Briar Patch

May 1973By and Comments


ON A COOL EVENING IN late spring, Mark Jones and Francisco Perez entered Joseph’s Foodliner, a small market in northwest San Antonio specializing in homemade egg rolls (4 for a dollar) and fresh Chinese snow peas. Young, longhaired, bearded, they had apparently charted an ambitious career in crime, stealing a 1967 Mustang in Glendora, tearing the Jif-E-Mart page from the San Antonio Yellow Pages and pin-pointing small markets on a city map. But they bore little resemblance to Bonnie and Clyde.

Mary Eng was born in Louisiana, once travelled to China, and is now proprietress of the foodliner. Her day nearly done, she looked up to encounter a pistol held by Perez. He demanded her cash-registered money, and she dutifully forked it over, emptying even the change-dispenser. Unfortunately that activated a buzzer which thoroughly spooked Perez.

“Cut that off before I kill you!”

Mrs. Eng cried, “That’s what happens when it’s empty!”

A few feet away, a young couple shopping for ceramics had looked down an aisle and seen Jones holding a gun on three men. Very quietly, they began to ease toward the door, suddenly blocked by Perez, who told them to lie down on the floor.

Jones was having problems of his own. He had encountered linguistic difficulties with a young store employee, Mr. Eng, and a restaurant operator shopping for hamburger. The worker is fluent only in Chinese, and the restaurateur is a Mexican national. Jones kept demanding their wallets, and when the Mexican finally grasped the idea, he protested, “No, no, my passport!”

Mr. Eng somehow slipped away in the confusion, dodging up an aisle just as Perez and Mrs. Eng started toward the back. She saw her husband coming, and called out in Chinese, “Don’t come; we’re being robbed!”

Mr. Eng knew that; he sprinted through the door, yelling for help, followed by Jones and Perez, who had bungled their way to a stash of $1700.

The San Antonio police answered the call almost immediately, prodding two freaked teenagers into Joseph’s at gunpoint. Suspects. Ten blocks away, a 1967 Mustang had run a stop sign in front of a San Antonio patrolman. He turned on his lights, but the Mustang accelerated. The officer chased the Mustang to I.H. 35 before he began to put two and two together.

They careened onto the service road, joined now by another San Antonio unit, and ignored a red light at twice the speed limit, attracting the attention of KENS-TV newsman David Robinson. Cops, robbers, and cameramen entered the freeway at 90 miles an hour, joined quickly by six more police units and San Antonio Express-News reporter Nathan Sherman. At some point, somebody started shooting.

Perez fired through the rear window with enough accuracy to convince officers he had a rifle. One unit took a round in the windshield, spinning out, striking a light pole. The only other known casualties at that point were a freeway motorist who took a slug in his radiator and two ambulances. One struck a semi-trailer; the other blew an engine.

By then a dozen units chased the Mustang at 105 miles an hour. David Robinson aimed his camera, taped the sound, and hung in there; Nathan Sherman dropped back, he says, because he was driving a “six-banger Dodge Dart.”

(A note on Robinson, who appears destined for either an Emmy Award or an early grave: One week later he filmed an almost identical chase from Castroville to Lackland Air Force Base, then two days later, contributed the department’s crack news unit to a seven-car pileup on a San Antonio freeway.)

North they came, San Antonio units strung out for miles, some out of gas; officers from the service-road hamlets of Selma and Live Oak; state police and a couple of interested deputies; and a DPS helicopter, trying to catch up. The eventual number is hard to calculate: Estimates range from 25 to 40. Jones presumably knew he would not traverse the interstate all the way to Oklahoma City, but his thoughts were likely less than ordered. Desperado takes on new meaning with two or three dozen sirens and a helicopter in pursuit.

But you can’t outrun a radio. At three points in New Braunfels, officers were waiting on both shoulders, shielded by their cars. The Mustang cleared the first roadblocks, leaving a state officer with a devastating wound in his hand. Reports quickly circulated that he had somehow shot himself trying to load his shotgun; and just as quickly circulated that Perez had fired the shot. DPS pension planners frown on self-inflicted wounds.

New Braunfels is a peaceful town by Texas standards, and at the third station was a cordial young man who had advanced to the rank of detective without resorting to much violence. But he owns an ARI5 rifle modified (illegally, one might add) to fire automatic. When the call came, he was drinking coffee at a Hungry Hobo on the service road; when the Mustang went by, he emptied a thirty-round magazine into the driver’s door.

That was apparently Jones’ last moment. The Mustang began to swerve wildly, with Perez steering from the back seat. Momentum carried it nearly two miles before it left the road, rolled over, and came to rest near the construction site of the new Canyon High School. The police units came screeching to a halt—literally. A Live Oak unit rammed into the lead San Antonio car.

