46..The Pilot of Van Horn, Texas

Dear Followers of the tale of our wandering hero:

I found myself in San Antonio, Texas with my map and compass out contemplating the merits of hitch hiking the vastness of Texas. In previous hitching expeditions I had bypassed the huge state and yes I had managed along just fine. Somehow, the breadth of Texas was mentally devastating to me. I calculated IF I did not get a ride, and hitting the desert as well, I was going to be footing across the state for 47 days if I managed to lug my 55 pounds of gear 15 miles a day. It was not a comforting thought to someone that has driven across southern Texas before.

I did what any adventurous hiker in this situation does. Finds the closest Greyhound Station. After digging deep in my hiding spot, I forked over the required fee (basically two months of food). and boarded the bus. I had not been on a bus since I was 17 years old going to basic training, and up north the bus was mainly full of African Americans and me. It was quite a change getting on a bus in San Antonio, Texas where it was Native Americans, Mexicans and ME at 3PM that afternoon. Out we rolled.

Well there is not much to do on a bus when it gets dark. I had brought along my stuff sack with my sleeping bag and blanket and was covered up dozing off and on. We would make the occasional stop to let the lone person off in some place called Fort Whatever or Los Someplace and get out and stretch. One of these stops was Van Horn, Texas.

I awoke when we arrived in Van Horn, and decided I really needed to stretch. I got up, stretched some and then stepped off the bus into a very cool south Texas night. There was a convenience store with familiar looking red and yellow lights, but my sleep addled mind was not yet clear. I saw a Border Patrol truck driving in the parking lot, the first I had ever seen in my life, with the agent looking my way. I suddenly looked up in the air and saw a sign saying “PILOT” and fear struck my heart! I have border patrol agents looking at me, I was wondering if the Pilot Police have my picture up from their security cameras in Birmingham, AL posted in all of their Gas Stations as Persona Non Grata. Has Wackenhut and Pilot now conspired to have me Deported? The cold fear was debilitating as the Border Agent asked, “May I see your ID?”. Ok ,now I thought it was sort of ludicrous. I am tanned from being outside alot, but I do not think as I stand 6’1″ and not Hispanic looking in a sea of Mexicans at this point, if this is not sort of like making the old lady at the airport get stripped searched. So I hand him my VA Card. Now Agent Chavez was very kind and said thank you sir. I was wondering if the Ken Parent’s at Pilot Corp. had a satellite feed going and all my buddies at Wackenhut Security were saying “Dammit” and “He got away again”. Trust me, I do not go to Pilot Fuel Stations and make a wide circle around them. It is amazing, but since I have been on the road as a “Homeless Veteran” I have had to show more ID than in my whole life as a former officer or civilian. And I am more low key in life and singled out more by law enforcement more than ever before. The oddest thing is that when I am just sitting around a park, a McDonald’s, or any other place, most people just come up and strike up casual conversations with me like they have known me before. Sometimes life is strange.



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