Fabio is a young lad who lives with his two maiden aunts in a small Argentine village. He dislikes his aunts, who feel, in their turn, that he is simply a bother. He is not sure that the two women are truly his relatives, for they pay him little attention as long as he gives them no trouble. Don Fabio Caceres, a rancher, occasionally comes to see the boy and take him into the country for a day, but the man ceases coming when Fabio is about eleven years old.
Fabio grows up to be a mischievous youngster who shows off for the worst element of the town. He knows all the gossip and spends most of his time hanging around the saloons; no one seems to care that he never went to school. The village loafers hint that he is an illegitimate, unwanted child. At best, he seems destined to be a ne’er-do-well who carries a chip on his shoulder in defiance of the rest of the world.
One night, a gaucho rides into the town as Fabio is going home from fishing. The man impresses the boy instantly, and, a little later, Fabio earns the gaucho’s interest by warning him of an ambush laid by a knife-wielding bully. The kind words spoken by the gaucho, Don Segundo, go to the boy’s heart, and Fabio immediately decides to follow the man when he leaves town. Gathering together his meager possessions, which fortunately include a saddle and two ponies, Fabio goes quietly away without telling anyone where he is going in order to escape his hated aunts. He rides to the ranch belonging to Don Leandro Galván, where he knows Don Segundo is going to spend a few days breaking wild horses.
When he arrives, the boy applies for work and is accepted. By the time Don Segundo is ready to leave the ranch on a cattle drive, Fabio has convinced Don Leandro and Don Segundo that he is a willing worker, and they let Fabio go with the other gauchos on half pay. At the end of the drive, Fabio is doing well in his apprenticeship as a gaucho.
For five years, Fabio continues under the tutelage of Don Segundo. Traveling from ranch to ranch, they work for a number of landowners. From the older man, Fabio learns to care for himself and his horses, to work cattle under various conditions, to live courageously, to get along with all kinds of people, and to have a good time singing songs, dancing, and telling stories. It is more than a way of making a living that the man passes on to the boy; it is an entire culture, a culture as old as the cattle industry and in some respects even older, going back as it does to the culture of Spain.
There are many incidents in their wanderings, including a time when Fabio wins a large amount of money by picking the winning bird in a cockfight when everyone else bets against the bird. That happens in the town of Navarro, a town that remains a lucky place in young Fabio’s mind. A long cattle drive to a ranch on the seashore is also an important experience for Fabio. There he finds that he detests the countryside, and he...
(The entire section is 1209 words.)