Happy New Year from a “Binational Borderplex”

About one in every six El Paso homeowners say they own residences in both Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, according to a recent survey, Borderzine reports. It makes for interesting times — especially for public school districts and teachers and, too, local realtors! Indeed, sometimes in Life it seems we become like “movable type,” as each of us in different ways writes her or his life story upon the lives of others — all in a new collection of Hope. [Image courtesy of Borderzine]

By Dan Bodine

Whooo! The Year 2019 has come and gone; 2020 is at hand!! And what better way to greet the Decade of the New ’20s than congratulate Mexican parents in Juarez for sending their children across stream, i. e. — the sovereignty of both its shores here slowly becoming part of one international city — to get educated in El Paso public schools! Huh?

Call them all new pioneers, say! And further anger Republicans locked into provincialism.

Ah, these twisting streams of human history along the Rio Grande! How an older but more visually populous one now is binding us to each other — in an emerging, new collective, muscular way of global dependency! In a binational borderplex region!

If you haven’t bitten into this new golden apple yet — lot of it dual citizenship, yes — pardon me for this sudden submersion. All that glitters still ain’t gold, no. But lend me your ear just a bit. And maybe I can find a soothing word or two about it as some kind of salve, anyway.

It’s a heated argument, yes. But through the ages this version’s hung in there with many variations! The one common thread, of course, is all of us go back to someone once who was a migrant!

Now, maybe out of a decades-long, collective “wanting something better” wish — amidst still prejudice, political gridlock, yes — has emerged a possible answer that with clarity we can all agree upon. We not only wish as a collective but we also act as a collective! Families themselves do!

Look at the photo above. I’ve borrowed this from Grecia Sanchez’ recent Borderzine story, a UTEP weekly student publication on border culture here. Her survey says about one in every six El Pasoan homeowners say they own homes in both Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.

That’s a grabber, no?! Have we successfully pushed the envelope on another kind of community investment? That’s binational in nature? Defining these citizens?

House vacancy listings in El Paso rise and fall with the incoming/outgoing tides of Mexican-American families — indeed, many of them with dual citizenships, yes — families either finding homes here for the current school year or vacating ones and returning to Juarez at the end of the current one. With plans to continue the cycle of enrolling children in ISDs the next fall term, yes.

And the trade-outs both ways in these yo-yo lifestyles — economic, culturally, etc. — is a beautiful thing, yes!

(El Paso has high ISD taxes, yes — but so do the rest of the state’s urban districts. So? Republicans in Austin, maybe? Still greedily chewing on those same singular exemplarism bones for community development?)

But, this aside, there are some religious fundamentalist people who have to hate, too! For some reason. And this issue — year after year — is a good flashpoint for them! (Yeah, I’m a desert gringo; I’ve heard a few! But never let these people coach football, I say! It’s too complex for ’em!)

I remember well the anger, i.e., I’d see a few times as a small-town judge in Presidio (downriver from here a couple of hundred miles or so) when some naive, anglo PISD taxpayer — usually it’d be — would see me on a downtown sidewalk somewhere; or in a cafe drinking coffee, perhaps; and simply “unload” his fellow-gringo anger on me.

“Damn it, I’ve seen ’em come across sometimes on a Monday morning, at the Port!” he’d say. “Don’t tell me they’re not doing it!

And I’d jokingly tell him, “Aw, they’ve been off on an R&R for the weekend visiting their grandparents! Or old friends! Calm down some. Trust me, for the most part, they are here, LIVING AMONGST US in the school district! They have to! It’s the LAW! [Plus, in Presidio, the only nightclubs for teens were across in OJ! Where else would they be coming from!?]

But let me add some more to round it out some. First, you know — as I most certainly know — free lunches are out the windows today! We’ve lived in an interdependent world for decades now! Scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours!

Look at trade issues, i.e. Any idea how many local jobs are dependent upon foreign shoppers– say, like in China, Turkey, Tibet…or, Mexico, especially Mexico — purchasing U.S.-made goods?

In varying degrees those people are helping to pay your taxes, bubba! And some of your other amenities that are in your paycheck, too. Which means, ultimately when we team-up with foreignuhs, we both win, right?

