Pat Garrett’s Irrigation Tank

Pat Garrett was the sheriff who killed Billy the Kid: New Mexico’s most famous desperado… and when we were living in Roswell, his family owned a ranch a couple of miles out of town. I don’t know how we got permission, but the owners of the Garrett ranch allowed some of us kids to come out and swim in their irrigation tank. I guess I was six or seven and my mom’s brother, Uncle Bob, took me and my brother Harold, out there. Harold and Uncle Bob were gonna go swimming. I just came along for the ride. I didn’t know how to swim, didn’t even bring a bathing suit.

When we got out there, Harold and Uncle Bob vaulted out of the car and jumped in. I sat on the bank watching as they “horsed around” in the water. When they climbed out, Uncle Bob came rushing at me… grabbed me by the seat of my pants, and threw me into the irrigation tank.

I was terrified and thought I was gonna drown as I sank several times as I flailed and struggled trying to make my way to the bank. Both Uncle Bob and Harold were rolling on the ground laughing at my distress. And then when we got home, he could hardly contain his laughter as he told my folks it in great and exaggerated detail. He said he had decided it was high time I learned to swim…. after all that’s how he learned. I can still remember how panic-stricken I was… I had never been in water over my head… didn’t have the vaguest idea of how to swim. I was fully clothed. It scared the hell out of me and he couldn’t stop laughing. Yes, I finally managed to make it to the bank… coughing and crying, and I didn’t drown… but I’ll tell you something… I’m 80 years old now… I’m still angry at that son of a bitch.