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Revisit to: Long, long ago in Mexico . . .

While browsing recently among past postings that are available on Twitter, hoping to find fodder for additional postings, I returned to this one. It is so beautifully composed and presented, and I enjoyed reading it so much, that I decided to bring it up from the depths of the Stygian darkness where it has stagnated for eighteen months—since June of 2009—and into the bright light of today.

Please note that I praise this posting with all modesty cast aside, just as I am wont to do with all my literary efforts. Please note also that the lawless situation that exists in Mexico today is not new—it was just as prevalent and just as brutal eighteen months ago as it is now. Click here to read the original post.

If you doubt my statement that the lawless situation in Mexico is not new , read the introductory paragraph below carefully, keeping in mind that it was written in June of 2009. I firmly believe that these conditions will prevail unless—and until—Mexico is annexed by the United States and our military forces are put into action in the newly acquired territory, but only after they are withdrawn from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and rested a bit. The sovereign nations of Mexico and the United States need to acknowledge that the drug cartels—the insurgents—are in charge, and are just as dangerous—nay, more dangerous—to the United States than the insurgents in the Middle East.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

Long, long ago in Mexico

Long, long ago in Mexico, in a time when drug lords were not spraying the streets with bullets from rapid-fire weapons purchased illegally in the United States and exported illegally to Mexico, and were not murdering Mexican police chiefs and news reporters and anyone else that might be expected to hamper their efforts to maintain control of Mexico and its citizens—long, long ago when roving gangs were not kidnapping U. S. citizens on both sides of the Mexican border and holding them for ransom and various other reasons—a time when the streets in Mexican border towns were as safe or safer than streets in our border cities—and a time when I was the supervisory Customs inspector at the Port of Roma, in the sleepy town of Roma, Texas, high on a bluff (the town was high, not I) overlooking the Rio Grande river, across from the even sleepier town of Miguel Aleman, Mexico—this was the time in which I and one of my three princesses (the one in Virginia that takes all the pretty pictures) took a brief trip to Mexico during her spring break from studies at Pan-American University in Edinburg, Texas.

In the spring of 1979, our father-and-daughter team (a college student of 18 tender years and a military-retiree father of 47 not-so-tender years) embarked on a memorable sojourn into the wilds of Mexico. We traveled in a 1978 Volkswagen diesel Rabbit, a small 4-door vehicle labeled “Panama Brown” by its maker, but its color could better be described as bright orange. It was a very small people carrier—to illustrate its smallness, I can tell you that somewhere between Monterrey, Mexico and Saltillo, Mexico, we strayed off-road into a canyon where it was necessary to navigate our auto around huge rocks, some much larger than the Rabbit. After circumventing several such rocks, with the paved highway receding in the distance and a line spoken by a Mexican bandit in a Hollywood western film ringing in our ears, reason prevailed and we returned to the pavement. That memorable line was, “We don’ take no stinkin’ prisoners!”

We began our adventure in Reynosa, Mexico, a metropolitan city on the Rio Grande river. The river marks the boundary between the U. S. and Mexico—its name in Spanish is Rio Bravo, a more appropriate and more appealing term than grand—I suppose it can be considered brave, but at no point can it be considered grand—at least not, for example, in comparison with our Mississippi river. Reynosa is directly opposite Hidalgo, Texas, a small city a few miles from McAllen, Texas.

Our first stop in Mexico was at the Office of Immigration to secure “permisos,” official documents that would authorize us to travel past the 15-kilometer check point, a distance of some 9-10 miles, beyond which is considered Mexico’s interior. Our treatment by Immigration officers began routinely, but progressed into a “situation.” The first officer we met took our vitals (name, citizenship, destination, purpose of visit, etc.), and leered knowingly when I said we were father and daughter—his thoughts were printed all over his face. He was thinking, “Yeah, sure, you are father and daughter, heh, heh, heh.” My daughter looked younger than her 18 years, and I grudgingly admit that I may have appeared a year or two older than my 47 years. After some copious stamping of various documents (our permits), the officer passed them to another officer that was apparently guarding the exit to the vehicle parking area.

The second officer gave our permits a cursory inspection, stuffed them into an envelope, laid them on the table in front of us and said in English, “Senor, anything you may wish to give.” This was a request for mordida, a very expressive Spanish noun derived from the Spanish verb “morder,” which means “to bite.” Mordida, a diminutive of that verb, is used to describe  “a little bite.” Mexican officials take “a little bite” out of everything which moves across the Mexican border, in both directions, including merchandise, produce and people. Mordida is a way of life in Mexico, so ingrained in the economy and in daily life that people expect the demand, and would be very surprised if it were not made.

The Mexico of today is a far cry from the Mexico of 1979. My response then would not be my response today, not in these trying times. This was 30 years ago, way back in 1979—times were different. I showed the officer my official identification and said, “Senor, no deseo dar. Soy el supervisor de las aduanas en el puerto de Roma, Tejas, y amplío cada cortesía a cualquier oficial del gobierno mexicano que entra en nuestro país.” What I said was, in fairly lucid Spanish, “Sir, I do not wish to give. I am the Customs supervisor at the port of Roma, Texas, and I extend every courtesy to any Mexican government official entering my country.”

