Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tacho Mercado Enterprises

My older brother's brief account of our maternal grandfather's enterprises.

Tacho owned and operated a small beer joint in Concepcion, Texas. The structure was just a stone's throw from his house. It was nothing fancy, just a few tables, cold beer and sodas, a jukebox, a pool table, a small selection of salty snacks and lots of large wall calendars picturing lusty women, bullfighters, and other manly interests. No women patronized the place, though. I never saw one, but then, I was only allowed in there during the day.

The beer joint took up only a small corner of the establishment. Years before, my grandparents had operated a small grocery store, meat market, gas station and picture show in the building. When one-by-one the enterprises went bust, the seats to the movie house were removed, set along the walls, and the place became a popular dance hall. Tacho was an enterprising soul. Otherwise, most of the building sat vacant. It was a great place for me to explore.

In the backroom of the beer joint, we'd dust off empty beer bottles and place them in thick sturdy cardboard containers that held twelve bottles each. These, Tacho redeemed when the beer vendor stopped on his rounds.

I never realized a monetary profit for my assistance, but I did get my fill of soft drinks, ice cream cones and Fritos from the establishment. Summers were good there. I would have those days again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Fall of 73

One hot Thursday in the summer of 1973, Danny broke his arm. He describes that day at Las Lagunas corrals as "pleasant, 98 degrees or so." Cattle were going to be separated with calls of "keeper" and "sell it" that weekend and the operation called for the pens and driving chute to be in good working order. Dad, Dick Shimer and a 15-year-old Ricky were replacing broken and rotted boards in the long running chute. The cutting gate had to be repeatedly swiveled to the open position to allow for the traffic materials in and out of the work area. Danny was managing as much help to the men as an 8-year-old could. He perched himself up on the gate's cutting deck to observe the activity. It was an education for the boy. To look down at the work the men performed offered him the opportunity to pick up good and practical knowledge. Presently, Danny claims to retain much of it.

He credits Ricky with one ill-fated idea that day. He suggested the task of manning the long handles of the cutting gate. The boy was roosted on the platform anyway. If he operated the heavy swing gate, those working below would not have to bother pushing it open every time they entered or exited the chute. Good little brother Danny, anxious to be a part of the work, agreed, wrapping his small hands around the bars that passed back and forth across the elevated platform he occupied.

The repairs proceeded uneventfully until Dick Shimer, on his way to fetch another 1x6-inch plank, pushed on the cutting gate. Not in sync with Dick, Danny pulled hard on the handle one way. Below, Dick pushed with much greater force in the opposite -- each unaware of the other's intention. Unwilling to relinquish his hold on the handle, Danny was pulled over the edge of the platform, falling about six feet. He landed on a board lying on the dusty corral earth. The impact caught his right arm between his small frame and the point of contact. Enraged by the mishap, he leapt to his feet, and took off after Ricky, thinking he was the culprit that forced him over. Danny caught sight of Ricky and began to chase him around Dad's work truck. After a couple of heated laps around the pickup Ricky got him to stop. He called to Dad and asked that he look at Danny's arm.

The three men stood there looking at the boy. (At 15, Danny considered Ricky a man. In his estimation, on a working ranch, a boy as young as 13 is doing a man-sized job.) Danny's forearm appeared bent like a Chiquita banana. It was broken. Dad drove him home. Danny suspects that Dad was more worried about how he was going to explain all this to Mom, than he was of his break.

After sharing the details with Mom, Dad loaded Danny into the red 1969 Chevy Nova, a two-door he had purchased from Gloria. He drove to Dr. Gonzalez' clinic in Benavides. The old physician said there wasn't much he could do other than wrap and tape a piece of cardboard around the forearm. He directed Dad to Alice P & S Hospital to have the boy's arm reset and cast in plaster. That would be the first of many unscheduled visits to Alice P & S Hospital for Danny in the years to come.