A couple of Saturdays before Christmas, we were driving up to the Tucson Saddle Club holiday luncheon at the Mountain Oyster Club. We left early to enjoy the cowboy art hung on the walls in the various rooms of the private club. It was to be a treat for us non-members. I imagined we were on a sleigh ride.

As we approached the Sonoita Border Patrol checkpoint, I noticed the body language of the agent. He seemed to be making an exaggerated effort of looking into both the front and back passenger compartments. The agents usually stand stationary.

I was forewarned and as I slowed down, I know I was distracted by the talk of the ladies in the back: my wife and the wife of the retired Marine colonel in the front passenger seat. They were jolly. I was jolly and inattentive.

I thought I heard what I usually hear being waved through. I was wrong. The agent was still speaking, but from behind me. I hit the brakes. He leaned in and shouted that the stop sign meant stop. I thought I had stopped.

With the conversational noise inside I thought he was joking. I was way off. He certainly wasn’t joking. The agent said something about not having released me to go. He asked all of us if we were U.S. citizens. As I resumed speed, I had to say, “What happened back there?” I felt like an old fossil with a hearing problem.

A hundred times I had been waved through that checkpoint. One moment of inattentiveness and what can happen? Something to reflect on. And stop means stop!

Robert Dorney


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