The situation changed, abruptly and for the better. The officer stood, shook hands with us and escorted us to his commander. He introduced me to his commander as the Customs jefe at Roma, and introduced my daughter as my daughter. The comandante enthusiastically welcomed us into Mexico, and offered to accompany us to our vehicle and place official seals on our luggage—with those seals we would not be burdened with inspections at the 15-kilometer check point. Having nothing to hide and not wishing to call undue attention to ourselves, I politely declined the offer. We were, however, accompanied to our vehicle and were sent on our way with a hearty “Vaya con dios,” the Spanish version of “God speed.” And we sped away, at least as well as we could in a 4-cylinder diesel Volkswagen.

At the check point we barely slowed down—the officials there made us welcome and expressed their hopes that we would enjoy our visit to their country. We were reasonably certain that the station had been notified, whether by phone, radio, smoke signals or passenger pigeon, that our arrival at the check point was imminent, and that we could be identified from a distance because we would arrive in a little-bitty bright orange (Panama brown) car.

In our family we have always numbered our adventures, but the numbers are never in sequence and we never record them—someone simply picks a number and off we go. This adventure encompasses many scenarios, some foolish, some frightening, all memorable and well worth the telling. After passing the check point we took in the cities of Monterrey and Saltillo and a visit to and into Garcia’s Cave, a visit that was both foolish and frightening.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 

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Mexico—Texas border relations . . .

In 1977 during my sixth year as a journeyman Customs inspector at the port of Progreso, Texas I was promoted to a first-level supervisory position at the port of Roma,Texas. Roma was a small port in terms of staffing, consisting of the port director, a first-level supervisor, the office manager and ten inspectors—one of the ten was a combination inspector and detector dog handler. The image at right shows the old international suspension bridge, built in 1927 and the new bridge completed in 1979. The old bridge remains as a historic structure and will only be used for pedestrian traffic.

A cursory review of enforcement records at the port presented a dismal picture of enforcement—either everyone that entered the port was scrupulously honest, or the inspection force was lax in its enforcement duties. The latter proved to be the case, and with the port director’s assistance and approval I developed and established procedures intended to improve the enforcement posture of the port. With only two exceptions the inspection staff was local, born and reared in the area with relatives on both sides of the international border. Complacency was the order of the day when I arrived, and I soon incurred the wrath of the inspectors and that of a goodly number of international travelers.

The seizures began to stack up—small amounts of various narcotics were intercepted by increasing the number of vehicles sent to the secondary inspection area, along with undeclared items such as alcoholic beverages, prohibited fruits, meats and plants. By checking vehicle serial numbers our interceptions of stolen vehicles began to rise, and Customs duties and fines collected on undeclared commercial importations and personal importations began to pour in to our cashier.

There was a new kid on the block, a supervisor that almost immediately incurred the displeasure of citizens of the local community, the inspection staff at the port, travelers from the interior of Mexico and local citizens from Miguel Aleman, Roma’s sister city on the other side of the Rio Grande River. I also incurred the wrath of our Mexican federal counterparts at the other end of the bridge spanning the river.

In the early days of my assignment at Roma, I frequently took the place of the officer at the primary inspection point, and in that position I checked vehicle interiors when traffic was light, and referred vehicles to the secondary inspection area when traffic increased. I also worked with inspectors in the secondary area, confirming declarations made at primary and searching travelers and their vehicle’s contents, and the seizures began to mount.

Miguel Aleman was the Mexican city at the other end of the suspension bridge spanning the Rio Grande River at Roma. The Mexican federal building housed a full staff of Customs, Immigration and Agriculture officers, all fully subject to United States laws when entering the country. Early one morning I checked a Mexican Customs officer and his vehicle, a Volkswagen bus, in the secondary area. The officer told the primary officer he was bringing nothing from Mexico, and repeated his declaration to me in secondary. I found two young boys hiding in the wagon, one behind the back seat and one hidden under the back seat.

The little fellow under the rear seat had crawled through a very small opening and the sliding panel was closed behind him. I slid the panel open, saw a pair of shoes and closed the panel. At that instant I realized that I had seen a pair of feet in that pair of shoes and I ordered the Mexican officer to extract his passenger—it wasn’t an easy task!

Questioning by U. S. Immigration officers determined that the boys were the officer’s nephews and neither boy had the documents necessary for entry in the United States, so the Mexican Customs officer hid them—he wanted to take them to the city of McAllen, Texas to purchase clothing and supplies for the coming school year—the small city of Roma offered very little in the way of shopping.

That stalwart representative of Mexico’s federal inspection force, regardless of his reasons, was guilty of breaking the laws of the United States. He could have easily secured a temporary pass from Immigration for the purpose, but he preferred to smuggle the boys in, just as he and others had done in the past, obviously feeling that no inspection would be made. That pretty well summarizes the enforcement posture that existed at the port of Roma prior to my assignment there. If two kids could be smuggled in without fear of detection, virtually any amount of illegal narcotics could pass with the same ease. I have no doubt that they did in the past, but I at least slowed them down during my tenure there, some two and one-half years.

The commander of Miguel Aleman’s federal Customs staff made a negative declaration to me at the primary point. I asked him to step out of the car—a late model Mark IV Lincoln—and open the trunk for inspection. With some hesitation but without protest, he opened the trunk and revealed a case of bottled alcoholic beverages purchased in Mexico. He said he was taking them to a friend in McAllen. I told him he was subject to a fine and forfeiture of the merchandise, and referred him to the Immigration office. He was allowed to continue with the importation after paying federal tax, Customs duties and Texas state tax on the liquor. The penalty in that instance should have been seizure and forfeiture of the merchandise and payment of a fine equal to the value of the merchandise. The decision to lessen the penalty was not mine—that was the decision of the Customs and Immigration chiefs—they felt that a more severe penalty would strain relations between U. S. and Mexican federal officers—go figure!

