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Fin is a Fugitive from Mexican Justice

Big Fin

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Since some of you who listened to Podcast #12 have latched on to the Mexico story of me and Jereep getting thrown in jail, then escaping the justice system, I figured I may as well post a draft of it here. I've sat on this story for about ten years. It is one of many that is intended to be part of a book.

Mexico or Bust (subtitled Mexico and Bust)

Ah! Times were good. What more could a guy have asked for? Headed to Mexico for a long weekend. No commitments, other than to return to work in one piece five days later.

I shared this joyous moment the core group of voyagers, augmented by a few newcomers. Our inseparable gang consisted of me; Jerry, the conspirator of most events; Rich, the Cowboy from Rock Springs, Wyoming who never turned down a challenge; and Jim, my mom’s youngest brother who was fifteen months my senior.

We were like a good football team. We each had an important role, and alone, we were not nearly as much fun as when grouped for an occasion. We each accepted our roles and appreciated the contribution and shortcomings of the others.

I guess I was the oaf. My Scandinavian heritage had graced me with more brawn than brains. For some reason, my presence gave Jerry more confidence than discretion

Many were the times I was called upon to enforce rules or threats made (or implied) by Jerry. Being from the backwoods of Minnesota, I was taught to never abandon a friend in need. I was also somewhat on the naive side, so it never occurred to me that Jerry could have deserved some of what came his way.

Rich was like any good cowboy. Never down and always looking at the bright side of things. A few beers usually brought out his romantic side, which usually carried him down a path that required every bit of his boxing skills, which I must say, for a one hundred and forty pound guy, were considerable.

Jim had joined us from Alaska and was my roommate at this time. Being the oldest of our group, he was also the most experienced beer drinker. I believe he still holds that record for a four second Coors Light, from a can, no less

Jim spared personal hygiene at the expense of possible courtship. He always spoke of girls, but never moved bathing high enough up the priority list to accomplish much with the opposite sex.

Jim possesses the greatest laugh on the North American continent. We quit counting the number of times he got us invited or dis-invited because of his laugh. Jim's sense of humor was a great attribute considering the dim financial and social conditions were normally found ourselves in.

Jerry was a native of the Southwest since leaving our little hamlet in Northern Minnesota at the tender age of twelve. Having lived in Arizona since that time, he was the appropriate person to lead this band of ragtag wannabes. We drew on his limited (heavy emphasis on the limited part) experience. This trip was to be no exception.

The three others joining us were not part of the usual group, but asked to join us based on their limited knowledge of our behavior. They seemed to enjoy our company, but I attribute the attractive side of our actions to the free beer they knew existed when accompanied by us. Regardless, all for one and one for all.

Thursday evening found us getting our passports validated for the trip the Rocky Point. Those from other parts of the country may not know of Rocky Point, but to those from Arizona, it conjures images of what the Wild West must have been.

Plenty of booze, gambling, sun (or sin), and a larger cross section of the opposite sex than I suspect resided in places like Tombstone in the days of the Earp boys. Absent the prohibition on firearms, I think Wyatt and the brothers would have fit right in.

Once the passports were notarized, our first stop was the local Alpha Beta grocery store. Jerry and the three tagalongs were given the responsibility of gathering food and ice. Rich, Jim, and I were charged with procuring refreshments that would carry us to the Mexico border and sustain us while camped on the hot Sea of Cortez beaches.

Never wanting to be unprepared, Jim suggested we error on the side of caution. Realizing the value of volume discounts, Rich and I readily agreed to his plan. Twelve cases of Silver Bullets coming right up.

We were off. Heading south in search of Margaritaville. In what seemed like no time, we had removed ourselves from the smog and confinement of the greater Phoenix metropolis. Darkness came, but never slowed us. Forward and onward.

As our raucous behavior increased, I sensed some discomfort building within one of the tagalongs. I sensed he was hoping we would get to our destination soon. Unsettled at our behavior, he asked Jim, “How far have we had traveled?”

