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Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Slim on juries

I saw Slim the other day down at the auction barn.

He was working the kinks out of a pretty bay gelding and I hung around and watched for a bit.

When he was finished he and the pony had worked up a lather and the bay seemed to be coming around to Slim's way of thinking.

"Shame when a good horse is allowed to go sour," Slim said as he led the horse to the fence.

"New pony?" I asked.

"Yeah, I took him in trade. Good horse. Well trained but the last owner let him get away with murder, I reckon."

"It will be a little while before he remembers what being a good horse is all about," Slim said as he tapped a cigarette out of a pack. "What are you up to?" he asked.

"Looking for something to write about for next week's column," I admitted.

"Got that writer's block?"

"I guess. Or lousy writer's syndrome."

Slim drew on the coffin nail and studied the pony that was still flaring his nostrils with each breath.

"Why don't you write about how people get barn sour just like horses?" he said.


"Way I see it, Americans these days are a lot like this old boy here. He's a good horse. He knows what he is supposed to do and he's done it. But for the past year or so nobody made him do it and he has developed a liking for the easy way even though in the long run it just leads to misery. Same as us," he said.

"Same as us?" I asked.

"Well, take that problem with doctors and insurance down in South Texas. That's a product of barn sour people," he said.

I knew what he was talking about. We ran an article last week about the doctors in South Texas going on strike for a day to protest skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates.

"What has malpractice insurance got to do with barn sour people?"

"Plenty. Why are insurance rates so high in South Texas?"

"High dollar jury verdicts for plaintiffs I guess."

"Yep. And who sits on those juries?"

"People," I said. "People like you and me."

"Yep. Barn sour people. Folks who do what feels good more often than what might be right. Kind of like our friend here," he said stroking the horse's muzzle. "He knows what is right. But it's not as easy as standing around the barn chewing on hay."

"So every time a jury rules in favor of some poor stiff with a scalpel sewed into his liver by a doctor with a Porsche and a nose full of cocaine they are doing the easy thing?" I asked a little caustically.

"No. But you know as well as I do that more often it's some dude who didn't like his doc's bedside manner. In every case though, the easy thing to do is rule for doc's patient. Heck doctors have lots of money and plenty of insurance right? So hand a little out to the guy with the lawyer and go home feeling good about yourself," Slim said.

"Well, if you were going to err, seems like you would want to take care of the guy that might have been hurt," I said.

"And that's fine. Just like it's fine for this pony to decide to head to the barn every few minutes _ until he gets a little taste of a spur. Then he learns that there is a cost to his behavior."

"Point is, this pony got a new boss yesterday and his standing around days are over. One of these days, folks who hand out ridiculous verdicts every time some doctor's patient whines are going to get a little taste of the spurs and it's going to hurt. Then they are going to cry like little babies," he said.

"What kind of spur are you planning on raking down all these jurors' flanks Slim?"

"I think it will be a pretty sharp one. Insurance companies are pulling out or raising prices through the roof. Next logical thing is for the doctors to pull out and hang a shingle some place where you can afford insurance because the local folks in that neck of the woods don't hand out verdicts like ribbons at the county fair."


"Then what are you going to do for a doctor in South Texas then?"

I didn't have a good answer. Truth is, if I were a doctor I think I would do exactly what Slim predicted.

"Pretty sharp spur if you ask me," he said as he stubbed out the butt on the fence post. "Fortunately for our friend here, he will feel those spurs before it's too late and he will mend his ways. It may be too late when those folks down south feel the rowels and find out they've run all their good doctors off."

I just shrugged.

"Might be something to write about," he said. "You can probably put it in better words."

I shook my head and smiled.

"Maybe," I said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

Our View

How can we deny Israel our own tactics?

The United States finds itself in a quagmire of hypocrisy regarding Israel, Palestine and the issue of terrorism.

When terrorists based in Afghanistan destroyed the World Trade Center towers, we declared that it was a country's natural right to attack and destroy terrorists no matter where they might be found.

We followed that policy into Afghanistan, overturned the ruling government in the process, and are still there hunting terrorists and their supporters.

