The Madam of Camargo


The Failure         

Johnny (name changed to protect the guilty) was the foreman at Rio Clay Products. During WW II, he was shot with a 50 caliber machine gun during a beach landing. It was friendly fire, but it caused him to lose an arm and have pockmarks across his back. All of this was accompanied by pain.

A curandera (medicine woman) told him that eating Roadrunner Soup would ease the pain. On a regular basis, employees would show up with roadrunners, and his wife would make soup. Johnny also tended to head to Camargo, across the river from Rio Grande City in Mexico, on payday nights to have a drink, or two, or three. Occasionally he would not to show up for work on Monday morning, and someone would be sent over to bail him out.

On one Monday morning, when Herb was a grown-up seventeen-year-old and assistant to the Head of Research and Development, for Rio Clay Products and Pozzolana, Inc., he was sent to Camargo to bail Johnny out. Maybe we should change that. He had a grown-up job, but as far as understanding how much of the world functioned, he was clueless. His instructions were to be back at work by 1:00 pm. He failed. It was Friday evening before he was back and ready to go to work. During that time he missed several critical and time-sensitive compression tests in the lab and had not made arrangements for anyone else to perform the tests. This required the tests to be redone. No, he did not spend all of his time in Mexico; he was back and forth a number of times, but all of his focus was on the problem in Mexico.

After finding Johnny and getting his story, it became clear that this was not a simple drunk-and-disorderly charge which a police officer was using to extract a little money to feed his family. Johnny had parked in front of what we referred to as a house of ill repute and crossed the street to drink. When he was ready to go home after four beers, he inadvertently put the car in a forward gear. When it did not move, he stepped on the accelerator. The car jumped the curb and knocked a hole in the front bedroom of the house. The front bedroom was in use.

Standard protocol in the border cities was that if something went wrong, abandon the vehicle and run for the bridge to get back to the United States. Apparently Johnny had had one too many beers to remember that protocol, or he had had one too many beers to be able to follow that protocol. He was sitting in the car when the Madam came out of the house. He was still sitting there when the police arrived.

Neither the patron using the room, nor the young woman assigned to the room, nor the Madam was very happy. The police, after investigating, took Johnny off to jail.

The police could not release Johnny until the Madam signed a release. She demanded that repairs for the front bedroom be paid for. This was not a problem, and by Tuesday morning, Johnny’s insurance company said they would cover it. She demanded wages for the lost time of the young woman who used the front bedroom. The insurance company would not even consider making this payment. The Madam would not budge.

No progress was made on Wednesday.

Finally, a deal was worked out late on Thursday afternoon. Johnny’s car was about a year old and financed. He had collision coverage. The Madam “agreed” to fix his car if she could receive that money. The insurance company agreed to the deal and made out a check.

On Friday morning, Herb drove to McAllen to pick up the check and was back in Camargo by 2:00 pm, when he turned the check over to the Madam. She acknowledged to Herb and to the police that the money was compensation for the lost wages of the young woman who worked for her. Appropriate papers were signed; Herb spent most of the money he had with him buying future meals for families of the policemen whom he had worked with that week.

The man who was sharing the room with the young woman never was mentioned after that first night and never made a claim for any compensation.

To celebrate getting out of jail, Johnny suggested that they stop for a beer. Herb did not think that was funny.

Johnny drove around for two years in a car with a banged-up front end. The car dealer that provided the financing was livid.

Johnny lived another ten years or so. Diabetes, drinking, and maybe even Roadrunner Soup finally got the best of him.

And that is why Herb failed to report to work at 1:00 pm on that Monday.

The Lesson     

Herb learned more about prostitution and the seamier side of life than he ever wanted to learn.

The Success               

Herb used the negotiation skill he had learned dealing with the Madam, to work out future deals where there appeared to be no solution. When working for the Texas Water Quality Board, he became known for his ability to negotiate solutions to pollution problems that seemed to have no solution. His favorite tactic was to meet in a very small room with no ashtrays at one pm. For some reason, he always ate garlic before such meetings and failed to use a mouthwash or brush his teeth. As you read about more of Herb’s failures, you will run into a number of occasions where Herb used the thinking-outside-the-box skills he learned in Camargo to solve unsolvable problems.


Author: Herb

In January, 2010, I left corporate America, and now I have my own business. Since I have never been able to focus on one item (Does that make me a scatter brain?), I divided my company into three divisions: Kayak guiding and instructing - specializing in nature kayaking, Building materials consultant - specializing in cements and forensics, and Writing - Stories w/ life lessons and construction books that are fun to read. Published books: The Stucco Book - The Basics, Animals I Have Hated, Grandpa, Help! Answers to Questions a Young Lady Would Never Ask Her Parents, Grandpa Helps Grandparents, Living with Cancer – That Intense Houseguest, Homes for Jubilee (June, 2016), and Kay pou Jubilee (in Haitian Creole) (August, 2016). Forthcoming Books: The Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer Book, The Stucco Book - Forensics and Repairs, and Failing My Way to Success.

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