Jim never measured anything in terms of miles or hours, but in how many beers had been or would be consumed. This manner of dead reckoning was unbelievably accurate.

Jim replied, “We are two cases from Phoenix.”

"How far to the Mexican border?" Jim reckoned it to be a half-rack, his term for a twelve pack.

True to Jim's calculations, we were two and a half cases light by the time we reached the Mexico border. We stopped and checked in with the local authorities. When asked if we were carrying American beer, we said "No sir. We drank it all on the way here." To that they stamped our books and sent us on our merry way.

As we exited the Police station, I commented to Jerry that we were advised to stop at the insurance center to purchase auto insurance that would cover our travels in Mexico. That advice came from Jim's older brother, Larry, a veteran of many Rocky Point trips.

Jerry pointed out that Larry had money to bum, so to him purchasing insurance was a good investment. And, that we of much scarcer resources and drier thirsts, should forego the insurance. When converted from Pesos to our currency of beer, the economics of Jerry's argument seemed valid. I always thought he should have majored in economics, not marketing. But, as future episodes would bear out, Jerry was a better salesman than he was an economist

Maybe his marketing degree was just the capitalization of his god-given gift of gab.
 

Big Fin

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Continued, Part II

Three hours later, or a case and a half according to Jim's watch, we were in the Promised Land. Rocky Point beach. From what I could gather in the darkness, this place was all I had been told. If this much adult activity was occurring at 2:30a.m., what would it be like in daylight? It was mutually agreed that we would pitch tents and call it an early evening, saving our best for tomorrow

As usual, Rich was up at five. Must be something about these rancher-types. Because that guy thought he had to see every sunrise. He also subscribed to the theory that if he was awaken, so should everyone else. I protested, but when Jim volunteered to cook breakfast, I succumbed.

When the coolers were opened, we discovered a major error in our planning. We had put Jerry in charge of food. The guy never ate anything other than chips and salsa. I need meat and potatoes. Jim easily reconciled any discomfort he had with our predicament. It was always his first choice that breakfast should be in a liquid form. And, since we had done such a wonderful job of securing proper beverage rations, he suggested we make the best of a bad situation. Who was I to argue with such logic?

Jim and I come from areas with dense boreal forests, so the incubator intensity of the Mexican sun, combined with a void of shade did not serve our pale reflections very well. Fortunately for me, I fell asleep (others may say passed out) by noon, and did so in the shade of the pickup.

Jim, on the other hand, parted consciousness shortly after I did. He did so in the open sun, exposing his clam-like skin to the ultraviolet rays of an August sun. To make matters worse, he had decided to wear shorts to cool himself in the intense heat. This was against protests of neighboring beachgoers.

I was awaken late in the afternoon by Rich rummaging through his pickup, looking for the cigarettes he had hid beneath the seat. See, Rich had given up Copenhagen, and was very proud of his mettle. He gave no consideration to the continuing nicotine addiction that was part of his newly acquired five-pack a day smoking habit. Regardless, it was time to get up.

As I stretched and enjoyed the view of the beach and its scantily clothed occupants, I looked toward the coolers and saw what I thought to be the remnants of the world's largest lobster feast. Further examination revealed it to be Jim. I woke him. Which I regretted in the short-term, but I believe was a critical factor to his long-term prognosis. At first, he was groggy and sweaty. Then, he began screaming as though he were on fire, which I am sure he would have been, except for the fact that the human body is comprised of over seventy percent water.

We now had a major medical problem on our hands. Jim was sunburned to the point of large blisters on his thighs and face. We had no supplies to handle such a catastrophe. Jerry managed to barter a neighboring camper for some aloe vera gel in exchange for some ice and beer. Jim applied it gently, and screamed as though he were being skinned alive.

