The book starts out with a woman in Washington D.C. recalling events that took place in Mexico. We then move on to meet the Old Gringo (old man). We are at his graveside where soldiers are digging him up. They talk about the first time they met the Old Gringo and how he had impressed them. They talk about how he came to Mexico to die. Once we get to chapter three we are engaged as if it is present time. The Old Gringo is coming to Mexico; he goes by train from El Paso. The Old Gringo is impressed at how the area has modernized. In chapter 4 the old gringo is riding into a camp. The soldiers there are watching him. Inocencio Mansalvo remarks when he first sees the old gringo that he has surely come to die. The Colonel states that he believes the old gringo to be a man of honor, so the guerrillas do not set upon him at once, but warily watch his every move. The old gringo travels with these men for a few days. In chapter 5 General Tomas Arroyo introduces himself. Because he has given himself that military title, the old gringo knows the general will test him and push him to see how far he will go. As the others realize that the general is not angry about the coin, they give the gringo a sombrero and force food and mescal on him. They assume he has been a military man in the United States and call him "general." He clarifies that he was a topographical engineer for the Indiana Volunteers in the American Civil War. The group amazed that the old gringo is talking about a war from fifty years before. They introduce themselves as they visit over the meal. The old gringo earns their respect by eating spicy tacos and hot chilies without reacting, and he drinks the alcohol that has a worm in it.