HENRY CORNFIELD: ENRIQUE
Rose with Enrique
hristopher Columbus gathered all his men for the trip to the New World or to the end of the world or to the West Indies or wherever the voyage would take them. The Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria, the three ships, were already docked. Queen Isabella had hocked her jewels to finance the voyage and we know that some of that jewelry became the property of Baby Doe Tabor in Colorado - but that is another story.
The story we are about to tell is really about women, about something that Queen Isabella knew that she must do. Queen Isabella realized that after all the work she had done, all the commitments that she had made, whatever was going to happen in the New World, she thought that she should have a woman's viewpoint, a report of the adventures from where all these men were going, that there should be a woman, somebody to safeguard her good interests. And so she decided to look for a woman to represent her. She sent word out very quietly and very secretly for girls to apply for the job of making the trip with Columbus. And so the girls came and came. One said, 'This is what I intend to do if you choose me to make the voyage . . . .' Some of the girls were beautiful, some of them not, some of them had really good qualities, and some of them had bad qualities, some of them had combinations of qualities, and some of them didn't have any qualities at all. One said, 'I'm really jealous', one said, 'I'm very outspoken', one said, 'I'm not afraid', another said, 'I'm hard to manage. Nobody can tell me what to do'. And Queen Isabella just kept thinking. 'You know the ships are just about ready to sail and I have not made up my mind which girl I want to choose'.
Then finally one day, close to the time when the ships were ready to sail, a girl appeared at the castle and Queen Isabella asked her, 'Why do you want to go? Why do you want to make this voyage? Why do you want me to choose you?' And the girl leaned over and whispered something quite outrageous to Queen Isabella. Queen Isabella started laughing and called in her secret agent. She said, 'This is the girl I want to go with Columbus'. The girl went home to get ready. Queen Isabella called for more agents and ordered, 'I want you to find a way to get this girl as a stowaway on one of the ships'. Queen Isabella talked to the girl when she returned and asked which ship she would like to be on. The girl excitedly answered, #I plan to go on the Pinta'. Queen Isabella declared, 'My goodness! Do you know that 'Pinta' is short for 'penitentiary'? That's where all the pardoned convicts will be going'. The girl asserted, 'I want to go on that ship. I want to go on the Pinta. I'll take care of myself'. Queen Isabella remembered the whispered secret and wholeheartedly agreed. She again told her agents to get a place ready where this young girl could hide and also assure a way to get her to board the ship so that nobody would see her.
Late at night the girl, whose name was Cebollita, followed the agents to the dock and up the gangplank. The girl was not surprised when they led her into the pantry where all the supplies and vegetables were stored away for the trip. She went in there with no regrets. Finally the Pinta set sail and for days she was hiding there and nobody bothered her. One day somebody did see her, one of the convicts on the ship. the Pinta, a sailor convict. He decided that he would tell no one, that he would go and try to make friends with Cebollita. He did not know her name and it would be a long time before he would but he said to himself, 'I saw a girl in the pantry and I am going to try to make friends with her'. He honestly tried to make friends with Cebollita, but as soon as he got close to her, his eyes started watering and he started making horrible grimaces. Soon he was crying uncontrollaby. He was so embarrassed, he tried to blin, then to dry the tears from his eyes, and he tried to keep on talking; the more he tried, the more he cried and whimpered. Finally, he ran out.
Cebollita remembered that Queen Isabella had told her that some day she would get married, but to make sure that the man she married did not cry when he met her. So being that the convict cried, she said, 'Oh well, you know, I'm not going to marry him, I wouldn't anyway'. Well, pretty soon, other convicts found out that there was a girl who was hiding in the pantry. Each man came in secretly hoping to make friends with Cebollita. The same thing happened. Each one started talking very boldly, or very sweetly, or trying to be gentle, each trying a different manner, hoping that he would be the one that Cebollita would make friends with. Pretty soon, most of the convicts had gone in there and Cebollita fondly noted that all of them had cried. One convict would ask another, 'What happened in there?' Each convict would start acting coy or would start denying he had even been in there. He wouldn't admit to being in there, much less that he had cried. Coinvict after convict went in and talked to Cebollita every which way, very boldly or very gently, but the same thing happened - the man would start crying and out he would run. He would deny to his friends that he had been crying or tried to be friends with any girl or even knew about a girl on ship. They were all so ashamed that each one had gone in there and cried. Pretty soon most of them had gone in there, or all of them had gone in thre, and of course Cebollita would let them because they had all cried.
