By the time I got to Mexico

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I asked for a writing prompt on Twitter and Jackson Ford didn’t disappoint. Jackson is an author and has a couple of books out, check them out here. They’re a fun read. He’s created a very intriguing world. I think the books should be optioned for a movie, but that’s me. 

By the time I got to Mexico…

By the time I got to Mexico, my parents had fought several times. My dad was driving too fast. He was driving too slow. My mom was smoking too many cigarettes. It was raining, our luggage was going to get wet. Why were we staying in Brownsville instead of Padre Island or Corpus Christi?

We moved to Texas when I was a young child. Growing up on the Florida Atlantic coast didn’t prepare for the culture shock of the Houston area. I had led a somewhat sheltered life as the son of a NASA employee. I wasn’t prepared for the food, the variety of cultures and its people. My dad had taken a job with Texas Instruments, so we moved. It was during the oil boom, so everyone was happy. (well, until gas got rationed)

My dad got a wild idea one summer. Let’s drive down to Mexico. It was just inside the border from Brownsville and you can drive your car around. He had decided that we’d stay overnight and then drive back the next day to Houston. My mom, craving the smell of salt air, wanted to drive back to Padre Island or Corpus Christi. and stay on the beach.

Back then you could easily cross without much trouble. They rarely searched vehicles and you didn’t need a passport. It took several hours to get there and we’d stopped for food and gas more times than I wanted since my dad decided to drive his truck down there. I was anxious to get down there. I had been told tales by friends of the almost anarchy that existed there. You could buy anything you wanted.

Little did I know that the reason reason my dad wanted to go was because alcohol is dirt cheap there. After a brief stop at the border, we drove into the bustling city of Matamoros. For those not familiar with driving in Mexico…let’s say it’s chaos. We almost got into an accident several times and the horns…wow. It’s like using the car horn is breathing air there. My mom recommended we park and walk. My dad had been given a map by coworker on an area to do some shopping and that’s where we headed. We parked the truck and started our visit.

We went to one store and I was so excited to buy something in a foreign county with my own money. I bought a (are you ready?) a switchblade! It was white pearl, about 5 inches long and pointy. I remember buying a few little knick knack things that, along with the knife, has disappeared through the multiple moves I’ve made during my life.

As we walked down the sidewalk, my mother reminded me to keep the switchblade in my pocket and don’t pull it out in public. It was like a burning coal in the pockets of my shorts. Whenever my parents weren’t looking, I’d pull it out and push the button. I was sure they heard it, but they never said anything, I think they were on high alert and chose to ignore it.

Eventually, we came to a little grocery store that literally shelves of every liquor bottle you could ever imagine. This is what my dad had wanted to come for. We bought so much that even I had to help carry a bag. The smells of food were everywhere in this area and even my pleas of “I’m hungry” and “Are we going to ever eat again?” came out as a child does were ignored until we got to the truck.

Now let me explain this truck. In case you don’t know, trucks are a big deal in Texas. The more custom, the better. This one had been purchased from a Houston area golf pro. It had custom seating in it with compartments built in and if you weren’t aware of them, you’d just think it was part of the seating layout. These compartments came in handy as my parents loaded the bottles everywhere you could think. We left a small bottle out in the open that my mother held onto.

We headed back to the border with my parents putting the fear of jail in me. They told me to take the sombrero out and sit it next to me. Anything to distract the border guards. I had learned at an early age to do what was I told to do or else I’d receive a quick backhand across the face or back of the head.

The border passing went fairly quickly as my dad just declared the small bottle of vodka. We passed through after that without incident. My mother won out and we ended up staying on Padre Island at a small motel that faced the Gulf of Mexico. There was a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant that we walked to after unloading the truck into our room. Even though my parents got tipsy, they didn’t fight that night. The remainder of the trip home was enjoyable. It remains one of the few good memories of time I spent with my parents.

And yes, my dad had an ulterior motive for buying all of the alcohol. He resold them to a bar that he frequented; a bar he eventually ended up owning. Smokey and The Bandit didn’t have anything on Jimmy Hood.

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