At that time I drove a Panama brown diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, and diesel in Mexico was only $.12 a gallon, a bargain that was not easily ignored. A few days after referring the Mexican commandante for possible seizure and forfeiture of the liquor I crossed the river for a diesel fill-up. I was in my official uniform, and prior to my encounter with the Mexican officer with the liquor I would have been passed with a friendly smile with no questions asked. Not this time—I was ordered to remain in line while the officer returned with the commandante. That worthy approached my car, stopped by the driver’s side and unsmilingly stared down at me—he was tall and my little Rabbit was not—with some trepidation I stared back at him. Neither of us spoke, and after an agonizingly long moment he motioned me to proceed. I continued to the gas station a few blocks from the bridge, filled up with diesel and returned to the United States without further incident.

That long silent moment before I was allowed to proceed was obviously meant to show me that he had the power to refer me for inspection, with or without a valid reason. His action was prompted by my referring him for questioning by Customs and Immigration officers. The obvious question to ask me at this point would be whether I was intimidated. The answer is a resounding yes—to use a time-worn analogy, my nerves were drawn so tight that my posterior was cutting washers out of the seat cover of that Rabbit.

Yes, I was intimidated—horror tales abound concerning detentions of Americans by Mexican officials, ranging from local police up to federal officers. In fact, a DEA officer, an official of our Drug Enforcement Administration, had recently been kidnapped and killed in Mexico. His murder was attributed to Mexico’s drug cartels rather than by Mexican federal officers but then, as now, the line between the two is often blurred.

Yes, I was intimidated, but it did not affect my duties as a supervisory U. S. Customs officer. I continued in the same vein for the rest of my stay at Roma, right up to the day that I transferred following my promotion to a second-level supervisory position at the international bridge at Brownsville, Texas. I continued to buy diesel for my Rabbit in Mexico, but I shunned Miguel Aleman’s theaters and restaurants—my diesel buying ended when the station pumped gasoline into the tank instead of diesel—they drained the tank and replaced the gasoline with diesel, explaining that a new employee made the mistake—yeah, right!

Suffice it to say that I made few friends and many enemies in the early days of my assignment to Roma, and that applied to our cadre of Customs, Immigration and Agriculture inspectors—they resented my treatment of their long-time friends and family members and their counterparts in Mexico. I accepted that as a hazard peculiar to my occupation—mine was a lonely job, but the pay was good and there was no heavy lifting, and I thrived on the rancor.

Speaking frankly, I didn’t like them any better than they liked me. Both I and they were pleased when two and one-half years later in 1980 I was promoted and transferred to the port of Brownsville, Texas. My promotion was based in large part on the improvements made in Roma’s enforcement posture—upper level management felt that a similar situation existed at Brownsville. In a meeting with an upper level official prior to the final selection to fill the vacancy at Brownsville, I was told that a strong enforcement-oriented supervisor was needed—actually the expression used was that a hard-ass supervisor was needed. Among other problems, enforcement was lax, and misuse of overtime was the order of the day. Evidently the selection board felt that I had the necessary qualifications including the hard-ass, because I was selected for the position. And yes, you guessed it—shortly after my arrival at Brownsville, with the assistance of the newly assigned chief inspector, inspection overtime was cut drastically and seizures and arrests rose dramatically. The majority of inspectors was not impressed, neither with me nor the chief inspector—they did not view the changes as improvements.

As the result of pressure from the ranks and from my supervisors, in the final few months at that station I stood alone against the cadre of five lower ranking supervisors, my equal rank counterpart, my immediate supervisor, the top level manager at the port and the National Treasury Employees Union. That pressure was terminated only following my promotion to U. S. Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC.

My contributions to the Customs mission during my three and one-half years at that station are well documented, as are my trials and tribulations. However, I can state honestly that I hold no animosity for the three officers that stood against me in the final months of my service there. To hold a grudge against dead people would be an exercise in futility. All three have since passed from this vale of tears, trials and tribulations, either to that shining international port of entry in the sky, or to a climate warmer even than that of South Texas. I cannot be certain, but I would suspect that some of the older inspectors have also dodged their last non-overtime job assignment. More than a few were at or past retirement age when I left the station 27 years ago. Whatever their official status now and their location, regardless of whatever sphere in which they dwell, I wish them well.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Postscript: I must acknowledge the fact that my immediate supervisor rated my final performance as outstanding, a rating that was reduced to just barely acceptable by his supervisor. That fact, however, cannot be confirmed. Shortly after the revised rating was submitted for entry into my records, I requested a copy—in the oft-used words by Gomer Pyle of Mayberry fame, surprise, surprise! The evaluation could not be located—it somehow had been lost between submission by the port and acceptance by Headquarters, either lost, misplaced or deliberately removed and destroyed. Who knows, and who cares? At this point in my life, not I!



 
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Posted by on October 4, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement

 

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Letter to Lorene, dated January 25, 1994 . . .

This posting is a letter I wrote to one of my sisters, the prettiest one and a lady that has always been at the top of my list of best loved, but don’t tell the other sisters or their children—they might not understand! This lovely lady left us behind almost seven years ago. I’m sharing the letter on Word Press because many people that knew and loved her are visitors to my blog, and this letter includes a lot of history from 1994. The image on the right shows the beautiful teenager that Elmer met and married after a brief engagementa very brief angagement! We miss her.