Jim stated he felt very dehydrated and if looks were any indicator, I believe him. At this point, please understand that we were all business or engineering majors, none of us were aspiring doctors. So, what was our response? More beer, and make it real cold. It seemed to work. Jim was back asleep (in the shade of the tent) within an hour.

Sundown brought a cool relief to the beach campers, which was evidenced by the increased level of rowdy behavior. It appeared that clothing was optional. We didn't seem to mind that a bit, but we elected not to participate, merely spectate. Feeling the effects of this rising enthusiasm, we decided we would like to go into town, Puerto Penasco, and see the sights.

Jerry had spent the day in hot pursuit (unsuccessful pursuit I may add) of any girl that would listen to him, so he had not been indulging in our garrison of beverage. Therefore, he was elected as designated driver. We would take Rich's brand new Toyota 4x4. Jim asked that he be able to lay in the back so not to place any pressure on his oozing blisters. The seven of us managed to fill the cab and bed of this compact rig. We even found room to help two hitchhikers who were trying to get to town, as we were. The fact that they were females helped their chance of recruitment more than they probably realized.

As we reached the city limits, things were booming. Lots of noise, people partying and driving like fools. The police picked out the car next to us and decided to pursue. That was more than Jerry wanted to deal with. He exited, stage left. We seemed to be traveling on some dirt footpath, but given the amount of other vehicle traffic, I can only assume it was a street.

What I recall from here on out is mostly from very vague recollection mixed in with some historical accounts by others who fared better than I did. Rumor has it that as we passed a clump of cholla trees, Jerry brushed into the side of a crossing lumber truck, causing our overloaded rig to swing quickly to the right, and ejecting me and Rich out of the of the truck, backwards.

When I awoke, I remember seeing Jim's face. He was asking me questions. Rich was screaming at the swarm of locals that had come from nowhere to participate in the mayhem of the fender bender. Only later did I understand why Rich was so excited.

Rich had recently been awarded a prize from his most successful rodeo event. A new bridge for the four top front teeth missing from his grin. He, like myself, had become airborne during this event. He had awoke quicker than I. To this day, he claims that while he was unconscious, one of the locals stole his new front plate. He was frisking every one of them to see if they had it. Myself, I suspect the brunt of his impact caused it to fall out, but Rich will never be convinced.

Upon awakening, I assumed I had been at a doctor’s office. I was only in a pair of shorts. Everything else I was wearing, or owned was missing. No more shoes, no shirt, no socks, no hat, no glasses. According to Jim's account of things, by the time he was able to figure out why a crowd had gathered around me, most of my possessions had become part of Santa Anna's restitution. He was cussing most of them and demanding they return my belongings, but to no avail.

Within short order, the police were on sight. Guns waving, speaking Spanish, and pushing a lot of people around. I don't know what they were saying, as my elective language class in high school was Norwegian. But even with the language handicap, I could tell they asked who was driving the Toyota 4x4 by the response of the crowd. What had been an accumulation of masses withdrew to leave Jerry standing alone in a circle with hundreds of people pointing him out to the police.

That was all they needed. Before we could ask any questions, he was taken, by gunpoint, to the police station. When word was received that some people may be injured, the lumber truck was sent to take the wounded to the police station. Rich and I were given the luxury of transportation, while the others were informed that they were suspects to a major crime and that they were expected to appear at the police station immediately. The two mile walk would have to be completed on their own, under police escort.

As I entered the police station, I could not understand a thing that was said. I was escorted down a hallway past the cells filled with non-English speaking prisoners. The smell was enough to kill you, assuming you survived the scare of Mexico’s most hardened criminals shouting at you and laughing with great joy at your obvious concern. From my count, I estimate they were packed a dozen in each cell, with no plumbing or water.

When I reached the medical office, I was examined by a doctor who appeared to know one treatment. He grabbed my head, rolled it back and forth, and asked "Does this hurt?'' When I said no, he again rolled my head and asked "Does your stomach hurt?" When I answered no, he rolled my head one last time and asked "Can you see how many fingers I have up?" When I said I think so, he stated I was OK and should rest in the chair while he administered a sobriety test to Jerry.

