Antonio with his cheerful round face and thick handlebar mustache always shaded by an oversized, wide brimmed hat presented the impression he was hoping they would remake the Cisco Kid and that he could play the part of Pancho. He was a good man and was better at hanging fence than I was but everyone, including Antonio, knew I got the job of foreman because old man Bower was as prejudiced as they come.
Old man Bower was an odd duck to say the very least. With a shape that mimicked an avocado with legs he appeared almost cartoon like but there was nothing funny about his acid laced tirades, his biting comments, or the short fuse temper.
If Antonio had a fault it was his love for the bars on the weekends after payday, a passion fueled by the acceptance of the fact there was, in his mind, a zero chance of moving ahead in this world. As regular as clockwork this always led to him showing up late for work the following Monday.
Bower’s accepted it as a way to keep Antonio from moving on. Antonio recognized the leniency for what it was. It was a pretty twisted relationship.
Old man Bower was one of those fellows who had seemed to make money without meaning to. His shotgun approach to projects, and absent minded ways, ensured maximum waste of time and money in everything we did. He was a fellow you worked for but could never respect.
In spite of his shortcomings Antonio was a man you could count on to get a job done. So, when work required taking a crew on the road, he was always on my short list for who to take.
Aside from hard, honest work, and a love for the bars, Antonio had two very memorable traits. He loved his chili peppers (his dad had a pepper farm over on the Rio Grande near Hatch) and he was quite creative in his excuses for reasons why he was late on the Monday after payday.
One Monday he showed up at lunch time and looked as though he had been wrapped in barbed wire and was drug behind a truck over a few miles of bad Texas road. The excuse was novel, his foot had slipped from the brake when he stopped and leaned out to pick up the paper. Then his pant leg hooked on the seat adjustment and he was drug across the street where the truck hit a tree.
Well, I endured the stories and the late days for a month or two. Then when old man Bower’s told me I was in charge while he was away, and assigned our crew a huge project with a tight deadline, the time came to put an end to Antonio’s long weekends. 
The first Monday there was an improvement, Antonio was a half hour late and I chewed his backside. The next time he was on time. Likewise with the third Monday after payday.
Then on the next Monday he showed up at two in the afternoon. He looked like holy Hell. His nose was broke, his eyes were swollen almost shut, and he had stitches in a few places on his face.
He told me the wildest story yet and I snapped. I ordered him into the truck, told him we were driving to his house, and if the story wasn’t true, he was fired.
All the way into town he pleaded, “Senor, Jim. Really. You respect me and I wanted to be on time. I set the alarm clock. I didn’t go to the bar yesterday.”
“This morning the ceiling fell on me. Really. I am telling you the truth.” And so it went for miles.
Antonio lived in the old part of town in a big rambling brick house that had weathered more than a century of New Mexico mountain winters. At some point it had been carved into apartments but few other changes had been made.
I pulled up in front of the towering hedge, Antonio jumped out to open the gate, and with growing anger led the way up the stairs to his apartment and into his bedroom. There in the center of his blood stained bed, was a huge chunk of horsehair plaster. Above was the bare lathe that hadn’t seen the light of day in at least a half century.
I never said a word as we drove back to the job site. I never again reprimanded Antonio for tardiness and I never again questioned his long winded and creative excuses.

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