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 Texas : Feature : Columns : "They shoe horses, don't they?"

Border Patrol
Shootout on the Rio Grande
El Paso (1916)

"No Hard Feelings, but I think of you everytime I sit down."
Editor's Note:
The recent shameful persecution and imprisonment of two U.S. Border Patrol Agents for shooting a drug smuggler in the buttocks brings to mind a similar incident in which another Mexican National was shot by the Border Patrol. Same shooter, (U.S. Border Patrol) same shootee (Mexican National). The same body parts were wounded very near the same location. Only 91 years and a few caliber points separate the two (leaving out the overzealous prosecutor). Despite the similarities of the two incidents, the outcome of the earlier occurrence was far different from the contemporary one.
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This first person excerpt is from the book "Border Patrol: With the U.S. Immigration Service on the Mexican Boundary 1910-54" by Clifford Alan Perkins (Texas Western Press, The University of Texas at El Paso, 1979):

One stretch of the river where numerous aliens crossed was just west of downtown El Paso, directly opposite the Union Depot. Shortly after everyone had gone to lunch, leaving me on duty with one of the stenographers for company, a [railroad] switchman telephoned in to report that two of our outside officers were pinned down behind the depot with rifle fire from across the river.

With no alternative but to lock the office, I grabbed a Springfield rifle and two or three boxes of ammunition from the supply room, and with the stenographer to drive, set out in the only transportation available: the truck we used for a patrol wagon. When we reached the depot and parked the truck, I crawled to within shouting distance of the two officers. So long as they stayed put, they were fairly safe near the water in a large hole near the base of an uprooted tree. Raising up cautiously, I could see there was no shelter for them if they left the hole, at the same time I spotted the rocks protecting the Mexicans firing at them. Realizing that the only way to put a stop to the shooting was to get at the Mexicans from an angle, I told the officers not to move and I crawled back across the tracks. Running along in a semi-crouch to stay behind the railroad embankment, I worked my way up river around the bend to a point where the men doing the shooting were exposed. Taking deliberate aim because of the distance, I pumped out three or four shots in rapid succession. At the second or third shot, one of them jumped up from cover as if he had been stung and took off south at a run. I threw a few more shots at him for good measure, which increased his speed somewhat but also gave the others a chance to get away.

Weeks later, a Mexican strolled into the office and told the clerk at the front desk that he wanted to see Senor Perkins. After being ushered to the door of the office where I was working, he ambled through, looked me over deliberately, then greeted me with a smiling, "Hallo, Perkeens. You know you shoot me?" Puzzled by his knowing my name and acting as though there was nothing humorous about a shooting, I asked him "When? And where?" Laughing and telling me I was some fine shot, he said he had been one of the men shooting from the rocks at the two officers behind the depot. With the admission that one of my bullets had accounted for his speedy departure from the scene, he dropped his pants. On each buttock were two tiny round scars from a bullet passing through about an inch below the surface."
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
April 3, 2007 Column

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