Make your own free website on

The Flying Mariachi Teacher
Joe Ely Carrales, III

An Informative Autobiography of one of South Texas most memorable people. Teacher, mariachi musician and Civil Air Patrol officer; Joe Ely Carrales, III has reached out to help and entertain the people of South Texas.

This is his on going story.

Click on a subject below to find out about my life, or just scroll down
Instructions: As this page grows, it will take time to load. Pictures will take time to load, so please be patient. If you would like to see a picture, click on it and it will appear in another window. Then press the back space and that picture will apear in the text. Thank You!

1) The Early Days (1976-1981)
2) Comments on the 1970's
3) The Birth of Anthony R. Carrales
4)First Day of School (Aug. 10, 1981)

5)Hurricane Allen
6)The Death of Mark Carrales
7)Start of My Musical Life(1988-1994)
8)Mariachi Juvenil de mi Pueblo

9)Mariachi Tejano
10)Mariachi Del Rancho
11)Joe A. Soliz & the Trombone
12)High School Daze (1989-1994)

13)Mariachi Cascabel(1994-1998)
14)Tales of the Wild Horse Desert(1994)
15)The University TAMUK(1994-1999)
16)Edgelines Publications
17)Mariachi Fuego(1998-1999)
18)Mariachi Aguilas/ Kineno(1999)
19)Start of Civil Air Patrol(1998-2000)
20)CAP Service with Brownsville
21)CAP Service with Corpus Christi
22)Hurricane Bret (Aug. 1999)
23)Story of Norma Mata
24)Y2K was for the Dogs!
25) Squadron Leadership School (SLS)
26) G3 Change of Command (Feb. 2000)
27) Appointed G3 PAO
28)The Loss of My Grandfather Ely Carrales(March 28, 2000) 29) Better Days(April-July 2000)
30) Promotion to 1Lt.
31) Super Splash Adventure
32)Corporate Learning Course (CLC) 33) Margie Angel Resendez
34) Rio Grande Valley Road trip!
35)The First week of July 2000
36)I am Engaged
37) The Longest Wait

38)Cascabel Years (Take Two)
39)2000-2001 Memorial Middle School School Year
40) A tribute to Baldemar Gutierrez
41)More to come...
42)Various Links
A picture index will go here. Come back soon!
Anthony Rey Carrales

View My Guestbook Sign My Guestbook


This page has been visited times.

The Early Days (1976-1981)

Let me first say a few words about my self. I was born in Falfurrias, Texas on the Fifth of July the year of our Lord 1976. My father was a young twenty-one year old who had obtained a job with Exxon in the mid-1970's. He bought a small house that he would later build into a large home for a family of four. Things started out bad when I was switched at the hospital. Due to a nursing mix-up, I was given to a family from Hebbronville, TX and a young girl was given to my parents. Luckily, my Grandmother, Estella Saenz, discovered the mistake and I was retrieved from the Brooks County Hospital.

Living the first few years of one's life in the 1970’s was not an easy ordeal. It’s funny that, looking back in the album of my life, I remember the 1970’s to be quite boring. We only had three television stations (ABC, NBC and CBS) and one Public Broadcasting Station that was only watched for Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I remember the people of the 1970’s to look completely normal in my memories, yet they look quite odd in old photographs. Big hair, wide lapels and strangely colored clothing, what a world that must have been?

I grew up at home, and mostly at Grandma's House, where I was educated in the finer points of Mexican-American existence.

Of all the places I went as a child, I remember always wanting to go to the railroad tracks when we would drive 28 miles north, from Premont, Texas to Alice, Texas. Alice was the junction of two railroads (the Southern Pacific and the Texas Mexican) at that time and was , in my mind, the northern border of my early childhood world. I almost always found myself amused at the variety of rolling stock that often found its way onto the many side tracks. Unfortunately for me, my mother would refuse to take me there on account that it was 'too far out of our way' and the rail road was too dangerous for small children. Never-the-less, the few memories I have of the 'Hub City', are clear in my mind.

The biggest event of my preschool years revolved around a tropical storm that nearly destroyed South Texas, Hurricane Allen. Prior to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, Allen had been the benchmark hurricane to which all other storms were compared. A somewhat early Cape Verde storm, Allen fed off the warm ocean waters of the Caribbean Sea and became a Category 5 nightmare. This storm had winds of 180 mph and a pressure of 899 mb, which at that time was the lowest pressure ever recorded in the western hemisphere. Thankfully, Allen stalled just off the South Texas coast and weakened substantially, but it was still a powerful Category 3 storm when it struck Brownsville, Texas on August 10th, 1980. Allen caused 1 billion dollars damage in Brownsville, one can only imagine what would have happened to Texas had Allen not weakened just before landfall.

