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MORE SENOR LUNA 

On Friday, August 24, 2007, 03:42 PM, Gary Owen wrote:

Since the last post, I have done a little more thinking about what I remember of those episodes. Senor Luna was a somewhat enigmatic chap, dis-appearing for long stretches, and then suddenly reappearing, often to the accompaniment of some level of stress for somebody. It was not like he just subsided into obscurity and went about his affairs un-noticed. You always noticed the presence of Senor Luna. I either never knew, or have forgotten, just how Senor Luna sustained himself. I know that he, being a dual citizen, spent some time across the river with his elderly mother.

It may be that he had other relatives elsewhere on this side of the river who looked after him for some of the time. I doubt he was periodically institutionalized--considering the grief that would have attended that. Senor Luna's troubles with Mexican officialdom reached a crisis one day, I believe in the early spring of '67. Some of us were at the B.P. office one day when the phone rang and it was the custom people down at the bridge calling us to get down there quickly.

They said that the Commandante of the Mexican Army garrison across the river had an American citizen in chains and that we had to take him off their hands or they were going to have to shoot him or something. I suppose it was the bit about an "American" citizen that threw me off, that plus the fact that many weeks had passed since the hotel encounter. I went down there expecting to see some crazed tourist who had gone berserk in Mexico somehow, and was being expelled. When we got to the border crossing, it was only a few minutes until some Mexican army vehicles came racing across the bridge and slid to a stop in the dirt.

Out of the back of one of them, they dragged a very disheveled and oddly subdued (though visibly enraged) Senor Luna, bound hand and foot in chains and manacles. The commandante had him unchained and said something to the effect that he was now our problem. We knew that we had to get him away quickly to avoid an unfortunate incident of some sort, but how to get him into a vehicle was not a simple matter. Someone, knowing his quirk about the Attorney General, told him that the AG already had heard about this and was coming to intercede ---personally, and that the meeting was arranged for the next day in Marfa and we were instructed to escort him there.

This was right up his alley, and we opened the rear door to put him in the back. That seemed to offend him, and he insisted that a guest of the AG was entitled to ride in front. With that a couple of the others got in the car, and away they went for the county tank in marfa 67 miles away. When they got there the trick was to get him in a cell, so they told him that the AG had instructed them to keep Senor Luna in a carefully guarded secure location until his arrival the following day.

That worked well enough and seemed to mollify him. Several weeks passed, and one evening I was standing on a street in greater downtown Presidio when Senor Luna appeared. It was apparent that he recognized me, as he made straight for me, and began inquiring as to my well being. He was without his crutch, so I expressed some pleasure at his recovery from his injury. We stood there as he talked, all the while I was hoping the subject of the Attorny General would not come up, fearing it might remind him of the recent deceptions that landed him in the slammer in Marfa.

In a few moments he strolled away, limping slightly into the gathering dusk of a Rio Grande spring evening. I never saw Senor Luna again. Shortly I found myself in the army, bound for southeast Asia, and when that was done other matters were such that I never went back until 20 years later just for a day. That short time I spent in the Big Bend area was the most formative time of my life. The land, the people, all of it, have lived in my memory more vividly than even the war. For these 40 years I have wondered what ever became of Senor Luna.

I am hoping that some other old Presidio hand will read this who knows and can pass it along to me. One amusing aside to all this. Some time later,after the army,I was watching the film"The Wild Bunch" with Ernest Borgnine and William Holden. When the Mexican General Mapache appeared I had the momentary idea that they had somehow wound up with the Commandante of the Ojinaga army garrison playing a bit part in thair movie, because he looked just like him. Probably that movie would be as near to what that time along the border was really like as we can get to today. An interesting mix of the old and the modern.

More later, G.Owen


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