In the annals of West Texas law enforcement, few episodes rival the recent (well, relatively recent) unfortunate occurrence involving the mayor of Lajitas. As visitors to that border metropolis in the Big Bend are aware, the mayor of Lajitas is an alcoholic goat named Clay Henry.
The incumbent Mayor Henry is the third of his line, making this, we believe, the only democratically elected dynasty in the country. If you give the mayor a longneck bottle of beer, he’ll swig it–just like most of his constituents. The Sober Party ran a canine against him in the last election, but it didn’t have a dog’s chance.
So first thing one morning just a few months ago, Steve Houston, the county attorney, gets a call from Richard Hill, constable in Lajitas, announcing they’re dealing with a serious situation: Some-one castrated the mayor. A vet is en route at high speed from Alpine, but it’s unclear whether the goat will live or not. Local feelings were running high against the perps. Some felt there was danger of a possible lynch mob. Constable Hill got right on it.
As it happened, there was a Mexican maid cleaning one of those houses in Lajitas owned by some rich guy who lives in Houston and,while cleaning the fridge, she finds a bag containing what looks like a pair of huevos. Thinking nothing of it, she puts the evidence in the garbage, which goes to the dumpster. But after hearing of the dastardly attack on the mayor, she reports the suspicious occurrence to the constable, who then heroically goes through the garbage in the dumpster until he finds the smoking goat gonads.
(We now pause for a point of border law enforcement that needs to be made more forcefully to the nincompoops at the Department of Justice in Washing-ton. There is some pressure from up there for the local laws to get involved in immigration enforcement. The reason this is a terrible idea is that if calling 911 is the same as calling La Migra, illegal workers won’t call to report crimes, leaving them even more vulnerable to human predators than they already are. The case of this upstanding non-citizen who found the mayor’s privates is but one example of what wouldn’t happen if the fools in Washington had their way. And now, back to the story.)
Further excellent law-enforcement work tracks down first, the owner of the house and then, the alleged perps, to whom he had loaned it for the weekend. The main alleged perp is from a nearby town with a bad reputation (not Terlingua), and this is where a certain class element enters the story, giving it Dreiserian overtones.
The alleged perp and his friends had done some work for the absentee homeowner, who made his house available to them as a reward. On Sunday morning, they’re drinking near the trading post and one of those rich guys who keep buying up Lajitas was showing around a lady–who might have been a movie star from Hollywood, according to some unreliable sources–and he wants to show her Clay Henry’s talent with the bottle.
But it’s Sunday a.m. with no beer for sale, so this rich guy asks the perps if he can get a beer from their stash, and they oblige. Then he takes their perfectly good green-bottle beer and gives it to the goat, which the alleged perp feels is an insult. Why he decided to take his revenge on the goat is unclear, except they were all pretty drunked up, according to several sources.
The perp is charged with torturing an animal and possession of a deadly weapon. County Attorney Houston and District Attorney Frank Brown tried to figure out a way to charge the guy with injury to a public official, which the Lege, naturally, has made into a crime that carries heavy time, but they couldn’t get Clay Henry to fit the legal definition of “person.”
Meantime, Clay Henry has recovered and is drinking again, heavily. Dan Carroll of Lajitas Resort told the Alpine Avalanche, “Clay Henry’s health is fine now, although he obviously won’t make a complete recovery.”
Further note on border law enforcement: In the wake of Sept. 11, orders came from Washington to “close the border.” Senior Chief Patrol Agent Simon Garza Jr. told the Big Bend Sentinel, “To be honest, we weren’t sure what to do at the time, but we felt we had to do something.” So they got the International Boundary and Water Commission to dump some big rocks across the low-water crossing at Redford, Texas. Since everybody who lives in Redford has sisters and aunts and cousins by the dozens who live just across the border, upset ensued.
At the Redford School, the Sentinel’s reporter–Sterry Butcher–observed a “God Bless America” sign the kids had made by stuffing Styrofoam cups into the chain link fence and wrote, “Yes, Redford is part of America, but this is a town that is so inextricably linked with Mexico that the idea of a border is glaringly abstract.”
The border is pretty much theoretical at a lot of places. You can’t cross legally at any place not designated an official port, but law-abiding citizens have crossed for generations. Some Border Patrol jefes met with the irate Redfordians and they sort of worked a practical arrangement, as people on the border often do. It’s just the orders from Washington that make no sense.
Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.