Knocking Out a Wall, Part Two

My final Avalanche column ran a few Thursdays ago and on the same day, my ex came to Alpine. When I opened the door, I gaped. It took a few seconds before I could speak. How long do you think he’ll be able to pull off timing like that?

He invited me to lunch and of course I accepted. I broke the news that he could relax; there wouldn’t be any more columns about him. The look of disappointment on his face almost made me laugh.

His response: “Good. Now you’ll stop calling me a liar in public.”

Yeah, right.

Then he said, “I told you that people don’t want to hear those stories.”

Al contrario, Cowboy. It seems they do.

I tried to work a few more stories out of him, but he’s wise to me now. So I have to go with what I know. And I was there for this one.

What we didn’t know at the time was that the Border Patrolman who had taken such a dislike to us was a vindictive man, and he was the boss. Before I continue, I want to say that this is about only one man, not the Border Patrol in general.

The cowboy had been picked up on numerous occasions and was returned to the border each time. He’d worked at the fluorspar mine in the Christmas Mountains, on Terlingua Ranch, and in Odessa, Midland, and Lajitas. He said he’d never been mistreated once by any Border Patrolman and he never feared them. My point is that in any profession there can be one who gives the whole bunch a bad rep.

I could tell you the man’s name, but it doesn’t matter. He’s long gone from the job and also the planet. Suffice it to say that the night of the murder, which was later determined to be an accidental shooting, he let personal hatred supersede his professional duties.

Lajitas was similar to a large plantation during the days of slavery. In the Big House, some inhabitants were “less than” others. The workers, no matter our background or color, were in it together. We were tight. At the Big House they professed, “But we love our Mexicans.” Read, we love our cheap labor.

Border Patrol raids were common, but back then it was like a big game. A few green-uniformed men would show up in town. Radios, walkie-talkies, and telephones would hum with the news. La Chota!

The Border Patrol only came because they were supposed to and they sometimes took men away if they were slow enough to get caught. Or if the officers managed to surprise them. On raid days we hid people in all the nooks and crannies of the resort while the outside workers ran for the hills. I said it was like a big game, but I didn’t say everyone enjoyed it.

Four times they came in succession and it became evident they were after my cowboy. They asked about him at the Big House and they chased him. He escaped into the mountains or to the Rio, and he was fast. This became a rock in the boot because the boss was telling them to get That Mexican.

The manager of Lajitas called me in to say that this problem with the Border Patrol was disrupting the work schedule. I asked what I was supposed to do about it. Did he expect me to tell him not to run? No. He was one of the best workers. What, then? He didn’t know.

The Border Patrol figured it out pronto. The next day they returned with the boss and he caught my cowboy himself. He yelled to stop or he’d shoot him. That was a tactic they hadn’t used on him before and it worked.
I was at home and received this call from the front desk: “They have him in front of the hotel.” Nobody had to tell me who had nabbed who. I ran as though they were chasing me.

They had put him in back of a Suburban that was barred. There were a few other stricken-faced guys with him. It was a sight that tore at my heart. I was about to start sobbing, but he gave a tiny grin and shrugged. He believed he’d be back in a few days. I knew it would not be that simple.

What followed was a long, drawn-out mess. He was prosecuted because he’d run away and in doing that, he had “endangered” an officer of the Law. The game had reached a new level and the opponent held all the pieces.
I was forced to hire an immigration attorney. He said if I intended to marry the man, and I did, I had gone about it backwards. He explained that you’re supposed to get a “Sweetheart Visa” first. Great. Everywhere but within the law, falling in love comes first. The bottom line, law-wise, was that he should have stayed in Mexico until we were married. I didn’t bother to point out that if he’d stayed there I would never have met him.

The cowboy was jailed in Alpine, then Pecos, and was later moved to a big holding facility in El Paso. He was formally deported and then came back on a provisional visa. Doing it the wrong way cost us plenty. They slammed door after door.

The great news is that love won. We made it through the wall.

* * *

We saw our Border Patrol nemesis a year or so later when we were eating in the Badlands Restaurant in Lajitas. My husband was holding our tiny newborn daughter and the sun was shining brightly on both of them.
The Bad Man came in with two other men and they all glared at us.

My wise cowboy said, “Don’t look at him, Honey. He’s too small and sad to be part of our world.”

That was true; I knew it was, but I was not so forgiving. I said, “I wish I could hurt him.”

“You already did.”


Picking Up Plots

This was my 29th Alpine Avalanche column, “Picking Up Plots”

I don’t know why I put off going to the grocery store. When I go, I’m never sorry. What a rich place for a writer to hang out. I wish there was a bench in the bakery/produce section. I’d sit there all day. Perhaps that is why there is no bench. Nobody wants writers hanging around eavesdropping and staring at people. And some think it’s weird when an old woman starts talking to them for no apparent reason.

One time I was looking at avocados and I turned around to get a bag. A young and blindingly handsome man handed me his. “You need this I bet.”

“Well, thank you!”

He flashed a million-dollar smile and went on his way. What, I wondered, had I done to deserve that? He made me feel there was hope for humanity. I made up a whole story about him while I shopped, but it can’t go here.

One time I was looking at the wine, and a sharply-dressed, fortyish man with glasses and a fabulous turquoise cowboy hat said, “If you were my wife and I’d made you furious by being stupid, would you be more likely to warm up to wine or flowers?”

My writer’s mind went wild. What stupid thing had he done? There were so many possibilities. It took a sec to realize I was gawking while making up a scenario in my head.

