Friday, May 4, 2012

Old trail stop on rocky fords, green pastures

The brew, the painted lady, the bridge

At a place on the Old Chisholm Trail, all the archetypes are there.

They converge, go in and out of focus, tell the story, as it is, as if primeval, something long remembered by an oversoul, a collective memory of a people, of a time out of time, in time.

There is an old hootch with a tin roof - planted foursquare at a crossroads - just a couple thousand yards from the rocky ford on an otherwise boggy creek, a dim and dark saloon with a front porch swing, horses both iron and flesh, a painted lady with a bright smile under mystic eyes - and a spot, a whistle stop, on the railroad grade.

He would know. For 32 years, he was the Deputy U.S. Marshal in charge of a wide swath of Texas counties in the Western District of the U.S. District Courts.

He and his side kick, a veteran Texas Ranger, mention a new federal law tucked into an otherwise routine defense re-authorization bill, something that provides for no writ of habeas corpus, no opportunity for defendants to confront their accusers, or to even know with what offense they have been charged.

Retired Deputy U.S. Marshal Parnell McNamara and Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon both purse their lips, shake their heads. It's all beyond their comprehension; they seem to say so with their body English.

How is a reasonable man to proceed in the face of such foolishness?

Anyone with half a brain knows that a law man's stock in trade is his relations with folks he has arrested - and their families. If you treated them right when you brought them to justice, in the future you have a chance to learn anything you need to know, when the time is right, to do some more business with the kind of bad actors that make life miserable for folks living life for its own sake, living it out on the straight and narrow.

Mistreat people and you go nowhere in the field of law enforcement, they both say. It's axiomatic to wearing a badge and carrying a firearm in the name of the law.

“You heard anything about this?” Marshal McNamara asks the journalist, meaning the new emergency terrorism provisions of the new federal law, an otherwise routine reauthorization of funding for the Army and Navy required by the U.S. Constitution.

I have been writing about it for months.

He sighs. Shrugs.

“I missed it.”

It seems that most people missed it.

“They say they passed it in the middle of the night,” says Ranger Cawthon. “He signed it at one minute after midnight on New Year's Day.” He means President Barack Hussein Obama.

They both shake their heads, again.

All it takes is for the President to say someone is a terrorist, or for one of his cabinet officials to say so, or their employees. Those so designated may be arrested on confidential information, without charges or indictment, arraignment or evidentiary show cause hearing, spirited away in secret, detained as persona non grata, incommunicado, with extreme prejudice, under suspicion of terrorist activities, until the cessation of hostilities.

There is no right to fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, or fourteenth amendment provisions for protection against warrantless search and seizure, self incrimination, due process of law, reasonable bail and the representation of an attorney, or a speedy trial.

It's the law. As of midnight, January 1, 2012.

The question: Who says when the hostilities started? Who will decide when they have ceased?

“Just think what they could have done to Ted Nugent, the other day,” he adds, speaking of the rock star who told crowds of people at the NRA convention that he much prefers anyone else besides Barack Hussein Obama to be elected President of the United States – in terms of extreme prejudice.

Secret Service agents, fresh from a scandal in a third world toilet of South American republic involving whores and strong drink, had just that week demanded and got a sit-down with the celebrity, who got off with a stern warning for getting out the vote at a pro-gun convention with all his typical bombast.

The lawmen are mystified. In their back trail, the old timers who went before them dealt with raids by Comanches and Apaches, range wars between private armies of gunmen hell bent on free grazing, fence cutting, and wiping out the practice of sodbusting, race wars between white men and brown, civil wars between agriculturists and industrialists.

It's nothing all that new to keepers of the civil peace. In their back trail, they are sworn to uphold and defend the constitutions of the United States and the State of Texas, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

They marvel that both Republican and Democratic Representatives and Senators voted overwhelmingly for this new law, in the middle of the night, that the President signed it into law in the deep watches of the night.

The truth is plain. Those who have done so are enemies, domestic enemies of the principles of the U.S. Constitution, by extension likewise personal enemies of those who have taken such an oath. It's not a pretty thought. Makes a man feel badly.

It is abundantly clear to those with experience with these matters that there is a constitutional crisis brewing in the halls of the capitol, the marble corridors of the courts, and the exacting offices of the executive branch.

One of many such conflicts witnessed in their lifetimes, it is understood as a sub rosa text to the conversation, that it will be resolved peacefully, within the context of the experimental process laid down in the basic law of the Republic, the Constitution.

“Anything a man can do about something like that?” asks Marshal McNamara.

He looks puzzled when he's told the Tenth Amendment is there because Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both thought the Constitution would never be ratified if the states could not nullify federal laws that take too much power away from the states.

Sheriff Mack got to Texas as quickly as he could, once he and 17 County Sheriffs – some from Texas – beat the Brady Bill handgun registration requirement in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The truth is, the Second Amendment boldly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Period. Paragraph.

In the parking lot, a horsewoman sits astride a painted pony. Dozens of bikers mill about, wearing leather and denim garb, colorful embroidered patches prominently displayed, bandanas unfurled, dark glasses serving as goggles in the Hollywood-bright sunshine of a day under the big, blue dome of a passing high pressure front.

There has been bad blood, settled in the Waco courts, over whether the proprietor, Al Cinek, can keep his beer license. It's the archetypal conflict between the town and the country, a county judge seeking to appease a group of property owners who wish to gentrify the scene, lose the last vestiges of the cattle drive, the Saturday night dance, the hoe down and all day singing and dinner on the grounds, the sensibilities of the prairies.

Inside, a guitarist belts out the old Merle Haggard tune, crooning,

“I'd like to settle down, but they won't let me;
a fugitive must be a rolling stone.

“Down every road, there's always one more city;
I'm on the run, the highway is my home.”

At the bar, hospitality comes in long-neck bottles of amber, the foamy suds they contain ice cold and brewed from the produce of the heartland, the grains cultivated on the plains between the big river and the Rockies – los brazos de Christos.

There is an old bridge on a grade through the rich and boggy bottom land where the Texas Central Railroad hauled in freight from the northern confluence of rail lines at Dallas, all the way to Austin and San Antonio - and cattle on the return to the stockyards of Ft. Worth.

The spot at the crossroads is planted squarely on the line of hard rock at the break between the blackland prairies and the limestone and shale strata of the Hill Country that leads to the chirt and granite of the mountains beyond, the Balcones Fault.

Stepping up to the bar, the thirsty traveler looks into the ice-blue eyes of the barmaid, Loretta. She asks, “What'll it be?” She stands behind a plank decorated overhead with dozens of racks of deer harvested in hunts long ago.

One is tempted to say, “Oh, shucks, ma'am. I'm just passing through.”

It's definitely in the script; it says so right here.

- The Legendary

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