No Cussin On The Radio
RULE NUMBER ONE: NO CUSSIN ON THE RADIO
When I got my telegram notifying me that I had been accepted for hire by the Patrol it also, as they always did informed me that my official duty station was to be Sierra Blanca, TX. This was in the summer of 1970. I was living in El Paso, TX at the time as were my parents. Dad as you will recall from my previous Recuerdos was also in the Patrol and when he heard that I was going to be stationed in Sierra Blanca he said that I couldn’t have gotten a better Senior to break in under than George Bounds. George had been the Senior at Sierra Blanca longer than the Pope had been a Catholic. Dad first met George many years before during the Bracero Program when Dad was stationed at Brownville, TX. At that time George was a Detention Officer attached to the McAllen station. Not long after that George entered the Patrol and later transferred to the El Paso Sector.
Now George was from the old school. He ran a tight station but he was the best damn Senior I ever worked for. Five trainees out of my class were sent to Sierra Blanca. That was an increase of 150% in man power for the Sierra Blanca station and more people than George had ever supervised. I think he was a little over whelmed by it at first. Prior to our arrival it was just George, Jim Brown, and Millard Meek. Right away George sat us five trainees down and told us what he expected. None of his expectations were unreasonable but I will never forget how much time he spent talking to us about proper radio procedure. His pet peeve was someone using fowl language on the radio. It wasn’t long before some of the journeymen around the sector started asking us if George had given us his speech on proper radio procedure, so obviously George had a reputation for demanding that PIs keep it clean when using the radio.
Sierra Blanca was, and still is the eastern most station in the El Paso Sector located some 93 miles east of El Paso right on IH-10. The Whitman mountain range runs north and south and is just west of Sierra Blanca between Sierra Blanca and El Paso. To make it possible for Sierra Blanca to communicate with the rest of the sector a radio repeater station had been built on top of one of the highest peaks in the Whitman range. The Sierra Blanca station was responsible for all of the area from the Rio Grande to the New Mexico state line and within the east/west county lines of Hudspeth County, an enormous area. So large in fact that frequently we were not able to communicate car to car within the Sierra Blanca station unless we had our radio set on the repeater. The important thing to remember here is that when your radio was set on the repeater most of the entire Sector could hear your transmission.
In a station where there were just a handful of PIs such as Sierra Blanca it was not unusual for there to be as few as two PIs on duty at some times. When that occurred it meant that the two on duty had to pull double duty in checking drag roads for sign. Such was the case one morning when just George and I were working. George and I had met at the station about 5AM and we flipped a coin the see who would take the south drag road down around Green Gap and who would check the drag roads east of town. I got the east drag roads. After we stopped at the Wagon Wheel for a quick cup of coffee we took off for our respective areas. The eastern sky was just turning a reddish pink with the rising sun and the morning air was still crisp and clean and heavy with the pungent scent of the creosote brush that my jeep was running over. It was a great morning to be tracking wets. As luck would have it I hadn’t cut more than a mile of the first drag road when I came across fresh sign of a group of wets. I called George on the radio using the local channel, not the repeater to let him know I had a trail going. He didn’t answer which didn’t surprise me as Green Gap, where George was, was one of those areas where you had to use the repeater to communicate. I switched over to the repeater and called again. This time George answered also on the repeater. I told him I had a trail going. He said he would go ahead and check Green Gap and if he didn’t get anything going he would head east to give me a hand. I trailed this group about three miles to a windmill and found the group hiding in some thick brush. I got the group loaded up and called George again and told him I had the group rounded up and that I was heading back to town to drop them off at the county jail and would then head back and finish checking the east drag road. I got through at the jail and was just leaving the edge of town when George called on the repeater and said he had picked up a trail and for me to come on down to Green Gap and give him a hand. Green Gap is about 11 miles south of town and most of it is gravel/dirt road to this day. So I knew it would take about 15 to 20 minutes to get there. After I had driven about 10 miles George called, still on the repeater and said he had trailed the group to the steel tank at the top of Green Gap. A few minutes later I turned off the county road and headed up into Green Gap. Just as a point of interest, the road I turned onto, just two ruts is the road that was originally made by the Butterfield Stage line. The road