told her. “If we don’t the communists will take over the movement.” What had in all probability set him off more than any thing was an incident a few months ‘before in which twenty Anglos in Kenedy had contributed $50 apiece to make the down payment on a house to keep a Latino family from buying it. Carlos had a rancher in his store who was bemoaning losing money ranching. He was ranching 4,000 acres. They were also having a friendly disagreement over that afternoon’s baseball games. I suggested to Carlos that the rancher would be a good prospect for a contribution for the Valley marchers. Carlos replied that the rancher was looking for a Whitman. I reminisced that the rancher had ridden around with a Goldwater ‘sticker on his car until it ratted off. The rancher and I wandered off for a cup of coffee while he belabored communists in general.. A small town is interesting ‘in that people of wildly diverse political persuasions are thrown forcibly together and ‘become good friends, while the ones of the same political affiliation may not like one another at all. Sometimes it is the other way around, but it is usually over a local election that the most violent enemies are made. THE METHODISTS’ medicine man, Rev. Brent Fisher, a strong liberal from Austin, was sitting in his office when I came by. I asked him if he was going out to greet the Valley marchers when they came through and otherwise join in the festivities. He replied that he, fortunately, was going to be on vacation that week and was going to miss all of that. I ventured to say that the trek would get here the week before his vacation. He had ‘a sober expression for a minute, then he brightened up, thinking that fate wouldn’t be that unkind to him, ‘and averred that it was the week of his vacation and maintained that I had not ‘stopped by on my bicycle to rest, but ‘to bug him. Then there was a knock on the door, and Reverend Gomez of El Buen Samaritano, the Latino Methodist church in Kenedy, came in. Reverend Fisher warned Gomez not to say anything to me that he didn’t want printed about the march, ‘because I was writing an article on it. Gomez quickly disillusioned Fisher ‘about the date of the march; it was the week before his vacation, as I had said. The conversation then wandered ‘around to Playboy Magazine. Gomez was commenting on the article in it, “God is Dead,” and said that he had become embarrassed having to buy the magazine in the drug stores to read the philosophical and religious articles so he ‘had subscribed to it. I could see that they were going to talk shop, so I changed the subject back to the march. Deliberately, I began needling Reverend Fisher about the reaction of his parishioners to it. He retorted, “How do you think things would be here if I hadn’t been pastor of this church for the past three years?” “The same,” I replied. He laughed and then asked Reverend Gomez if ‘he thought he had changed his parishioners any. Gomez smiled and then stared thoughtfully off into space, still smiling, leaving the question unanswered. I thought that we should hear a little more from the opposition, ‘so, Carlos egging me on, I called another friend of Carlos’ from his store and asked him if he wanted to join the march. He was a youthful local seed dealer who sponsors H. L. Hunt’s Life Line on the local radio station. “Yes, I’ll join the march just as soon as Carlos pays a buck twenty-five an hour, you tell him that,” he replied. “I’m the only merchant in town who pays it.” “You tell him,” I said, and gave the phone to Carlos. They immediately became involved in ‘a heated discussion, Carlos saying, “Poor big hearted you! You wouldn’t pay it if you didn’t have to.” I went out to wart the businessman. Lately he had been boasting that ‘he no longer orders me out of his store when we get ‘into a political discussion la’s he used to, but has achieved ‘remarkable poise and self control. He said that the farmers down ‘in the Valley laugh about the so-called strike, that he wished that Carlos and I could come down to Rio Grande City with him ‘sometime and talk with them. About the ‘strikers he commented that “not any of them have worked for years. They struck from pool halls and beer joints. They wouldn’t work if they paid them two and a quarter an ‘hour.” He commented that the sad thing about it is that the melon packers were union people from California who came in every summer to work and that the town depended on their business through the summer, but they wouldn’t cross the picket lines, so when they went