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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Juan and Pablo and The Mexican Standoff

The RRR responds to some criticisms of the Juan and Pablo series by telling one story that is absolutely true and has no humorous "hook" at the end

It was early in 1973. Juan, Pablo, and Papa Gringo were out for a walk in the desert Northwest of Roma, Texas about a mile North of the Rio Grande. Papa Gringo had remembered that on a hillside in that area were a number of ancient stone ovens. He had also seen peyote growing there. So the three determined to visit the sites and look for arrowheads. Juan, at least, was also interested in the peyote.

When they got to the hill, things had changed dramatically since Papa Gringo's last visit. The top of the hill was bulldozed flat and a mobile home perched there. A rough road had been bulldozed up to it. The whole hill was surrounded by a new fence made of cable connecting rail road tie posts. Every rod or so were fierce "No Trespassing" signs in English and Spanish. The trio's attitude toward any regulation in those days was "stupid law" and disobedience. They climbed over the fence and kept going. They were spotted almost immediately and a man came out of the trailer and got into a pickup and headed down the new road toward them. Juan, Pablo, and Papa Gringo hid in the arroyo beside the roadway with their pistols drawn. The truck rolled slowly by them down to the gate and returned even more slowly as Mexican in the cab looked for them.

As it rolled past and headed back up the hill, the three heaved a sigh of relief and shoved their guns back into the holsters. There was a deafening explosion and gravel flew. At first Juan and Papa thought Pablo had shot himself in the leg. He was lying on the ground holding it. They ran to him. The nose was blown from his holster and part of his pant leg was torn, but remarkably the bullet had gone into the ground. He had forgotten to de-cock his Ruger .357 and the trigger caught and fired the gun. The guard in the pickup meantime assumed he was under fire and roared back up to the mobile home where men with M-1 carbines had rushed out and were waiting to jump in the back. The Gringos clambered over the fence and walked quickly toward town, Pablo limping slightly and visibly shaken. Juan was in front followed by Pablo, then Papa Gringo. The pickup came out through the gate and up the road behind them and stopped as it came even.

The boys spread out. Juan was slightly ahead of the cab, even with the front wheel. Pablo faced the middle of the box. Papa was even with the tailgate. Their hands hovered over their pistol butts. The three Mexicans were sitting in the bed of the pickup with the carbines down out of sight. The driver had his hands out of sight, meaning to Juan he had a handgun, likely a 9mm.
The motor of the pickup ticked over quietly. Down in Roma, dogs barked and doors slammed. Here there was only heat and the sound of the pickup's V-8. Juan was a year and a half out of Vietnam, every nerve strained like the strings on an overtuned guitar. He realized the position they were in. Each of the men in the bed of the truck was concentrating on the Gringo nearest him. So two men were staring at Juan, the one in the front of the bed and the driver.

Juan was the only one of the three who had ever been under fire or fired a shot in anger. His hand trembled over a pitifully tiny Iver Johnson .22 caliber nine shot revolver. It would take carefully aimed slow fire for those diminutive bullets to have any effect and there would be no time for aiming. Pablo was armed with an Old Model single action .357, obviously with a hair trigger. There were five shots left in it. An extremely effective round, but in his shaken condition and having to cock before each shot, Juan knew Pablo's first shot would go low into the fender of the truck or even the ground. The chances he would get his second shot off without being riddled with bullets were small. About Papa Gringo, Juan had no doubts. Papa was armed with a Colt .45 automatic he had assembled and tuned himself. Papa, who would later outshoot the 2002 National Champion, would put at least the man in front of him down and quite likely the one in the middle if hit a dozen times by the .30 caliber carbines before he was out of the fight.

But they were going to die. Juan could see no other outcome than three dead Norte Americanos lying leaking blood into the dust. He determined they would take them all with them. He watched the driver and the first man in the back of the pickup. As soon as one gun barrel showed itself he was going to draw and fire into his opponent's faces double action, two shots per man, hoping his shooting would draw off the bad guy's attention enough that Papa could take his man out and get a bullet into Pablo's and they both would be able to finish off the one now focused on Juan while Juan concentrated his last shot on the driver. He was certain the driver had at least nine shots in his pistol. The carbines had curved magazines and thus 30 shots each. Juan thought of seven dead men lying there, the pickup's engine still idling quietly.

One of the men in the back of the truck said, "Que...?". Literally, "what?" but in most such situations, "Well....?". That word has probably preceded more shootings, stabbings, and beatings in Mexico than any other. But Pablo had fluent Spanish. He started talking, quickly found his voice and accent and explained in a few words the accidental discharge of his gun and apologized profusely for the trespass. As Grandpa Gringo would have said -- no talk, a fight. Some talk, maybe a fight. Lots of talk, no fight. A terse command from the bed of the truck. The driver's hands came into view empty. He put the pickup in gear and backed away and turned the truck around. Papa, Juan, and Pablo walked back to town.

Earth has circled the sun over thirty times since that day. Papa Gringo is now a great grandfather many times over. Juan and Pablo are both grandfathers themselves. And the Mexicans guarding Peyote Mountain?... Quien Sabe?


Blogger Mid-kid said...

This was early 1973? By my calculations Juan already had two children and by simple logic Papa Gringo was already a grandfather twice over. In my opinion Juan needed to chill out a little. Not every confrontation has to lead to a bloody, deadly end. But then, perhaps that was the point of the story. Good thing, or this comment-leaver wouldn't even exist!

7:48 AM  
Blogger Shamgar said...

Sure, sure, take the fun out of it. Remember that in those days Juan had what they call around certain 12 Step meetings a Magic Magnifying Mind. Every confrontation was to the death, every cause righteous and he was always the hero. Now he's just glad God had the patience with him to let him live to see the grandkids.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Eutychus said...

Well........ since I was there, my recollections are similar, yes it was VERY scary. Some details have faded with time, but the standoff part especially the sounds are as clear as yesterday. I have no recollection of any talk between us, however. After another discharge from halfcock the Ruger was retired to a private collection. If you want to know about ability to hit the target in a dangerous situation, ask about Juan y Pablo and the great bear hunt!

2:46 PM  

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