Cultural exchanges, i.e., has been part of collegiate life going back maybe a century or more, for generations of U.S. students. (Yeah, who knows yet, ultimately, what effect President Trump clamping down on migrants and Immigration quotas will be admittedly, but just call him a quirk in the liberal-ethos chain! ‘Til next election, at least!)

Migration between countries rises and falls — or it usually has — in the ways of economic or health security fallout throughout history, tied both to national economic concerns or health disasters — and, yes, too, when bad hombres take over a country’s financial engines and attempt to implant their own god-given version of imperialism.

Like rocks along the path, no?! Somehow we as a people — survive them. Those of us left. And closer and closer it’s driving us together, is the overall message, too! In the name of whatever color you want to call this post.

Lemme give ‘ya just two tiny, personal examples of how this new bi-nationalism is working in many neighborhoods across the nation now.

For maybe two months Noemi and I have been looking for an older, inexpensive pickup I can use around the house — e. g., carry off old dishwashers, cabinets, tree limbs I’m almost constantly cutting off some of our faster-growing trees, etc.

This week we finally closed on an on-line 2004 Ford F-150 that the entrepreneurial seller had purchased as a salvage vehicle, at an auto auction –a perfect fit for an ol’ retired judge with landscaping dreams floating in his head!

And the seller? Hee, hee! A high school kid! His father, Jimmy, a builder, mechanic, and heavy-duty equipment maestro, all in one, is in for the holidays. He and his son will be over tomorrow to repair a rear turning-signal lamp on the truck, as promised.

As an aside, I became familiar with these maestro families in Presidio — where a ton of them live when they’re not out working! In short, they literally are building America now — on construction projects in every state in the union probably! El Paso, of course, is loaded with them, too!

In the courthouse annex office back in Presidio often we’d get telephone calls from older, teenage kids in these families — from North Carolina, Florida, California, wherever; calls urged on by their parents, no doubt — advising me “I’ll pay that traffic ticket there with my next paycheck!”

“Ok, son! Thanks for calling. I’ll hold off on ‘ya then.”

The other incident I’d mentioned above concerns a younger worker, too, 10-15 years older, one from Juarez — in the U.S. here on a work visa.

He assisted the maestro who built our rock wall around the front of our home several weeks ago — who Noemi finagled into promising to return sometime to help with some inside tile work.

Well, his next construction project was in Colorado, in Denver. where he hopes to make enough money to buy him a new pickup. And he’s in for the holidays now. Sure enough, as promised, he’s over here now laying new tiles on both of our bathrooms.

Man, it’s cold in Denver! he told me yesterday.

Hee, hee! These crooked, winding streams of humanity, we are. Which is how historians describe the building of the Western World!

My late grandmother, i.e., Clara Casey (her last last name), was born in the Arkansas Ozarks in the late 19th Century.

When I interviewed her for a small-town newspaper in the early ’70s, she remembered clearly her family migrating also — to Texas, it was, in a covered wagon!

She went through Indian Territory, she recalled — which is how Oklahoma was referred to before it became a state. “And we had a little spotted, black and white dog that often ran up ahead of us on the trail.” Her family eventually settled around Quanah, in the Panhandle area.

With the Ozark Mts. in her blood, Clara Casey loved Life, ’til death finally claimed her at 93. “Life can be hard at times, yes!” she’d tell her grandkids — from three different marriages. “But the secret is you must keep goin’ on! Or go around! Life is too good to give up on it!” And yes, She loved Lone Star beer! Exclusively! (Dan Bodine photo)

I don’t know if she’d qualify as a migrant, but her parents certainly were! Maybe she’d come in under an Early American Migrant listing.

And if you’re referring strictly to geography to draw your political lines, an atlas will show you Mexico is part of the great North American continent also, and thus the people there have a right to call themselves Americans. As with Canadians. This term is one depicted with a large umbrella, yes!

Too, the same with Central American countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama — No way, e.g., can I remember the number of times angrily I’ve been told: “We’re Americans, too, El Juez!”

And proud, energetic, and ambitious, also, I might add, they all are generally! No idea where the term lazy came from to describe these people coming in from our Southern people, but it’s definitely a myth, though!

Which is what most of us may be fighting. And it’s been elevated to the Nth level in this torrid, political climate we’re all in now.

