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Discussion in 'Jobs I Have Had' started by Ken Anderson, Sep 13, 2015.
Why did you leave, Ken. Economics?
I left California because Champion Paper, my employer, was shutting its bag plants down. I could have found work at another bag plant in the area, but the timing was such that my son had graduated from high school and was about to get married, so I decided that if I was going to have to make a change, I'd make a bigger one, and move to Texas. I paid the rent up on the townhouse we had been living in for six months before I left so that my son might have an easier time of it with his marriage. Keep in mind that, at $1,300/month, that wasn't so bad of a wedding gift.
The furthest south I got to in Texas was San Antonio and a brief gambling jaunt in Galveston. But I was in San Antonio on an errand to Randolph AFB. I had to stay for 3 days, so did some sight seeing. Now, this was 1955 shortly before I went to France. I, of course hit the Alamo. What a mess it was back then. Weeds all overgrown around the Mission. The outside was in ill repair, but the inside was loaded with history. Then a friend took me down by the river and we were walking along and I was stunned at the overgrowth there. I asked my friend, "do you realize what could be done with this place?" When I outlined my vision for it, he agreed. Henry Cisneros came along and had the same vision I guess since he put the wheels in motion. In retrospect, I should have marched over to our Randolph HQ and resigned my commission then and there. I could have begun lobbying the powers that be to first get the Alamo straightened out and next gone after that River Walk, when I see what it is today... Just like me passing up the opportunity when I was in Europe to purchase some of The Algarve land for a song and declined. Oh well, in my next life. lol.
When I worked in EMS in Los Fresnos, there were several resacas in the area. A resaca is the former course of a stream or river. Before the border was fixed, the Rio Grande River changed course from time to time, leaving behind long, winding bodies of water that no longer had a beginning or an end. Other rivers or streams did the same. Some of the resacas were spring-fed, while others were filled with rainwater, and the latter tended to be very murky, and there was the danger of amoebas. Technically, a course of a piece of dry streambed would also be a resaca but, in practice, only the ones that were filled with water were called that.
Anyhow, they were long, snake-like lakes, and roads were often built to follow the winding course of the resaca. As an example, here's a piece of a map centered on Los Fresnos. The long resaca that leads from Los Fresnos to Indian Lake is where we had the largest number of cars in the water. I nearly put the ambulance in the resaca the first time I made that trip Code 3.
Anyhow, because many of the roads followed the winding course of the resacas, it wasn't unusual for cars to miss a sharp curve, go airborne, and end up at the bottom of a resaca, and some of them were pretty deep. Sometimes, the people in the car would be able to get out on their own and swim to shore. At other times, they were unable to.
When a car is at the bottom of a body of water, there is a lot of pressure to contend with while trying to open a door, and people were sometimes reluctant to open a window because whatever air they had inside the car would almost immediately be replaced by water, and electric windows might not function well underwater.
Sometimes the car would be on its side or upside down, and that can be disorienting, as well. Many of the resacas had a few feet of mud or silt on the bottom, so cars would sometimes sink into the muck, which might also make it difficult to get out. Of course, it's likely that some of these people were no longer conscious by the time the car settled into the bottom of the resaca.
Unlike a large number of people in the Rio Grande Valley, I could swim. A lot of people there never learn to swim, perhaps because aren't a lot of clean bodies of water in the Valley. Not only are most of the resacas stagnant, but there are also a lot of illegal housing developments, known as Colonias, some of which might pipe their sewage into a river or stream. Life-threatening amoebas were not uncommon in the resacas, and even in some of the rivers.
Anyhow, I could swim. As the EMS director, I also had my own response vehicle, so I was often the first responder on the scene. Once the fire department arrived, I let them handle the underwater stuff because they had diving gear, but I was sometimes there for five minutes or more before the fire department arrived, and I couldn't just stand on the bank while someone drowned.
So anyhow, I would dive in and try to locate the car. During the first dive, I would rarely accomplish more than figure out where the car was and if it was on its wheels, on its side, or upside down. If a window was open or broken, and I could find it, I might attempt a rescue. Most often though, by the time I figured out where the car was, I had to come up for air.
It is very disorienting at the bottom of a resaca. The car would have stirred up all of the mud and the muck, so there was no point in opening my eyes underwater, and that wasn't something I wanted to do anyhow, although there were a couple of resacas that were clear enough to do that.