has several curves on the way up to the top of the gap and about 200 yards below the steel tank a fence crosses the road and there was a wire gate there that was always closed. From that gate you could look up the hill and see the steel tank at the top of the gap. The tank was a very large round tank that sat on a flat concrete foundation. The sides of the tank were at least 8 to 10 feet high and it was approximately 30 to 40 feet in diameter. I got out of my jeep and opened the gate, drove through it and got out and closed the gate. Just as I was getting back into my jeep George called, still on the repeater and said he was having trouble cutting the tracks away from the steel tank. He said it appeared that the wets had spent some time there as there were tracks all over the area around the tank and the ground was still wet where they had climbed up on the tank to get water. He also said that the wets were bare foot. I had just started pulling away from the gate when I looked up the road just in time to see George’s jeep disappear around the far side of the tank. Just as his jeep went out of sight here comes three wets around the tank Tripue bags on their shoulders, gallon Clorox bottles of water in one hand and their shoes in the other hand, all were sort of crouched over, craning their necks around the tank to keep George’s jeep in sight. It took me a second to decipher what it was that my eyes were seeing. When I realized what was happening I had to stop and give myself time to take this all in. This moment had to be savored. It wasn’t something that should be interrupted without due observation and consideration of the event. Neither George nor the wets had noticed me down the road; after all they were all very much involved in trying to keep track of each other. I had to get a closer look at this but I didn’t want the wets or George to notice me. So I reached around and got my binoculars out. By this time I am laughing so hard I am having trouble focusing the binoculars. It was like watching an incredible play during the Sunday afternoon Dallas Cowboy game and wanting the TV crew to keep running the replay. Every time George and those wets came around that tank it just got better. Finally I got the binoculars focused and I could see George hanging half way out of the driver’s doorway intently studying the tracks with that little stub of a cigar he always had in his mouth, running from one corner of his mouth to the other. The wets are in single file, one behind the other, each with his hand on the back of the one in front of him following along behind George’s jeep. If I had had a camera I would have owned George forever.
Finally I decided I had better let George in on what was goin on. Still watching through the binoculars, I reached over and got the radio mike and waited until George came into view again. I keyed the mike and said, “George I think I know why you can’t get those tracks away from the tank”. Remember we are still on the repeater. George says, “Why”? I said, “Because, the wets are following you around the tank”. HERE IT COMES FOLKS. George keys the mike and hollers,………..”SONS A BITCHES”. He jumps out of his jeep without even taking it out of gear so the jeep makes about three or four hard jerks forward and then dies. I could hear George hollerin something as he started running back around the tank but I couldn’t make out what it was. It sounded like another string of SONS A BITCHES however. The wets don’t know what has been said they just think George has gone crazy from driving around in circles for half and hour and they dropped their shoes, Trique bags, and water jugs and take off running up the road in the opposite direction. By now I can’t take it anymore and I am setting on the front bumper of my jeep about to pass out for lack of oxygen. About this time someone, it sounded like Jim Mann, one of the Seniors over in Fort Hancock, a long time friend of George’s came on the radio and said very slow and in a low sort of astonished voice, “did y’all hear what George Bounds just said on the service radio”. Jim was well aware of George’s pet peeve for foul language on the radio.
When George came back around the tank and saw the wets running down the road he took his stub of a cigar out of his mouth, throw it on the ground, turned around and looked down the road toward me and yelled, “well are you just gonna set there laughin or are you gonna go get those SOBs”. I went and got the wets. Funny, when we got back to the tank where George was those wets wanted nothing to do with George.
For the next three or four months every time George had occasion to use the repeater, as soon as he finished talking PIs from every corner of the sector would jump on the radio and start with the SONS A BITCHES. It was like an echo. I of course attended George’s retirement party. I just couldn’t help myself. I just had to get up and tell this story. George took it well though.
George’s son, Lee was in the same academy class with me. He was stationed in Lordsburg, New Mexico. Lee was killed in the line of duty. George never got over the death of his son. My Dad was right about George Bounds. George was a good teacher, a fine man, and a damn good Border Patrol Agent. George is gone now, and I miss him!
Richard B. Smith