That storm had cost our town allot. Before Hurricane Allen, Premont had been a different town. Huge trees that had stood for years were felled, miles of telegraph poles that lined the railroad between Premont and Falfurrias were destroyed and the town was ravaged. I lost an uncle, Mark Carrales, in the afterward of that storm. That would be an event that changed our family for years. You see, Mark had been a shining ray of sun light in everyone that would play a major role in my life. His death effected everyone, including my Father and Grandfather Ely Carrales. In June 1981, I was joined by my brother, Anthony Rey Carrales. It was at about that time that I entered kindergarten and began learning the required skills that all young boys need to learn in order to do well in the American school system.

First Day of School

Into Society I go
(August 10, 1981)

I remember my early school days quite vividly, although corrupted by the 5-year-old perspective that I witnessed it. The First Day of school began in the usual way; I got up, got dressed and turned on the television. Cable Television entered our home in the early 1980's and I had (as most 1980's children would) become hooked on the somewhat new "Nickelodeon" children's network.

I remember that mourning I watched an episode of "Dusty's Tree house," an old 1960's/1970's puppet show for Children. I had not realized that I was about to begin what would be 12 years of school. A long sometimes dark road whose end was to be found in the middle 1990's. As for me, I had no real conception of what school was suppose to be like, so I had no fear of it.

I was taken in the car, to a place that had only been visited once in a hurricane. You see, in small towns in South Texas it is common practice to weather storms in Public School Buildings. It is assumed that such buildings, with their heavy brick structures, can with stand the winds of a tropical storm. In fact, my most vivid preschool memory is of going to the Premont Elementary School to hide out Hurricane Allen .

The first day of school was not scary, but did leave room for much observation and commentary. It was that day that I would meet the people that I would go through school with. First impressions of people that would later turn out to be friends, enemies or nearly forgotten impressions that resonate in my mind.

I made many friends that day. One such person was my good friend Danny Munoz. Danny would grow up to be one of the toughest men I would ever know. If it is any justice to Danny, I will go one to say that his best friend, and future High School Class president, Max Navarro also became a valued friend. I, however, did not cry. That was not to say that I was not scared, but rather, to demonstrate a point. I had had very few people of my own age in my neighbor hood and had had few friends for that reason. In many ways, aside from my cousin Lisa Le Vier, never been exposed to other children. This was a chance to interact, to get to know these children. I could not afford to act in any way that might turn them off to me. With full knowledge of the potential loneliness that could follow, I signaled my mother to leave and joined the class.

Kinder is never easy for anyone. It’s new and it can be very dangerous. The social bonds one creates in those first early days mark the difference between whom will be cool, and who will come away with a nickname like "stinky." If you have a weakness, like a weak bladder, runny nose or a stutter; you become a target. They say that a group of children can be cruel, more cruel perhaps that any of Nazi Germany's humans of mass destruction. This is a truth that takes children to the very depths of kindergarten hell.

And a Violin Plays...

The Start of My Musical Life

When you flip on a light switch the electricity flows down a path that is quite swift. I often compare my musical talents to electricity. Over the years I have played to brighten the lives of many warm, the hearts of others and burn even others that were arrogant enough to underestimate a non-classical "back woods" South Texas Violinist. I pursue my music with a humility that was passed down from my ancestors. There will always be someone better than you at what ever you do. If there is not, just wait. No one is best forever.

I say this to warn off many who would dare to say that they are better than me, or you or anyone else. When I started to learn music I was a young boy in Premont Central Elementary School. In those days 6th grade was not part of Junior High/Middle School in the Premont School system. We walked a great distance (it seemed great anyhow) to get to the band hall and the gym.

I was taught to play the trombone by Joe Soliz, father of my cousin Joe David Soliz, in the Premont Junior High Band in the late 1980's. In 5th grade, a man named Ernesto Cortez visited our music class. He asked us if we wanted to be in band and told us about the many instruments that a person could play. He talked about flutes, and horns and drums. We were to circle the name of three instruments that we might be interested in, and put a number by the circle that we liked best. I remember distinctly looking at the paper. Next to me was a boy named Mike Smith. He was excited about playing the trombone and quickly looked over at my paper to see what I had circled. I had circled my three; the trumpet, the saxophone and the flute. Mike was quick to point out that the flute was a "girls" instrument. He also told me that he had heard Mr. Cortez say that too many people had signed on for trumpet. I then told him that I had put flute because I felt sorry for it and that I was going to erase trumpet and put trombone.

What I didn't know was that the trombone was not a popular instrument. When they saw that I had put it down, they rejoiced. I was down for trombone. My mother was not pleased, she could not understand how I could play an instrument that seemed to be taller than I was. During the summer we, parents and students, were called to the Junior High Band Hall to look at the instruments. We went into the office and talked. They talked about horns and trumpets and such. My Father elected to by the cheapest horn because they though I might not "stick with it."

