The AtticRep, on their Facebook site, have an open project where people can post stories about their experiences at the Border. And ’round these parts, that usually means the US / Mexico border.
Here’s what I wrote:
Some years ago I lived in Redford, Texas, a tiny town of the Rio Grande in the Big Bend. One morning I received a knock on the door of my mobile home. It was my neighbor, Father Melvin La Follette, the local Anglican priest. Standing beside him was my good friend Enrique Madrid. They asked if I wanted to help transport a goat into Mexico. As I had moved to Redford to work on my novel, I jumped at the opportunity to be anywhere but at my typewriter. I climbed into the back of Father Mel’s white panel truck. Father Mel and Enrique sat up front. As we headed towards Presidio on the river road, I was instructed to hold tight on the rope around the goat’s neck. “Don’t want her jumping all over the damn place,” Father Mel said in his flat nasal Wisconsin accent. As we headed upriver I learned that a man up in Muenster, Texas periodically sent Father Mel money to ship a milk goat to one of the poorer families in the Mexican town of Ojinaga. Enrique politely suggested I sit up on the spare tire, so that if the goat decided to relieve herself, I’d be sitting high above the tideline.
For some reason I’d assumed that this charitable enterprise had been ironed out with the bureaucracies on both sides of the river. But once we crossed over the international bridge from Presidio to Ojinaga, we were asked to pull over for inspection. The Mexican guard didn’t want us to proceed until he had a certificate from a Mexican veterinarian concerning the health of the goat. Father Mel argued loudly in his Wisconsin-accented Spanish. Even though my Spanish is pretty weak, I could tell he was pontificating about charity and international relations. When he paused for breath, Enrique tried the diplomatic approach. Something about the brotherhood of mankind? Perhaps he discovered that he and the guard were cousins. Whatever the cause, the guard capitulated with a shrug. He waved us through, but said we’d need to get the proper paperwork next time.
We bounced down rutted roads towards the outskirts of Ojinaga. And, near the slopes of Sierra de la Santa Cruz, out near the cemetery, we entered into a fenced in cluster of three tiny adobe homes and a weathered single-wide mobile home. The extended family numbered eight. Half were kids. Two toddlers and two babies. We were expected. And everyone was excited as we took the goat out of Father Mel’s van. In the manner of la gente, every one exchanged soft and warm handshakes. I was wondering why the family was deferring to me more than Enrique or Father Mel. Enrique, with a grin, whispered that they thought I was the one who had paid for the goat. “What?” I asked, looking to Enrique and Father Mel. “Because I’m the only one of us wearing a clean shirt?” Father Mel rolled his eyes. He pointed to the young mother walking up to me. She held her baby to me. “Kiss it on the forehead,” he muttered. “You know, magnanimously.” I did. And after another round of handshakes, we climbed back in the van and pulled away from the family clustered around the goat.
“I hope they don’t eat it,” Father Mel said, gazing in the rearview mirror. “It’s a milking goat. Not an eating goat.”
On the drive back, the three of us decided that the next goat would be smuggled into Mexico on a boat. Sadly, I moved away from Redford before the next goat delivery.
Here’s a link to a fictionalized version of this day: