Dad had a thing for ghosts – for pasts hinted at in tattered curtains, broken walls, wrinkled faces. He was drawn to the mystery of lives lost to memory.
Fort Davis beckoned him many times and on this day, a heavy morning fog obscured the crumbling adobe of the abandoned fort. Down there somewhere wanders the ghosts of Diedrick Dutchover and Big Foot Wallace who prospered at this crossroad, Chief Nicolas of the Apaches who once burned the fort, soldiers of the Ninth United States Calvary who later reclaimed it, and the most unfortunate Dolores Gavino Doporto.
Delores met Jose in 1850, or thereabouts. They fell in love and planned to marry. Jose was a goatherd. The land was dry and lean, his goats thirsty and leaner. He worked hard to build a future for Delores, wandering like a nomad with his goats over miles of lonely desert searching for grass and water. His work took him away from Delores for many days at a time, so every Thursday night, in the gloaming, she climbed a low mountain south of Fort Davis, gathered dry mesquite and lit a signal fire for her betrothed to say, “I am well. I miss you. Please return soon.”
Their wedding day approached and Jose went, as always, into the mountains to tend his goats and fatten them for Delores. But this time Jose did not return – he was surprised by Mescaleros who scalped and murdered him.
How does one measure the fullness of love? Delores Gavino Doporto measured it in devotion and remembrance. For more than forty years, until her death in 1893, Delores climbed that low mountain south of Fort Davis every Thursday night, in the gloaming, gathered dry mesquite and lit her signal fire. And her message rose with the unquenchable sparks of her love for Jose, “I am well, I am yours forever, and we shall meet again.”