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Everybody needs a compadre like my Felipe. A farmer-rancher can't work
alone - to hook up a plow or work cattle can't be done single-handed. I
was accustomed to working with my dad and losing him to a heart attack
left me very handicapped. Shortly thereafter, a friend drove up with
this little man 5' tall-130 lbs quite different from teh 6' 4"-190 lbs.
father I had lost, but time has proven that despite his small status,
he's one of the biggest men I've known. Through the years he's become
something between a big brother and a son to me. As partners we farm
some 500 acres an dmanage 400 head of cattles which involves more work
than any 2 san epeople could handle.
I tell everyone that he does all the work and I do all the worrying. On
one occasion, our doctor wanted to give hima tranquilizer. I told the
doctor, "No!" Give it to me and I'll convince him that everything is
going to be okay. Two crop failures later, we were both taking them.
Felipe never complains. The weather is never too hot or the food too
salty. In fact, he doesn't talk much-he smiles a lot. I'm rather quiet,
but I don't smile that much. He has to be an optimist or either he just
doesn't understand the situation.
I'm quite a bit younger thanks, but I'm still the boss. However, he has
his knack for getting his way. From the beginning, we've had some
understanding about some basic rules. From day one, I prohibitied any
drinking, cussing or lying. He agreed to that, informing me that he
refused to eat white bread or to speak English. I had no problem with
his preferences, but was inquisitive of the motives.
As for the white bread, he commented that it lacked the strength of the
tortilla he had been raised on. We said it filled the stomach
temporarily but would play out on him before lunch. Three nights a week,
he makes flour tortillas, three nights a week, I make corn tortillas-no
I explained that if he was going to live and owrk in America he needed
to speak English, and since I was bilingual, here was the perfect
situation in which to learn.
He pulled off his cap and showed me his small cranium an dthen the
capthat had neatly been cinched up and sewn to render a size 6 5/8.
"There's not room in this small cavity to accommodate 3 languages," he
remarked. Zapoteca (dialect of the Mayan Indians) and Spanish got inther
first and anyone who can't understand those - well, I'll use sign
Last year we hosted a Russian exchange student, and he and Felipe were
working together on a string of fence. At noon, Felipe came in to tell
me about the troubles. They were experiencing. Obviously, Felipe was
very upset - he and the Russian were really having problems. So
frustrated was Felipe that he blurted out all the troubles they were
confronting, talking to me in English without a hint of accent, never
realizing that he was speaking English.
I didn't want to "awaken" him to the fact that he was speaking English,
so I carried on the conversation in English. After three or four minutes
of discussion, he put his hands on his lips, looked me in the eye, and
summed it all up.
"You know... that's the dumbest.... I've ever been around. He doesn't
understand Spanish or English and he can't comprehend sign language. I'm
not going to manage him."
That night was the Russian's turn to prepare supper. Felipe and I both
declined his raw bacon and tomato sandwiches and went in to town for a
chicken fried steak. Midway into the meal, I commented to Felipe (in
Spanish as always), "Partner, I think you're turning into a
Busily sopping cream gravy with a hot roll, he undauntedly replied,
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, I noticed you're eating white bread and gravy, and today you
called the Russian a ----."
He couldn't help but smile, but downed his head and confessed. "I'm
sorry, but sometimes necessity overrules one's dignity."
Felipe is left handed. The only thing he does right is write, and
that's because the teachers in that era spanked one's left hand and
moved the pencil to the other.
I'm always telling him he does everything backwards and that he uses
"long-cuts" instead of "short-cuts," but he's head-strong and persistent
and turns out more work in a week that I can.
Baling wire is our most essential tool around this expansion of place.
Everything is held up or held together "temporarily" with baling wire.
He goes through a gate and wires it closed with baling wire. When I come
to it (invariably in the dark) to untwist the wire, naturally I go
counter-clockwise. Since that was the way he twisted it originally. I'm
adding to the tie instead of untying.
The same story when it comes to working cattle - he's just like a
bulldog who always goes to the wrong end. I've heard married men remark,
"to keep peace in the family, don't ever get the wife to help with the
cattle," and now I'm understanding why.