Finally one day the ships docked. Cebollita came down the gangplank. Pretty soon she met an Indian brave. His name was Don Cacaguate. (People in this time and place called each other gift, Don.) Cebollita started talking with Don Cacaguate. [Cebolla=onion, Cacaguate=peanut] She noticed that he talked and talked and did not cry. so she said to herself, 'This is the man that I will marry'. So eventually they did get married. They settled down in this place where people called each other gifts. Their main source of income was corn growing. Don and Do ña Cebolla planted acres and acres of corn. Of course they started raising a family, as per Queen Isabella's instructions. Don Cacaguate and Doñ a Cebolla became well known in the village. Their eldest daughter was named Mariquita. Mariquita grew up to be a very beautiful young girl, very attentive to her chores. She would get up early in the morning and go out to hoe the corn.
One day she was out there hoeing the corn. Around the bend came a young man. Sweetly attractive, he had very delicate features. He came walking very proudly, through all the rows of corn, right to the place where the young girl was working with the hoe. Mariquita could hear the steady beat of his heart - the young man, whose name was Henry Cornfield, could hear the steady beat of Mariquita's hoe. Once in a while Henry Cornfield's heart beat would stop when Mariquita turned the hoe backwards. She would start hitting mounds of dirt with the back, with the hump, of the hoe. Henry Cornfield's heart would again start beating. Then Mariquita would again bend down, sliding the hoe so gracefully and she would ignite the young man's heart beat.
Henry Cornfield told himself that this was the girl that he would want to marry. He sat down on a boulder and wrote a letter to Don Cacaguate and Doñ a Cebolla. 'I come to honour your house', he wrote. He looked around and saw that the house was located in the distance. He walked up boldly and knocked on the door. When Don Cacaguate came to the door, Henry Cornfield introduced himself and gave him the letter, then followed up by telling Don Cacaguate that he had seen the girl hoeing the corn and that he had fallen in love with her and that he was asking for her hand. This was not strange because this was done at that time and place where men could just go and ask for the hand of a maiden. This is the story of a people who called each other 'gifts', at a time and place where childing (parenting) was everybody's business, where the aged crossed the finishing line of life free of anxiety as ancianos .
When Don Cacaguate heard what Henry Cornfield was saying and also reread the letter, he realized for the first time that his daughter was of marrying age. It really shocked him. He declared, 'Oh, how can I let you marry my daughter? I don't know you. How do I know that you're going to take care of her?' He added, 'Besides, I've raised her so delicately and we've planned so much for her life and for the lives of the rest of our children, that you really shock me. It's too sudden. I can't make up my mind'. Henry Cornfield said, 'Wll, you know, the custom is followed here - a man falls in love with a girl, and the world goes on and on'. Don Cacaguate said, 'Well you know, I know that this is true. My daughter is of marrying age, but I want to be assured that she will be taken care of and that she will be treated as a good wife'.
Finally, Don Cacaguate said, 'Well, I'll make a deal with you. I have to check you out'. Henry Cornfiedl said, 'Go ahead. Check me out'. He said, 'Well, why don't you show up tomorrow de mañ ana (at dawn). You come to work with me hoeing the corn and I will see if you are worthy of marrying my daughter'. Don Cacaguate cunningly added, 'Oh, you know, I really don't think that you will pass the test. Everyone knows what a good worker I am, and I know that you look so delicate, you might not be able to keep up with me'.
The next morning, de ma ñana , bright and early, before Don Cacaguate was even through drinking his coffee, here was Henry Cornfield knocking on the door. He had brought his own hoe and he was ready to go to work. Don Cacaguate asked Henry Cornfield, 'Would you like some coffee? Come on in'. 'No,' answered Henry Cornfield, 'I came to work. Let's go'. So they went out there to the field. Henry Cornfield started hoeing the corn. He hardly stopped for lunch, he hardly stopped for water, he just worked really hard all day. Then towards evening, Don Cacaguate was the one who was tired, sweating, grunting, and irritable. He just couldn't believe how Henry Cornfield had worked.
