March 09, 2023

#08-291: The Cisco Kid

A TV version of the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho (Wikimedia)

Note: The Cisco Kid is best known as a hero. Who knew that in his first appearance he was a murderous desperado?

Get Ready: Is it possible for person--real or imaginary--to be both a "good guy" and a terrible person? Must people always be one or the other? Think of some examples to prove your point.

Americans of a certain age will remember a hero named "The Cisco Kid," a sort of "Robin Hood of the West." While he was played by a half-dozen actors in nearly 30 movies, as well as in hundreds of radio and TV episodes, few of his legion of fans realize that in his first appearances he was not a hero at all. In fact he has been described as a "desperado."

The character was created by the famous American short story writer William Sydney Porter, better known as "O. Henry." He is best known for his surprise "twist" endings, and Cisco's origin story, The Caballero's Way, is no exception.

Despite his pretentions to be a "caballero" or gentleman--especially as relates to the ladies--this 25-year-old living on the Texas-Mexico border was notorious for killing for sport: "He killed for the love of it--because he was quick-tempered--to avoid arrest--for his own amusement--any reason that came to his mind would suffice." Six had he killed in more or less fair fights, a dozen had he murdered in cold blood, and untold numbers had he wounded.

But he was capable of gentler feelings. He loved a part-Mexican girl named Tonia Perez, and visited her whenever he was in her area. Her grass-roofed hut was located near a ten-mile thicket of prickly pears (a kind of cactus) through which the Kid could approach without being seen.

This fact became known to one Lieutenant Sandridge of the Texas Rangers. So Sandridge paid Tonia a visit, and it was love at first sight. He began to visit her frequently, always keeping an eye out for the arrival of her now-former boyfriend.

One day they made a plan: the next time Cisco came to visit, Tonia would send word to Sandridge by a boy named Gregorio. Sadly for them, the Kid was hiding in the cactus and heard it all.

So he sent a letter by another courier instead, giving this information supposedly from Tonia: The Kid and Tonia were going to change clothes so the Kid could ride away safely. Sandridge was to shoot the person in women's clothing--supposedly Cisco in disguise--and then come to her where she awaited him, wearing the Kid's clothes.

Can you guess the twist? There was no exchange of clothing! In the moonlight, Sandridge shot a person in a woman's clothes who was in fact Tonia, and the Kid, having taken his revenge without firing a shot, rode away free, leaving Sandridge with a broken heart.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. courier
  2. legion
  3. notorious
  4. now-former
  5. pretensions
  6. prickly pear
  7. suffice
  8. thicket
  9. twist
  10. untold

  1. a dense growth of plants
  2. not anymore
  3. be enough
  4. large number (of people)
  5. claims to something (possibly false)
  6. a kind of cactus
  7. unknown; not mentioned
  8. a surprise
  9. a person who carries a message
  10. famous for doing bad things

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 9, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. d; 3. j; 4. b; 5. e; 6. f; 7. c; 8. a; 9. h; 10. g