Monday, March 30, 2015

Life on the Edge (of the Country)

(I’m not a Lawyer nor have I played one on TV or even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express lately.  The opinions expressed in this, my one annual authorized rant, are my own and cannot be attributable to anyone else.)

Murphy over at Lagniappe’s Lair had an interesting take on an attempt to gain fame through YouTube.  I’ll not publish the YouTube link as I’m not into giving that person any more publicity than he’s already garnering.  

As I looked at the still on Murph’s site, my BS detector started the slow chirp of approaching Bovine Excrement.  I elected not to start by watching the clip, and read Murphy’s description first.  After reading that and remembering that Murphy tends to be somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun, so could possibly err on the side of the law (which is generally the better side to err on), I watched the video.  As usual, Murphy summed it up more eloquently than I would have.
That’s not the first time I've watched one of those videos and after every one I've said the same thing.  Just say “yes”.  I don't believe confirming you’re an American Citizen or even a card carrying immigrant, is an infringement on your Constitutional Rights.  If you say “yes” and he says “Outta the car”, then we've got grounds for discussion on abuse of your rights. 

As Murphy describes in his post, on his trip out to the Southwest recently, he had a few interactions with the Border Patrol checkpoints.  Of course he did.  He was turista-ing very close to the border and frequently traveling North away from the border.  Which would be the direction any immigrant smuggling would travel.
Fixed Checkpoints

Other than my time in the USAF, I've lived mostly in Texas.  Growing up as a kid, there were Border Patrol checkpoints on the main highways in the Southwest sections of the state.  They weren't always in operation, but when they were, everybody stopped.

Everybody that I knew was aware of the “Cooperate and Graduate” flow pattern.  Be polite, answer the question, and drive on.  

Post-9/11, IMHO that hasn't changed much.  The Checkpoints seem to be open 24/7 now, but other than that, “Cooperate and Graduate” still seems to be the order of the day.  I’m sure I’ll be dragged through the coals about “throwing away the Bill of Rights”, but I don’t see it that way.
Ajo AZ checkpoint
One of my favorite drives is US-90 from San Antonio to Marathon TX and then down into Big Bend.  Lot’s of “See ‘um comin” vistas there and it’s not unusual to drive for long periods without seeing any other vehicles.  If you do, they’re usually painted like this.  

Lots of these on the road.

A simple wave as you pass, and life is good.  Break down, and seeing one of them is a good thing.  BTDT.

But, on that drive, you’ll go through several checkpoints, both permanent and ad hoc.  Regardless, I've only had a couple that were out of the ordinary.  Stopped at one outside Presidio,  the Border Patrol Agent asked the question which was answered, “Yes”.  Then he asked where I was headed, I told him Home and he asked which county the town was in.  I told him.  Was he abusing my rights?  Or had he just had someone come through saying he was an American and wasn't?  Don’t know.  Didn't really bother me.

I live in a small town,  The Law Enforcement Center, (used to be called The Jail) houses the city police, the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol and a small contingent of Border Patrol.  It’s a small town, I know most of these folks personally and the rest, I recognize and will give them a “howdy” in the supermarket. (Well, except for that one who’s got a penchant for racing through active school zones sirens blazing to pull me over for a ticket for an week old expired inspection sticker.  IMHO, he’s a tax collector, not a police officer, but I digress.)

However, there was a time when old age, long days and traffic almost got me in trouble with the Law.

So, There I was……*

C’mon, you knew I’d do that, didn't ya?

My sister had fallen on some hard times and needed a new start.  She and I decided she should move to my town where there are quite a few of these things called “jobs” available.  “Jobs” were few and far between in the People’s Democratic Republic of New Mexico in general and her particular locale specifically.

The plan is I’ll drive my truck to her town, we’ll rent a U-Haul with a vehicle tow trailer (Her Jeep wasn’t in good enough shape to make the return trip).  Load up her stuff and drive back to Rancho Juvat.  Two days total.  Distance to target about 650 miles.  Now, you’ve got to love I-10 from Kerrville to El Paso.  Posted speed limit is 80.  Most people drive about 85.  You can burn through those miles fairly quickly, as opposed to the days of the Double Nickle.  Sorry, I digress.

