Monday, 8 November 2010


    Yesterday when driving back up from our little hideaway there were more than the usual number of military checkpoints along the highways.   It was,  quite frankly, a bit comforting.    But little things impress a person during times when a body is on a continuous slow adrenaline drip.     At a point about mid-way between our place and the border, there is a major, permanent military checkpoint.   It is always manned and it is involved with northbound traffic.
      It was good to note that this particular day there was no long line....with a hundred trucks and busses in the right lane and 150 autos in the left lane slowly edging up to be examined or not, depending on the luck of the draw or upon other, more military, reasons. it was straight to the sergeant at the receiving box.   He directed me immediately to inspection and I complied, as usual.
      Two things occurred that might be missed perhaps, at other times.   For one, I had been passed just before arrival at this checkpoint by a convoy of heavy infantry, well-armed, well-outfitted, excellent equipment order, excellent discipline and appearance.    They passed me, but had entered the normal inspection at this stop.   A lieutenant had come over to the next-to-last pick-up and saluted briskly to the officer on the right door position.
      Looking closer, there were two teams checking paperwork, vehicle ID numbers, and scanning cyber-dogtags of the soldiers with hand held computer devices.   Each team was made up of a sergeant and two PFC types.  Each vehicle was scanned, each soldier in the convoy.....quickly, coldly, and courteously.  
       The lieutenant had stepped back from the pick-up of his interest.   The officer inside, I think he was a Lt. Col. type, got down from the pick-up, handed the lieutenant a batch of forms on a clipboard and then took off his cyber-dogtags while the lieutenant's helper scanned the documents and the colonel's tags.    The lieutenant signed his rubric to some of the papers, then did a walk-around along the 8 vehicle convoy, once again checking the serial numbers on the doors and other points.
      Upon returning, the lieutenant saluted the Lt. Col., who returned the salute.   Then, oddly, they stood briefly with the left hand on the right  shoulder each of the man in front....then backed off, crossed themselves, and saluted and then went about their business.     Officers and non-coms mounted up, the Lt. Col. barked something, the convoy pulled off to the north.  It dawned on me then  that this particular heavy infantry unit was "Going into harm's way". 
      [As an aside, I encountered this group an hour and a half later on the highway south of Reynosa where they were waiting on anyone who might be trying to escape from Army offensive actions taking place at that very moment in Matamoros to the east.   It is probable that later in the day they went into Reynosa and were involved in another successful encounter against "members of organized criminal activity" who actually were fleeing in disorder from Matamoros.]

     Anyway.....back to the first checkpoint.... I was awaiting the finishing touches of my old car's inspection, and it was apparent that the non-com had dallied for a bit long at the foot well of the left-rear,  passenger seat.   He asked me about "to what I dedicated myself" to which I replied that we had a little bed and breakfast place near Victoria.   I told him about the bird and butterfly attractions and the natural backdrops, and he seemed impressed.  It dawned on me that for almost a minute and a half he had been going through  an agenda/calendar where I keep my rain records and other climate data of note.    Each page has a very nice picture of some form of wildlife found in the State of Tamaulipas and he seemed to enjoy the calendar book immensely.   I would have offered it to him but for the fact that it has my weather records from the three tropical involvements and from a particularly cold Winter episode this year.
     I gave him one of our business cards and expressed my appreciation for his service.   Perhaps on my next pass through he will be there and we can give him another agenda or maybe one for the new year with the same kind of excellent photographic work. 

Once again, there will be more later, and your attention and time are most certainly appreciated.
El Gringo Viejo