Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Botched border bust

Wick's World


September 12, 2019

Reynosa has joined the likes of Tijuana, Juarez and Matamoros as Mexico’s most violent cities. But back in the early 1970’s it was little more than the sister border town to McAllen, Texas. Located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, McAllen was already a popular home to thousands of “snowbirds” or Winter Texans as they preferred to be called. Reynosa was a tourist attraction for the retired bunch of mostly Minnesotans that made up this lot. My wife and I were a rare exception. We decided to become snowbirds in our twenties rather than wait until we were old and gray when people only went south to ease the aches and pains caused by the ravages of age. Unlike most Winter Texans however, we had to spend a certain amount of our time making a living. Some days were spent swimming across the Rio Grande just to walk the beach on the Mexican side. However, we found that the best way to enjoy the warm, sunny winter days of South Texas while maintaining a job was to simply work evenings.

The Hilton Inn of McAllen offered just such a luxury. My wife soon found herself as manager of the Hilton Inn Bar while I landed the lucrative task of waiting tables at the premier dining spot in all of South Texas. This was almost a decade before Paris was even a little brat; however, Conrad Hilton actually showed his face one evening. He was served a special platter of seafood unavailable to the general public (no sense eating what the peasants ate.)

Our living hours were rather conducive to sleeping late in the mornings because of the late hours not only spent at work, but the hours spent unwinding after we closed the place down. Reynosa soon became the second joint we would close down for the night. It was often past two in the morning when we would shed our work clothes, jump into something more comfortable and head for the border. Fifteen minutes later, we were in Mexico where the nightclubs were really starting to rock. Quite often we would make the crossing back home as the sun was greeting the dawn.

One evening we were joined on our nightly adventure across the border by an old friend of ours from South Dakota. Although Norm was in his early fifties, he spent most of his recreational hours out-partying every student, hippy and young person from Vermillion, South Dakota. Norm found himself in the back seat of our car, lost down a backstreet in Reynosa. Needless to say, it was about as late as an evening can get before you can call it morning. I had somehow taken a wrong turn back to the border. The neighborhood we were cruising was not inviting enough to allow one to stop and ask for directions. It turned out that we didn’t have to. In a flash, two unmarked cars had us sandwiched in a back alley. Several men rapidly piled out of each car and quickly pulled their guns out of their shoulder holsters.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that we were obviously up to our necks in deep doo-doo. But something seemed dramatically out of place. The drawn guns were appropriate for the situation but I couldn’t figure out why they were wearing suits. They immediately pulled my friend, my wife and I from the car and separated us from each other. Normally I would be concerned about Mexican males separating a female from our group. However, in this case, my first thoughts were “Hey! It’s best not to mess with my wife when she’s been drinking.”

Sure enough she was all over their case about what the heck was going on. After a rather short time, the guy with the gun on me gathered with his comrades for a round of discussion. The next thing we knew, the guys put their guns away and busted out laughing.

O.K. So the jokes on you, I thought. I failed to see the humor of it until a fluent English-speaking fellow informed me that he was an American drug agent on a joint mission with the Mexican government. Our crime was that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It seems we had accidently stumbled into a neighborhood where a major drug bust was about to go down.

They were still laughing as they pointed the way back to the border. It took us quite a bit longer before we were able to laugh as well.


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