Coming up for air, I would hope to find the fire department on the scene. But, as it would take them a few minutes to get into their diving gear, and to launch a boat, or whatever it was that they might need, I would most often go down at least twice. The second time down, I might use a window punch to break a window and extract someone from the car. More than half the time, if they were unable to get out on their own, they were dead, but we did rescue some people, particularly those who had a newer car that was more watertight than some of the older ones since they'd still have air.
Going into a car that's underwater is challenging. In a resaca, there would be no point in opening my eyes, so I would have to feel around for someone. If someone grabbed at me, that would be great because we'd have a live rescue. Otherwise, I'd have to feel around for a person, then I might have to cut a seatbelt since that would be quicker than fishing around for a release. Lastly, I'd have to maneuver them to a window, door, or whatever I had managed to open or break.
Coming up the second time, if I had a rescue, there would be someone else on the scene to take the patient from me and bring them to shore. If there weren't enough firefighters in scuba gear, I might go down a third time, but usually, the fire department would be able to take it from there, and I could assist with whatever needs anyone we might have brought out might have. If I got one person out, a second or third person wouldn't. have a whole lot of time, so I'd go back down for a second person if I had to. I had a friend, who also volunteered with the ambulance company, as well as the fire department, and if he had come out with me, things would go more smoothly, since he could also swim.
One time, I went down and found the car easily. No doors or windows were open. I went up for air, and someone threw me a window punch since I didn't have one with me at the time. The fire department was just arriving, so I went back down, traced what felt like a window with my hands, and tried to break it with the window punch. Punch after punch, I couldn't get the damned thing to break. I went back up and, by then, the FD was in place to take it from there. Later, when the car was removed from the resaca, there were several indentations in a metal panel, made by the window punch, because I had mistaken some trim for the edge of a window, and the panel as the window.
I was just watching a video about a rescue unit with scuba gear having difficulty extricating patients from a car underwater, and was thinking of this, so I thought I'd share it.
While I was working in Los Fresnos, we got a call for a child injured late one night, I think it was about 2:00 in the morning. Someone had reported a child who was injured out in the middle of nowhere northwest of Bayview. The kid was about thirteen or fourteen, and I guess the caller was afraid to stop for him, which does make some kind of sense, being in such a desolate area. Plus, being around the time when the bars closed, it could well be that the driver might have also been concerned about any police interactions.
Anyhow, one of the constables, who was an EMT-I who also worked with us, got there ahead of us. I think the kid had some other injuries as well, but they were fairly minor (which might be why I can't remember them), but he was barefoot and his feet were pretty torn up. If you know anything about the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, you'll know that you don't go anywhere barefoot. Paved roads, even at night, are likely to be hot enough to burn you, gravel roads are painful, and nearly every plant in the area is weaponized with thorns. Plus, of course, there are poisonous snakes and other dangerous critters. I wouldn't walk through my backyard barefoot.
The kid was speaking Spanish so I don't know everything he said. Being a young teenager, he could probably speak English but his injuries weren't demanding paramedic-level care so I let my EMT handle the patient care. It's kind of hard to keep volunteers if all you let them do was drive, so whenever something didn't demand the use of an ECG or the administration of medications, I let my partners handle the patient care.
The story, as my partner, as well as the constable, told it, was that the kid had been out in the woods with a group of people, some of whom were friends, but including people who he didn't know. They said that it was a cult thing, which might be the way that someone might describe Santeria to a white guy from somewhere else, since Santeria was a pretty common belief, although many of its practitioners considered themselves to be Catholic. It may have also been a Satanic thing, though, because some kids like playing around with Satanism, as well, although I don't think it's commonly an organized religion for them.
Anyhow, the kid left things out of his story, and wouldn't name anyone, including those who he said were his friends. He said that they were doing some kind of a religious thing in the woods, with a bonfire, but that everyone else had left him in the woods, and he had to find his way back out to the road by himself, barefoot, and that no one was there when he got out. The police didn't know whether he had actually been left there or whether he might have escaped from something that turned out to be not what he had expected.
There were a few constables and a couple of sheriff's deputies there, but they never found anyone else. They did find a still-smoldering campfire in a part of the woods that no one would have any business in at 2:00 in the morning, so there was something going on that involved more than that one kid.
As far as I know, they never got to the truth of the matter. They didn't believe the kid's story because he was leaving things out but they didn't know what else might have happened, either. Could it have been some kind of initiation? If so, to what? As far as I am aware, they never figured out why he was barefoot either. His feet were in pretty bad shape, though. He had at least one gash that looked like it might have been made by a knife but there are some pretty wicked thorns on plants in that area that might have caused such a wound, as well, especially if he were running.