Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Butcher


Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you have a blessed day, and enjoy some good times with family. We will not have a mystery person contest today, but will resume the mystery person contest next Saturday.

As we have learned this week, Pancho Villa was more than just a bandit and revolutionary leader, he was in fact the de facto government of northern Mexico. As such, he had lots of responsibilities in addition to your normal raiding, pillaging and fighting. As such, he was in need of a right hand man to focus solely on the dirty work of banditry. He found a perfect man for the job . . . Rodolfo Fierro. The peons of Mexico affectionately referred to him simply as "The Butcher", and I don't think the name had anything to do with expertise in a meat market. No, Fierro was the ruthless bandit that allowed Villa to somewhat keep his hands clean, when necessary.

When trying to run a bandit operation, one of the key challenges is to keep the bandits outfitted and fed. This was typically done by raiding cattle or other creative activities. Supplies were always tight, so one of the particular challenges of a bandit operation was what to do with captured prisoners. Villa found Rodolfo to be particularly adept at handling this problem. In one case, Villa's forces had achieved a stunning military victory. One result of the victory was the capture of about 600 Federales. Villa put the Federales in Rodolfo's care. Rodolfo got them all together. He gave them a choice. They could either join up with Villa's bandits, or they could return home to a peaceful life with their families. Those that chose to join Villa's forces were brought into the ranks. Those that wanted to return home were marched out to a field. Rodolfo put them in groups of ten. He then would choose a group and tell them to run on home. As they ran, he would personally shoot each one as they ran away. In one day he was able to shoot each of the 600 prisoners. One prisoner was able to successfully get away. After all the shooting, Rodolfo's wrist got weary, and he paused for  a moment to stretch his hand. That was just the time needed for one of the running prisoners to escape being shot. In retrospect, choosing to join Villa was the wiser choice. Perhaps if faced with such a choice, one should choose to join Villa's forces, and then look for an opportunity one day to defect when no one is watching.

Another way that Villa would supply his army was to basically confiscate property. There was a wealthy Caucasian landowner in northern Mexico by the name of Benton. Villa had his men go in and confiscate Benton's large ranch. Benton was pretty upset and went and demanded a meeting with Villa. Things got pretty heated in the meeting, and it is said that Benton drew his gun on Villa. Rodolfo immediately took Benton outside and shot him. Villa issued  press release describing how his men heroically averted an assassination attempt on Villa. People in the US and abroad were outraged, and immediately demanded Rodolfo's head. In typical bandit fashion, Villa responded by promoting Rodolfo to General. 

With Rodolfo now general, he was given part of Villa's army, and was involved in a major battle with Federale forces. Rodolfo was defeated in grand fashion, but survived the battle. Villa called Rodolfo in, and demoted him for the loss. The meeting became very animated, and Rodolfo pulled his revolver and took at shot at Villa. In retrospect, this turned out to be a poor choice. Rodolfo was disarmed, taken outside, and shot. 

Perhaps the lesson we learn from both the Benton and Rodolfo meetings with Villa is that if you ever find yourself in a disagreement with a Bandit leader in HIS office, you best not pull a revolver on him. It would be wiser to bide your time, leave peacefully and then plan an ambush. In fact, Villa was eventually killed by an ambush, likely done by some of his disgruntled bandits. His last words were reported to be, "Don't let it end like this, tell them I said something."


Rodolfo Fierro and Pancho Villa in happier times.

12 comments:

  1. When you mentioned Vills's need for provisions, I recalled a large house in the town of Sierra Blanca where I spent my high school summers working on a large ranch my uncle ran. The house was surrounded by a tall wall on all four sides and there were only two very large gates for entry. By the late 50s when I was there, the wall was in serious disrepair, but it was easy to see that it had been about 6 1/2 feet tall.

    I asked my uncle about it and he told me it was the headquarters for a very large ranch early in the century and was built to protech his family against raid from Villa and his men as they stole cattle and sheep to feed his army.

    Last time I went through Sierra Blanca, the house was gone....fire I think, but the foundation of the wall was still there.

    History is all around us. Thanks again for the lesson on Mexican history. Happy New Year!

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  2. Merry Christmas, PJM! Thanks for the gift of your blog. May you and your family enjoy the best of Christmases!

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  3. Merry Christmas to you too. I find your blog very interesting, I love to research my own family history and see pictures of Italy from way back when so it is neat to see you doing the same.

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  4. Tay Tay,
    Thanks for the kind words, and Merry Christmas to you as well.
    PJM

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  5. Merry Christmas to you and your family PJM.

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  6. Thank you Danny, and same to you.
    PJM

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  7. Dear PJM, Mrs PJM & Little PJM: Have a very blessed Christmas full of peace, joy & Christ's love. I am also with family today & that is the only gift I want.

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  8. Judi,
    Thank you for the warm Christmas wishes, and hope you have a wonderful time with your family.
    PJM

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  9. Merry Christmas Mr. and Mrs PJM.

    Fascinating history lesson this week. We don't get much Mexican history here in Canada, so it was very enlightening for me.

    Keep up the great work.

    Graham

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  10. Merry Christmas! I Just went home for the holidays and dig over my old pictures too.

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  11. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

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