“Like Mexican Food?”

Like Mexican Food Graphic, KwenDGriffethI was the happiest, and one of the newest deputies with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department.  I graduated top in my academy class, just finished my six-month rotation of bailiff duty at the Municipal Court, and freshly assigned to the third shift (graveyard) in the South Valley.

My first night out, I was assigned to my training officer, my T.O.  His name was Richard Scott and he claimed to be “Black Irish.”  He was a New York City transplant who had made his way west after some years in the Navy.  His hair was dark, curly and it, along with his moustache was some 30/70 salt and pepper.  He had big shoulders, big arms, and a big easy laugh that came at the weirdest times.  I liked him within minutes.

The roll of a rookie cop, or deputy, is simple; keep your mouth shut and pay attention.  So after the briefest of introductions we started my first shift.  Richard talked, and I listened.  He pointed out drug houses, places to exchange stolen property, automotive shops known to “chop” stolen vehicles, and the stores that sold booze to underage children.  As we patrolled, I became lost within minutes.

He laughed, “Don’t worry, you’ll learn it soon enough.”

We had first rolled on duty at 2300 hours, or 11:00 o’clock at night and by 0300 (3 am) both of us were hungry.

“You like Mexican food,” my T.O. asked.

Being a regular at Taco Bell, I responded, “Sure.”


A few minutes later, Richard pulled the car off the road and drove through three rows of used cars.  There wasn’t a one of those cars younger than ten years old and not a security light on the lot.  I started to watch him a little more closely.

After the third row, we came to a ten-foot tall fence made of corrugated metal.  The ridges ran vertically and the gate was open wide enough for a car to pass. The gate rested on a couple of rusty hinges and the ground.  I asked if we need to close it, and a shake of his head was the only answer.

Behind the gate was the burial ground for thousands of cars.  Sedans, wagons, hatchbacks, pick-ups, you name it, the make and the model and a sample of the vehicle was there; at least one from each year of the last three decades.

In fairness, I have to say it was not totally dark in that yard.  Some light found its way from streetlights a block, or two away.  In truth, I must clarify that the only light that mattered generated from the moon and the little of it that reflected off the carcasses from Detroit.

I had to ask, “What are we doing?”

I thought he might have seen signs of a break in, or some other criminal activity.  Maybe it was a test to see how strong my powers of observation were.

“We’re getting dinner.  I thought you said you were hungry.”

He looked at me as if he doubted my mental strength.

He stopped the car next to a silver colored motorhome with rims, but no tires.  It was a small one, about twelve or fourteen feet long and it was one of those from the forties that looked like a roly-poly bug.  I reached for my door handle.

“Don’t get out.”

“What? Why?”

“The dogs are off their chains.”

I took a second look and in the wheel wells, where the tires weren’t, two very big and hungry looking Dobermans waited.  They laid in the shadows, in that Sphinx pose that says, “Yeah, I’m bad and I’ll chomp you just for fun.”

A sliding window opened and a woman stuck out her head.

“Buena noches, Scott.”

He nodded.

“Que to qustaria?”

Scott turned to me, “She wants to know what you want.  You like your food spicy?”

Remembering the Taco Bell “Fire Sauce,” I said, “Yeah, the hotter the better.”

“And coffee,” added my T.O.

Richard turned to the woman and with the help of finger pointing and hand gestures ordered each of us two burritos and a coffee.  Within minutes, our orders slid out of the window.  Scott handed me two aluminum foil wrapped meals, each about the size of a large hoagie bun and a Styrofoam cup of coffee.

“Hold on,” he said, after we paid, “We’ll roll up to the street and watch traffic.”

Just a quick word here, there is no traffic in the South Valley at 0400 hours.

Richard parked in an empty space on the front row of the used cars.  The smell coming off those burritos was temptation in its finest form.  I couldn’t wait to bite into one, and as soon as he shut off the car, I did.

A point of clarification is required here.  Taco Bell’s definition of “Fire Sause,” is not synonymous with the South Valley’s.  I thought I was going to die.

I thought smoke coming out of someone’s ears was just a cartoon thing; it is not.

My tongue went into shock, “Stop, drop, and roll,” it was trying, but being a tongue, it couldn’t.  My sinuses tried to drown the flames in my throat by breaking loose every tear and any other type of discharge it managed.  My stomach refused to accept the chunk of fire and stopped my swallower from working.  Sweat broke out on my forehead, cheeks, and the back of my neck.  The single napkin given to me drowned when I tried to use it.  It was still the first bite and I had two of these wraps of digestive death.

I also had a steaming cup of coffee to wash them down.

I look over at Richard, who is munching away, oblivious to my torture.  I was glad it was dark so he couldn’t see my agony.  He caught me.

“What do you think?  Good isn’t it?”

With the trepidation of a child about to lose her first tooth, I swallowed, knowing my digestive system would never forgive me.

“Yeah,” I managed and I discovered I had no voice, only the raspy hoarseness of sound moving through burnt stubble of vocal chords, “It’s good.”

“I like em,” he grinned, “I stop here two, maybe three times a week.”

I managed a nod and a “thumbs up” sign of agreement.


I rode with Richard for another ninety days.  True to his word, he ate there several times a week and I had dinner with him every time we stopped.  After, the damage healed, I realized I liked the food and miss it still today.

Shortly after I got my own unit, the whole place closed down.  I don’t know who got them, maybe the health department, maybe animal control, maybe INS, but I’m betting it was the AAA, that place had some nasty cars.


My point of this post is simple: be willing to try something new.  If you haven’t yet, signup to have my ramblings mailed directly to your inbox.


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