Henry Cornfield asked Don Cacaguate point blank. 'Don Cacaguate;, he says, 'Sir, do you think I can marry your daughter? Do you think that I passed the test? What can you tell me that I can do to improve?' Don Cacaguate answered, 'Well, you know, I'd like to tell you I just decided that you can't marry my dauther. But,' he said, 'with all due respect, you kept up so well with me and you did better work that I expected you to do. You knew how to do it, and you did the work right. Now, tell me, how come, why didn't you ever stop to drink water? And you hardly even ate lunch'. And he added, 'You are just a really good solid worker. So I could say, "No, you can't marry my daughter"', he said, 'but I realy don't have an excuse, because,' he said, 'I like to keep my word. I gave you my word, if you passed the work test, that you could marry my daughter, if you could prove that you could take care of her and always hold her in high esteem'. Henry Cornfield replied, 'Well, Sir, what else would you like to know?'
'Well, I would like to know how you can work so hard all day like that and not even stop'. Henry Cornfield said, 'Well, I know how to work, and I value work. I did all this work in spite of the fact that I worked all day with this in my shoe'. Henry Cornfield sat down and took off his shoe. And, my goodness, he had a great big blister on his foot. It had already popped and broken into a great big sore and red tears started coming out of that sore. Red tears started coming out of the grotesque injury. Henry Cornfield took a great big rock, a quite jagged one, out of his shoe, and showed it to Don Cacaguate, and it, too, had red tears falling from it.
Don Cacaguate said, 'My goodness! Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you stop to take it out? How could you work with that jagged rock in your shoe?' Henry Cornfield replied, 'Well, I decided to work with the jagged rock in my shoe because I was afraid to tell you. I thought that if I told you that I had a rock in my shoe, or if I stopped to take it out that you would think that I was just being lacy or taking time out from work'.
Don Cacaguate explaimed, 'My goodness! You know, I'm not going to tell that you can't marry my daughter, but I think you know the answer'. He said, 'Even if you don't pity yourself, if you don't have any self-esteem for yourself, that you work with a jagged rock in your shoe all day just because you are afraid of what I would think, you're never going to be able to take care of my daughter'.
Don Cacaguate excused himself. He went to the shed and came back with a tubful of pumpkins. Handing Henry Cornfield the tubful of pumpkins, he said, 'Here, you know what this means'. In Spanish culture all life's symbols are food, and the symbol of rejection is the pumpkin. So Don Cacaguate handed Henry Cornfield a pumpkin, his irreversible answer.
Henry Cornfield went away sadly, with his little tubful of pumpkins. He went and distributed the pumpkins to the poor. Right about twelve o'clock at night, he returned to the farmhouse, up to Don Cacaguate's door, to the home of Mariquita, of the girl he would love forever. He knocked on the door. Doñ a Cebolla heard the knock and woke up in shock. Do ña Cebolla yelled to Don Cacaguate and said, 'Did you know there's a knock at the door?' Don Cacaguate asked, 'Who could be there?' And Doñ a Cebolla answered, 'Oh, I don't know'. She pushed Don Cacaguate off the bed. 'Go and check'. Don Cacaguate opened the door and peeked out its little window. 'Do you know', he said, 'there's that crazy Henry Cornfield. What could he want?' Don Cacaguate opened the door and screamed, 'Get away from here. Are you drunk or something? What are you doing here? It's after twelve o'clock midnight'. Henry Cornfield replied boldly, 'Well, I would like to talk to you further'. Don Cacaguate said, 'No, you don't. I told you. I explained to you, by giving you the pumpkins, I gave you my answer. You cannot marry my daughter because you worked all day with that jagged rock in your shoe. If you don't care for yourself, you will never care about my daughter. And you can't come here saying that you would'. So Don cacaguate insisted on telling Mr Henry Cornfield how awful it is not to have self-esteem.
But Henry Cornfield tried to explain his new intentions to Don Cacaguate. 'Oh, excuse me, Don Cacaguate', he said, 'I didn't come back to try to change your mind. I came back to ask you if you would let me be a scarecrow in your cornfield. I love Mariquita so much that I want to spend the rest of my life close to her. Even if just guarding your cornfield as a scarecrow'. Don Cacaguate started laughing unctrollably, and he said, 'Well, you're crazy, you're loco'. Then he said, 'Who's going to stop you? There's the cornfield over there. Go grab a loose fencepost and hang yourself. I don't care'. Henry replied, 'So you're giving me permission to become a scarecrow in your cornfield?' Don Cacaguate said, 'That is precisely what I am doing'. He just slammed the door in Henry Cornfield's face and went to bed. Well, the next morning, lo and behold, Don Cacaguate and the village gossips were surprised to look out their windows and see Henry Cornfield hanging from the fencepost in the centre of the cornfield.