But let us not forget Christ is the Reason for this Season — the Love and Hope in New Beginnings his arrival meant to the world. And be sure to smile at your neighbor tomorrow!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!! Prayers for all of us!

From Noemi, Kareli and Dan

— 30 —

Isabella doesn't like "to be messed with"!

Can’t a girl (turtle) sunbathe without being ‘bothered’?!

By Dan Bodine

What kind of garden is this!?! Decent girl can’t even find a private place to sunbathe! (Desert Mts. Enterprises photos)

A rare event it was yesterday — I was able to photo one of my two “box” turtles, a young girl! Even tho I had to rough her up a little. Bothered her, I did, bless her heart! Continue reading

As Ornery Jackass, Jenny Won 1st in County Parade

Dan Bodine

That’s Jenny over there, 1950 or ’51, I think. Me on her. We won 1st place (long forgotten the category), Annual Johnson County’s Old Settlers & Reunion Parade in downtown Cleburne, TX, that year. None other like it. Always held 2nd week in August, it seems. So if anyone wants to taste what a county fair is like before the big state fair in Dallas in October, this is your chance!

Crowd excitement helped us get this prize, I guess. I never could figure it quite out!

But the incident reflects back to a period when it seemed everybody was allowed to be somebody — e.g., individuality, even in animals, was respected — and I wanted to add this footnote as a way of saying, even today a half-ass mule still deserves respect!

Jenny got tired at one point back then and just sat down! Middle of the parade; middle of the street! Stopped everything!

I got off and pulled and tugged. She wouldn’t get up. No way no how!

Caused quite a stir! Parade up front had to stop, too.

Got a jackass down in the middle of the street back here!

Some official with a mouthpiece explained it up front a ways to parade participants, ahead of us — as to why they had to stop!

Police and sheriff deputies came a runnin’! Convergin’ from all sides! Shoved me out of the way! Me, a 7(or 8)-yr-old-boy and the only person Jenny’d ever listened to!

The men heaved and tugged, grunted and groaned, big-time! Jenny wouldn’t get up. Went on and on and on!

Finally I stepped back into the melee, politely. And calmly mounted Jenny again, as she laid there.

It was a scene a bit like we’d often done near our home outside of town several miles, along the Godley Highway.

Only she’d never actually set down. She’d just wait for me.

For earlier, just to be ornery on our after-school rides, sometimes she’d take off running lickity split! It was her moment!

The damn Tea-Party Republicans today on a crusade about Liberty don’t have any more of an idea of what this means than a man on the moon drinking Lone Star beer does!

It meant I had to respect her ’cause I couldn’t control her! Not totally.

And eventually in these bouts I’d end up being thrown off onto the ground along the side of the road somewhere — down toward the Hedricks place — with cars and trucks going by, honking and hollering.

Hee, haw! Hee, haw!

When these trips, though, were along the side of the highway — and not somewhere back into the deep pastures somewhere, as they often were, too — Jenny never would leave me alone. But would stop finally, turn around, and wait up ahead.

Then I only had to get back on, lean over into her ol’ floppy left ear, and whisper kinda loud, “You ain’t supposed to do that, Jenny, darn ‘ya! Let’s go!

And she’d go plopping along again, happily. Eventually we’d get up close to the “Y” — where the Godley Hwy. melted into the Fort Worth Hwy., there at the Fix-It Shop — and cross the highway and return home.

At the parade that day, that remounting scene is what came to my mind — and that’s what I finally did. As she laid there blocking the whole damn parade!

Back on her, reins in hand and a tuggin’, l leaned over into that same left ear, and told her in that same Darn it I mean business voice, “We need to go!

Sure enough, she got up — to the cheers of the hundreds who’d lined both sides of the street — and started plopping along again.

And like some giant slithering serpant stalled — because of some small malfunction in its middle section –the whole parade followed suit almost instantly.

The wild outbursts on each side then (that erupted as the parade resumed) — waves of Hurrah!!! crescending up and down the downtown streets — were eternally seared into my young mind. Already I was half way to Heaven!

And, too, Jenny’s ol’ floppy ears perked up, and seconds later proudly were standing tall — as folks on both sides cheered wildly as we moved up the street toward the market square and the courthouse in downtown Cleburne!

