(Osha is a plant. Historically, the root has been used as medicine by Native American and Hispanic cultures. Be careful not to confuse osha with the very poisonous plant hemlock. The leaves of the two plants are very similar. Osha must be identified by the root, which people say has an unpleasant celery-like odor.)
Adelita carefully dug the osha root so as not to damage the skin and placed it in her apron pocket. As she walked back toward her house, she looked down the green valley toward a herd of sheep and a young man tending them. It had been a good spring, and the sheep, with their fat lambs, munched contentedly on tall grasses. The young man had removed his shirt, which he was using as a pillow while his head rested against a smooth rock. He appeared to be sleeping, but a black and white dog, ears alert, lay at his feet, ready to pounce if any lamb dared to stray from the herd.
She pushed capricious curls back from her sweat-beaded brow. Her fiery red hair and green eyes, a characteristic of all the women from her mother’s family, traced back to their northern Spain heritage and served as another mark that set her apart from the dark-skinned villagers. She shaded her eyes and studied the man’s features, his muscular body and fine-boned face. He was not from La Liendre. Of that she was sure.
While she watched, a crouching coyote slipped through the grass toward the herd, singling out the youngest of the lambs. But, the dog also noticed the coyote, and gave chase, barking loudly, which woke the man. He jumped to his feet and reached for a rifle propped against the rock beside him. In his haste, he tripped, causing the gun to misfire, and scattering the sheep in all directions. Adelita laughed, and the man looked up at the bluff where she stood.
“Don’t stand there laughing,” he said. “Help me get my uncle’s sheep back in the flock.”
“Do I look like a sheep herder?” Adelita said in a teasing way. “Your dog can do that.”
“Are you real?” the man asked, rubbing his eyes. “Or am I still dreaming? What is your name?”
Adelita did not give her name for fear the gossip surrounding her would frighten him. Instead, she flashed him a fleeting smile and a wave, and began the climb down to her house hidden behind the big cottonwood near the river. As she walked, a plan began to take shape in her head, and she detoured from the path to the place she knew she could find one more herb. Sacred datura, or la yerba del Diablo, grew on the sunny side of a ravine, hidden from view and unknown to others. Adelita put her basket beside the path and carefully inched her way down the hillside until she reached a familiar grouping of boulders. The sprawling plant, partially hidden by these rocks, was difficult to find during daylight, but impossible to miss at night when its large, white, trumpet-shaped flowers opened and released their intoxicating smell. She had been tending this datura for years, picking only a few leaves and blossoms so as not to damage the mother plant, and returning in the fall to gather some of the seeds. All parts of the plant, including the roots, were useful.