Two dozen officers then scrambled into position and fired into the Mustang for a minute and a half, shotguns, rifles, whatever they had. The number of rounds expended is a quantum guess, but there were 122 holes in the driver’s door alone, and 24 scars on the face of the new high school. A San Antonio officer then approached the car and fired inside point-blank. He told Sherman, the Express-News reporter, that Perez had survived the barrage with the aid of two suitcases, and raised up to fire. The rest of the officers stood and advanced, cheering.

Inside the Mustang, they found Jones dead, Perez groaning from a slug in the abdomen, a little marijuana, a lot of money, and three small-caliber handguns.

The chase over, action slowed to a scene worthy of Hieronymous Bosch: inching, gawking traffic; a man crying repeatedly, “Has anybody got a flashlight that works?”; the riddled corpse of Mark Jones, stripped to the waist and left uncovered; two officers on their hands and knees, looking for their ignition keys; a morbidly curious San Antonio officer gauging a wound in Jones’ thigh with his finger.

David Robinson took off for Channel 5 with the scoop of his young career, while the DPS helicopter wheeled off in search of the phantom rifle. One of Robinson’s competitors shortly arrived, but then the helicopter returned and a voice recommended via loudspeaker: “Turn those damned lights off; keep ’em the hell off! We’re tryin’ to land.”

Eventually the officers retired to New Braunfels City Hall to get their stories straight, then to nearby Krause’s Cafe, which had extended hours and brewed gratis coffee. At City Hall, a jocular San Antonio sergeant suggested, “Let’s break out the cards.” He and two comrades in fact failed to start home with the rest of the force; a remarkably popular rumor insists the coffee turned into bourbon and the breather turned into a poker party that lasted several hours into the next day.

Five days later, word reached Krause’s Cafe that Perez had died. A New Braunfels inspector eyed a passing waitress and blew on his coffee. “Good riddance. Saved the taxpayers’ money.”


Although graffiti writing has become a venerable institution, the designers of Houston’s One Shell Plaza are hoping that the art’s practitioners will limit themselves to the building’s restrooms and leave the elevator walls alone. For those walls (96 of them in 24 elevators) are covered with genuine leather. All substitutes were rejected. “Wouldn’t smell right,” a PR man told us, ‘Not like a wallet would.”

Getting the right leather wasn’t easy. The elevator cabs are nine feet tall. Unfortunately, no cattle in Texas grow that long and Bruce Graham, Shell’s designer, would not allow the walls to show seams. Graham went on a world-wide search which finally turned up a herd of nine-foot cattle in, of all places, Belgium. The herd was bought, and some were skinned, cured, tanned and stretched over the elevator. Shell is maintaining the remaining cattle for future replacements.

If you’re wondering how much it costs to make an elevator smell like a wallet, and only a complete degenerate wouldn’t wonder, the tab was $50,000.


It should be interesting to note how the keepers of Texas Stadium revise their record books between now and the opening of next fall’s football campaign.

No player—not Calvin Hill or 0.J. Simpson or Larry Brown or Duane Thomas, wherever he may be—had, prior to last February, been able to (1) gain as much as 209 yards rushing in a single afternoon, (2) race 92 yards from scrimmage for a score, or (3) account for five touchdowns in a single game.

Linda Jefferson, a 5-4, 135-pound running back for the Toledo Troopers, did all three and then some as women’s professional football, of all things, was added to the state’s sport menu.

Long before the visiting Troopers and the brand new undefeated, untied but untested Dallas Bluebonnets lined up for the opening kickoff, the enthusiastic public address announcer had repeatedly informed the 2,842 eye witnesses that they would, right there in the luxury and comfort of the finest football stadium on the planet, be “seeing history in the making.” The crowd responded with appropriate enthusiasm. Bed sheet banners waved in the stands insisting that “Everything Goes Better With Bluebonnets On It” urging the hometown gals to “Tromp the Troopers.”

The latter was no small task since the three-year-old Toledo team, part of the six-team National Women’s Football League, has never been defeated.

Still, the Bluebonnets made it interesting, sending two Troopers to Irving Community Hospital with a broken arm and fractured ankle respectively (“We’re gettin’ ’em, offense. That’s two down. We’re wiping those broads out …”) before falling to a 37-12 defeat.

One may be tempted to take the whole thing lightly; but a second glance at defensive tackle Bobbie (Super Sugar) Grant, a none-too-dainty 265 pounds, should dispell any such notions.

Women’s professional football is, for that matter, not all that new. It has been with us, safely restricted to the East, for six years now. A Cleveland show business agent named Sid Freedman is the father of the WPFL and is listed as owner of every woman’s team in existence—except the Dallas franchise. It is owned by a group of Dallas businessmen headed by Sears buyer Al Mathews who is also the general manager.

Mathews recognized the vacuum that existed in the Southwest. Last fall he placed an ad in a Dallas paper urging any women interested in becoming members of a pro football team to contact him. Twenty nine responded that same day and the Bluebonnets were off and running.

