Uncle Manuel Rescues Me From Jail
I was in the house at night, playing the guitar and singing. Of course, I didn’t know how to sing. And, for that matter, I didn’t know how to play the guitar.
But it was no big deal. I could just try it anyway and make some noise. I was with my brother Ronnie and a couple of other guys from the neighborhood. As I was singing, my brother mentioned that the police were coming. I piped up, “Screw the cops!” and I continued with my playing and singing. There was a knock on the door. Remember, I said I was always the one to go first. I went to the door and asked, “Yeah, who is it?”
— Ozzie Delgadillo, walking in Juárez, Colombia —
A voice demanded, “Who is the big man who said ‘Screw the cops?’”
I opened the door to see what was happening. It was dark. I couldn’t see it, but one of the policemen was pressed up against the wall. I was fearless. I didn’t even have my gun. I pushed the screen door open, went out, and replied, “I did.”
The guy grabbed my hair and pulled me out. The other cop already had his .45 out of the holster. He put it right up against my ribs, hard. I was young and skinny, only about 130 pounds. They were upset. Oh, these suckers were mean. He said, “Oh, so you’re the big man who said that, huh?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “OK.” Suddenly, POW! He took a blackjack and started to beat me on my back. With one hand, he had one of my arms behind my back in an armlock, and with the other hand, he was using the blackjack, hitting me with passion. I was peeing in my pants. Every time he hit me, I peed. I couldn’t hold it. He continued to hit me. And now the other guy was laughing. They were fat. They had only a cap and a green shirt, no uniform. All they had was a big .45. I just looked at them. And now they were pushing me out into the middle of the street. He was having a real good time hitting me.
In the late 1940s, after the war, there was a lot of crime in Juárez.
— Ozzie right rear, with neighborhood pals —
Unfortunately, there has been even worse crime in recent decades. Not long before this incident, the chief of police was thrown out because he couldn’t handle the crime in the city. They got a colonel from the army to take over. The colonel gave orders to take any troublemaker they caught out to the cemetery. They would kill the person and get rid of him. Wow, OK, I knew about that. I said to myself, Oh boy, here we go. They were beating the hell out of me, knowing that they didn’t have to answer to anybody. And they were going to take out their anger on me.
I yelled at my brother Ronnie, “Go and get uncle Manuel. Tell him these cops are beating the hell out of me, and it’s really hurting. And they’re taking me to the cemetery. Tell him that I know what they’re going to do, so go get him.”
He replied, “Sure, right away!” Ronnie started running.
These guys didn’t know what I was talking about. They were laughing and telling me, “You know what we’re going to do with you . . .?” They were cussing the hell out of me.
I said, “I know. You’re going to take me and you probably want to shoot me. But I’m going to tell you one thing.” Meanwhile, we were walking to the cemetery. It was close by. I said, “I called on my uncle. You saw how my brother ran out there. And you know what’s going to happen, don’t you? My uncle’s going to come over. And he’s got a gun, man. Just like you do. He’s got a .45. And I tell you what, you’re going to be dead.”
One of them said, “What are you talking about?” Then, POW, POW, POW, he hit me again.
I said, “I know you don’t believe me. Eh-ee, go ahead. You can shoot me. How far can you run? You can’t run far. And he’s already coming. I’m sure.” Before long, I could feel the energy shifting. I was sharp. I knew human nature; I had been around a long time. I was a little guy, but I had seen fear in people. I had seen people dying. I knew I had them on the run. I said, “Yeah, go ahead.”
And then one started talking to the other. I could feel the fear now on their part. He said, “What do you think?” The other one said, “Well, let’s take him to jail.”
I said to myself, Oh God, thank you.
They took me down the street to a little neighborhood station with a tiny jailhouse and a phone. They made a phone call, “So, hey, we have this guy. He’s supposed to be a killer, and we want you to send the truck over to pick him up.” Before you know it, a black van pulled up on the street. They opened up the back door. I said to myself, I’ve got it made. I got it made. They want to put me in jail. . They took me to the main jailhouse. There were two cops outside, as if I was a big giant, right? As they opened the truck door, out came this skinny little guy with wet pants.
They asked, “What’s going on? OK. Put him inside.” They marched me into the main cell where they kept the killers. It was dark inside. They opened the heavy cell doors. It was a big room, all cement, with one light bulb all the way at the end. There were no beds, nothing. Men were lying down on the floor. As I entered I couldn’t see anything.
I was careful not to step on the men on the floor, saying, “Oh, whoa, excuse me, excuse me, uh, excuse me.”
As I was walking, they asked me, “Hey, who are you?” I know they were wondering what I was doing there. I was young. And I was dressed OK. But I could count on them wanting to steal my shoes and my belt. I could even hear them saying, “Hey, I’ll take the belt.” I was just acting like a big man, playing a don’t-mess-with-me role.
As I was adjusting to the darkness, I heard a voice. “Ferro, Ferro.” Because of my uncle’s last name of Ferro, I was also known as Ferro at the railroad yard. Some of these guys knew that. The guy recognized me because he was a neighborhood guy. By the way, he was also a killer, a murderer.
I asked, “Who’s that?”
He replied, “Chivo.” His name means male goat. He was a big killer and was in charge of the other killers in the cell. He started to laugh, “Hey, Ferro, what the hell are you doing in here?”
I said, “Well, those assholes brought me in.”
“Oh,” he asked, “did you kill anybody?”
“No, not even.”
He said, “Come on back. Hey, you shitheads, get out of the way. Let him go by. Come and drink some coffee.” He had a big number 10 can with black coffee.
I said, “Sure,” and then I played the part, of course. I wasn’t going to play the part of being fucking scared. I was scared, but I just walked over to him, picking my way past the guys on the floor.
“What did you do?”
I said, “You know what? I was singing.” I told them the story.
He said, “No kidding?” I told more of the story. “Yeah, yeah. I know what these assholes do,” he said, “so what’s going to happen?”
“Well, my uncle’s coming.” In less than five minutes, they called my name to come to the gate. I said, “Chivo, thank you. I got to go. I got business to take care of, man.”
— Childhood house, Libertad Street, Juárez, Mexico —
— Back of childhood house —
They took me to the chief of police. The two cops who hit me were there. The chief of police was a fat guy, sitting there, looking at me like, What happened? Who’s this little guy?
— Uncle Manuel walking in Juárez —
I said, “Uncle, ready to go?”
“Yeah, I’m ready to go.”
The police chief said, “Yeah, you can go.” So we left.
When my father heard about it, he said, “You shouldn’t have done that.” But my father wasn’t around when I was in trouble. My uncle was there. He left everything he was doing to come and protect me. I knew that my uncle would have put his life on the line for me. And I was ready to die in that moment. See, this is what I’m telling you about the power that’s in me. Once you get that in gear, watch out. Not that it’s right. I’m not talking about right or wrong. I’m talking about an energy that surfaces, which can then be uncontrollable.
I did go after them, but I couldn’t find them. I’m happy I didn’t. I don’t know if I would have shot them.
But, in the moment you support yourself. You do what you think is right. Those guys shouldn’t have hit me so much. They wanted to kill me. In their heads, they killed me many times. I didn’t feel sorry for them. I think the police chief sent them out of town because they saw my uncle and realized this guy could easily be a killer. He could get you. So they probably left town.
That’s a story of the power of the soul. These were events that could have changed my life forever and not in a positive way. But something happened; something intervened.
My uncle came to the rescue and my time was not up.
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