“What in the world is this!?” she no doubt was thinking.

I guar-on-tee-‘ya! She never thought that a half-hour or so later she and I would be honored with that first-place award — for her damn contrariness!

— 30 —

Easing into Collecting Cacti

By Dan Bodine

This little cactus produces more flowers than any other in the Casa Verde Gardens. It’s name? Would you believe Pudge? And the encroaching succulent coming in on the left? This could be a hint on my raw naming system. In Mexico folks call this crawler “Chisme” — Spanish for gossip — because of the way it spreads. (Desert Mts Enterprises photos)

By Dan Bodine

Yeah, I have a cactus garden, too — today’s landscaping thing, no? But three years into it hasn’t rattled off a lot to write home about. Maybe posting this will draw enough comments for me to either step it up and expand my thinking somehow, or turn it over — one way or another. Cold turkey!

No doubt my health and advanced age are factors keeping the excitement thermometer down in this new hobby. And some of it could be, indeed, that part about old dogs can’t learn new tricks!

Names of most common landscaping shrubs, flowers and trees in North Central Texas (D-FW area) where I grew up, I learned as a boy, i.e. — by working many years after school in a plant nursery. But were cacti in landscaping plans then? Uh…

Cactus is a plant, too, yes. But 60-65 years ago that region was heavily farm & ranch land — with prickly-pear cactus flaring throughout it like acne on teenagers.

Oh, there was more than one type of cactus then? Few people discussed the topic.

Now cacti and succulents together are the rage of the globe, and learning the names of these strange critters is more than a bit difficult to a flatlander. Thus in the mountainous desert I usually shift to my default naming position — e.g., what does it remind me of? The first thing that jumps in my mind?

I started the cacti collection like this 3-4 years ago now, I think, after attending an El Paso Garden Club sale one weekend.

And then, it turned out, (like thousands and thousands of others, no doubt) I fell victim — e.g., I HAD TO ASK, about an image I saw online somewhere. And thus I gained 3-4 more plants.

Where it ends? Who knows? These things are more serpentine than Mother-In-Law Tongues! (The plant, of course!)

Daughter Maiya Kareli, i.e. (to family, Kareli [goes by middle name, like Noemi and I]; to friends — her 1st name, Maiya) bought me a Cactus of Texas Field Guide last year, and it’s been helpful. But it’s limited to Texas.

So, as I go thru these few photos below of my little collection, be aware my personal naming system is at work. Don’t scream I’m desecrating or belittling in some way.

You want to know the real name of them? Type in “cactus photos of the southwest” in your search engine? And happy hunting for that one, identifying photo!

More-‘n-likely you’ll be hurdlin’ a Latin naming system whose different names on papyrus Cleopatra used to rotate daily with a little clip at the end of her backscratcher. Damn thing burnt out when she was 38 and supposedly she hadn’t even gone thru half of the alphabet yet!

Maybe some glorious day I’ll get more personal with these critters and actually learn what types of cacti they really are! And respect their history, too, etc., etc.! But don’t bet on it. I’d probably have to give up watching Sunday and Monday night football or sumpthin’!

Part of a cactus collection
WHO ELSE BUT ‘SLIM’? Listen, this cactus already has caused Noemi and I a “world of hurt” just protecting it from the wind! Maybe I can get other photos in here to show some other methods of keeping it standing, This is a mop handle, I think, Noemi attached to it. And you can’t propagate it using those blooms either. I actually planted one (It’s a cub, right?), and watched it as it withered away… to dust! Shhh…!

