2013 | 1,179 views | Post a comment
Henry usually tells his stories while we are eating lunch. Most of the time I just listen and make a comment or ask a question every now and then. This time I grabbed a pencil and paper. It sounded interesting. I don’t know what triggered this memory.
Henry recalls that in the 1940s a group of men used to come to the farm where he lived with Grandpa Castro. Usually there were four and the spokesperson was named George. Henry says they were Arabs. Grandpa called them Los Árabes. They were businessmen from San Antonio who owned cleaning establishments.
Once they came and hunted for hours and came up empty-handed. They stopped at the house. They had five high-priced dogs. So Grandpa sent Henry and his brother Reynaldo with their farm dogs. The dogs led them to la mota. La mota was a place where grape vines grew so big and thick they intertwined and almost formed a roof. The quail were nesting in the grape vines. Henry and Reynaldo used rocks hurled with their slingshots to bring them down. They would immediately pull the heads off and give them to the dogs. That was their reward.
That time, Henry says, they killed 25 quail and put them in a bag he had taken with him and went back to the house where the hunters were waiting. I asked Henry why the rest of the quail didn’t fly away once they saw what was happening. He said that the dogs barking makes them freeze.
Henry says that one time the men came when Grandpa was gone to town. So Mila gave them permission to hunt. There were more of them that time. They were leaving as Grandpa was getting home. This time they had been dove hunting. A little later, Grandpa found a bag with 15 dead doves. They were still warm. He took them home and Henry and Reynaldo helped Mila to clean them.
Next time they came, Grandpa denied them access to the pasture. He told them about the bag of doves he had found from the last time. George explained that they had brought some young boys with them and he was not aware of what they had done until afterwards. They had admitted they did not want to mess with cleaning them so they threw them on the side of the road. George begged Grandpa to let them hunt again. He offered to compensate them for the time before. But Grandpa was firm. He reminded them that he had made it clear when they came the first time that they were to kill only what they would use. And he did not budge. That was the end of the visits by los Árabes.
Frank Castro Sr. was a very frugal man. He did not believe in letting anything go to waste, especially food. And he didn’t believe in going into debt. In 1938, he bought the building now known as Castro’s Place across from the courthouse for $2,000 cash. When he bought a brand-new 1957 Ford Fairlane, he paid $2,200 cash and his 1950 Plymouth as a trade-in. And in 1962, when he and Mila moved away from the farm, he had a house built on Goliad Road. It was pay-as-you-go. The house was paid for by the time it was finished. Dave Ramsey could have taken lessons from him.
Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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