Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Magic of Limping John. By Frank Goodwyn. New York
(Farrar and Rinehart), 1944. Pp. iii+235. Illustrated. $2.50.
In the long course of human history, in which repetition
seems to be the only rule, it is something to be the first in
anything. The Magic of Limping John is the first folk novel of
the Texas Mexicans.
On the Brownsville road, running south from San Antonio
to the river, the little village of Los Puentes drowsed on the bank
of the Campo Verde Creek. Forty years ago one of its in-
habitants was a lame, black-bearded Mexican named Limping
John Luna, who fiddled and caught wild horses for a living and
drank tequila in the Black Horse Saloon for pleasure. He lived
a happy and healthy life. He was big and strong; he worked
only when he felt like it; he had no wife to worry him. But
the lame foot, which no one ever had seen with the boot off,
reminded some of his tavern compadres that the devil is said
to have foot trouble also. Don Gavino, the innkeeper, was sure
that Limping John's thick beard and long hair were there to
hide a "diabolical face and horns," and it amused the fiddler
to scare Don Gavino into hysterics by pretending that this was
true. Soon Limping John found that he had started some-
thing he could not stop.
One after another things happened that convinced people
of his supernatural powers. They even gave him credit for
raising people from the dead. For a while he played the game
just for fun, but when he tried to give it up, he found that he
could not. Even the padre, on his deathbed, told him he had
to go on. "Just the same," said Padre Ignacio, "if the people
think you did the miracle, you did, it. What you saw does not
matter. It is what the people think that counts."
Whether he liked it or not, Limping John had to settle down
to the business of being a wizard, and it was bad for him. On
the whole, his prescriptions were good for the people who came
to him for help, but when he actually began to believe in his
own wizardry, he ceased to be the healthy son of the soil he
had been. The sensible Natalia told him what was happening.
"You grow soft like a pig that does nothing but sit in a pen and
grunt and eat the corn they bring him." But Natalia was too
late. Limping John fell into the clutches of Don Fabian Balboa
and Avelia Moreno, who managed him into riches and made
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146055/. Accessed August 4, 2015.