How was life when you were a teenager?
Life in the '30s was hard, but I could go out on a date with only a dollar and come back with change. The movies were ten cents, two hamburgers were only thirty cents and two milkshakes were fifty cents. Still, times were rough. My family had to scrape money together. To make a living, we would do many things. We would hunt javelina [wild boar] and sell the teeth and hide to a lady on the Indian Reservation, who would make it into necklaces and trinkets. We also collected rattlesnakes for her. We were given thirty-five cents a pound for them live.
Did you hunt much?
Yes, my brothers and I didn't have enough money to buy a license, though. The game warden, a man named Blue Rockne, made it his mission in life to catch us. One time when we were walking through the forest with our 30/40 (a rifle), Blue came up and said, "You are under arrest." I asked him why and he told us because we were hunting. I said, "We're not hunting. We were having target practice." He couldn't prove it because we hadn't killed anything yet, so he let us go.One time, we had killed a deer and we were taking it back to our truck when we saw him pull up to our truck to wait for us. We just sat on the top of the mountain and watched him. He waited from two until six-thirty. Then he left. So, we got into our truck and I made my brother, Bud, sit in the truck bed with the carcass. If we saw Blue's truck, we told Bud to throw the deer out of the truck. Nothing too obvious, of course!One time, we went hunting for javelina, but we had only bought three bullets for ten cents apiece because it was all I could afford. We came upon a herd of pigs and I took two shots, both misses. We ran up the hill and in a little gorge was a large male. I took one shot and hit him in the side. We were using military loads, so the bullet went through his body. We chased him through this creek bed and whenever he stopped to rest, we ran at him with sticks and tried to beat him to death. He charged us and chased us around. Then he would run again. I sent Bud and my other brother, Gene, ahead to wait where they had a good view of the bed. Then, when he ran at them, they heaved big rocks at him. They couldn't hit him ever, but it provided a few hilarious moments. Finally he gave up and died.
Did you play any sports when you were young?
Yes. I even got a scholarship to the University of Arizona for football. I also wrestled semi-pro when I was in Tucson. I practiced with an Olympic champion and another who had been the national champ. After college, though, I went into the Air Force and I couldn't play nearly as much.When I got out, I went straight into the border patrol, so I didn't play anymore.
Wow. When you were in the border patrol, were there any memorable events?
There were so many that I can't tell them all. We had a man on the force who set the record for the quickest draw in the world. He could pull his gun from his holster and shoot a target to stop the clock in less than eight-tenths of a second. He was almost deaf from all the shooting he had done, but if anyone ever said anything about guns, he would be out of his office and down the hall and asking, "Are you talking about guns?" Still, he was the nicest guy anyone could want to know.
Did you make many drug busts?
There were a surprisingly large number of drug busts back then. It was mostly small quantities, though. A bust of fifteen pounds was considered big. The main drug was opium. The drug runners brought it to America to turn into heroin. We made big busts all the time for it. It was a black substance and women wore it around their waists, under their clothes. I could always tell if they were bringing it in, though - you could smell it from fifty feet away.
What were some of the benefits of being on the border patrol?
The United States Govern-ment supplied a horse, a weapon and pay. Later, when I was a member of the Pistol Marks-men group, they supplied me with all the ammunition I could use with no explanation necessary. So I shot about two thousand rounds a month.
Did you ever shoot at anyone?
Yes. A couple of times, I had to. I shot at a few illegal aliens, just to scare them back across the border. They got the drift pretty quickly!
Where did your horses come from?
The government got us the cheapest horses that they could, but they were all huge - at least fourteen hands tall. The University of Arizona gave us some wild horses. There was one that bucked all the students who tried to ride him. He loved to jump and run. When he got galloping, it would be a couple of miles before he finally stopped.One day, I was going to ride to the nearby ranch to get milk. I saddled him up and he just took off. My wife, Frankie, saw us go and just stared. He was headed straight for a fence which stood eight feet tall. I knew he intended to jump it, so I closed my eyes and braced myself for my death. About a dozen feet from the gate, he suddenly changed his mind and screeched to a halt just before the gate. I opened my eyes, expecting to see myself flying to heaven - and saw the gate in front of me. Needless to say, I walked to get the milk that day!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.