Nobody notices it!
“Y’all come!” Catnabber says. This little cactus gets little attention! But a few times I’ve noticed ornery nighttime cats around here have attempted to pass over it unnoticed, too, until they felt…”Whoops, what is that I’m hung up on?!” Either that or those tiny pieces of fur I’ve found on it just happened to be blowing in the wind and were nabbed by the Catnabber!
PUDGE with FLAPJACK REDS (bottom, supposedly a high-class prickly pear). Duh…?
These, as a group, are the Tres Amigos I got as cubs from a friend online. Of course I’ve lost all information on them. It was my understanding he lived in New Mexico, though. Below, I’ll show you the two on the right again. I just can’t remember the name I gave the little guy on the left. And if not mistaken, the front two will grow 4-6 ft. in height, too!
OK, the two upfront themselves. I’ve got a little Indian blood in me and sometimes I’ll lean on it a little — as in these two names. That’s the great Chief Quanah on the right, and his sidekick, Heapin’ Ugly Stick, on the left beside him.
Naming a cactus the way you see it!
Here’s Slim again, this time sprouting two of those big white blooms. The wind kept messin’ with ol’ Slim here this spring, tilting that brace-pole to various angles; and actually blew this weird-looking cactus loose from its mop stick (above) one night; and uprooted it — putting Slim flat on the ground — and a bare root sticking up in the air. Luckily I got to it the next morning and set it up; and fashioned a new holding system — actually what I think were someone’s wire, lawn cocktail glass holders at one time Noemi brought in from a garage sale. Anyway, they fit around Slim’s trunk sturdily, and then I anchored both to a makeshift fencepost of sorts. And presto Slim was flying high again! (All photos Desert Mts Enterprises)
Strange-looking pair!
Early Cool (l) and Fishhook: Who’re you calling “Fatty,” “Squatty”?

30 —

Holding onto Nature by feeding garden thrashers

By Dan Bodine

A Southwest Curved Bill Thrasher: “What’s Up, Doc?!” (Image by cibomahto on Flickr – Flickr, CC BYSA2.0https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7004389)

First noticed Charlie with his long, curved beak in 2018, in February. I feed birds (maybe 30-40) in my backyard garden every morning. Have been, anyway. For 8-9 years. Not sure how long I’ll continue. As long as they stay clean, I guess. [More below on this] The birds are largely sparrows, pigeons, collar doves, and whitewings. Keep them fresh water, too.


Donno. Continue reading

A confession: Trump’s evangelicals not “morons”

By Dan Bodine

Dr. Robert Jeffress, right, senior pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, at a recent White House meeting with the President. In the ’16 campaign, he once told Christians he’d vote for Trump over Christ! (Wiki Commons)

Forgive me for posting this, first! The rawness of it, e.g., far-right Christian evangelicals — supposedly the “base” of Trump’s “believers” in the ’16 Election — now targeted. Responsible for the You-Know-What! And here I am, armed with pen in hand, to defend them! Continue reading

Missed the Memo on Demise of BBQ Plate Dinners

By Dan Bodine

One of the worst things about growing old is adjusting to changes — especially when it comes to the way you order your food in a restaurant, say a BBQ plate dinner. The government doesn’t have a Memo Dept. that alerts folks to these things?

Noemi and I were in the mood for some good barbecue for our Valentine’s Dinner Thursday, so we went to that popular place near downtown across from the mall on the interstate.

Hadn’t been there for “several” years, yes. But, hey, it’s Texas BBQ, right? Can ask for sliced or chopped brisket plates, or sandwiches — along with a choice of fixin’s! In Texas we don’t re-invent no wheels, right!? Leave those things to California nerds!

But as we approached the counter that manner of ordering wadn’t on the menu on the wall above us, and it puzzled us some. With the line stacking up some behind us, I told Noemi, “Well, I know what I want, let’s just go on up and order!”

So I told the guy behind the counter waiting on us, I wanted a chopped brisket plate with sides of beans and potato salad. I assumed, of course, he’d toss in 2-3 slices of fresh white bread atop it, too!

Duh…He looked at me blank-face for a moment, then kindly told me, “We don’t have that!”

Behind him on a steel cabinet, someone had tossed a large brisket slab — and was slicing the hell out of it for an earlier order, I guess! Looked like he was keeping his piles separate after sliding them on weight machines.

I pointed to the scene. “What is that!?”

The guy turned and looked behind him.

“That’s sliced brisket!” he said. “We sell it by weight! Eat here or take out!”

“And you can’t make a plate of that!?”

Again, that blank-expression moment. Then his jaw kinda tightened.

“No…No, we don’t have plates,” he replied. “We have hamburger buns, if you want it on a sandwich. And the beans and potato salad — the sides — we can sell separately to you in paper cups!”

This time it was on me. I was dumbfounded. No barbecue plates in a BBQ joint!

Then Noemi stepped in. And grabbed my arm. She realized the “Jethro Bodeen” in me was threatening a larger scene. “You want the sliced brisket sandwich, right? With potato salad?”

