One of the greatest blessings I have had while away from the Panhandle is living among a few brothers and sisters from my native land. In my 13 years of being a San Antonio resident, I have friended a few folks who call the Texas Panhandle “home” just as I do. On occasion, I am able to get together with my kindred spirits for all kinds of activities and I cannot wait to do it again and again. I usually locate these folks just from over-hearing a conversation. Two of them I know from my own home town of Gruver! One thing is for sure, we all can blend in down here very well. We do not want or need our native 806 area code tattooed conspicuously on our bodies. We are like a secret society or fraternal brotherhood. I like to call it a family.
There were three of us Texas Panhandle boys out on the town together one night not too long ago. Our mantra is a simple one but always fun none-the-less. We were at Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub and Grill playing the cheapest and best golf we will ever know…Golden Tee 2012. It was on this very mundane night, that we got a little more “activity” than we would ever expect from our side of town. We all three have a mutual friend who tends bar not far from where we were so the three of us decided to pay him a visit before turning in for the night. When we arrived, there were only a few patrons in the place along with our good buddy standing behind the bar. We were greeted warmly by him and all of us ordered our night caps. I found a table between the juke box and the pool table so I could sit down and rest my legs from standing so long earlier that night.
I was approached by a young Hispanic twenty-something male who had 210 tattooed just under the left jaw line on his neck. I asked him about it fully knowing what it was. He just told me that it was special to him and thanked me for admiring it. For those who do not know, the area code on your neck is a home town marking for a gang called the Los Orejones. If you do not know who these people are, then Google their name. The fact is that he was being a nice guy so I felt alright about talking to him. We talked about the San Antonio Spurs and visited about where each of us was from. He had grown up in Corpus Christi but after high school he moved here to San Antonio. There was another Hispanic male with him who had the same tattoo as well as a few others on his forearms. My new gangster friend introduced this guy as his brother. I could tell from the looks on the faces of my Panhandle friends that they were concerned and watching me like a pair of hawks.
Everything was going well until they began to solicit each and every male patron (including me) to arm wrestle for $100. Both of these guys looked fairly stout and I already knew that either of them could have been carrying some kind of weapon. I politely refused as did everyone else who was asked. At this point, their behavior shifted into a brand of anger and venom that I had never seen. Both of them began accosting all of us and shouting racially charged comments. They both tore off their shirts and began shoving people around. My heart was beating out of my chest and my adrenaline was at a level I haven’t known since I was a teenager. All three of us Panhandle boys approached them and were trying to calm them down and make peace. None of us could understand what had set them off into such a fit of outrage. We did not speak loudly to them. We did not talk any smack or say anything that could be perceived as smack. Two of us backed away with our hands up. The other should have done the same. Our Panhandle brother was hit in the face by the bigger of the two guys and it was without any warning. Folks gathered him off the floor as I began moving back toward them calmly. I kept walking, talking and easing them toward the door. I think this was a lot like what I would do with a pissed off stallion or limousine bull. Normally, I would have already been fighting these guys, but that night, something was telling me to stay calm and to just get them out. They were gangsters. They were angry at nothing and that could only equal extreme danger for everyone in this establishment. They finally left and I locked the doors behind them. I then took over and asked everyone to please move toward the back room of the place and wait until the police arrived. Our brother clearly had a broken nose and he bled for hours. I could not sleep that night. It was the scariest thing that had happened to me since living here.
Ladies and gentlemen let me enlighten you. I know that some of you are asking yourselves why we didn’t just rush them and beat them down. Well, nobody else in that bar would even look at these fellows. It was only the three of us Panhandle boys that had the guts to face up to them and make them go away. Thank God only one punch was thrown and no weapons were wielded. The moral of this story is simple. When you see guys marked up like this, you must never trust them. Be polite, leave immediately and leave quietly. Nothing good will ever come of your activities if you see gangster tattoos on people in the same room with you. I will never regret my decision not to fight that night even though I could have and probably should have. Sadly, this place is only blocks from where I live and I do not live in a bad part of San Antonio. These folks are everywhere.
In the words of my father: “Son, when you go in them places, always keep your head on a swivel and make sure that there is always something heavy that you can grab to equalize the situation if you need it.” My head was not on a swivel that night. However, I am 100% confident that I made exactly the right decision and probably saved some lives. – Whit