When Pepe is sent to town by his mother to perform his first “labor”, it does not seem like it is such a big thing to ask. Yes, Pepe is proud, because this is the first time Mama has ever given him any special responsibility. Mama tells him to go and get supplies they need. He is not to waste time or money on frivolities. Pepe tells Mama “I am a man”, but his mother tells him, “Thou? A man? Thou art a peanut?” Pepe seems to realize that although his mother doesn’t say it or show it, she is trusting him by allowing him to go and is proud of him. Pepe is allowed to ride in his father’s saddle, put “the hat band on the hat… and wear the green hankerchief.” Pepe leaves with his shoulders and back straight and a promise to return soon. Pepe nor Mama realizes how all their lives will change in the next few hours.
Pepe returns home deep in the early morning hours ofthe next day and he has gotten everything his mother asked for and more. He has entangled himself in trouble. His knife, which his dead father had given him and of which he was so proud, has killed a man in an accident. A man said names to Pepe that he could not allow, and before Pepe knew it, the knife “went almost by itself.” Pepe is changed from boy to man with one slip of the wrist. Now Pepe must flee for his life.
Pepe rides until he is bone weary. The trails seem straight up. Food and water are very scarce. As Pepe moves up he casts away his earthly burdens by leaving things behind as he moves from site to site. He runs out of water, he leaves his father’s coat that his mother had given him for the cold nights, and finally he leaves his gun. Pepe is wounded by gunshot and he becomes delirious with pain, but he keeps on climbing.Pepe makes his way to the top, finds a small reserve of strength, prays, and makes a final decision to stand tall and take his punishment like a man. He gazes up into the sky and shows himself a target against a morning sky.
Initially, this final act may seem cowardly, but the implied author speaking straight to his implied reader knows that this was an act of bravery. Pepe uses his only choice. He made a grave mistake, committed a bad deed, and now there is no other way to prove he is a man. He felt hopeless in this life, but gains a hope as he gazes into heaven, prays, and stands tall to allow his stalkers to do the job they came to do. Pepe is no longer weak or lazy, as his mother used to teasingly say. No, now he is the “fine and brave” man his mama always believed him to be.