Jerry was suffering a meltdown. He knew this was one predicament I could not extricate us from. He looked at me as though we were headed to the gallows. As far as I knew, he may have been correct.
 

Big Fin

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Continued, Part III

From what I recall, a sobriety test in Mexico consists of two questions. "Son, were you drinking?" If you answer yes, I think it is a one question-test. Since Jerry answered no, he was given the last part of the test. "Are you scared son?" When Jerry answered yes, the doctor, or whatever he was, wrote something in Spanish that I could not comprehend, but later learned it meant intoxicated.

Jerry and I were escorted through the gauntlet of a screaming chain gang to the Commander's office. There, we joined our other comrades, who by now, had given up on our return. Our relief to see them was evident, but equally short lived. They had cajoled from the Commander (who happened to speak English, but would reply "No comprende" when asked any questions in English), just what our offense had been. It was not good.

We were at this point, guilty, not accused of, but guilty of resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated, failure to yield, no insurance, possession of American beer, and numerous other charges that by themselves would have been frightening, but when lumped into this mess, seemed inconsequential.

Jerry immediately asked for his one phone call. The response to which was a roar of laughter by all the officers present.

Jim took over with the negotiating. What ransom would the President require to secure our freedom? Five hundred dollars and all would be forgotten. We pooled our funds. One hundred and twelve dollars. We offered that, but no dice.

Rich tried to convince the big chief that his insurance was valid in Mexico. The policy was extracted from the vehicle. It was examined and somehow determined that it was not applicable in Mexico. Or at least not to the satisfaction of the Commander. He informed us that the only insurance he accepted was that which was purchased at the border crossing in the office next to the passport center.

We then asked if we could go back to the beach to regroup and come back in the morning to negotiate a better deal. Not a chance.

At this point, the commander had a brain fart. He proposed that since our sentencing would commence at 9:00a.m. sharp, he could let us go, but he would have to keep Rich's brand new Toyota 4x4 as collateral to insure that we would return in the morning. Those were the only terms he would consider. Take it, or stay in the uninhabitable cells with the sex-starved amigos.

All eyes focused on Rich. We asked the Commander if we could meet in executive session. He agreed. Rich quickly spouted that he could not let that truck stay, as he still owed nine thousand dollars on it and it only had six thousand miles.

I proposed that we all offer to buy Rich a new truck when we returned to Phoenix. Rich hesitated, but agreed, so long as everyone shook hands on the deal. After taking our oath, the seven of us reconvened with the Commander. After agreeing to his demands we were allowed to leave. We were given instructions to return at 9:00a.m., or they would be to the beach to bring us in.

Rich took one last look at the new brown truck that bore the scar of a tweaked bumper as a result of this mishap. One of the Commander's cronies had driven the truck to the police station while we were negotiating our freedom, so obviously it was completely functional. Rich was near tears. We reminded him of our agreement. It had little effect, but allowed us to start our long walk back to the beach.

We reached the beach at 1:00 a.m. We were exhausted; Jim was suffering from severe dehydration and indescribable pain. Rich and I had both lost our shoes during our impact¬ induced naps, so we bore blisters on our feet worse than anything before or since.

Luckily we had brought two vehicles to Old Mexico. Our escape vehicle was a 1969 Chevy Impala SS convertible. Seven guys and all their gear in one small car. Hardly an inconspicuous caravan. We did manage to find some other people who were willing to bring most of our coolers and possessions back to Phoenix when they returned. We simply did not have room for anything other than bodies.

Speaking for myself, one act of fortune had graced me in this entire calamity. Before our accident, I had left my wallet at camp, so when the police gathered everyone's identification, I was able to claim that mine was stolen while I was knocked out. When in reality, it was back in the tent. My six companions were without driver’s licenses or passports.