San Antonio Int’l Airport

January 25, 1994

Dear Rene,

I’m certain you are aware that just because B follows A does not mean that B was caused by A, or in fact is in any way associated with A except, of course, by virtue of B’s position immediately following A’s position in the alphabet or to put it another way, by virtue of A’s position immediately preceding B’s position in the alphabet. So the fact that you called and talked for a long time the other day does not necessarily mean that this letter was caused by that phone call, or in fact is in any way associated with it.

However, we can put the matter to a scientific test. You keep calling and see if a letter follows each phone call. After a few years of that, we will be able to determine if there is any correlation between the two events. Betcha there is, betcha there is, huh, huh, whatcha wanna bet, huh, huh?

Correlation or not, it sure was pleasant talking with you. I know you’re glad to be back home. Seems like every time we leave, the urge to get back becomes stronger and stronger. I’m like Papa John Weathers—I guess I hate to have my routine messed up! That’s good news about Jessie recovering from her accident so well. I know that brace is a bummer but as you said, she’ll just have to adjust to it.

Got time for a couple of jokes? Stop me if you’ve heard these, okay?

The Lone Ranger and Tonto rode into town and stopped at the saloon. The Lone Ranger said, Tonto, my horse is really hot from all that galloping. Run around him a few times to stir up the air and help him cool off. The Lone Ranger went into the saloon and a few minutes later a guy came in, tapped him on the shoulder and said, Hey, man, you left your Injun running.

The doctor examined a guy and told him he only had six months to live. The guy said Doc, there’s no way I’ll be able to pay what I owe you in just two months. The doctor said, Okay, in that case I’ll give you a year.

One more doctor joke: A guy’s doctor called him and said, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that your tests showed you have only two days to live. The guy said, That’s the good news? What’s the bad news? Nothing could be worse than that. The doctor said, Wanna bet? The bad news is that I’ve been trying to contact you for the last two days.

Well, I’ll shut up. Don’t blame me for the jokes. They came from Kelley. If the subject matter doesn’t depress you the subject matter will—oops, that’s another joke. Kelley heard the jokes from Gordon, and he made her promise not to repeat them, and she made me promise not to repeat them, so I want you to promise not to repeat them. They are so bad that they must be stopped!

Speaking of depressed, I have a program called Quicken which tracks all kinds of good stuff, including one’s finances. I spent several hours loading all my “finances” into it, then called up a report showing the totals. I was really happy with them until I divided what I have now by the number of years I’ve been working. Boy, am I depressed!. The program is a lot of fun, though. Gives you all sorts of charts and graphs, all in beautiful color. I just wish I had more to put into them.

I’m not really depressed. I have a wife that loves me, three daughters that love me, two grandchildren that love me, two big sisters that love me, a whole passel of nieces and grandnieces and nephews and grandnephews and even a couple, perhaps, of great grandnieces or maybe great grandnephews—don’t know whether they love me but all would if they knew me. I also have two cats and a dog that love me (I don’t care much for the dog), a good paying job with no heavy lifting, a nice place to live and a nice house to live in, way too much to eat, and good health. No, I’m not depressed, I’m blessed—hey, I made a rhyme!. See there, I’m even talented to go with all the above.

I said the job required no heavy lifting, but I just remembered something. Did I tell you about pulling a back muscle while lifting a heavy suitcase for an elderly lady last year? Well, I did, and suffered severe lower back pains. Went to the doctor and he said I had muscle trauma. I was sure it was kidney stones, and asked the doctor why it was taking me so long to get recover if it was only muscle trauma. And he said it was because I was a fat old man. Well, he didn’t actually say I was a fat old man. He said it’s because You’re 60 years old and overweight. So I left the doctor’s office and stopped at MacDonald’s for breakfast. I have lost some weight since then, though, and I’m working on the rest of it.

It’s 7 p.m. now, and I’m halfway through this 3-11 shift. The first 4 hours seem to pass fast, probably because we have several flights. The last 4 hours drag on and on. Seems like 11 o’clock will never come, but it always does, of course. Boring as the shift may be, you’ll never hear me griping to go on day shift. I’ve been doing this now for two and a half years, and I wouldn’t take the day shift on a dare. In fact, I live in fear that the other supervisor will decide he wants to evenings for awhile. Not too much danger of that, though. He is a politician, loves to make Chamber of Commerce meetings and other activities, and there’s not much of that on the evening shift.

Time has really flashed by since we returned to San Antonio. March will be seven years since I left Houston, one of the happiest days of my life, leaving Houston. Not because I was coming back to San Antonio, but because I was leaving Houston. I never really planned on staying in Customs this long, but as I’ve said before—at least I think I’ve said it before)—it’s hard to quit just when the money is good and the living is easy. It’s been so long since I really had to expend any significant effort on the job that I’m not sure just what kind of product I would come up with if I were asked to produce. So I’ll go on hoping I won’t be asked!

I see by the old computer screen that I’m near the end of the page, so I’ll close, or else I’ll have to subject you to another full page. I have lots more, but I’ll save it for the next letter.

Lots of love, from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.

SUPRISE! I’m back. Just called Alta and she said she had just finished talking to you, so I cranked up the word processor again. Alta said she asked what size unmentionables you wore so she could fill up the box she is sending. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, you won’t have to worry about bloomers for a long while, because the best I remember there is quite a bit of room there—in the box, I mean, not in your bloomers. Did she tell you about packing the outfit in a small box, then checking it later and finding that some of the stuff she put on it had been squashed—is that spelled right, or is squashed even a word? Anyway, she had to do it over. The more I look at squashed the worse it looks.

