More The People of Presidio
THE PEOPLE OF PRESIDIO
By Owen Oates
There were several colorful characters in Presidio when I got there in 1958. One of the most interesting was Ma Daniels. She had a store, mostly dry goods, nearest to the POE of all the businesses in town. The poor women of Ojinaga would come over and buy cloth by the yard from Ma. She had all the other stuff to go with it: thimbles, needles, dye, ribbons, elastic, patterns, buttons, thread, etc., and she had a good business going. She kept some Blue Jeans, straw hats, boots of the most popular sizes, some overalls, and some tools she would buy on the street corner of the place she went to get the cloth.
Pa was too old and feeble to drive so Ma secured a Mexican driver about 20 years of age. About once a month he would drive her to Ft. Stockton, Pecos, and sometimes Dallas. She would load that station wagon of hers so full of bolts of cloth and odds and ends you couldn't see out of any window.
Ma was about 70, I would judge, and she was constantly busy while in the store and most people were in awe of her energy. When a new PI or a new anybody came into town he would, sooner or later, find himself in Ma's store. She would go over, grab his cheek between her thumb and forefinger, and ask, "And whose little boy are you?" Answers didn't seem to mind to Ma; she had her way and that suited her.
Nobody knew where Ma had come from. She had been there since the end of WWII and had been in Kansas City, some say servicing the servicemen, before that. I got to talking with her one day about this and that, and she told me, "Honey, when I was young and didn't know anything I gave it away. When I got older and smarter I sold it. Now in my old age I'm having to buy it all back."
It was the young Mexican chauffeur that we expected was the beneficiary of Ma's benevolence. He had a look of serendipity on his face when anyone asked him leading questions. He made himself scarce when he wasn't working in the store. He also kept that huge station wagon running.
Pa died while I was there and Ma had him buried in the Catholic cemetery though he claimed that what little Christianity still remained in him was all Protestant. Ma seemed happier after that, though it seems a sacrilege to mention it. Might have had something to do with being able to see her chauffeur and mechanic oftener than once a month.