We took to the border at 5:00a.m. Stacked like sardines, we drove in complete silence, other than Jim's groaning from his excruciating pain. We were to the border by 8:00a.m. We fell in line with the hundreds of other vehicles waiting clearance.

The agents were signaling the cars to continue on their way, into the good old United States of America. We were fifty cars behind, but finally, the end was in sight.

As we approached, we garnered some very inspecting glances. I must admit, seven young guys packed into one rig, was not the norm. The border agents must have agreed. They asked us to pull to the side.

It was now 8:20 a.m. The car was being disassembled in a search for illegal possessions. Whether they were looking for drugs or illegal aliens, I do not know.

A half hour of searching provided them with nothing. They then asked for identification. I promptly showed them mine, thinking if I was a straight arrow, maybe they wouldn't press the issue with the others. No such luck.

I was free to go. The others, meanwhile, were explaining and making excuses. All the while keeping an eye on the clock. Our sentencing was to start at 9:00 a.m. and the hour glass was draining quickly. For some reason I still don’t understand, the officials told us to get out of there, and fast. No further instructions were necessary.

At 9:05 a.m. we crossed the gate that meant freedom. Our collective sigh was probably felt as far away as Nevada. Never were we so happy to be on our way home, and never were we more humble. But, time cures a lot of things, and within a week or so, our humility had fallen to its usual offensive level.

When we arrived at Phoenix, the first order of business was to seek medical attention for Jim. I took him to the emergency room. The attending doctor proceeded to argue that such severe burns could not come from sunburn. He wanted to know the true source, as regulation required him to issue a written report for all acidic burns resulting from industrial accidents. After we signed a written oath denying this was an industrial accident, he sent us on our way, with a fist full of prescriptions.

Next on the agenda was to get Rich a new truck. Since student loans weren't coming in for another week, he would have to wait. During that period, the three tagalongs decided their freedom was just that, free. They declined to participate in our cost sharing arrangement. Not the best way to foster what could have been a long lasting friendship.

Needless to say, within a week, Rich had a new truck. And, we all found additional employment to pay for the real cost of tuition. Tuition at the school of hard knocks, that is.
 

bobbydean

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Brings back memories from Juarez in 1971-1972 school year in Las Cruces.

Escaped the jail, but memorable trips!
 

Mac7

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Great story. Brings back memories of being detained at Canadian border when I was 18 or 19. No charges and allowed to continue into Canada. Unfortunately my buddy was out a bunch of money.
 

Jorgy

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I think this is the first "I escaped jail time in mexico" I've heard that didn't start out with a donkey show in Jaurez.
 

bobbydean

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Juarez memories

I think my most livid memories are not about the sex , booze and bad behavior.

I most remember a young kid, 8-12 year old kid talking to myself and friends, for several hours in the wee hours of the morning, He loved horror movies and did his Frankenstein impersonation. Very good memory. Kid did not know he had a bad life, He was happy! We had finished our debauchery at this point.

Did a lose a friend from school that trip, He did not escape jail. Never said what happened.

Juarez, Mexico was fun in the seventies. I think there are military in the streets now. Scary!
 
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tarheel

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Great story. It brings to mind a time in the early 60's when a group of GI's stationed in the Mojave took off for TJ. There was booze, a huge bar fight answered by about 35 Mexican cops, the infamous TJ jail, stitches received at the San Diego Naval Hospital, and the long drive back with me at the helm and everyone else asleep or passed out.
 

JohnCushman

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I remember being arrested twice on two different occasions in TJ in my late teen newly in the military when my team mates decided it would be fun to take 'Doc' out and show him a good time. Since this is a family site I won't go into details about either arrest. But, I thought it was funny seeing the little kids whoring their mothers off as 'virgins' as you walked by them. Oh, and by the way, when you see a sign for a 'donkey show'...it's not the circus like my team buddies told me it was :W:
 
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