‘‘I don’t recollect the incident,’’ I replied plainly. It happened so long ago. But the truth
was, I lied, even now. We heard rumors that there had been an awful fight, and after
it was over an American named Taylor lay dead. Word came up river that they had
caught a Mexican and there would be a trial, so we made our way to town. By nightfall
there must have been a hundred men wandering the streets or at the saloon. It was just
before midnight when the men assembled the jury. I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise
that the Mexican was found guilty. They sent for me and I tied the knot. It wasn’t the
first time I had been called on. It was just right, thirteen smooth coils around a noose.
The greaser didn’t say much, and when it was all done the noose slid over his bare neck.
Someone yelled ‘‘Pull,’’ and his body rose silently from the ground and then stopped
with a jerk. Against a dark night sky, I heard a gasp of air escape from his twisted form
and it was
I read the passage at a small art gallery before these chapters were ever fin-
ished. I decided to base the story on the Gold Rush accounts I had been
reading, but rather than writing from the perspective of a Mexican who had
been lynched, I decided to imagine the story as told by an Anglo-American
lyncher. Conceptualized as a performance, or at least a performative act, the
reading was intended to expose the audience to the history of lynching in the
West. My costume, if one can call it that, was a well-pressed shirt and a pair
of trousers. However, there was one other element that the reader may not
be able to visualize. As a Latino man, I wondered how my physical presence
might play into the reception of the piece. I could not anticipate how my
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