Good for us. Terrorists have declared war on the United States and war is the only approach to these enemies that passes the litmus test of common sense.

Unfortunately, for those that would like to have their cake and eat a slice of it as well, this policy leads to problems in the Middle East.

Israel, especially in recent months, has been under an intense attack by enemies using the tactics of terror.

It is also common knowledge that Yaser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization are major players in the creation, support and equipping of these terrorists.

If the PLO had been the support organization of the men who attacked the World Trade Center Arafat and company would be either dead or living the life of a rat with the plague in a cave as Osama Bin Laden is today.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Israel should be allowed to solve her terrorism problem with the same methods we are using to solve ours.

Our hand wringing over the issue is pure hypocrisy.

Your View

Firearms range property needs improvement

Dear Editor:
This is a response to the Monday, April 30th, 2002 letter from Daniel Lovett. His letter was questioning why the Town of Pecos needs another Firearms Range.

Even though I have only lived in this town for less then 6 months, I have had the opportunity to use this (so called) facility. In my travels, I have used various types of firearms ranges. This area should not be considered a range. It's just a piece of land with a mound in the back section of it with a small rusted out shelter for people to stand under when the weather is hot. I read in the Pecos Enterprise on how much the RCDC pays the Pecos Rifle, Pistol and Trap Club to use this `range'.

I wonder who is pocketing the money from this deal. The area is not well kept, and the rusted out shelter needs to be replaced. I consider this shelter to be more of a safety hazard then the ammunition the members are discharging for practice.

Mayor Ortega has a good idea, but instead of trying to replace the range, he needs to: 1.)Track down where the money is being spent, 2.)Make sure it's being used properly and 3.)That the range is properly maintained, improvements are made as necessary.

Not a member of the Pecos Rifle, Pistol and Trap Club, Inc.
(No plans to become one)


Story relates the sad plight of the Devil

With the world in what some people call "religious battles, it might be well to tell of the plight of one main character of the Christian faith- the Devil. One story in Elton Mills' book, Tales of the Big Bend, relates the sad plight of the Devil some four hundred years ago in the Indian village, La Junta, now Presidio. Mr. Mills plainly states that it is difficult to separate fact from legend when researching stories in the Big Bend country that happened generations ago. I will summarize his story, The Devil in the Big Bend, and you decide if it is fact or fiction.

The Devil was thrown down from Heaven and landed on Mitre Peak some ten miles from Alpine. He said that the area was too beautiful and it reminded him of Heaven where he knew that he could never return. He flew to a cave down river from La Junta where he made his home.

The Devil delighted in terrorizing the poor Indians who were trying to grow crops in the desert. He would lasso the Chinati Peak twenty five miles away and prance up and down the rope making faces at the Indians. At times, he would walk up and down the valley floor bouncing a large metal ball smashing everything and everybody that came in the way.

Dressed in black, he would whisper evil in the ears of the Indians causing infidelity in the family, rebellious toward their parents and murders on the banks of the rivers. The Devil slipped into a dance the Indians were having and one young rebellious girl danced with one dressed in black with spurred legs of a rooster. The girl's family found their dead daughter in an irrigation ditch.

A young priest identified as Cura Urban came to work with the Indians and he soon realized that the Devil had a great influence over his parishioners so he had them make a cross and he took the cross down river where he met a stranger dressed in black.

The two conversed briefly and the Cura started toward the Devil with the cross and the terrified Devil jumped to his rope stretched between the mountains. The magic of the cross caused the rope to break and the Devil fell to the ground. Throwing rocks and his steel ball at the Curs, the Devil retreated to his cave. The Cura sealed the cave with the cross so the Devil could no more spread evil among the Indians.

A shrine was built at the entrance of the cave with rock walls, crosses, brush covering and a wooden seat. People walked up to the cave with bloody feet to worship. The mountain was called, "El Cerrito del la Santa Cruz." Today, the cave is known as, "La Cueva del Diablo."

Before you decide if the story is fable or truth, you should know that the Devil's steel ball is in Ojinaga on Saragosa Street. Can you still say, "The Devil made me do it?"

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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