Mathews, next in need of a coach, remembered friend Richard Benat who had been a halfback of modest achievement at Dallas’ Bishop Dunne High School and the University of Bridgeport (Conn.). When Mathews found him he was nearing the end of his first season as an assistant coach at his alma mater.

“Al called,” the youthful and dead serious Benat recalls, “and we chatted for some time. Then he asked me how I would like to coach a professional team. I was beside myself. Then, he told me it was a women’s team.” Nevertheless, Benat agreed to return to Dallas where his time is now split between coaching the Bluebonnets and selling insurance for Penn Mutual.

“The first thing we did,” he notes, “was to weed out the strippers, women wrestlers and dopeheads from those who answered the newspaper ad. What we now have is a 42-woman roster made up of the finest young ladies I have ever been associated with.”

The team is composed of women ranging in age from 17 to 27 who, almost without exception, were outstanding as high school basketball, softball or tennis players. They are, they will collectively admit, tomboys who simply never grew out of playing boys’ games. While most are single or divorced, there are four married players on the team. Cheryl Griffith, currently sidelined with a knee injury, is spending that time generally set aside for practice taking care of her five children. Defensive end Willie Johnson leaves her three with a babysitter when she leaves for practices on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and the regular Wednesday night “skull session.”

Among the Bluebonnets one will find several students from Dallas’ El Centro College, one Texas Women’s University drop-out, a North Texas State ex, one holder of a Master’s degree, numerous secretaries and one certified public accountant. There are two nurses and one inhalation specialist who comes in handy when a teammate has the breath knocked out of her.

Which is very likely since neither the Bluebonnets nor the Troopers did much that would generally be considered lady-like during their recent encounter. Let it be said that they do not play football as you would expect girls to play unless you count the occasional pulling of long hair which flows from beneath a number of helmets (such a deed is illegal, punishable by the same 15-yard penalty which accompanies clipping and the grabbing of a face mask).

Save for less than picturesque kicking and the inability of quarterback Barbara O’Brien to keep a spiral on the ball when attempting to throw deep, the game was remarkably similar to that played by the menfolk. NFL rules govern the women’s game with the lone exception being that they play 12-minute quarters. There was vicious tackling, imaginative offensive and defensive alignments, powerful running from Bluebonnet fullback Jody Williams, dazzling open field work from the high scoring Ms. Jefferson and all the delightful grunts and groans NFL Films brings into your homes weekly.

All for contracts which assure each player a paycheck of $25 per game, stock in the franchise and a bonus if any profit is realized. Needless to say each worked for minimum wages during that first game.

“It was,” said fullback Williams, who gained 72 yards on 17 carries, “the greatest experience of my life. I love it. And I’m going to get my number changed to the same one Walt Garrison (of the Dallas Cowboys) wears.”

Which brought your admittedly inexperienced women’s pro football writer around to one final question: “Is there anything, uh well, different about the protection you wear from that worn by men?”

Jeri Chesser, a defensive tackle who works in a Dallas stock brokerage firm, fielded the question. “All we are allowed to say is that, yes, we have special padding . . . but the coach has told us not to discuss it any further.”

Should the popularity of women’s football grow as Mathews predicts (“We’ll be selling this place out in two years…”) , Playtex might well have to add a new garment to its line.


I am an Easterner. The harbingers of Eastern spring are crocus and robins. The first, a brave flower that spears through dead leaves and old snows to bloom; the robin, a bird whose little migratory red breast has been copyrighted by childhood.

If I waited for them in Texas, I could wait forever. The surest signs of spring are the flowering peach blossoms, forming pink and white pearls along the branches; the generous green grass which suddenly grows so quickly and lavishly, that responsible people have a never-ending race with the lawnmowers to tame it down.

But mostly the sun. I have heard predictions that in a few months, just when other U.S. springs are becoming ripe, Texas switches to summer. And like an eclipse, it becomes dangerous to look at the sky or to fling yourself on the grass for a tan; that unless you’re surrounded with air conditioning, it’s hard to breathe out and breathe in, that scorching and parching is the sun’s summer business.

If that’s so, then this spring is doubly precious. The sun is filmed in blossoms and blue sky with a few grazing, sheepish clouds; eavesdropping, nut-picking squirrels flood the market; mamma birds run catering service all day and sing so strongly, they seem to be piped in. And the wind is balmy as a first class ocean cruise.

The evenings, when the wind settles down, are perfection, beginning with a blazing sunset that seems to mimic every calendar set-up. The warmth blankets down in the grass, or hangs like freshly washed clothes from endless lines of branches.

I’ve heard Texans brag about the bigness of their state, the strength of their cattle and a whole twanging list of infuriating etcs.

But the greatest Texas treasure, to me an outsider, is the graceful weather and bouquet of March and April. Can’t bust em. These are the real spring sale days—when happiness is free. The best commercial, run off by the weather man, predicts mild weather and calm winds.

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