Santa Paula is a small community of ranchers and farmers not too far away from Oxnard. The agricultural specialty there was citrus orchards, oranges and lemons. Oxnard’s specialty was sugar beets, different kinds of beans, other kinds of produce.
Here is a picture of downtown Santa Paula. This building you see was the headquarters of the Union Oil Company, you know, Union 76? You cannot tell by the photo, but the local growers did good as well with their citrus orchards.
I am just setting the scene here for my brother Bobby and Step-dad John. Bobby was ten years older than me, seventeen now. Since he started being a grownup he liked to be called Roberto. He also changed his last name from Olivas back to Nájera. When John married our mother, he legally adopted us and his last name became ours.
Roberto played the guitar and he and liked to sing. John was good at the violin and he liked learning new songs to play. They were often invited to play at the local dance halls. This was a double bonus for Roberto. He also liked to go dancing with the ladies.
Sometimes we would all go, to the dances, but mostly we stayed home. My mama liked to make sure we, really I, stayed clean for church after our Saturday night bath.
One night John and Roberto came home all excited. It was way past midnight and they walked in noisily. I could hear them but I stayed in bed and pretended to be asleep. I didn’t want to get yelled at.
“Mama wake-up!” John shouted. “Do you know what happened?”
“¿Andan borracho?” I heard my mama ask in sleepy irritated way.
“No, no!” John answered. “You know we don’t drink when we play.”
I heard the chairs of the kitchen table slide noisily and then the noises they made sitting down.
“El Llano, you know, the one they call Red. He just rang the bell for the last dance. We were playing ‘La Despedida, The Farewell’ when these rucos from Santa Paula rode their horses into the dance hall and started shooting out the lights! They were trying to grab our women and take them away!”
That was dangerous thing to do. At this time there was hardly any electricity in Oxnard. People were still using kerosene lamps. A stunt like that could set the whole town on fire.
“Now wait a minute!” I started saying to myself. I had a thought but my mama beat me to it.
“Didn’t I hear about our local young paisanos, (in other words, the young Mexican gentlemen from Oxnard), riding into Santa Paula with intentions of romancing the young ladies there?”
Of course the paisanos, that is the young men from Santa Paula, did not like that idea and promised to get even.
No one was hurt at this invasion, but it did cause a lot of panic. The young ladies were all frightened and screaming. The men got madder than you know what. By the time anybody had any plan the men from Santa Paula rode off towards El Rio and then back up the road to their homes.
The men from Oxnard finally ran outside and jumped on their horses and began to follow them. They followed him until at last they lost them near the town of Saticoy, another town nearby.
The next day the sheriff showed up from Ventura in his horse and buggy. He started to ask questions and wrote things down about the shooting but nobody wanted to say anything.
Next Saturday night there was a dance in Santa Paula and you know what happened next.