Saturday, July 07, 2007

I thank some of you readers for encouraging my writing. Here is another true story, but of course the names have been changed to protect the people involved.
They met on a dark road in the middle of the night, a pre-arranged headlight signal marking the transfer point. Pierce’s pulse quickened as his truck wheels slowed, and worrisome thoughts raced through his brain, but so far everything was going just as he had been told it should. Arturo, riding shotgun, stared quietly with wide and nervous eyes.

The truck rolled close, nose to back-end of the van in the manner of two horses doing mutual fly-control, and before Pierce could come to a complete stop, the door of the van opened quietly, a small shadowy occupant was ejected, and then it was gone, disappearing into the night in less time than it took the young man on the pavement to clamber into the cab of the pick-up. As if someone had screamed, “Drive like hell!” at him, Pierce wheeled the truck around and sped north.

There was an embrace, an outpouring of questions and answers, the laughter of relief as they realized the mission appeared to be accomplished. The two young men talked excitedly in Spanish, faster than Pierce could speak it but not so fast that he couldn't understand the news from “home” and the details of the journey.

It had all gone without a hitch. La mamá había llorado, but her tears were proud and hopeful. The first miles were unremarkable, then the crossing of the border and the transport to Phoenix was accomplished, and finally the 2500 mile van ride east and north. For a young man not yet seventeen years old it was an adventure that gave both pride and more than a little worry, but the network was experienced and efficient, and he had made it. Miguel expressed sorrow for others like himself who didn’t have an older brother awaiting them, or who, like his friend Pedro, had been intercepted, arrested and sent back.

They reached the farm an hour later, the darkness beginning to give way to dawn’s early light, and Arturo proudly led his younger brother up the stairs to the apartment Pierce had fashioned above the milk house. It was small, but there were amenities both boys had lacked in the shantytown outside of Hermosillo. Miguel was awed by his new "home" with its shower and flush toilet and thought how he would work hard to prove his worth. Milking cows would all be new to him, but he was eager to become a wage-earner, and so far his impressions of his new employer were living up to the descriptions Arturo had shared in their frequent cell phone conversations.

In the morning almost upon them, Miguel would be introduced to the Amish family who were also employed by the farm, to the large herd of Holsteins, and he would gaze out over fields more lush than any he could have imagined from his home in Mexico. He understood that he must not leave the confines of the farm for fear of being recognized as an “illegal” and picked up by the Border Patrol or State troopers who regularly patrol this south side of the Canadian border, and Miguel accepted that condition. Six hundred acres and your own apartment was a lot of space.

Resting on their beds, tired but running on adrenalin, the young Mexican brothers wondered how it could be that there were no Americans wanting to do this work.

*... * ...*... * ...*

Arturo and Miguel have the good fortune of working for kind-hearted people who can speak their language. They continue to work on the farm (and they are excellent workers), send their pay back to Mexico and appreciate these jobs that no one else wanted. Like most of the hispanic workers employed on our local dairy farms, they plan to return to "Hermosillo" when they have earned enough money to begin a decent life in their home country.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Great Bank Robbery

.....(This is a re-run of a piece from the early days of this blog. At that time, nobody was reading anything by some wizened wizard in the enchanted forest, so I'm re-posting this true story because it's a good one and you no doubt missed it the first time around, and because instead of writing, I do have to clean out the barn today.)

It was a hot summer afternoon in Potsdam, a lazy college town that had turned its students and teachers out to summer pasture. The merchants were complaining about things being “slow” (as they always did at that time of year), yet they, like everyone else, were secretly enjoying the quiet of the off-season. Then it happened: The Great Bank Robbery of 1987.

It certainly wasn’t on anybody’s list of expected occurrences, so the robbers had the advantage of surprising the employees of Community Bank’s tiny satellite location. While they had the element of surprise on their side, they had the distinct disadvantage of being the only three black men in a white Cadillac convertible within probably a hundred miles, and that in a county full of rednecks in pickup trucks.

The local police quickly jumped into action, although they weren’t exactly sure what sort of action they should jump into. By 2:00, Alfred, the town’s one black businessman, had been arrested twice by two different State Troopers, only to be immediately recognized by the local chief and turned loose, his apologies to Alfred gradually morphing into a string of expletives aimed at the visiting forces.

The police did manage to set up roadblocks while the robbers were driving around town trying to decide which way to leave. It would later be learned that they had come to Potsdam on the invitation of a local professor who hoped to do them some social good, but apparently they were in such a hurry to make the most of the opportunity presented that they hadn’t bothered to get their bearings. Someone reported seeing the trio studying a map in the hospital parking lot shortly after the commission of the crime.

At 3:00, Alfred was arrested again, freed again, and decided he might as well go home for the rest of the day.

Lost, confused and road-blocked, the robbers eventually decided to ditch the car and make their get-away on foot. The Cadillac was found at the south side of town, on the north edge of the great swamp.

Meanwhile, the local coffee counters were a-buzz with speculation as “Three men and a Cadillac” began to take on gangland proportions. Not everyone, however, had heard the news. Irv Thompson, high-school English teacher, was home relaxing in blissful ignorance of the excitement... in his house bordering the swamp...

News of The Event reached Vic Jarvis early in the day. He was the proprietor of Vic’s Barbershop and Figure Skating Leotard store, and one after another his clientele wasted no time in giving him the scoop. “Just in case,” Vic set his scissors aside, took his pistol out of storage and placed it in readiness for any would-be robbers. He’d never had any black men come looking for haircuts (or leotards, for that matter), so he figured he’d know them for what they were if three came knocking on this afternoon. Maybe it was the latent figure skater in him, maybe it was just good common sense, but Vic was nervous.

When the location of the found Cadillac was announced, Vic’s fears reached panic proportions. He grabbed the gun, flipped over the “OPEN” sign, jumped in his car and sped south. Although he didn’t know it, Vic reached Irv’s place about the time the first of the bank robbers quietly and peacefully gave himself up.

Bursting into his friend’s living room, gun in hand, alternating frantic questions concerning Irv’s well-being with excerpted news bulletins, Vic made an immediate and profound impression. The idea was that Irv should have the gun to protect himself; an idea punctuated by the deafening blast it made as Vic endeavored to show Irv that it was safe because it wasn’t loaded.

The town’s memory of that eventful day has faded with time. The fate of the bank robbers and their collegiate co-conspirator is forgotten by most of us these years later – most of us except maybe Alfred who still shakes his head in wonder at honky stupidity, and Irv and Vic who occasionally look at a hole in the fireplace mantle and chuckle at how lucky they both were when the shot was fired.

This is a true story. I have changed the names, and 1987 is my best guess at which year these events actually took place.