Another Story of When I Was There. This Time I Really Was!

Yet another tale from my past but this time I really was there and you ain’t gonna believe it because it reads like a crime novel, with a stabbing, a near riot and armed police. It begins a long time ago, I was a Third Mate on a tramp steamer and we had carried a cargo of phosphate to be unloaded in a town called Mazatlan near Durango in Mexico.

Phosphate is some sort of fertiliser that looks like chalk and make one heck of a mess in the holds of a ship. It was arranged by our agent that the cargo was unloaded by local dockers and then all the holds and bilges would be steam cleaned to pristine condition. This meant quite unusually the crew could have a long break.  I personally took advantage by riding in an old fashioned western stagecoach that looked straight out of Hollywood and visited the town of Durango which also looked straight out of MGM films.

On another evening of our holiday, I went with Second Mate Hamish, the Skipper, the First Mate and the Chief Engineer, five likely lads.  As sailors do, we ended up in a bar. It was a typical adobe building, not very salubrious but it had beer and tequila on tap and quite a few young ladies. We all sat a a large table with our drinks and were quickly joined by several Mexican beauties.

We had been there about an hour, one of the girls was sitting on my knee with her arm around my shoulder. Quite suddenly I became aware of a greasy looking guy. ( mustn’t call him a dago but he sported a Zapato type moustache. Without saying a word he punched girl on my lap on the side of her face and as I jumped up a stiletto blade appeared in his hand and he stabbed me in the arm. The blade went right through the muscle on my upper arm. I remember lying on the floor looking at the knife and thinking “it’s gone right through, if I pull it out I can stab the bastard back”!  I then thought that if I did pull it out I could bleed to death. Oddly enough it didn’t hurt. I lay on the floor next to an unconscious Zapato guy and realised all hell was going on around me. Everyone was fighting, the girls had disappeared.  I saw that both the table and the bench we had been sitting at had smashed through the window and was hanging halfway out of it.

The barman who was a large man wearing a full length white apron was nursing a smashed nose and his apron was covered in blood.  Hamish grabbed me under the arms helping me to stand saying “come on lofty, it’s time we left.”  Just then the doors burst open and some half a dozen khaki clad policemen. They were all wielding cannon sized six shooters. We were all lined up against the wall including Joe Zapato who had been roused by a cop emptying an ice bucket over him!

we were loaded into a Black Maria and conveyed somewhere,  it wasn’t a police station nor a jail but appeared more like a chicken run  with a couple of open fronted bike sheds for shelter.  The whole area was surrounded by what looked like a fence of chestnut palings the whole area was completely surrounded by a six feet deep water filled moat.  We weren’t going anywhere.  My stiletto was removed by their equivalent of an FMO (forensic medical officer), he spoke broken English but just put a finger each side of the knife an pulled it out in a single movement.  No spout of blood and he repaired the in and exit with a couple of plasters.

No-one enlightened them as to the whereabouts of our Kapitan but we insisted on our Agent being contacted.  He arrived at around 0600 in the morning and after paying what he called reparations which apparently went in Police Widows and Orphans Fund and none to the bar.  I have no idea what happened to Zapato but Hamish told me that at sometime during the night he was visited where he was sheltering in one of the bike sheds and made him understand that it’s wrong to hit girls and stab people.

We returned to our ship where we had to wait for the couple of days it took for the wharfies to finish removing the cargo and then the spit and polish.  No-one felt like a run ashore anymore and at 0200hrs on the third day we quietly slipped away bound for the Panama Canal.  Food for thought!  Although I really was there on this occasion, in some ways I wasn’t really because I was lying on the floor of the bar feeling sorry for myself and missed all the fun.  Now I’m old I often find myself calling Mazatlan, Matalan, shop anyone!




About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.
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