4 Miles every 3 minutes

Well, I call the U-Haul folks and arrange a truck, I need at least a 17’ one.  None in the target area.  Closest is in El Paso about 150 miles away.  Ok, I negotiate for that extra 300 miles to be included as they couldn’t provide one where it needed to be.  I asked them if my truck would fit on the vehicle trailer.  “No problemo”.  Travel day arrives and I have a very pleasant drive to El Paso.  Find the U-Haul office that’s supposed to have my reservation.  Closed up tighter than a drum, 2PM on a Thursday.  

Ruh Roh!

Call the toll free number and get directed to a different U-Haul office.  Start to drive back across town, and decide to call them as I’m going.  Get the manager on the phone and ask him if he’s got my reserved 17’ U-Haul truck and vehicle trailer ready.  “Yes, Sir, I’m looking right at it.”  Ok, I’ll be there in about a half hour.  

Arrive there, go into the office, give him my name and he hands me the papers to fill out.  As I’m doing that, he goes to get the key from the locker.  And can’t find it.  He’s starting to panic and I ask him what’s wrong.  He tells me he can’t find the keys.  Calls in his other worker who tells him that he rented it out to a walk in about 10 minutes ago.

OK, do you have any other 17’ trucks available?  No Sir, just 14 footers.  Call my sister to find out how many cubic feet of stuff she had.  She tells me and it should fit in the 14 footer.  Famous last words.
Who knew 3' makes a difference? Well, I did for one.

Get the vehicle trailer hitched up and drive my truck on to it.  Well mostly.  The rear wheels are still on the ramp.  I go back in to the office and ask them for help.  My friend comes out and says, that model Pickup won’t fit.  Perfect!  Why did the booking agent say it would?  “Yo no se’”.

Do you lock your parking lot? Yes.  Can I leave my truck in it overnight? Yes.

Saying good bye to my truck for what quite likely will be the last time, I’m back out on the highway.  Complete the rest of the drive to my sister’s locale without any further ado.  Check in with her, have a quick dinner and hit the rack.

Up early the following morning and over to my sister’s place, She's hired some local youth’s to help load. We’re waiting for them to show up.  They’re a little late, so we start loading.  Did I mention that my sister is in need of double hip replacement?  I, of course, am full of vim and vigor (full of something anyhow). We’d like to get on the road by about 11 so we've got to get started.  

Somewhere around 10:45, we've got the truck as full as it can possibly be.  Which is not the same as all her stuff is loaded.  And then the Ute’s show up.  She tells them their services are no longer required and they start to negotiate with her for some of the agreed upon fee.  That ceased when a sweat soaked, creaking, PO’d fighter pilot walked up behind them and said they did nothing and that was what they’d be paid.  They could take it up with the cops if they liked.  They left.  Shortly thereafter so did we, leaving a very nice bedroom set in the garage for the landlord.

We are piled in to the cab of this U-haul, me, my sister and her two large yellow labs.  Visual lookout responsibilities have to be coordinated as the yellow labs have blocked my view of the right hand mirror.  Which isn’t as big a problem as it would seem, since the vehicle is fully loaded, and we’re pulling a trailer with a fully loaded jeep on it.  There were tumble weeds passing us on the highway.

We get to El Paso, and pull into my good friend’s U-Haul establishment, and well wonder of wonders, my truck is still there good as new (well good as I left it).  

I offload my sister and the dogs into it.  They're happy as the AC in the U-Haul isn’t really working.  We’re off and soon back on I-10 where I LONG for the days of 55MPH.  You’ve got to understand, we’ve got to cross the Guadalupe Mountains (yes, they’re not the Himalaya’s, but I am well above max gross weight).  I am not going anywhere fast.  To my fellow travelers that may have been on the road that day, at no time did I leave the right lane.

I’ve been travelling like this for about 6 hours when we are just east of Van Horn and its Border Patrol Checkpoint (you wondered how this saga fit into this topic, didn’t ya?).

There’s a long line of cars waiting to be asked the question.  We’re inching along, it’s August in the desert, the AC isn’t working, I’ve been sweating all day long.  I’ve gone through about half a case of bottled water and haven’t needed to visit the facilities.
Almost There!

I’m not a picture of cool, calm and collected, if you get my drift.  Finally, I’m second in line.