Time went by, and people got used to seeing the scarecrow hanging at the Cacaguate cornfield. But they also wondered why the face and the clothes kept getting really more beautiful. Indeed, everything got more and more beautiful. The face got rid of his wheat colour and turned heavenly blue. Instead of being ragged, parts of his wearing apparel became gold, like gold brocade on blue, then gold lace started growing on the bottom of the pants and around the collar and around the cuffs. And the scarecrow's hair started turning blue also, like the colour of heaven. The hair was as soft as cornsilk. On the hat that the scarecrow, Henry Cornfield, had worn, on the left hand side, was a beautiful silver rose. It was shiny, and as the scarecrow turned around on the post, it seemed to mesmerize the birds and they did not dare fly in and eat the corn. The greatest change was that the scarecrow started growing jewels. There were jewels down the front of his coat, even on his shoes. And he turned into a kind of light. We're talking about the scarecrow. Sometimes thieves would think that they would come and take some of the jewels. They would sneak over at night and would take some jewel, but whenever they were worn in public, the jewels would turn into jagged rocks and cruel red tears. Finally the thieves gave up and just left the scarecrow alone. But then, one day, Mariquita went to borrow some of the jewels from the scarecrow. When Mariquita wore them she could take them anywhere and they would not turn into rocks and shed red tears.
One day Mariquita met someone very special and got married. The scarecrow decided that he was not going to weep, he was not going to be sad, because he had lost the girl of his dreams, because he didn't have self-esteem. He knew he couldn't blame Don Cacaguate. Time went by. A few years after Mariquita had married, her children were sleeping in the little house there, close to the cornfield, close to where Henry Cornfield was hanging from the fencepost. He saw them and sang a song with words about the beautiful cornfield, and the beautiful white house that would have been his, and a beautiful dark-eyed lady that could have loved him. Once she lent him her eyes so that he would see her happiness forever in his soul. Now everything was lost, the cornfield did not have its own horses and cows, there were not Henry Cornfield's. The scarecrow sang the song late at night, very sadly. The children heard him.
They slipped over to visit the scarecrow. Heny Cornfield reached under the fencepost and took out a mysterious box. Out of it he'd tell the children stories about love and how he would have loved to belong here, in that little house that was surrounded by cornfields. Mariquita didn't know that the children were going over there and visiting the scarecrow. They would come back and go to bed. As time went on, Don Cacaguate just took it for granted that the scarecrow would always be guarding the cornfield, and the birds wouldn't eat too much of his corn - he harvested a good crop and he could even afford to throw some out to the birds.
Well, time went on, and Don Cacaguate would
stroll down to the village, and people would beg him to tell
the story about the scarecrow. Don Cacaguate would tell the
story over and over again, how it all happened, and he would
tell a little about how Doña Cebolla had come on the ship, the Pinta, and
how he had met her and how they had married and how they had
started a family and decided that they would be corn growers.
And then he would come to the part where Henry Cornfield had
come around the bend and had decided to
marry Mariquita and how he had asked for her hand and how he,
Don Cacaguate, had refused Henry Cornfield because Henry
Cornfield did not have any self-esteem. So, once the village
folk knew a little about the scarecrow they wanted to know
more. So they asked Don Cacaguate, 'What do you think really
happened? Where do you think this man came from? What is his
name?' Don Cacaguate said, 'Well, you know', he said, 'His
name is Henry Cornfield in English, you see, but in Spanish
his name is Enrique Milpaz, which means 'Enrichment' and a
'Thousand Measures of Peace'.
Rose Cordova Vollmer
This story is from
the collection of essays on story-telling, Tales
within Tales: Apuleius through Time , ed.
Constance S. Wright and Julia Bolton Holloway (New York:
AMS Press, 2000), pp. 157-164. Once one could order this
book from the 'Whole Earth
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