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Yesterday, March 18, 2017, one of the original six that I met at the Uvalde Border Patrol Station, Charlie Carter, passed away. When I arrived at the Uvalde Station, Charlie was not overly friendly to me. At that he was hard and I'm sure wondered if I had what it would take to make a good Border Patrol Agent. But Charlie toughened me up and it was guys like him that made me succeed in the Border Patrol even though I probably DIDN'T have what it took! He was a tough son of a gun who could speak Spanish with the best of them. He had a wicked tongue that I saw make more than one smart-ass alien lose his attitude and wish he'd hadn't pissed off Charlie!
REST IN PIECE, CHARLIE CARTER....You will not easily be forgotten!!!!
In my first chapter of a book I'm writing, Charlie has quite a few excerpts. Here's one of them:.
CHARLIE CARTER AND THE FARM AND RANCH CHECK
A few days after riding with Murphy Don Butler, I had the pleasure of riding with Charlie Carter. These two men are friends and good agents yet they are as different as any two individuals I’ve ever met. Charlie was a business man, selling ranches and farms as a real estate agent. That was his real money job! The Border Patrol was his pride and provided financial stability. He spoke fluent Spanish, better than anyone else at the station at the time.
Charlie, who wasn’t overly amicable to me and more than a bit cynical, quizzed me on this and that, chatted with me about my past, my ambitions and why I had joined the BP. But, I will remember the ride with him for mainly one reason.
We were driving through farms and ranches near Knippa, a small town which has the sign “Go ahead and Blink, Knippa is Bigger than you Think!” As we drove through several farms, I was impressed with the amount of acreage that was dedicated to irrigation farming. This reminded me of my home in Sunnyside: acre after acre of land tilled and irrigated and growing crops.
On one of the farms, south of Knippa, an old shed was located in the middle of the farm and I immediately spotted two men standing outside of it. I thought they were walkers and got excited. I pointed them out to Charlie but he didn’t seem too excited but did turn down the little road leading to the two men and commented that we should visit the “jacal” which means shack.
I remember asking, “Are those aliens?”
Charlie looked over at me, raised his brows into a ‘did he just ask me if I wear pants?’ look, and shook his head in exasperation at the question.
The two men didn’t run, but were resting in the shade of a small, makeshift porch, watching us drive up. Charlie didn’t increase his speed which would have indicated to me that he thought they were our quarry.
A third individual came out of the small shack and stood waiting to greet us. The three men, similar in appearance, were equivalently dark-complected as the three I had arrested with Murphy Don Butler on my first day, indicating months of exposure to the sun. They too wore long sleeved, ill-fitting shirts and equivalent pants. Their clothes, as a whole, were soiled and, the men looked equivalently poorly cared for.
Charlie and I hopped out of the marked government ride, and he greeted them, “Buenos tardes, muchachos.” Charlie’s greeting was familiar and I assumed that maybe these were three hands he sometimes visited rather than illegal aliens.
They replied with equivalent greetings. Then Charlie rattled off something in Spanish that I couldn’t understand.
I stood to the side of the three men, watching their hands, prepared for the worse-case scenario as they had trained us in the academy.
Charlie chatted with the three for a moment then he paused, looked over at me quizzically, I guess expecting me to be doing more, and said, not so pleasantly, that I should write these three up.
Charlie carried a briefcase and, in it, had the I-213s and I-274s we needed to process a normal alien. The 213 is just a biographical data form and the 274 is a request to return to Mexico voluntarily. On the 274 is a set of choices: an alien can request a hearing in front of an Immigration judge; he can request political asylum or he can request to return to Mexico ASAP without any other legal recourse. ALL aliens for the first few months chose to return to Mexico voluntarily.
I was shocked that these were aliens. Charlie got his lunch out and sat eating on the tailgate of the vehicle while I interviewed the three individuals on the porch. The three, again very similar to the three I had apprehended with Murphy Don on my first day, were very respectful and patient with my terrible Spanish. I found that they had been working at the farm for several months after successfully crossing the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. They weren’t upset in the least about being arrested but accepted it as part of their fate and a sign that it was time to return to Mexico and their families for at least a few weeks.
I remember asking them if they would return to this ranch and all three smiled slightly embarrassed to tell me, the naïve one, that of course they would, they had been working here for several months out of the year every year for a decade.
The building we were standing in front of was unpainted, with the boards looking old and delicate. You could see light through the boards if you looked right. Inside of the small, one room building was a mattress on the floor and a roughed out bunk bed with mattresses. But I couldn’t imagine that these men actually lived here as it had no electricity and no running water. There was a propane tank outside of the back of the house which I assumed provided gas for a meal.
“Where do you stay?” I asked sometime during the questioning which was more like a conversation than an interrogation.
They looked at each other after my question and finally one answered, “Here.” They were obviously confused by my question. I guess I assumed they had a nicer, insulated bunkhouse somewhere else, but nope, they lived in this small, dilapidated, one-room shack with a small outhouse around back.
I was shocked. How could they live in such squalor and be seemingly content? It didn’t make any sense in my mind.