Our weather is still wet. It’s beginning to remind me of Viet Nam where we had to wrap our billfolds in plastic to keep the leather from getting moldy. And if we left a pair of shoes for several days without wearing them, they grew beards and moustaches. That sure seems like a long time ago. Well, shucks, it was a long time ago. I got back to the states in June of 1970. Would you believe more than 23 years ago?

Sometimes I have to work very hard to make myself believe I was even over there. I saw a movie the other night about the war, and relatives visiting the Viet Nam memorial in Washington, D.C. and placing different articles at the base of the wall. I went there several times while we were in Washington. It’s quite an experience, watching the grief displayed by so many of the people there. Some people call it the “Wall of Shame.” It seems to bring about a release of the emotions that people have kept bottled up inside themselves. I’ve seen hardened veterans fall to their knees and weep unashamedly, oblivious of everything else and everyone around them. It’s not an easy thing to watch, and it’s impossible to see such an outpouring of grief without being affected. And how in the hell I ever got into this subject is beyond me, but I’ll get out of it now.

Well, what can we talk about now? Did I tell you I have almost all the Louis Lamour books, the paperbacks? I think I have 105, and he wrote 110 or so. I even built a special bookcase for them—well, for them and for some other paperbacks. I also collected novels by John D. Hamilton, Ed McBain, Lawrence Sanders and a couple of others, along with a lot of the old western, the ones that were printed in the forties and fifties and sixties. And some day I’ll get around to re-reading them!

Compact discs are the big thing now. Grolier’s Encyclopedia has been put on a single disc, the same size as a music disc. And another disc has almost 2000 books on it, 2000 of the world’s great literary works, every word, complete and unabridged. I have a compact disc reader/player, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the San Diego Zoo, and in the Gallapagos Islands and South America’s rain forests and Australian deserts, at the Grand Canyon and all the national parks, all without leaving home. It’s a marvelous invention, especially for the world’s shut-ins, and it’s a shame that right now the cost is prohibitive for many of the people who could most benefit from such programs. The cost is coming down, but will still be out of reach for many people. And then again, maybe they don’t want it. What do I know? Maybe they all would rather watch Fresh Prince of BelAire, or some of the other zillion or so TV programs that pretend to be entertainment.

Boy, am I up on my soapbox, or what! Oh, drats! I’ve just come to the end of another page, and that means I’ll have to think of something to talk about to fill up that page, too. How about that drats? How long since you’ve heard that? I think it may be the first time I’ve used it, but it won’tbe the last. Has a nice sound to it. Try it. Drats! Drats! DRATS!

Speaking of jive, how do you like rap music? I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT! And I hate it regardless of what color the rapper is whether black, white, brown, yellow or purple. I hate it, so I use the only weapon I have—I don’t buy it, and I don’t listen to it any longer than it takes to turn it off.

San Antonio had a murder here a few nights ago. Murder is common here, far too common. This one, however, was different. No jealous lover or husband or drug deal involved. The dead man was a husband and father of three, active church member, finished choir practice, called his wife and told her he would be home soon, just had to stop at an automated teller machine and make a night deposit. A 17 year old boy and 13 year old girl waylaid him and made him give them his personal identification number for the money machine. His body was found on the side of the freeway, shot through the head, and several cash withdrawals had been made at various locations in the area with his card. Both the teenagers are in custody. The girl said in her statement that she was holding the gun on the man and her boy friend didn’t like the way she was doing it, so he took the gun from her and shot the guy.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things in the last few years, and capital punishment is one of them. I never believed in it before, but now I do. I feel nothing whatsoever for the two people involved, regardless of their ages. They took something away from another person, and they should pay for the crime by giving up the same thing. And the sooner the better. They better hope I don’t get on the jury. When the judge asks me if I can render a fair and impartial verdict, I’ll say, Yes sir, Your Honor, boy, oh, boy can I ever render a fair and impartial verdict, just put me on that jury and see how fast I can render a fair and impartial verdict, and as soon as I render that fair and impartial verdict, I’ll help you hang ’em or shoot ’em or fry ’em or draw and quarter ’em, however you want it done, just so long as it’s done soon and I get to help do it. I’m dreaming, of course. They would never let me serve on a jury.

Well, I really have to shut up now. If I keep on I’ll have to send this thing in two envelopes. Once again, lots of love from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2010 in death, law enforcement, Military, politics

 

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio, TX 78297

Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

What you are about to read may prevent a collision that may seriously damage your automobile, including the possibility of it being totaled, and it could save you from incurring serious injuries sustained in a collision, and may even in some instances save your life—but only if you read and heed this message.

This is a tale of driver frustration and road rage, emotions that are daily demonstrated in every metropolitan city in the nation, but particularly in the Alamo city with its population second only to Houston in the state of Texas and seventh in the United States. There are numerous recordings of road rage in San Antonio, some that have caused major damage to vehicles and introduced death to some drivers.

A few years ago an elderly driver exited Loop 410 West, turned left under the expressway then left into HEB’s Market Place parking lot and parked. When he stepped out of his car he was shot dead by a driver that had followed him from the expressway. There were witnesses that noted an auto being closely followed into the parking lot by another auto, but none could positively identify the shooter or his car—to this day the murder is unsolved and probably will never be solved.

