A Reward for Josefina is part of the Short Stories collections.


Story Summary

As the entire family walked up to the foothills of the Mountains to gather piñón nuts, Josefina tried to match Tía Dolores’ long strides. Josefina liked how energetically her Aunt walked, her wholehearted laugh, her strong hand, the way her Aunt really listened to her, pretty much everything about her Aunt. Dolores recently came to live on the ranch and each of the sisters were trying in their own way to please her.
A Reward for Josefina 1

Josefina points out the sun to Tía Dolores.

Josefina points out the sun and Tía Dolores remarks it was a beautiful day. Clara adds that it was a fine day for work and Josefina laughs that gathering piñóns was fun, not work. Clara tried to impress Tía Dolores by being practical and noting how valuable the nuts were for Papá’s trades. Francisca, who never worried about being practical, said the nuts were delicious and tells her aunt how they would roast the nuts on winter evenings. The memory makes Francisca hungry, but Ana reminds her that lunch was still hours away. Carmen and her husband Miguel were also going with the Montoyas to help with the gathering, and Ana had brought her sons Juan and Antonio along.

Ana held Antonio as he was too little to ride the mule, and Tía Dolores offers to hold the baby. Ana and Dolores share a smile, making Josefina feel jealous. She knew she shouldn’t envy the fact the two were more like friends then aunt and niece. The two were close in age, and Ana took over the responsibility of running the household after Mama’s death a year ago. Tía Dolores was kind and loving to Josefina, but she wanted her aunt to smile at her with pride and think of her as someone special. Francisca was naturally special; she could make her Aunt laugh just with her quick and lively nature. Clara had already won her Aunt’s praise with her careful sewing and weaving. Josefina thinks that today could be the day to impress her Aunt by saving her from getting eaten by a mountain lion. Josefina laughed at herself, knowing her aunt was the most surefooted of the group and could probably shoo away a Mountain Lion on her own.
A Reward for Josefina 2

Papá tells Juan and Josefina to protect the lunch.

The family find a spot to build a fire, and Papá announces that the one who gathers the most nuts would get a special prize. Josefina is estatic about the chance to impress her Aunt, but Papá tells Josefina she had to stay at the campfire and help Carmen and Miguel to keep the fire as well as look after Ana’s boys. Juan voices Josefina’s inner complaints, wanting to help collect the nuts and get the reward. Papá tells him they have different jobs to do; the guard the lunch from hungry animals. Josefina agrees with him, but she was brokenhearted about losing her best chance to impress her Aunt.
A Reward for Josefina 3

Josefina tends to the fire.

Papá, Tía Dolores, and the sisters leave for the foothills as Josefina helped with the fire. She was grumpy, thinking that she may as well have stayed home. When Miguel said he was going to take the mule to the stream, Josefina asks loudly to go with him. Carmen was about to say yes when the kids wake up from their nap and Antonio makes a fuss. Carmen figures the baby was hungry and had to get Ana to nurse him, meaning Josefina had to stay behind and keep an eye on Juan and the lunch. As Miguel and Carmen leave, Juan starts to pester Josefina about lunch and picking nuts. Josefina realizes he wouldn’t stop pestering her until she found something for him to do, so she decides they could go nut gathering nearby the fire.

Juan is eager to collect the most nuts, but Josefina didn’t have the heart to tell him they probably wouldn’t collect that many. The two scurry from tree to tree, but don’t find much. When Juan noted how few nuts they got, Josefina felt sorry and decided to try shaking the tree like her Papá. The idea doesn’t work so well due to Josefina’s small size, but she gets the idea to jump on the branches and bring out more nuts. As she climbed the tree, she was thankful for her small size as she could fit through the needly branches better then her sisters could have. Josefina manages to get a lot more pine cones down by jumping and Juan’s sack was growing fatter.

A Reward for Josefina 4

Josefina finds the squirrel's nest.

When Josefina bounced on the highest tree branch, she noticed a squirrel nibbling at the lunch by the campfire. Josefina tells Juan to run back to the fire to chase It off, but Juan’s little legs couldn’t go very fast and the squirrel wasn’t afraid. By the time Josefina got down, the animal had taken something from the lunch and went back to it’s nest in the nearby cotton wood tree. Juan yells at the squirrel to come back, and the squirrel leaves the hole with a nut in its hand. Josefina notes that the squirrel couldn’t have gotten a piñón nut from their lunch for from it’s tree. When the squirrel started to make noises, Josefina realizes the animal was trying to distract them and she knew the reason. She tells Juan to grab the sack as she climbed up to the hole. Josefina was excited to see that the hole was full of hundreds and hundreds of nuts, and she tosses them down to Juan.

Everyone returned to the fire ground to see that Josefina and Juan had set up lunch. Tía Dolores compliments the two and Josefina beams. As they sit down for lunch, Papá began to judge who collected the most nuts. Just as he was about to announce the winner, Josefina tells him she and Juan collected nuts too and asks him to carry her sack. Josefina heard Francisca whisper to Clara there was no way she collected as much nuts as they did. Josefina and Juan proudly point out their sack sitting at the bottom of a big tree. To everyone’s surprise, the sack was nearly overflowing with nuts and was much fatter then the other sacks. Papá concludes it was the heaviest bag by far and declares Josefina and Juan the winners of the prize.

He looks through the lunch over and over, but can’t find the reward he had brought with him. Papá says it was a pilonchillo, a little cone of hard brown sugar, and Josefina and Juan realize the Squirrel must have stolen it. Josefina states it was a fair trade as she explained how they got their nuts from the squirrel’s nest. Tía Dolores is very impressed with their cleverness and hugs the two. She then whispers in Josefina’s hear that she was proud of her. Josefina hugged her Aunt back. She was glad the squirrel had stolen the reward, as no reward for Josefina could be sweeter then her Aunt’s praise.

Meet the Author

Valerie talks about her favorite New Mexican story, The Good Life, and its inspiration for Josefina's story.

Looking Back: Harvest Time in 1824

Discusses the autumn harvest season in New Mexico. Topics include:

  • What chores people would do around their rancho.
  • The use of acequias to carry water from steams and into peoples' crops, and how acequias were maintained during the spring
  • What crops farmers would plant in springtime, and how children would apply an adobe on to their homes.
  • What grew in a kitchen garden, and the chores people had during the summer.
  • How people harvested their crops in the fall, and what people made with their harvested corn.
  • What girls and women preserved from their kitchen garden. and how meat was preserved.
  • What people did while they worked, and the importance of harvesting before the winter.
  • The gathering of pinon nuts, which were prized trading items, and the fastest way of retrieving them.

Activity: Make a Pastel

Learn how to make a pastel, a pastry.

Items Associated with A Reward for Josefina

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