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Friar Pedro’s Ride
by [?]

It was the morning season of the year;
It was the morning era of the land;
The watercourses rang full loud and clear;
Portala’s cross stood where Portala’s hand
Had planted it when Faith was taught by Fear,
When monks and missions held the sole command
Of all that shore beside the peaceful sea,
Where spring-tides beat their long-drawn reveille.

Out of the mission of San Luis Rey,
All in that brisk, tumultuous spring weather,
Rode Friar Pedro, in a pious way,
With six dragoons in cuirasses of leather,
Each armed alike for either prayer or fray;
Handcuffs and missals they had slung together,
And as an aid the gospel truth to scatter
Each swung a lasso–alias a “riata.”

In sooth, that year the harvest had been slack,
The crop of converts scarce worth computation;
Some souls were lost, whose owners had turned back
To save their bodies frequent flagellation;
And some preferred the songs of birds, alack!
To Latin matins and their souls’ salvation,
And thought their own wild whoopings were less dreary
Than Father Pedro’s droning miserere.

To bring them back to matins and to prime,
To pious works and secular submission,
To prove to them that liberty was crime,–
This was, in fact, the Padre’s present mission;
To get new souls perchance at the same time,
And bring them to a “sense of their condition,”–
That easy phrase, which, in the past and present,
Means making that condition most unpleasant.

He saw the glebe land guiltless of a furrow;
He saw the wild oats wrestle on the hill;
He saw the gopher working in his burrow;
He saw the squirrel scampering at his will:–
He saw all this, and felt no doubt a thorough
And deep conviction of God’s goodness; still
He failed to see that in His glory He
Yet left the humblest of His creatures free.

He saw the flapping crow, whose frequent note
Voiced the monotony of land and sky,
Mocking with graceless wing and rusty coat
His priestly presence as he trotted by.
He would have cursed the bird by bell and rote,
But other game just then was in his eye,–
A savage camp, whose occupants preferred
Their heathen darkness to the living Word.

He rang his bell, and at the martial sound
Twelve silver spurs their jingling rowels clashed;
Six horses sprang across the level ground
As six dragoons in open order dashed;
Above their heads the lassos circled round,
In every eye a pious fervor flashed;
They charged the camp, and in one moment more
They lassoed six and reconverted four.

The Friar saw the conflict from a knoll,
And sang Laus Deo and cheered on his men:
“Well thrown, Bautista,–that’s another soul;
After him, Gomez,–try it once again;
This way, Felipe,–there the heathen stole;
Bones of St. Francis!–surely that makes TEN;
Te Deum laudamus–but they’re very wild;
Non nobis Domine–all right, my child!”

When at that moment–as the story goes–
A certain squaw, who had her foes eluded,
Ran past the Friar, just before his nose.
He stared a moment, and in silence brooded;
Then in his breast a pious frenzy rose
And every other prudent thought excluded;
He caught a lasso, and dashed in a canter
After that Occidental Atalanta.

High o’er his head he swirled the dreadful noose;
But, as the practice was quite unfamiliar,
His first cast tore Felipe’s captive loose,
And almost choked Tiburcio Camilla,
And might have interfered with that brave youth’s
Ability to gorge the tough tortilla;
But all things come by practice, and at last
His flying slip-knot caught the maiden fast.