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Dr. Hugo Pecos: My Story

At work in my garden

My family at a workers camp
in California. Left to right:
Heladio, Hector, me,
Mariateresa and Jose
I was born in Texas in 1923, son of a migrant farm workers from Mexico. We traveled the country in a battered truck with all of our possessions piled high in the back, and we went wherever there were crops to be picked: apples in Washington, chile in New Mexico, tomatoes in California. It was the depression, the time of the dust bowl, and many of the native workers didn't want us around. Though we were often the targets of hate, the discrimination made us closer as a family. Eventually, that family grew to include one girl and four boys; I was the middle child.

My first school; Austin, Texas
Some people may think it was a terrible thing for children to be working all the time, but we knew no other life and so were happy in ours. In fact, I'd wager that we were closer than many of the families I see today, with their big houses and cars and modern conveniences. When I wasn't working in the fields, I tagged along after my older brother Orlando. I looked up to him and tried to emulate him in every way. He was handsome, a gifted baseball player and a magnet for the girls.

The vampire population in the U.S. was near its peak in those days, and the effects were apparent all over the country. Every night at dusk, no matter where you where, curfew sirens would shatter the air. As children, we never really understood why our parents made us come in when those sirens sounded. After all, none of us had ever seen a vampire.

Life had settled into a steady rhythm when we arrived in North Carolina for the tobacco harvest in the Summer of '31. It was hard work, with the sun beating down and the sticky tobacco juice getting in your eyes. To make matters worse, the forest around the workers camp was said to be home to a vampire pack; several farmhands had been dragged away in the months before our arrival.

Shortly after we arrived, Orlando began a flirtation with the plantation owner's teenage daughter, Rayleen. At the end of the day's work, she would find some excuse to ride her horse out and steal moments with him. When my father found out, he told Orlando that he couldn't see her anymore; he knew well what would happen if the owner found out. But Orlando was headstrong, and he continued the relationship in secret.

One night, I awoke with a strange feeling of dread and discovered Orlando's bed empty. I slipped out of the cabin and looked for him all over the camp. I finally found him with Rayleen: they were kissing under an enormous oak tree. Embarrassed, I turned away for a moment. When I looked back, four vampires dropped out of the tree and dragged them away. Though the vampires only appeared for an instant, I'll never forget their bluish pallor, black eyes and malevolent smiles.

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