“Yeah,” I said. “But I want it chopped!” And I pointed to my mouth. “(Because of) my teeth!” The guy behind the counter understood, and nodded to her.

She asked for the sandwich “sliced only,” for her. And a side of beans.

We’d already grabbed a couple of longnecks from the “drink section,” before we’d entered this “combat zone,” and placed both of them up on the counter for him to tally. too.

He quickly turned to that stainless-steel table behind him and, with a butcher knife, raked to the side two piles of that sliced BBQ brisket meat.

And said something to someone about two pair of grilled hamburger buns, while he went to work chopping up one of the piles.

He took the two warmed buns, broke ’em apart, and laid ’em both out flat in a paper basket — exactly like the Dairy Queen we had in Cleburne as kids use to serve their hamburgers and french fries in. (No, it was different! These little baskets were made of thin cardboard; in Cleburne, the larger baskets were made of netted plastic!)

Using a thin, narrow slice of what appeared to be hamburger wrapping paper, he picked up my chopped pieces of meat and laid them on half a bun in one basket; and Noem’s “sliced only” atop a bun half in the other basket.

In the blink of an eye then, he slapped the top bun halves on his creations, grabbed a tray from somewhere to set it all in; and turned around and slid it all on the counter for us.

Punching in each item on his cash register, he then hand us the bill we owed — while advising us we could pick up plastic forks, knives and other condiments further on down the line.

It’d happened so fast…I stood there still dumbfounded.

For one, i the pre-Valentine 2019 era, these workers while preparing your order had always given you a choice of sauces to slop over your meat — e.g., regular, or “Sissy Sauce.” It was one of those enticing moments I was looking forward to before we came in.

Previously, I’d always ordered “Sissy Sauce,” because coming over from Presidio years ago the first time I didn’t — and the damn fire department truck didn’t get there fast enough to prevent major burns to my mouth!

Thus I learned to avoid the “house” sauce! Yes, that “Sissy” stuff is delicious!

But before I could ask him, this time, about the missing sauce from the beef in my little hamburger basket, Noemi already had whupped out two $20 bills to pay the guy; and had me by the elbow saying, “Let’s go set down.”

And the people behind were breathing an audible sigh of relief and stepping up to the counter beside us.

So I walked off with Noemi.

And we found a seat and ate our Valentine’s Day dinner-in-a basket.

A tad regretful that, as old folks now, we don’t pay much attention to memos no more.

— 30 —

If no Saint, Peace Pilgrim Still Worlds Apart

By Dan Bodine


Peace Pilgrim as seen walking along a roadway in her Ministry for Peace. From 1953 to 1981, when she was struck and killed by a motorist in Indiana, Peace Pilgrim had crisscrossed the U.S. almost seven times — walking over 25,000 miles  —  to speak at community churches, civic assemblies and such on merits of peace — not just with yourself but with others, too. (Wiki photo)

This piece about nominating personal saints (idea arose from an internet story I’ve lost) first started out about Peace Pilgrim, an older but vibrant, white-haired woman I met in the mid-’70s at an Austin church who seemed to be walking everywhere wishing peace. Continue reading

Dark Depression to Latino Party a Spiritual Trip

When falling into dark loneliness isn’t safest place!

By Dan Bodine


EL PASO — Nada! Leave me alone! it was. I don’t feel like wishing Happy Birthday to anyone! Ah, my old friend, Dark Depression, had returned. And as usual, it wanted the run of the house!

One recent Saturday evening was one of those times when I just didn’t want to go anywhere! To see no one! At whatever the cost!  Only my wife said no. Continue reading

New Reality nixes old turtle pond dream

Desert Plants: Looks like they’ll be a lot easier to maintain than that nagging turtle pond!

By Dan Bodine


When still chasing old dreams and being met by increased frustrations such as finance, health, or time constraints (that regularly dog old folks, i.e.), sometimes one needs simply to look hard at New Reality. Trim some fat off your to-do list. Finíte! I recently gave up on ever building a backyard turtle pond, i.e. Instead, bought some late-season plants and put in a needed flower bed. A warm winter is coming — Hey, they’ll be OK. My mind feels a lot lighter. Continue reading