Paso Robles: Pain in Central California

Carlos III of Spain devised the master plan:
     military posts on the coast
     missions for Indian control (and saving souls)     
     civil communities
(these last were mostly riffraff from New Spain).

The Indians of central California
(Salinan, Chumash, Chane, Tachi, Tulareľo)
were too simple to be aggressive or hunt big game.
They lived off fish, mollusks, lizards, insects, wild plants.
The civil communities treated them uncivily:
     flogging first offender runaways with rawhide
     marking chronic cases with knives and red-hot branding irons.
At law Indians were “gente sin razon” subhumans.

A hundred years later Pio Linares and other bandidos
on El Camino Real between San Luis Obispo and Monterey
waylayed gringo and Californio travelers whom they
     stripped naked and whipped
     gouged with splintered sticks
     skinned or burned alive
     left to stumble, blinded, through rocks and brush
     allowed to escape for the sport of recapture
     dragged naked slowly at the end of a reata
till wild flailing and agonizing shrieks died out ending the game.

A hundred years later we middle-class, small-town white kids
     squeezed green guts slowly from live fuzzy caterpillars
     used magnifying glasses to burn beetles or make ants explode
     chased frightened lizards with willow whips
     poured salt to make slugs and snails bubble
     cut the legs from sow bugs which walked a circle to their death
and I don’t know why.

StephanPoems