05 March 2009

THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY - Cowboys in Glória

This post is in response to A Thousand Word Thursday

        Every Friday, late in the afternoon, local cowboys sauntered into town on their horses, driving a small herd of cattle in front of them. The photo above was taken from the front door of the house Brunie and I shared. In Brazil, the cowboys were vaqueiros, but in Glória, they were usually called gauchos.
        The gauchos wore leather chaps and leather jackets. They often had holsters with guns strapped to their thighs and dangerous-looking knifes in leather sheaths on their belts. Their leather gaucho hats had brims that were turned up at the front and back rather than at the sides.  Many also wore small decorated leather purses at their waists ---perhaps a precursor of fanny packs.
        They were rough men hardened by harsh conditions.
        The herd of cattle passing our house would be kept in a small corral outside of town, then slaughtered in the wee hours of the morning and be sold at the weekly market on Saturday morning.

Gaucho, c. 1967
(photo: Brunie Chavez, used with permission)
        A family from the neighboring state of Alagoas moved to a farm outside of town. There were a father and either four or five sons and one daughter. I never saw the mother so I'm not sure if she had died, left, or if she stayed on the farm when other family members came into town.
        On the outskirts of Glória, someone would see the men heading toward town on their horses. Dressed in usual gaucho garb, they were dirty, unshaven (would have been designer stubble today) and, of course, were missing a few teeth much like many of the local cowboys. Their faces and arms had been roasted to a leather color to match their chaps. Someone would yell that the Alagoanos were coming. Mothers ran outside to grab their children from the streets, dragged them inside, and quickly closed and locked their doors and shutters. It was like a scene in a Western movie when gunslingers showed up in town.
        As far as I know the Alagoanos never caused any trouble. They never hurt or threatened anyone, nor stole anything, but they were feared. Perhaps it was just the fear of the unknown.

        Once when we were in the market square, we heard a gunshot. The wife of a local man had been aiming for her husband's mistress. The wife was normally left outside of town  to live on the farm while her husband had a mistress in town.  Luckily no one was hurt.  After the gun was wrestled from the shooter's hand, she was reprimanded by the mayor and handed over to her husband who promised to keep her out of town.

        Cowboys. Cattle drives. Horses. Gunslingers. Shootouts. No wonder there were times when I felt like an extra in a Western movie. I didn't play a big part in the plot, but there I was in the background, observing the dusty action.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)


  1. While you were up North, I was down south; on the border with Paraguay. 40 years ago this was frontier country...few people...few laws.

    When the Gaucho cowboys came into to our little town (1,000), would stop off at the local bakery/bar. They wore ponchos and on bellying up to the bar, would throw the ponchos back over their shoulders. That is when you could see the guns and knives. That is also when I went back to the pensão.

    Sometimes, later in the evening, you could here gun shots coming from the bakery/bar. In the 10 months there no one was shot, but it sure made the PC life interesting!


  2. Wow...what an interesting post! Happy ATWT to you!!

  3. That is an amazing picture! Nice to see something you don't see in the states much anymore!
    Happy ATWT!!!

  4. wow! That's pretty cool. Thanks for sharing.

  5. WOW! Interesting photo, looks like a scene out of an old western!


  6. Wow what an experience, seems like a whole 'nother world!

  7. What a great story to go with a great photo. Thanks for sharing!

  8. My friend......how are you??
    As usual your post is beautiful, moving and inspiring.
    Wishing you much love, joy and laughter and.......

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  9. Carolina, great story. Your peace corp experience seems so rich in memories. You should write a book of short stories to keep all of us that in this time were boring housewives, etc.

  10. Ginger--- Thanks for the encouragement.

    I have written some of what you see here before. But in my retirement, the memories are coming back and I feel like I have to get them all down ---so that is what i am doing with the blog. Maybe, some day, I will copy them and print them into a book.

    I also started a novel based on my experiences in Brazil. It is set in a fictional country off the coast of South America. If I ever finish it I will probably publish it as a print-on-demand book.

    There are lots of writers who were former PC volunteers in many countries around the world. Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason Carter, wrote Power Lines about his experiences in Africa. You may remember that Lillian Carter (Jimmy's mother) served in the PC in India when she was in her 70's.

    Kinky Friedman, mystery writer, was a volunteer in Borneo. He admits he was high most of the time he was there. One of his novels touches on his PC experiences, but I can't remember which one. (You probably know Kinky from TX politics.)

    There are many others but I can't remember who at the moment.

  11. Great stories Carolina! I would like to invite you to a panel discussion I am organizing of Brazil RPCVs at George Washington University at the end of the month. Do you ever come down to DC? Not sure how close you are (I see PA). Anyway, please contact me at dcbrasiliapartners "at" gmail


    LISA MARTIN (Estonia 96-98)
    DC-Brasilia Partners
    Lecture Series Chair