The consensus among investigating officials was that the elderly driver was an unknowing victim of road rage, having done something to infuriate the shooter. The elderly driver had perhaps failed to signal a turn or was following too closely or was proceeding at a leisurely pace on the city’s speedway known as Loop 410. Whatever the reason for the murder, one man is dead and the killer is free to kill again should the occasion arise in the future.

My daughter—a lovely lady, the youngest of my three equally lovely daughters—had the right rear window of her car shot out while traveling from work to home on Loop 410. She had no warning and could not tell the origin of the shot, but speculated it came from a car traveling beside her on the Loop or from someone off the side of the freeway. The window was still in place when she arrived home, albeit with a small hole in the center and cracks radiating in every direction. When we opened the door the window shattered into small pieces.

We called the police and a search was made of the rear seat area, but nothing was found that may have caused the damage. The police officer speculated that a lead pellet fired from a pellet gun had shattered the window, a pellet fired deliberately at the car or an errant pellet fired at some other target. Pellet guns don’t fire BBs—such guns are powerful and are used by hunters to kill small animals including rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes. The pellets are heavy and are propelled at high speed with enough weight and power to penetrate a human skull—they can kill.

That pellet could just as easily have struck the right front window and hit my daughter or her friend that was by the right front window. This could have been an act by a juvenile following an I dare you taunt, or the act of someone my daughter or her friend had rebuffed at some time in the past, or perhaps someone that she or her friend had flipped a bird at on the freeway because of another driver’s action.

Please trust me, San Antonio—do not flip birds or make other obscene gestures at another driver. If you take such actions you are subject to having a window shattered or a bumper hooked, or be forced off the road, and you may die as a direct result of having angered someone that—please forgive the expression—you pissed off in some way.

Now to the gist of this posting:

I am an elderly driver—I freely admit that, and I endeavor to remember my status in all my actions, particularly in operating motor vehicles and guns. I don’t add guns as a threat—I just thought that I should mention that I am an accomplished shooter, including expertise with military weapons as well as those available to home owners, including shotguns and pistols, some with magnum capabilities. Oh, and I also have a pellet gun, an estate sale find I couldn’t resist.

No, I have never shot out the rear window or any window of an auto driven by a cute blond, or a cute brunette for that matter—and both are legion in this great city—nor have I ever been inclined to do so—I sometimes gawk at or wave at or—gasp—even wink at, but I do not shoot at such persons. And no, that’s not my photo—that’s one of the cute blonds I mentioned. I said I was an elderly driver, remember?

This morning I drove two miles or so to the Whataburger outlet nearest my home, the one located at the intersection of US Highway 281 North and Brook Hollow Drive. I stopped for a red light at the intersection of Brook Hollow and Heimer and stayed in the left lane. An SUV driven by a woman pulled up beside me in the right lane and stopped. I knew from experience gleaned over some twenty years of traversing that intersection that she would continue straight ahead when the light changed to green.

The street ahead had four lanes for a short half-block, but the right lane was provided to allow a driver crossing the intersection to turn right on a side street—-from that point the street narrowed to one lane in each direction. While the light was still red a second SUV pulled up behind the woman.

In anticipation of her accelerating to cross over to my lane, I moved out at a pace calculated to give her the space she needed—not sedately or at a crawl, but just enough to let her get ahead of me, and after she was in front of me I accelerated to the 35 MPH allowed in that area.

It wasn’t fast enough for the driver of the second SUV—he blew his horn repeatedly and then fell in behind me and stayed on my bumper until Brook Hollow Drive became a two lane in both directions and I signaled a left turn into Whataburger’s parking lot.

He immediately floored the SUV, passed me and turned sharply in front of me into my lane. I anticipated that action, the action of an idiot, and I braked enough to avoid our bumpers—my front and his rear—making contact. I was successful, and I turned into the parking lot while the SOB in the SUV continued under the 281 overpass and turned south on the access road toward downtown.

Our local news channels and our lone daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, routinely report similar instances. Many, perhaps most of such actions are those of gang members, but not all—some are simply a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something—no matter whether deliberately or inadvertently—by voice or gesture or motioning or by vehicle operation, driving another person into such a rage that they wound and maim and even kill to get revenge for such actions.

In closing, remember that the life you save may be your own. Don’t respond to the actions of some SOB in an SUV, and be content by wishing that should that person be involved in a serious accident he—or she—will arrive at the hospital DOA.

No, I’ll take back the part of someone arriving at the hospital DOA. When I am faced with such churlish actions on the part of another driver, I say aloud to myself and to any others that may be riding with me that, Perhaps we will find that vehicle wrapped around a utility pole farther down the road, with the driver surviving with a few broken bones and a serious concussion, but no injuries to other occupants. No, I do not wish anyone to die, but I admit that I will not mourn for any appreciable amount of time if such occurs.

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a different audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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Mede, Zona Belle, Louise and lunch . . .

Mede is the name of a woman that was at one time a neighbor of our family, a lady with two daughters. The elder was named Zona Belle and the younger was Louise. Zona Belle was tall and thin and dark-haired, and Louise was short and fair-haired and very nicely proportioned—I was younger than they were, but I was old enough to appreciate females and their proportions.

In fairness to their mother, I will only say that she was amply proportioned, so ample that in all the years I knew her she had considerable difficulty negotiating stairs—in fact, she was challenged by the height of street curbs. I’m unsure of the spelling of her name, but it was pronounced Mee’de, two syllables with the accent on the first syllable—that spelling appears a bit awkward so I settled on Mede.

