I Wish I Knew

I Wish I Knew
By Jerry Edmison

It was a day like many days in the write-up room of the El Paso Border Patrol Station in the mid 1960's. A group of us had just returned from Del City, Texas where we had raided some chile fields and had apprehended about 60 or so wets. We divvied-up the group where each of us could write-up our fair share of the apprehensions.

Jimmy Greer was working the Station desk as usual due to his physical impairments and when he asked for another of the aliens to sit down to answer the questions contained within the Report of Apprehension (Form I-213), an old man sat down smilingly, and with a look of grace in his eyes with his sweat crusted cap in his hands, dutifully answered Jimmy's queries. I was the only one who noticed that as Jimmy asked the applicable questions of date of birth, place of birth, etc. the old man's answers evoked a sense of emotionality in Jimmy's eyes.

I don't pretend to know much about Jimmy's life other than the few things that he related to me during my years at the El Paso Station, but his confidences were not lost as I recorded mentally the substance of those stories and others.

Jimmy was raised in Coyame, Chihuahua Mexico and his family ranched a huge area of this desert area of northern Chihuahua. During the Cardenas regime in Mexico, when Jimmy was just a boy, many Anglo properties, including the Greer family ranch, were confiscated under some trumped up agrarian reform law and he and his family were forced to abandon their land and walk to the Texas border with little more than the clothes on their backs. The family managed somehow in Texas and later Jimmy, who had a near genius IQ, attended Mexico City University, as well as the University of Texas at Austin. A professor at the Texas campus became enthralled during classroom discussions with Jimmy about his experiences in Mexico and the plight of his family during that era. The professor's name was J. Frank Dobie and he and Jimmy became fast friends.

After Jimmy joined the Border Patrol, his talents were utilized to perform undercover operations in Mexico to help apprehend alien smuggling cases in the El Paso Border Patrol Sector. He and others spent hours in the Mexican cantinas where smuggling conspiracies were hatched and unfortunately he somehow contracted a malady that beset his legs into a form of partial paralysis, and he was never again able to perform the stringent physical tasks required of Border Patrol officers. He worked as a dispatcher and desk officer for the rest of his career. If only he could have taught at the Border Patrol Academy, or at least train El Paso probationers in the Spanish language along with the substance and intricacies of Mexican culture, I have no doubt that the INS would have benefited enormously, and all El Paso trainees during his tenure would have been a bit wiser and more efficient in their duties.

But reality often mandates that there are things we wish would occur, but somehow find a way of not occurring. Jimmy became a self styled introvert and never sought a higher calling in the Patrol. He maintained a pattern of solace by not participating in any kind of extracurricular functions related to the Border Patrol. He kept to himself, and I often wonder if any officer, other than myself and a few others, could even slightly identify with those tribulations that affected his adult life and career.

Anyway, back to my story: With the old alien in tow, Jimmy made his way from the write-up room back to Sector Training Officer Jerry Moorhouse's office. Jerry had worked with Jimmy during the undercover years and was later influential in having Jimmy retained instead of being demoted or forced into taking a disability retirement. It turned out that the old man had worked on the Greer family ranch during his youth and had become somewhat of a mentor to Jimmy during that time. They had not seen each other in many years.

I am not here to judge anyone, but I think it relevant to record some things that would never have been chronicled otherwise. I have tried with little success to verify or expound on Jimmy's biography after his death through family members that may exist, none of whom I have been able to locate. I found out the hard way what happens when you do not check the principal sources of an anecdote and seek approval for publication as in the Ted Giorgetti stabbing/shooting incident years ago, although Ted was very gracious in pardoning my faux pas.

I don't know what went on during the closed door visit, but I suspect that Jimmy and the old man had a good time reminiscing about the past. When it was all said and done though, the old man was sent to the Detention Camp like all the others and then on to Mexico via the Presidio bus lift. The brief encounter had to have been an emotional one and Jimmy's spirits were noticeably elevated the rest of the shift. It was good to see him smile.

It is just one little footnote in the history of the Border Patrol, but one that I think relevant to share with those of you who are interested in such things.