back to California the town’s business died. He said that he had to loan a woman who owned a restaurant in Rio Grande City $100 to keep her open. The surprising thing ‘about a man who has H. L. Hunt for a hero is that he pays his workers above the minimum wage, pays for half of their retirement benefits ‘and insurance, and pays them time and a half without hiring other workers. THE PREACHERS thought that they ought to get up a panel to discuss the buck twenty-five thing with the Valley marchers. Every march ought to have a panel. Brent Fisher went around to the business man and asked him to join the panel, but he refused. Brent asked me if I had noticed a tick ‘over his eye. “He didn’t have it before you got there,” I answered. Carlos was ‘supposed to head a delegation to ‘the mayor, Jim Colvin, to ask him to come and greet the marchers and welcome them to ‘the city. I ‘asked ‘him if he had done ‘so. “Do I look like a fool?’ he replied. Carlos was trying to get ten bucks out of me for the march. Finally he said that he’d shoot me five games of pool. If he won all five of them I’d contribute ten bucks; if he lost one he’d leave me alone. I’d seen him shoot for twenty bucks a game, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him nervous. He would argue about balls and at ‘times become quite petty about the whole thing. Concerning one particularly hard shot he was eyeing ‘the balls from all angles. I needed two ball’s to win. One Latino onlooker observed, “That money makes ‘him think.” “We need the money,” Carlos ‘said in reply. He won all five of the games. I ran into the mayor in the Double S Restaurant and ‘inquired jokingly if he was going to join the march. He hadn’t heard about its coming through town. “Well, I ain’t gonna be here,” he ‘avowed. He was in town, but he didn’t march. He gave them permission to march through the town, however. Driving out to see the marchers, I encountered them just the other side of the overpass south of town on the Corpus Christi highway. There were ‘about forty of them hot-footing it towards Kenedy at the ‘hottest hour of the day. Someone was leading the jackass out front. While ‘a few of the women and kids were marching, most of them were sitting in the ‘bus, following at a distance. There were two stragglers about fifty yards behind the march. One was a portly Latino man of middle ‘age who apparently was having some ‘trouble keeping up, and behind him was a younger Latino carrying a giant parasol. They congregated under the overpass in the shade where it was cool and grassy. Carlos had driven up ‘and was conversing with them. Brother James Novarro was there in his pith helmet, ‘and a Latino Methodist preacher who had come down from San Antonio wore a white shirt, tie, and straw cowboy hat. I saw a tall Anglo in the group. Wondering who he was, I went over and asked him, and he introduced himself as Eugene Nelson. Father Gonzales had driven up, and I ‘asked him about the burro. “He’s a wetback,” Gonzales answered jovially. It had a ‘sign on its back, “My name is $1.25 an hour.” I ‘asked Father Gonzales about Father Sherrill Smith’s ‘statement to the John Birohers about the marchadores having communist ‘support. “I couldn’t eat for day and a half,” he said. Then he told about a conversation with Smith in which he had told Smith that he had investigated every one of the marchers as to communism but one. “And which one is that?” Smith had asked anxiously. “The burro.” Nelson commented that a man had driven up ‘to them back on the road a piece and had offered them two cases of soda water and a case of whiskey which he had in his front seat. They had ‘taken the ‘soda water, but refused the whiskey. Nelson said the man had told him that he was from Crystal City and a farmer there. About this time a car drove by. “There he is there,” Nelson said. When I saw who it was I chuckled. I informed Nelson that the bearer of these gifts wasn’t from Crystal City, but from around here, and he was one of the biggest farmers in the area. Nelson then began wondering about his motives in offering them the whiskey. “No, he likes a drink and figures that everybody else does too,” I replied. I was highly amused, for he was the father of the Kenedy ‘businessman who had developed the tic. Brent Fisher had brought them some soda water, too, but no whiskey. One of the marchadores ‘ began giving the burro a bottle of ‘strawberry soda pop to drink the burro relished it right out of December 9, 1966 17
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