Wednesday, December 7, 2016


By Juan Montoya
The first time Chato ran the Sarita checkpoint he did it almost inadvertently.
He was home on leave from the military and stationed in North Click (Carolina) after he enlisted in Brownsville when the recruiters used to have their offices at Market Square.

He had left high school under a cloud when Raul Besteiro was the principal and he and his neighbor Neto had been caught ripping off the vending machines in the cafeteria during the daily crush of students at the noon hour when morning and afternoon-class students met in the hallways. Neto – who had worked for a vending machine operator –  had kept some of the keys. After he opened one and took the cash box, he would simply tip it over and let it crash on the floor. In the bang that followed and the scattering of students, he would simply slide away and get lost in the crowd.

Chato would be standing a respectable distance away and Neto would hand him the cash box which he would slide under his jacket and both would meet outside later and split the change. That ended when someone saw them and fingered them to Besteiro. Both were expelled from school.
And so Chato started working for Jim Johnson's Used Clothing stores driving a truck and supplying used clothes to Johnson's stores in the downtown area.

He eventually got his GED and thought about going to college but could not find a way to afford it.
One day he met a friend who had joined the military and was home on leave. Both went to Matamoros and day turned into night, into day, and then into night again. Three days later, both walked across Gateway Bridge without a penny to their name. When they got home, he was told his mother had called and told him his dad wanted him to pick up his belongings if he thought he was already a man. So he took his friend's advice and joined the Crotch (USMC).
This was in the early 70s, when the Vietnam War was still on. Lucky for him that he wasn't sent to Nam, and instead found himself languishing in the wilds of Courthouse Bay in Camp Lejeune.
While he was there, he found out that the pot smokers were paying top dollar for marijuana and he told them that back home in Brownsville a pound sold for only $50. They were astounded.

As Christmas leave approached, some of them put their money together and asked him if they could get him to bring 10 pounds when he went home.
He agreed to do it and when the time came, they entrusted him with $500.

He went to Las Prietas and found La Rata, who lived out on Western Blvd. in the rear of the colonia. La Rata got his nickname from his pointy face. He looked every part the rodent and when Chato told him what he wanted, he looked at him suspiciously and asked him to wait.
"Trais la feria?," he asked and looked at Chato with an upturned pointy face.
"Dando y dando pajarito volando," Chato replied.

La Rata ginned and went into his house. He returned with a cardboard box and put out his hand for the cash. Chato opened the box and saw ten bricks wrapped in brown paper. He poked a hole in one and held it to his nose. It smelled strong.
"Ta guena, ese?" he asked.
"No le pide nada a nadie," La Rata replied.

While he was counting the cash, La Rata asked if he carried
a gun. He pulled out his, a chrome .45 and showed it to Chato.
"Ay traigo pero nunca la saco si no es pa hacer un negocio," Chato had lied.

When the time came for him to go back to the base, Chato put the pot in a suitcase and his clothes in another. It wasn't until he was getting close to Sarita that he saw that he would have to go through the Border Patrol checkpoint. He looked at the back seat and moved the suitcase containing the  pot under the one with his clothes. He left the lid of the top one partly open.

As he approached the checkpoint, he opened his window and the Border Patrolman walked around to the passenger side back door and opened the lid of the suitcase. Chato's heart froze. But all that was there were his T-shirts and skivvies. The patrolman didn't bother to look in the bottom suitcase and he waved him through

Realizing how close he had come to getting busted, he stopped at a hardware store in Bishop and bought some tools. At a rest area, he opened the passenger door panel and packed the bricks in the hollow cavity under the window mechanism. He sprayed the entire load with Lemon Pledge furniture spray. He left just enough pot to roll a couple of joints.

On the drive north, he puffed on one and was gliding along when he spotted a DPS zorillo on the southward bound lane. Something told him they would be back and he put out the joint and reached under the seat for the Pledge and sprayed. He could see the DPS car turn in the rear view mirror and a few minutes later, he was pulled over. They made him open the trunk and asked where he was headed.

"Back to Lejeune," he said.
"Semper Fi?," asked the officer and Chato smiled.
"Never die," he replied.
"Have a good trip," the DPS patrolman said and let him go.

With a sigh of relief, Chato drove away slowly and continued his trip. Down the road a few miles he came across a hitchhiker. In the early 70s – before the days of serial killers – people still hitchhiked and gave people rides. He slowed down and asked the longhair where he was going.
"Down the road, bro, about 15 miles,"
"No problem, jump in."

They hadn't gone more than a few miles when the kid looked at him and asked him if he could smoke the roach in the ashtray.
"What roach?" Chato asked incredulously.
"That one," said the kid and pulled the unfinished joint out of the ashtray.
"Do you know that I was just pulled over by the DPS and they didn't see it?" Chato told him.
"You are one lucky dude," said the other and lit up.


Anonymous said...

Great story, I'll be waiting for Part Two.

Anonymous said...

Chato es un pendejo, vato idiota sin verga. marihuana no paga y si paga es con plomo. chinguen si madre los Marihuanos

Anonymous said...

Is this pusher still alive? hopefully he's in prison.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than smart.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

They paid you $400 to write this story? LOL