Chapter 19

This entry is part 20 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Nineteen — Crossing The Border

Chuck and I retired to the Palace. That night I made a horrible discovery. Chuck snored! Not the usual run of the mill type; but, how can I express it? His big chest heaved up and down and great blubbering noises came out. It sounded like a hog with its nose in a bucket of mud. At the end of each snore there was a whistle then a moan. I couldn’t sleep so I rose up and turned on the lights. After the third or fourth regular combination he started smacking his lips just as if he were eating something.

I got up and rolled him on his side but even this didn’t awaken him. He certainly was a sound sleeper and the more I rolled him around the more he gurgled, blubbered and wheezed. I finally gave up, crawled back on the upper bunk above the cab, pulled the covers over my head and tried not to listen to him.

The next morning we came back to San Diego and put a fine supply of groceries in the Palace. There were cases of canned meats such as ham, Spam, salmon, tuna fish, oysters; about everything we could think of. Also dozens of canned vegetables, soups and fruits, and a variety of spices. We didn’t intend to let hunger catch up with us.

We drove across Southern California into Arizona, and entered Mexico at Nogales. We had a hell of a time getting through Customs.

The big, blue and silver camper with “Sport King” in big letters across the front caused quite a sensation. I thought it was going to literally be torn apart. Neither Chuck nor I could speak Spanish, and the customs officers went through the Palace very thoroughly, opening all of the drawers and cupboards, and even the refrigerator.

An American who was just returning from Mexico City saw that we were in trouble and came up to us and said, “Look fellows, the only way you will ever get through is to lay down a few American dollars. These guys are a bunch of bandits.”

Now, an official looking Mexican was going through our groceries, marking each can with a piece of chalk. If he continued at this snail’s pace, we were going to be here a week! I climbed the little ladder into the Palace, smiled at him, and laid down a five dollar bill. He smiled, put away his chalk away and left.

Another Mexican came in and started going through our clothes. And, with another five spot handout he was gone. One more five dollar bill, and we had made it! It took a few minutes to get through Customs once we found out what to do.

We left Nogales and headed south. Our windshield held a sticker, “Turista.” We would go as tourists to Mexico City, and there we would get our visas for the remainder of the journey.

Chuck enjoyed driving and this suited me fine. He felt important. Being the driver of the Palace was an honor for anybody. Despite his one bad habit, his snoring, Chuck was a grand guy. Nobody is perfect so I couldn’t blame Chuck for what he couldn’t help.

The country was hot and dry, and the corn fields were burned brown by the sun. indeed it was a pitiful sight. Even the cactus looked shriveled and ready to give up. We stopped at many little cantinas by the side of the road. The places were filthy and contained flies by the millions. Freshly killed meat hung over wires for dry killed meat hung over wires for drying in the sun. The people would eat what the flies did not.

“One thing,” said Chuck, “their beer is good.” It was darned good beer and it cost only one peso, or eight cents in U. S. money.

Sometimes there would be a dead cow or calf by the side of the road. Miles before we got there we knew something was dead. The buzzards circled, some of them going down, and others going up their bellies full and bulged.

Chuck said, “The national bird. Men in this country are too lazy to clean up the mess. They leave it to the buzzards. It’s against the law to kill one. You might just as well kill a man as a buzzard. You’ll get the same punishment.”

In Mexico and Central America there are many types of buses. A bus might be anything from a passenger car to a modern type, and one thing for sure, everyone who was waiting for one jumped to the middle of the road when the Palace came into view. They were sure it was a bus! With their pigs, chickens, turkeys or sacks of corn they stood ready to flag us down. We had to be careful not to run over them.

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