When Ricardo Isaias Zavala came to StoryCorps, his son, Ricardo Javier, asked who the most important person in his life was.
The answer came without a moment’s hesitation — it was Vicente Domingo Villa, Ricardo Isaias’ grandfather.
He told a story that began in the 1920s, when Vicente was a young boy enamored with the vaqueros, or cowboys, who worked on the South Texas ranches where he lived.
Click here for the transcript.
And his father was a ranch hand, as his father before him was a ranch hand, and his father before him was a ranch hand.
And when he was about six or seven, he did ask his mom if he could have cowboy chaps, just like the cowboys wore on the ranch. He didn't think he had much of a chance at getting it, but Christmas Day, his mom presented him with a pair of chivarras.
Chivarras are chaps, but instead of cow hide they're made out of goat skin. It's a smaller animal, so they fit children a lot better.
And he said he was so excited, he was so happy. That was the best gift he'd ever gotten.
The only problem was that his father got very upset with his mom for having wasted the money on a pair of chivarras for a boy who doesn't even do cowboy work, and it caused a lot of fighting.
So, he decided he would ask his mom to return the chivarras, but he figured he could at least sleep with them that night, and that's what he did.
Well, towards the end of his life he was at a nursing home, and we ended up getting him real cowhide chaps, working chaps. But he kinda got upset with us. He said it was a waste of money.
So, I told him that I actually had a favor to ask of him. I told him, I'd really like for you to consider, once you do pass, having the chaps buried with you. And that way when I get to heaven, I'll be able to recognize you.
And then he looked down, and he said, you know, "I don't know if that's where I'm going."
A few months later he got real sick, and he was dying. We were at his deathbed, and I was standing next to him, and he said to me, "Entiérrenme con mis chivarras "... "Bury me with my chaps."
And that brought a lot of comfort, because later on that night he did pass. It was May 5 of 2003. And I knew that he knew where he was going.
Southeast Austin Community Branch of the Austin Public Library