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A Legend From Baja

by Story Girl CA- Caroline 2 months ago in urban legend · updated 2 months ago
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True Story

Photo contributed by Shutterstock @Pixels

Thankfully, an unexpected summer monsoon swept away the dreaded dust and heat just a few days before we were due to round up thirty heads of cattle almost twenty-six miles away from home. Once we had them gathered, the task at hand was to drive them back to our ranch for doctoring, vitamins, and vaccinations.

The day we set off, temperatures were in the high 70s, a welcomed change from 100-degree heat. We left our ranch located in Northern Baja, California, Mexico, riding east to a line camp high into the mountains where the cows were.

Photo contributed by Caroline Aguiar

A line camp is more land than anything else. It's another section of a larger ranch, usually where cattle are kept during certain parts of the year.

After eight hours of maneuvering through ravines, canyons, and up and down hillsides, we arrived at our destination for the evening just as the sun settled behind the mountains.

As I tied my horse and began unsaddling, my thoughts drifted to stories I'd heard about this area where we were to spend the night. Jamatay (Hum-a-tye) once belonged to an indigenous people of the region called the Kumiai. A nomadic group, they had lived in Northern Baja long before the first Franciscan Priests set foot upon their land.

The stories say if you spend the night there, it's likely you'll see lights during the night coming from nowhere, or you might hear voices in the Kumiai dialect. Worse yet, the stories say some unsuspecting souls have mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.

Photo contributed by Caroline Aguiar

I remember a pack trip we did some years ago; on the way back, for part of our journey, our guides were two Kumiai cowboys. The quickest way back to our ranch was to pass through Jamatay. Oddly enough, I noticed the cowboys picked up the pace, and I asked my husband Raul what the rush was. He said they wanted to leave Jamatay before dark. Then he told me the story.

During the 1940s, a notorious landowner became very greedy. He offered to buy Jamatay, but the Kumiai refused. He harassed them and offered them insane amounts of money, but they never accepted.

Finally, in the late hours of a particularly hot summer night, the land owner, with the help of his cohorts, drove five bulldozers over to Jamatay and mowed everything and everyone down in their path. The entire village was destroyed, and some say the land itself was forever cursed.

The land owner soon fell sick and forgot about Jamatay. Today the land remains untouched by human hands, with only the cattle, birds, and critters to uphold life on its timeless mountains, plains, and within its deepest canyons.

I unhooked the cinch on my horse while the story flashed through my mind and hauled the heavy saddle to rest at the bottom of a nearby oak tree. After the horses were watered and fed, my husband began cooking dinner. I was about to join him in the preparations but not before taking a few moments to peer out into the darkness.

The story of Jamatay didn't scare me, although I wondered if the legend was true. Would I see lights far off in the distance or hear the voices of the long-gone Kumiai people who once dwelled in the area?

Suddenly, a cow's lonely bellow startled me. I stood still, listening, but heard nothing more than the rustling of a gentle wind in the trees. The aroma of burning oak in our campfire filled the air, and a cozy peacefulness settled in all around me.

Removing my gloves, I gave my horse a pat on his sweaty neck as he eagerly began to eat his flake of hay. I walked over to the campfire, ready to prepare a delicious meal for everyone and more than eager to enjoy a peaceful night's rest.

Photo contributed by author

Photo contributed by author

urban legend

About the author

Story Girl CA- Caroline

Writing is my source of peace. I write short stories: memoirs, fiction, and on matters of the soul.

Writing could have been a career for me but I let it slip away. It’s never too late to start again. I hope you enjoy what you read here.

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Comments (2)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran2 months ago

    This was so well written and I enjoyed reading it!

  • A great tale and some wonderful pictures, thank you for taking us with you on this trail.

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