I know nothing more about Zona Belle and how she fared later in life, but I certainly hope that life has been, or perhaps was, good for her. Both she and her sister were somewhat reticent in conversations, but in one instance the sisters comported themselves in ways that exposed more of themselves than should have been exposed to a young lad of tender years—a memorable event, one that lingers on, quite favorably, in the memory of that young fellow. I hasten to add that I will neither acknowledge nor respond to any request from anyone to elaborate on that event—I do not even remember it, so don’t bother to ask.

But I digress—back to the younger sister. Louise married, birthed several children and settled down to a nice middle-class existence with her family in a house near her husband’s business of a combination service station and restaurant. At some point in their relationship, the husband became a philanderer and engaged in various infidelities.

Louise did not approve of his activities so she summarily shot and killed him. An investigation was conducted, a charge of murder was filed, a trial followed and Louise was acquitted of all charges. The jury based their acquittal on self-defense, justifiable homicide following long periods of spousal abuse including mental and physical cruelty. All this is hearsay, knowledge that I gleaned while on leave from military service shortly after the trial. The local gossips—specifically my mother and my older sisters—speculated that some, perhaps most, of the spousal abuse charge was inflated and unfair to the deceased husband.

I know nothing more of Louise and her family—I trust they fared well. As for her husband, if he was in fact guilty of long periods of spousal abuse including mental and physical cruelty shame on him, and if he was guilty only of infidelities, then shame on the jury and shame on Louise.

And now for Mede—I lived with my mother, my youngest sister and our stepfather on a Mississippi farm some 15 miles outside the city limits of Columbus, Mississippi. I was enrolled in junior high school in town and rode a bright yellow county school bus to and from school. I abhorred brown-bag lunches and shunned the school cafeteria, primarily because we country bumpkins were the objects of derision for snooty and snotty city-dwelling students, especially those in the upper echelons of society—the sons and daughters of bankers, merchants, car dealers, civil service workers and the like.

Mede at the time lived and worked as a self-employed seamstress in a spacious second-story loft in the business district near my school. My mother worked out a deal with her for me to have lunch there on school days. I don’t know the details of the deal, and I don’t remember the lunches, neither their quality nor their quantity. The arrangement lasted only a few weeks, and I began taking my lunches elsewhere, either at an uptown poolroom or on the river bank where a lady purveyed hamburgers for five cents each. If you like, you can read about the poolroom here, and about the five-cent hamburgers here. Both are worth reading!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Rogue cops and rubber hoses . . .

Picture this:

A lad of 16 years jailed on suspicion of being involved in auto theft, kidnapping and murder—completely innocent, of course—being bullied by burly bulky bastardly bastions of the law—I do really love alliteration-–and threatened with a rubber hose. Click here to learn how such an unsatisfactory situation developed.

In mid-afternoon of that Sunday following our arrest and incarceration, two very large men came into the room that held the two strap-iron cells occupied by me and my brother. They introduced themselves as plain-clothes detectives and started asking questions. After a series of questions relating to our lack of identification, our hot-wired car and the rifle bullets they found in my pocket, one of the men—the larger one–unlocked the door to my cell, entered and locked the door behind him—yeah, like I was going to flee and fly out to freedom and become one of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives, with my mug shot featured prominently in every post office in the nation.

I was standing while he was outside, but when he entered I sat down on my bare metal bunk. That was a defensive measure. I believe I felt that should he decide to hit me, I would at least have only a short way to fall before hitting the steel wall behind me or the concrete floor. I could be wrong, of course—I may have sat down because of the sudden weakness my knees developed, and I mean that in all seriousness.

He held a piece of black rubber hose in his right hand. The hose was short in length, thick in diameter and long in menace, and he kept slapping it into the palm of his other hand, staring at me intently all the while.

If anyone reading this thinks I wasn’t scared, think again—I was scared witless, filled with fear that approached the point of something that rhymes with witless. I was a 110 pound 16-year old and he was a really big man, six feet tall and counting, weighing well over 200 pounds—a goodly portion of that weight was centered in his overhanging stomach, but his weight distribution detracted in no way from the fear that I felt, fear generated by his size and by the menacing length of rubber hose he wielded.

Believe me, reader, had I been guilty of any one or all of the several wrong doings of which we were accused, I would have promptly admitted that guilt. Had it been possible I would have cheerfully laid it all off on my brother—yep, I would have squealed like a pig and perhaps made a deal with the cops, or at least plea bargained my way out of what I considered to be a really bad situation. Frankly, I figured that my brother had gotten me into a big mess and I owed him zilch—none of this was my fault—I mean, like, hey, brotherly love has its limits.

The detective finally stopped slapping his hand with the hose, probably because it was beginning to hurt. He knew that he had my undivided attention, and then he held the business end of the hose close to my face and asked some really stupid questions, to all of which I gave some really brilliant answers:

Do you know what this is?

Yes, sir.

Do you know what I can do with this if you lie to me?

Yes, sir.

Did you boys steal that car?

No, sir.

Did you boys kidnap someone?

No, sir.

Did you boys kill someone and dispose of the body?

No, sir.

Have you answered all our questions truthfully?

Yes, sir.

See, I told you his questions were stupid and my answers were brilliant!