“I guess it depends on what you did,” I said, “but if it were me, a bottle of smooth sipping whiskey would warm my heart—the expensive kind.”

“You’re brilliant!” He touched me on the shoulder. “She doesn’t care much for wine. If I take her flowers, she’ll just roll her eyes and wonder if I’ve done something really bad.” He turned to leave. “Thank you!”

“Don’t buy her cheap stuff,” I warned.

“I won’t!”

I don’t guess Porter’s would appreciate that exchange, but it’s not like they don’t have plenty of business. And this was a marriage in crisis. I couldn’t let that man mess it up worse. While I went on with my day, I wondered how it went for Mr. Turquoise Hat and which whiskey he bought. Oh heck, I finished out the story in my head and gave it a happy ending.

Today I noticed a mom with her two young children. She was being selective about the fruit she was purchasing while her kids picked on each other in a shopping cart. It didn’t even take a full minute for the boy to hit his sister hard enough to make her cry.

She wailed, “He hit me!” with surprise, as if it was the first time he’d ever done it. I could tell by the look on his face that he was a little scamp. I didn’t buy that innocent act and neither did his mother.

My best encounter to date: I was perusing organic carrots and I looked up to see a large man, 6’6” at least, waiting at the fried chicken counter. He was wearing jeans, a white, button-down shirt, and a cowboy hat. He wore brown leather boots with a flat heel. A cell phone sat on his hip, but it could have been a pistol. In my head, it was. And I should mention: the man had a shoulder span to die for.

His cell phone rang. He looked at it, frowned, and said, “I’m waitin’ on the chicken. Have a little patience. For the love of Pete,” and he hung up. It was Deputy Barney George! Oh, I know better than anyone that he’s a made-up character, but there he was! I hadn’t seen the guy’s front side and, in a way, I didn’t want to. But I moved closer.

There I was, staring at the stuff in the display counter, not seeing it. I took a furtive peek and “Barney” was looking at me. I smiled because that’s what I do when busted. It took restraint not to blurt what I was thinking. He was thirty-something, had sandy blond hair, startlingly blue eyes, and was good-looking in a not-perfect way. Barney. He smiled. Author meets a character out of her head.

I wonder if I can have groceries delivered.





Life’s Little Things

My mom once told me that one day I would understand that the little things in life are really the big things. I was just a kid, but I never forgot her words.

At the beginning of 2013, a friend challenged me to fill a Mason jar with snippets of paper on which are written statements of gratitude. I challenge you to try it. You’ll see that every single day there is something. Even on a bad day, you’ll find at least one thing to be grateful for. Rather than share my New Year’s “resolutions” which never seem to work for me anyway, I decided to share some of the “little things” for which I am grateful. I hope they will remind you of the wonders in your own lives. Some are dated, some don’t need to be:

On January 1st I wrote: I’m grateful for a brand new year, slate clean, one more chance to get it right.

Early morning sunrises and late afternoon sunsets that spill muted colors across the land…no matter where you are, colors happen.

January 6th:  Snow! A lot of beautiful, healing moisture for us and our desert; how magical to get it in this form!

My brother-in-law came through long, scary brain surgery, and is doing well. He will survive and thrive.

The feel of a child’s tiny, chubby hand in mine

Mountains, mountains everywhere

A splash of warm sun on a cold day

The shy smile of a passing child

January 9th:  We had the most amazing snowstorm—wet, heavy accumulation. My world has been enchanted.

January 10th:  It is so beautiful here today. Bright sunshine is melting heavy, wet snow. Our spring will be amazing. Terlingua got a lot of snow too, and fabulous Big Bend National Park. What a blessing.

A pod of killer whales trapped in Arctic ice was set free by an amazing act of nature. Hooray!

The smile of a stranger for no reason other than that I cross his/her path

Road trips and long walks/the wind in my face

Woke up in the Chisos Mountains this morning, with my girls! Book signing at the lodge’s gift store was incredible!

Spent the morning admiring Bee Mountain; I’m grateful for Terlingua’s scenery. Book signing tonight at Terlingua Trading Company!

Wildflowers with the tenacity to bloom and bloom and bloom, even when cut down again and again

Warm-hearted friends who remind me constantly that the world is not a cold, hard place

WOW on the moon tonight!

I walked under a big, bright moon this morning. It made me feel good about myself and everything in my world.

Walking, day or night, makes me feel powerful.

Today was a charmed day (This was in reference to a trip to San Angelo to see my pulmonologist.) Parking spaces opened up, Lynda treated me to lunch at the Olive Garden, and we had a great waitress. Lynda and I had a ball talking and joking around. A cloud cover came up as we headed home, so I didn’t have to drive with the sun in my eyes. The doctor wasn’t encouraging, but that hasn’t changed anything. I feel better, no matter what he says.

The squishy mud along the bank of the Rio Grande

Birds—their chatter, their unreserved happiness at being alive

Gutsy friends who love to read and are willing to read my novels long before they are publishable and tell me the truth (are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind, Beth Garcia?)

Two sisters who shower me with love and support

People who like to read

The steady, rhythmic pounding of waves on a sandy shore

Cozy, entertaining book stores

Do you see what I mean? I have a whole year of jotted-down gratitude thoughts for big and little things. Looking back raises my spirits and reminds me how blessed I am. What will 2014 bring? I don’t know, but I believe if we approach every day looking for things to be grateful about, we will find them.

May you find many incredible things to be thankful for in 2014.