Friday, June 2, 2017


By Juan Montoya
It was the early 1980s and in those days each commissioner ran their own Road and Bridge crews in Cameron County.
Local attorney D.J. Lerma had been appointed county judge after Jack Goolsby passed away. Lerma served as an interim county judge before a special election was called and Tony Garza was elected to office.

At that time I was an administrative assistant with Precinct 1 and oversaw the road crews. One day we received word that a farm tractor had run over a PVC water pipe belonging to El Jardin Water District. The pipe was buried just a few inches below the dirt and the operator of the tractor had not even seen it when he drove over it and broke it. The pipe ran at the top of packed dirt covering a six-foot corrugated metal culvert below on a ditch belonging to the Cameron County Drainage and Irrigation District #1.

The four-inch PVC pipe broke just under the surface of the road, spilled water onto the dirt, soaked it, and then the combined weight of wet dirt and water caused the culvert to collapse. We quickly sent a crew to place barriers on either side of the ditch to prevent some motorist from falling in the canal.

So now we had a situation where Precinct 1 owed the right-of-way, the water pipe to the El Jardin Water District, and the culvert belonged to the irrigation district. No one wanted to take responsibility for paying for the repairs. Each blamed the other and the county engineer disputed the version of events by the drainage and water districts laying the blame on the county and demanding that it pay for the repairs to the road, the culvert and the broken pipe.

The water district capped off the pipe at either end of the ditch and supplied the few resident there with water diverted from other mains nearby. The road, however, remained closed and school buses had to make a long detour to pick up kids on either side of the closed off section.

Things came to a stalemate and soon I was directed to go confer with the board of the irrigation district. Armed with blueprints and engineer drawings that depicted the origin of the pipe break and collapsed culvert, I dove to the district office. At that time the office was off Coffeeport Road near the intersection with FM 802.

I recall that Jimmy Webb, a short polite man, was the manager of the district. He met me at the front office and told me that the board was discussing some things in executive session and that he would call me when the item came up on their agenda. I reviewed the drawings and prepared to make the case for the precinct absolving us of any obligation.

Image result for hispanic texas rangersIn a short time, Jimmy emerged from the door and beckoned me over. I went in and saw the five board members sitting – some lounging – on their seats looking me over. The dress code appeared to be worn jeans and faded shirts. The majority appeared to be local ranchers.

Jimmy introduced me and said something like, "Well, this is the county man."
One of the ranchers looked me over and said in a drawl with a touch of disdain: "Is that it?, pronouncing the last word like "eeaat?"

I couldn't help myself.
"One riot, one ranger," I answered.
Well, as was to be expected, nothing was fixed that day. Over time the precinct was able to secure a grant from the state and instead of a corrugated metal culvert we obtained a concrete section of road with boxes instead costing upwards of $100,000. But I'll never forget the day when the local ranchers met up with a Hispanic rinche.  


Anonymous said...

Why don't you write that you worked for lucino rosenbaum back then, bro. The pothead.

Anonymous said...

You were the only one then and the only one now that sees any humor in what you did. To me you just sounded like a smart ass.

Anonymous said...

Up to the present, the Jardin Water District staff are bien sana babiches. They have their own little fiefdom in that office, their way or they will disconnect you, and next time their connection and water meter fees will bankrupt you.

Anonymous said...

Pinchi rinchi chafas

brownsville literary review said...

At least the comment prepared you for the future. They call you worse on your site all the time. It only makes you tougher. We like our heavyweights as much for taking a good punch and throwing one. Keep knocking them out, champ!