The narrator recalls his boyhood during the 1920’s, when he was growing up in Jonesville-on-the-Grande, a small town on the Texas side of the Rio Grande.
The boy lives a block away from Fort Jones in his grandfather’s large frame house, where his mother complains about pigeons in the eaves bringing fleas. The town regulates its activities by the trumpet and cannon signals emanating from the fort, where soldiers have been stationed since border troubles ten or so years earlier.
In the evenings, children gather by the fence outside the fort to watch the flag lowered. On the days when they study in school about heroes of the American Revolution, such as George Washington and Marion the Fox, they cheer and salute as the fort’s soldiers lower the flag. On days when they hear local men discussing the border incidents of the previous decade, they jeer. Whether the children cheer or jeer, however, the soldiers in the fort are indifferent to them.
None of the children ever goes inside Fort Jones except Chonita. Entering through the entrance leading to the poorest part of town, she watches the soldiers eat; afterward, the cooks come out, scold her for coming inside, and give her food. Chonita’s family lives in a shack that was originally a shed on a vacant lot that the narrator’s grandfather owns. He charges them no rent, but as a kind of payment, Chonita’s mother does washing for the narrator’s family. Thanks to a building boom in the Rio Grande Valley, Chonita’s father is now working. Although he spends...
(The entire section is 634 words.)