The People of Presidio
THE PEOPLE OF PRESIDIO II
BY Owen Oates
La Viuda Fernandez lived in the biggest and best house in Ojinaga. Many years before I got to Presidio in 1958 her husband had opened a grocery store in Ojinaga, the only one of consequence. I suppose he worked at building up the business because it grew into a big store where everybody came to get their abarrotes and the Fernandez family prospered and he built the big house and then died.
They had one son, Ernesto. He worked in the store and naturally expected to get it when his mother died. That put him in the elite class in Ojinaga and the common people deferred to him. He had money for dates and drinks, a new pickup truck every year or two, nice clothes, trips to Chihuahua City when he wanted to get away, and so forth.
There was a PI in Presidio named Glenn Scott but who was known on both sides as El Tecolote; I don't know why. Scott was born in the Texas panhandle but wanted to be a Mexican in the worst way. He learned Spanish like a native, all the proper grammar and slang words and phrases too, died his hair jet black, bought an El Charro outfit, and sang with the Mariachis in Ojinaga.
Surprised I was at the Oasis in Ojinaga when we asked them to play a song and at the end he lined up with the rest of them to get his dime. Scott began to date La Viuda Fernandez. He bragged to me that when he went to Ojinaga he could put his feet up on the table of the best house in Ojinaga and that she would bring him pheasant under glass. Scott was about 30 at this time and she was about 50. Just prior to this, her son, Ernesto, had fallen for a beautiful girl who was one of two sisters who had the biggest pharmacy in Ojinaga. They were Irma and Olga Santos. This romance progressed and Ernesto married Irma. They had two sons in rapid progression and then settled into the nightclub scene. Cess Poole, Jr. had also fallen for Irma. Both before and after the marriage he went to wherever she went just to have a glimpse of her and maybe talk to her. Cess was a runt with a whiney voice; he wore thick glasses, talked loud, and made dumb jokes. It was clear that she had no interest in him.
In due time Scott was transferred to Del Rio. His divorce from the Oklahoma woman had come through, and he asked La Viuda Fernandez to marry him. She agreed; Scott loaded up his things and her things and they were married after entering on duty at Del Rio. They must have been having a good time on her money because she soon put up the big house for sale. That money did not last long and then she put the Ojinaga Mercantile up for sale. It sold too and the son was out of a job. He became bitter but struggled to come to terms with it. Ernesto got a job as manager of the Pepsi Cola distributorship in Ojinaga. Any job in Mexico where you are on wages will not pay enough. He began stealing from his employer. It's hard to say how long this went on but he was caught and fired. Ernesto was really in trouble now. No job, his friends high-hatting him; those he looked down on now looked down on him. He told one friend that he could not bring himself to enter the U.S as a wet and go to work in a box factory in Chicago. Irma was unhappy. She left him.
He had money for drink and stayed drunk for about a week then wrote a note telling how much he loved Irma. Then he shot himself in the heart. Irma was the one needing help now. She had sold her half interest in the pharmacy to her sister to finance a big wedding. She had no money of her own nor is there any likelihood that anyone in Ojinaga would help her. People love to see the mighty fall. Gloating is sweet in a society like that of Mexico.
Cess Poole now saw his chance. He proposed to Irma, offered to raise her children and make them citizens. She had little choice. She married the runt. Cess Poole Sr. sold the farm for a cool million. Both senior, junior, and wives move to El Paso and out of the picture. Scott and La Viuda divorced when the money ran out. Scott had gotten her legal status and she returned to Presidio. She made an arrangement with Carlos Spencer who owned a department store in Presidio. He would pay her Social Security taxes based on a fictional salary, and she worked in his store for nothing. In time she had enough quarters built up and began drawing her social security. I don't know what she lived on when she worked for Carlos. Perhaps she managed to salvage some money from the sale on her assets. Maybe Scott helped her; I don't know. Just about the time she was eligible she got so old that she had to be taken to a nursing home in Balmorhea. The brevity of happiness in one lifetime catches many unaware. Some of us have had more than our share. The problems of two little people in this crazy world doesn't amount to a hill of beans--Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Zasu Pitts said it best: Something is always happening to somebody.