Under the Cowboy's Control

By: Lynda Chance


In retrospect, she realized that her plan, or lack of one, was stupid. She should have stayed in Laredo and tried to find a job. Although Laredo wasn't as safe as some of the more interior cities in Texas, it was a hell of a lot safer than Mexico.

She had been naïve to leave the city limits. She was going to have to go back. The thirty miles to Laredo would be easier to travel than two hundred and ninety miles to Houston.

Looking back, her mistakes were glaringly obvious.

Things started out okay, and the minute the border patrol let her go through customs, she walked straight to the ladies room. She stood in front of the mirror and took a few sustaining breaths while she gave herself a pep talk. She had every right to be here. She would get through this by the Grace of God. Life would go on.

She ran cold water over her wrists, dried her hands, and walked out of the room.

She found the drinking fountain, and she took a couple of sips, and then filled her water bottle with the cold water. She figured she had just saved one of her very precious American dollars.

Roaming the city that first morning, she was able to find the library where she used the internet to verify the route she needed to take from the frayed roadmap of Texas she had gone over so many times. Knowing she wanted to travel to Houston, she quickly figured out how far it was. Over three hundred miles was daunting, but she had known from the beginning that this trip wouldn't be easy.

Her next stop was the bus station, where she was horrified to find out that American dollars didn't go near as far in the States as they did in Mexico. She couldn't afford a ticket.

And that was when she made the crucial mistake.

Being young and sturdy she figured she could set out walking, maybe earning enough on her way to keep from starving. She didn't want to hitch a ride, but the idea was in the back of her mind.

All she knew was she wasn't going back to Mexico, and she felt a compelling need to put as much distance as she could between her and the nation of her birth.

She had been a young female alone in Mexico, and she figured if she stayed, she would be a prostitute or dead within a month. Besides, she reasoned, she had as much right to a better life in the United States as the next person. She was a citizen, after all.

Knowing she wasn't breaking any laws, she set out walking. Her first stop was a grocery store where she bought a large jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of bread. It took four dollars, but she left knowing she wouldn't starve for at least four or five days. She wished she had enough money to load her cell phone with minutes, but it would totally wipe out her funds and she didn't have anybody to call anyway. Her few friends in Mexico would be of no immediate help to her if she got into a sticky situation. She had to save the money for more food.

When she left the outskirts of Laredo behind, walking along the interstate, she felt true fear slither down her spine. She tried to think of this as an adventure, when in reality it was a terrifying experience. And she was smart enough to know the difference. She continued to put one foot in front of the other.

It was May, and the heat of the day was already brutal. Again she tried to think of the bright side, and realized she wouldn't have to fear freezing to death in the middle of the night.

She spent that first night about ten miles outside the city limits of Laredo, behind an abandoned building not far from the side of the road. Somehow, even as terrified as she was, she managed to get about three hours of fitful sleep. She woke up before dawn and brushed her hair, drank some water, and ate a piece of bread with peanut butter she smeared on with her finger.

She was ready to move on.

With despair, she realized how big the world could be and how alone in it she was.

The second day, she put about twenty more miles behind her. She was dead tired, and the blisters on her feet had popped and were oozing puss and blood. She slept behind an abandoned gas station at a crossroads. Sheer exhaustion let her sleep a little more that night.

The third day she ran into the drug runners. Two guys cruised up beside her in a big, white pick-up truck, stopped and demanded her participation with transporting drugs into Houston. She had fought back. As desperate as she was, she wasn't going to do anything that was related to murder or drugs. Or hopefully, God willing, prostitution.

They would have killed her when she resisted, and she received a vicious hit to her ribs and one to her face, but a Texas state trooper had driven by. The men dropped her to the ground, jumped in their truck and fled, the trooper chasing them.



That was the last she had seen of them, or of the state trooper. She picked herself up off the ground and resumed walking. Her face and side throbbed in painful agony. When she came to a dirt road, she turned and followed it away from the paved highway. She needed time to regroup, and to think about her situation. She desperately needed a new plan.

About a half a mile down that sandy road, she found the mesquite tree and collapsed underneath it. Her ribs were killing her and she was starving. But she was too nauseous to eat. She drank a little bit of the precious water, took comfort from the slight protection of the deserted country road, and fell into a troubled sleep.



****

Travis glanced up from the tractor engine he was working on when he heard his name called. He took the dilapidated straw cowboy hat off his head and wiped the sweat from his forehead and waited for Jim, who was walking toward him from the bunkhouse.