Well.  Evidently, the person in front of me gets asked the question and either pitches a fit or doesn't answer it correctly or something, because things get a bit tenser right outside my windshield.  There’s a lot of words being spoken and additional bodies arriving in the vicinity but ain't nobody moving, much less me and the quarter million vehicles behind me.

Finally, after quite a bit of time, the vehicle in front of me gets moved “over there”, and I get motioned forward.  As I shift in the seat to begin driving, I get a charley horse in my right leg, and before I can get it off the gas, the truck jumps a bit.

The young female Border Patrol Agent, looks at me wide eyed for an instant, then the eyes get very serious as she puts up her hand for me to stop.

I do.

She comes up and asks me "Is there’s a problem?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Then what was that?”

“That, Ma’am, was a 60 year old man who drove 650 miles yesterday to pick up his sister, who’s now in the vehicle behind him, personally loaded all her stuff into this vehicle and is now driving 650 miles back home in an un-airconditioned vehicle and who was sitting waiting for the guy ahead of him to get his act together and while so doing, developed a charley horse in his right leg which caused him to goose the gas pedal much harder than he wanted and for which he is very sorry for any anxiety caused.”

She said “American Military, Right?”

“Yes, Ma’am”

“Have a safe trip.”


  1. We agree on many things Juvat.

    Another fine start to an otherwise "meh" Monday. Well done!

  2. Yeah, those checkpoints are just a fact of life, an excuse to roll down the window and exchange a pleasant greeting with someone just doing their job. Remember when there were agriculture checkpoints asking if you were carrying any fruit or plants too? I wonder what the tin foil hat crowd thinks about the aerostat outside of Deming.

    1. Yes, I do remember the ag checkpoints, they were usually preceded (at least in my childhood) with about 10 miles of being force fed all the fruit in the vehicle. Which may explain my lack of enthusiasm for fruit in my later years.
      There's also one outside of Marfa. I paid for them when I was at the Pentagon.

  3. No different than a DUI checkpoint. Go with the flow.

  4. I've heard about you so often I just had to come over. Uncle Skip is a regular read of mine.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. We're glad to have you stop by. Uncle Skip is a regular read for me as well.

  5. Another excellent adventure Juvat! U-Hauls are fantastic for depleting electrolytes and for helping you decide the difference between stuff you need to keep and stuff you want to keep.

    As for the other stuff, not a fan of "papers pliss." But that's just me.

    1. I get that, and understand. I've never had to actually show any papers, just been asked "are you a US citizen?" Which given the situation on our borders, seems to me to be a reasonable question. Given that the population in the school district here has gone from about 5% without SSANs to almost 40% in the last couple of years, I think it should be asked a bit more regularly.

  6. Bracketville Border Patrol checkpoint on U.S. 90 between Del Rio and San Antonio, red Corvette with TX "FLU RME" plates usually got a quick pass. regards, Alemater

    1. Been through there many, many, MANY times on my way from Laughlin to the Auger Inn at Randolph. Never had a problem, but coming home from Christmas Leave and passing through Hondo.....
      Thanks for the story reminder.

  7. I lived in McAllen and taught school in Mission, TX back in the 80's. We crossed the border muchas veces. When the border agent asked if we were American citizens, we looked him in the eye and said yes sir! No problema. Being a smart ass was not a good idea.

    1. Yeah, I'm sure there are a few jerks out there, and I'm absolutely sure they have a bad day every once in a while, but a "Howdy" and a smile go a long way.

  8. Oh man... Reminds me of ONE DIY move I did from California to Florida... Never again. I just pay the man...

  9. LOL. You now make me recall my first-ever border checkpoint in Laredo Texas when, in a non-thinking moment, I asked the man with the mirror on a stick to check my left front wheel when he looked under my truck in Secondary Inspection. (Young white male from Michigan only in Mexico for a few hours...Ray Charles could have seen the diversion to secondary coming.) I was hot and tired and the wheel had started making noise about an hour into my first-ever Mexican adventure, and it didn't dawn on me that that reasonable (to me) request might be taken as smart-assedness. Apparently it was and I came to appreciate that fact as I sat there watching them unpack my truck and put a dog through it.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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