In eleven years Felipe has had enough lumps and bumps and kicks and
cussing that he should know that the head of a cow is the steering
wheel, but instinctively he works from behind. Like a coach on the
sideline with his chalkboard showing his player the defense against a
certain offense, here I am drawing in the dirt and explaining how the
cow gets by him every time. But this is a game we'll never master. It's
bred in him to be backwards.
Another point I'm always telling him, "while working with cattle, talk
to them at all times." That way the cow always knows where you are - she
lurches or kicks because of a sudden fright.
We were penning cows recently, and to move one forward he poked her in
the rear with a short stick he was carrying. She kicked him in the chest
and sent him sprawling backwards into the dirt. As I picked him up and
shook some of the dirt off, I rebuffed him sharply, "I keep telling and
telling you about talking to the cows. This wouldn't have happened if
you'd talk to the cows!"
"I can't talk to these cows," he moans, "because they don't understand
Back to the drawing board, Coach. Do Mexican cows hear English?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jerry Hulsey is a former school teacher who writes for
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Just when the upper Rio Grande Valley's largest city is getting serious
about finally providing mass transportation to its residents, a report
comes out that such services aren't used as much anymore.
The Eno Transportation Foundation, a Virginia-based group commissioned
by various groups including the U.S. Transportation Department and
American Automobile Association, analyzed Census Bureau data and
released its findings Thursday. Its report, ``Commuting to America II,''
reveals that with the decentralization of jobs away from downtown areas
and toward suburban industrial parks, people are opting for the speed
and convenience of driving themselves.
Most city transportation systems operate under a hub system in which
buses run in and out of the downtown area. But today, half of America's
commuters live in the suburbs and 41 percent of all jobs are located
there as well. Thus, a person taking the bus might have to ride into
downtown, then transfer onto another bus that takes him or her out to a
work site. Many would rather not take the time and trouble of doing so,
especially when parking in many suburban areas is free.
But that information shouldn't discourage officials in McAllen, who
recently began earnest efforts to bring a limited bus service to their
city. City commissioners voted Monday to seek $757,000 in federal funds
to help start limited bus service.
Currently, Brownsville is the only Valley city that has a municipal bus
system, although Valley Transit Company and Greyhound have intercity
routes. Both Laredo and Corpus Christi maintain bus systems.
Eno's report suggests, however, that public transportation use could
increase in the future, if demographic projections hold true. Alan
Pisarski, the transportation consultant who wrote the study, says the
number of white Americans commuting to work probably will level off or
even decline. They make up the bulk of those who drive their own cars to
High auto commutes, the report says, will eventually strain
infrastructures as traffic grows faster than the ability of cities to
improve roadways. Such a strain could be even more critical in McAllen,
whose streets apparently were planned for a much smaller population and
traffic load than has grown there in recent years.
Immigrants and urban minorities will comprise the better part of
population growth, Pisarki says, adding that these groups make up most
bus ridership. Blacks and Hispanics alone make up half of America's
households without cars, and that percentage is even higher in urban
The main factor is the ability to afford a car, Pisarski said.
That factor alone justifies the need for some mass transit in McAllen
and the Valley in general, which has some of the more economically
depressed areas in the country. The number of people living in McAllen
and the Valley without cars likely exceeds the national average. Many
buy cheap cars that are hardly road worthy in order to get around.
But while ridership is almost guaranteed, McAllen officials are right
to use caution in planning their bus system, which will start with just
five routes and focus on the southwest part of town.
McAllen's bus service could eventually be expanded to serve not only
more of the city, but be incorporated into a more regional system. Some
Valley officials have suggested routes that enable people to get to
educational facilities such as the South Texas Community College and the
University of Texas-Pan American campus in Edinburg.
The various planned STCC campuses would make such a unique challenge
and might serve just a small part of the population.
McAllen officials are correct in working to bring mass transit to an
area that needs it. But the recent report supports the notion that many
people would rather drive if they have the means to do so.
The city's bus system, therefore, requires sufficient planning and
conservative implementation, to help ensure that the service doesn't
exceed the demand, and that it doesn't place an undue drain on the
- The Monitor, McAllen
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