Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Along the Border

I spent some 20 years of my Peace Officer career as a District Attorney’s Investigator. Most Texas Prosecutors and their staffs were members of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. These remarks apply to the association as it was from early 1970s through 1992. There were obvious benefits of professional camaraderie and training, plus a lot of social interaction at the various gatherings of the association. The annual meetings were spread around the state, so the same members didn’t always need to travel to a central location. The DA of a District up in the panhandle was heard to complain of always needing to drive or fly to Travis County for committee meetings. He said, “Some people don’t realize that there are four other state capitols closer to me than Austin.”

Some years ago, an annual TDCAA meeting was held in El Paso, at the far west end of Texas. That year, the New Mexico Prosecutors’ association held their yearly get-together in conjunction with us. The then-president of the NM group addressed the combined groups during an early session. He paid tribute to the various peace officers also attending the meeting. He told a story, to this effect - - -

Wild and wooly as was New Mexico in the old days, Texas held the title for most badmen and toughest lawmen per square mile. Some time around 1900, several banditos stormed into a small town near the border and robbed the local bank. They got a goodly haul and took off southward. It happened there was a Texas Ranger encampment nearby, and within the hour, four Rangers were hot on the trail.

The next day, the lawmen reached a small village somewhere near the river and surprised the desperados in the local cantina. A noisy difficulty ensued, fatal for all but one of the robbers. Only a few gold coins were found. The sole surviving outlaw spoke no English whatever, and alas, the Rangers didn’t have 20 words of Spanish between them. The bilingual tavern operator was conscripted as translator.

The Ranger Captain had him tell the outlaw that they needed to recover the bank loot so they could take it, and him, before a judge. El senor bandito was uncooperative. The tired, dusty Ranger had the cantinero explain that, if they couldn’t take back the gold, they wouldn’t take back a prisoner either. He punctuated his statement by cocking a large pistol pointed at the outlaw’s head.

The barkeep carefully and at length explained the situation in Spanish: The capitan of rinches states that if you don’t give up the loot at once, he will kill you on this spot.

The bandit swallowed hard and declaimed: Clearly, this capitan is a brutal and determined man. Very well. We stopped at the jacal of my cousin Rodrigo, an hour to the west of here. I hid the gold in his well, behind the dark colored stone in the third row down.

The cantina operator turned back to the Rangers and sadly shook his head. “This terrible criminal says, you go ahead and shoot. He ain’t afraid to die.”


Matt G said...

A fine tale, well told.

“'Some people don’t realize that there are four other state capitols closer to me than Austin.'”

Or that, by way of illustration, as the crow flies, San Diego, CA is closer to El Paso, TX than is Houston, TX. (And Texarkana is a hundred miles further away from El Paso than is Houston.)

The crow, she ees dead by now, I am theenking.

lainy said...

Loved that story. Thanks for the smile :)

HollyB said...

This EXCELLENT story illustrates why immigrants AND criminals should LEARN the language of the HOST country.
How come, in 20 years, I've never heard this story before?

Old NFO said...

Haven't heard that one in years! Thanks for the laugh!!!

SpeakerTweaker said...


That's hilarious! I'm so stealing that at work Monday.


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