The Magical Number, Forty-four

Wetbacks in Martha’s Vineyard, shortly before the residents sicked the Massachusetts National Guard on Them

‘They enriched us.’ Migrants’ 44-hour visit leaves indelible mark on Martha’s Vineyard

As a cop in Texas, I dealt with wetbacks on a frequent basis, for thirty years. I’m trying to come up with an enriching experience. Don’t go anywhere I’m sure something will come to mind.

Let’s see, there was the time I went into the Blanco River at 2 am on a cold February night. A wetback car thief ran out of road, wrecked and bailed. The foot chase and subsequent fight was on! He broke away from me and disappeared. I knew he was just right there, so I rolled after him. Did I mention 2 am in February. I did? Okay, I know I didn’t say anything about the cliff that preceded the river. He ended up in the river. I ended up sitting on the bank up to my knees in the river. It was dark, but I still had my trusty flashlight, and it was pointed right at the wetback. He was face down and appeared to be drowning. I went in the river to save his life. The moment I touched him the fight was back on.

Pay attention grasshopper, when it is pitch-black and you only have one light source, protect it. I learned through experience gained that night that sudden violent impact will break flashlight bulbs. Being chest deep in a river in February with only a flashlight sucks. What sucks worse is when the light goes out. The wetback latched onto a tree limb. I worked my flashlight up and down his arm trying to break his grip, without success. I grabbed a handful of hair and held is head under water for about twenty minutes or so. At least it seemed like it. That worked. The whole encounter, cliff dive to finish probably lasted less than five minutes. At no point did I feel enriched.

I worked in a city that had a private residential “school.” That’s what you call a facility that houses crazy and drug abusing adolescents whose parents have money. Two fifteen-year-old girls ran away together. They went just far enough to hook up with my car thieving wetback (see above). He, in turn, introduced them to a small circle of his friends. By the time I tracked them down, about thirty-six hours later, the pair had pulled more trains in San Marcos than MK&T railroad. The girls weren’t very cooperative, but I don’t think they felt enriched by the experience.

I’m not doing very well in the enriching experience category. However, I do have one story dealing with an indelible mark. In the early 90’s I stopped an 80’s model Buick Regal for the traffic violation of failing to dim lights. Chickenshit, you say! Yeah, but for the fact that all 1980 GMC products shared a common design flaw. See a GM product you like take it. No payments all you need is a screwdriver. In less time that it takes a legitimate GM owner to start the car. A car thief can be boogying on down the road. All he needs is a screwdriver. Just stick it in the gap surrounding the turn signal, bust the plastic column, reach in and away we go. Course the dimmer mechanism contained on the turn signal lever no longer works.

With that in mind, I was about 80% sure the car was stolen. But the driver stopped. So, I edged up to the car figuring that as soon as I got away from the patrol car, he would rabbit. I did and he did. I pivoted to jump back into the patrol car. As I did so I heard what sounded like a gun shot. I also felt pain in my right ankle. No way a car thief was going to get away from me. Especially if the turd shot me. So, I called the chase. We began what I called the San Antonio triathlon. Drive like hell for six blocks, then jump out of the moving car and run like hell. The final stage is to puke from all the exertion.

I was there when the occupants bailed out of the car. I hobbled from the patrol car and slam dunked the driver as he emerged. One, two three and a hooey and he was cuffed. By this time, I was surrounded by backup officers. It was also when I discovered that I had ruptured my Achilles tendon. A six-inch incision and four months later I was back at work. The wetback driver got double secret probation. Thirty years later I still have that indelible mark.

I guess I just didn’t do it right. I never hit that magical number of 44. Another missed opportunity. I’m told I never found the g-spot either.