The detective ended the conversation, and taking his rubber hose with him he stepped out of my cell, locked the door and started questioning my brother, but he did not enter my brother’s cell. Evidently my brother, a World War II veteran almost twice my age, had been around the block before—he told our inquisitors in firm tones to not bother threatening him with the rubber hose, that he had been threatened with far more than that in World War II combat and survived, that he had told the truth about everything and that all they had to do was make a few phone calls to prove it and finally, that they could delay our release but could not prevent it.

In his telling my brother used some really salty language, some of which was related to the detectives’ parentage, including the legality of their births and their relationships with their mothers, and lots of other language that brought their sexual proclivities and practices into question.

Hey, my brother spent six years in the U.S. Navy, the last four of which were spent overseas in combat zones during the big war—that’s the way sailors talk. I expected the two detectives to beat him senseless, even to the point of his not recovering and spending the rest of his life as a tomato or a cabbage or a stalk of celery perhaps, but no, they listened to his tirade without responding. After he wound down with his remarks, they left the area without comments, and we never saw them again.

I find it difficult to believe that they were intimidated by my brother—I believe that they were amused and perhaps even respectful of his actions. My brother was much older than I but he was not much bigger, and I must admit that while I was shocked by his remarks, I really admired his stance in the face of bigger men with all the power of law at their disposal.

We were held incommunicado for 23 hours, just one hour short of the 24 hours the law allowed before formal charges and booking were mandated. The so-called authorities either made enough phone calls on Monday morning to prove our innocence, or perhaps had simply tired of the cat-and-mouse game they had played with us for 23 hours.

Whatever the reason, they released us, offered nothing that remotely resembled an apology and told us to get out of town and not come back. Other than the handful of rifle shells there was no need to return any possessions to us—the only things we possessed were the clothes we wore. The few dollars we had went for the burgers, and they kept any amount that remained, and I wisely refrained from demanding the return of my rifle cartridges. There was no need to return the keys to our car—we never had any—the starting lock was gone and the starter was hot-wired to the fog lights, and were soon on our way.

After a brief stop in St. Louis in a futile attempt to borrow gas money from my stepfather’s sister—click here for that story—we continued to New York City and stayed there for several weeks, then traveled to Mississipi where I was promptly shipped off to a farm in Alabama to live with a first-cousin and her family—a life very similar to that of an indentured servant. Click here for that posting.

More on my life on the farm and why I left it can be found here.

This story is all true, embellished a bit perhaps in the telling, but it’s all true and there’s nobody around either to disprove it or substantiate it—by now all the participants have departed for other realms. My fervent hope is that my brother and the cops involved in our short stay in Valley Park, Missouri traveled in opposite directions when they departed their lives on earth. I readily acknowledge that there in no way to confirm their paths, but I would like to believe that my brother ascended to his next life and the cops descended to theirs.

That’s my wish and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to both!

PeeEss: We were never told that we could ask for an attorney and were not Mirandized, but that is understandable—the year was 1949 and the Miranda law did not exist—it was still seventeen years into the future, 1966. Click here for information on the Miranda warning.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Florida find—lifeless legs in landfill . . .

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/jarred-mitchell-harrell-charged-in-slaying-of-7-year-old-florida-girl-somer-thompson/19416157

The following item was taken from the above URL :

ORANGE PARK, Fla. (March 26) — A 24-year-old unemployed restaurant worker was charged Friday with murder in the slaying of a 7-year-old Florida girl whose body was found in a Georgia landfill after she disappeared walking home from school, authorities said. Jarred Mitchell Harrell was charged in the death of Somer Thompson, who went missing Oct. 19. Her lifeless legs were discovered two days later in a landfill about 50 miles from Orange Park.

Lifeless legs?

Is the word lifeless used for alliterative  reasons, or perhaps used as filler to complete a newspaper column? If legs are found, regardless of where, when, why, who or how, any reader with even the paltriest particle of perceptive power will know that the legs are necessarily lifeless. Please note the foregoing lined-out phrase—it includes a four-word alliteration (paltriest particle of perceptive power), but it is unnecessary, just as is the word lifeless, the adjective used to describe the legs found in a Florida landfill.

Something else is missing from the article—was the body dismembered? At first read, one may safely assume that the girl is dead based on the word murder and the term lifeless in reference to the legs, but must we also assume that the body was dismembered? The article states only that the lifeless legs were found. Was the dismemberment of the body omitted, perhaps, in deference to the emotions of the deceased’s family? In that case, the authors of the article should have refrained from using the term gruesome in this sentence: They sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage before the gruesome find.

Quality journalism does not require such assumptions to be made. To quote Detective Joe Friday’s signature statement from Dragnet, a long defunct television show: We just want the facts, ma’m—just the facts.

A corollary to the adjective lifeless, as used in the above article, is the use of the adjective dead as applied to a human body. We never read or hear that The live body of the missing man was found today. What we read or hear is that, The missing man was found alive and well today. Conversely, we read or hear that, The dead body of the missing man was found today. Note the lined-out word in that sentence—was it needed to let the reader know that the missing man was found dead—not alive, but dead? Of course not—the word body is sufficient information.

For some of the years (too many) that I toiled in the work force, one of my co-workers was a woman for whom English was a second language. She frequently accused me of neet peeking. Well, I am not a nit picker.

I am a fault finder, and I will energetically exercise that attractive attribute to the best of my ability. Please note the three alliterative phrases in that sentence—all are unnecessary but all are self–fulfilling and space–filling (writers are sometimes paid according to the number of words used).

Enough said!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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