In the late fifties, I ran into Zane Grey’s book, “The Texas Rangers”. I was most impressed by his interview of Texas Ranger Joe Sitter. Little did I know that my daughter was destined to marry a grandson of Sitter, and that one day I would meet a man who had actually known the Ranger.
A few years into my research I received a call from Elida Tobar, who turned out to be a prima. Her great-great grandfather was the brother of my own great-great grandfather, Crisanto Acosta.
She mentioned that a relative had been killed in a massacre that took place in Valentine, Texas. I told her that it was not in Valentine, Texas, but in Porvenir, Texas and that I had recently looked up a sole survivor that was living in Odessa, Texas. She quickly surmised that the man was our uncle and she headed out to meet with 94 year-old Juan Flores.
To her amazement (and mine) she discovered that Juan’s family knew nothing of the inhumane massacre. Juan’s daughter, Benita, did recall how, as a child she would awaken nightly to her father’s screams. The nightmares continued until he was sent to a State hospital where he underwent shock-treatment.
Thereafter, he ceased his unintelligible rambling of the past. That is until Elida showed up at his home. It was easy to talk to Elida. Juan had known her grandfather, who was one of the fifteen who were killed during the massacre. Written history has it that it may have been Texas Rangers, or the Army, or both, that carried out the atrocious act.
I met Juan the following year, but I did not pressure him to speak about the massacre. Rather, I asked him if he had known Ranger Joe Sitter, and his alleged killer, Chico Cano. He replied that Sitter was a fine man, and that he camped outside the family home whenever he was in the area. Sitter, he said, gave his father a rifle that was taken by one of the masked men who helped round up the fifteen men and boys who were killed.
Juan did recognize the man who took the rifle, but he would not reveal his name. When I asked if Chico Cano had indeed killed Sitter, Juan gave me a secretive smile and said, “Adonde aprieta, no chorea.” (“It does not leak where squeezed.”) I took that to mean that I was not going to get anything specific from him.
Still a little later, I met Gode Davis who was working on an “American Lynchings” documentary. I told him about the Porvenir incident and introduced him to the family. He went to Odessa and filmed Juan’s recollections of the tragic incident. Sadly Gode has been unable to secure monetary support with which to complete his filming.
Juan Flores died at age 101. His last wish was to be buried at Porvenir because “That was where his umbilical cord was”.
footnote: Juan’s mother eventually lost her mind and ended up shooting herself through the heart.