By Jay Raymond White
There’s a highway bridge over the Devils River on the outskirts of Sonora, Texas, where I and my cousin Butch used to hide out to smoke cigarettes. One day after school, we ducked under the bridge and came upon a vagabond Mexican so filthy we thought at first his face and hands were covered with scabs. He had no shoes and his clothing was nothing but rags held together by dirt. He was lying on the cement embankment in a state of total exhaustion, and when I spoke to him, he turned his head a little to see me but seemed not to have the strength to raise it. There were flies in his hair and beard and his eyes were the color of lead. Butch would not approach the man because he said he thought he might be rabid. But I was a less cautious child. I went up to him and offered him tobacco. He just looked at me, forlorn and helpless. I ran over to the corner Magnolia station and bought a Coke and some Moonpies to give him, for I thought to save his life, and hustled back.
My cousin was still under the bridge when I got back, but the poor vagabond had gone. Butch said, “He just up and left,” and I said, “Where?” and Butch said, “Yonder,” and pointed down the river bed, and in a minute or two we saw his form in among the dead reeds, going away to the south. He was trying to get back to Mexico, I guessed—trying to get home.
When I told Mama about the man she said, “Yawl hadn’t ought to be playing under them old bridges, Jay Raymond. It’s dangerous.”
Sometimes now, at odd moments from time to time, I wonder about that Mexican vagabond—I wonder if he made it.