From there the summer passed. Had I known that school began two weeks earlier due to summer band, I might never have picked up an instrument. I soon became accustom to the idea and was a regular at summer band for the next six years. Contrary to a popular myth, it was on the trombone (not the violin), in bass clef (not treble), that I became a musician.

My Grandfather, Ely Carrales, taught me to play the Violin when I was in my early teens. It was back in that 7th grade that I began a long association with the world of Mariachi music. I have been a violinist for many years. That first year of my string music career is what I refer to as my “dead cat” year. That first year all violinists go through where each note one plays has the same harmonics as a cat about to end its life in a horrible manner. Maybe it was my love for cats or just constant practice, but I improved.

I remember well the night before I got my first violin lesson with my Grandfather. My mother told me that I should try to "learn as much as I can, as quickly as I could." She told me that my Grandfather would "hit me over the head with the bow if I didn't learn fast enough." My Grandparents had been by the night before and they had left a book. I studied it as much as I could, flipping through the old-yellowed pages. I memorized the names of the open strings, "G," "D," "A," and "E." I made up a little saying that I was sure would help me remember it. Thus, "Good Dogs Always Eat" was born. I would use that saying years later to teach beginner violinists the open string notes.

The next day I went out to my Grandfather's Ranch and we went through the book together. Additionally, my mother had bought me another book from South Texas Music Mart in Corpus Christi, Texas. We decided to give that book a try later since it was more advanced. This went on for several months in 1987. We played through the first book and began working out of the second book. Each day I would try to get more notes, to make it sound better. Everyday in band I would tell Mr. Soliz of my accomplishments on the violin. I would let him know about all the new notes and songs I was learning. At about that time my Grandfather began to introduce me to Mariachi Music. The first song I read was "Las Mananitas" from purple copies made by My Grandmother Viola Carrales. Then "Mananitas Tapatias," the more common version sung at every gig, at least once. The second is often used as a birthday song.

The big test would be yet to come. I still had to learn a wide variety of Mariachi music. My Grandfather began me with the standards of the day; Volver Volver, El Rey,Ella, and La Ley Del Monte. Mostly Rancheras, My Grandfather made sure that I knew how the songs went so, no matter what arrangement, I could at least follow. My Grandfather had a special theme song he would play that he had learned from his father. He began to teach it to me note by note over the course of what had to be a long time. That song was Jesucita en Chihuahua.

Mariachi Juvenil de Mi Pueblo

I began the 8th grade as a violinist, as well as trombonist. Mr. Cortez, the director of the High School Band and Mariachi, soon noticed my improving violin skills and quickly invited me to the high school rehearsals. I soon was given the O.K. to become a member of Mariachi Juvenil de Mi Pueblo. I was given a stack of music and two weeks to be proficient on it. The first person I looked to for help was my Grandfather. He helped me learn these arrangements which were not too different from his. I also learned to play Cielito Lindo and began work on La Negra, two signature Mariachi pieces. Since Linda Ronstadt had just released her collection of Canciones de mi Padre, the songs La Cigarra and La Calandria were prime songs to learn for contest. La Negra, unbeknownst to me, was being learned for a contest that the group was go to attend. I would not be part of that performance, but I would for La Cigarra and La Calandria.

Mariach Juvenil de mi Pueblo
Mariachi Juvenil de Mi Pueblo- as it appeared in Fort Worth, Texas Sept 1989 for Dairy Queen Commercial

During my eighth grade year I joined my first mariachi, Mexican folk music, band and traveled to Dallas, Texas to film a commercial advertisement for the Diary Queen fast food chain. That was my first real trip away from home with out my family. It was wondrous. A chance to go with a musical group to film a commercial, in Dallas, Texas. I was only an 8th grader, how could it be that I would be traveling with the high school. The potential for disaster was there.

I remember the whole thing as being unusual. One day, while I was in band class, Mr. Ernesto Cortez came to me and asked if I wanted to go with the group to participate in what was going to be the "biggest gig the high school Mariachi had ever played.

High School Daze

Four years I love to look back at

Many people look back on their high school careers in one of two basic ways, heaven or hell. I, however, look back on them like a patch of road I often travel between Agua Dulce and Kingsville, Texas. The road seems long, sometimes empty and full of potholes, but it also saves time, runs through peaceful fields and has a quality about it that makes me look back and say "I'm glad I went through here." I attended the Premont High School from 1989 to 1994, the year I graduated. It was there that I was introduced to the world of speech and debate and where I further developed many of my musical skills.

My high school years were spent on the road, traveling to Speech tournaments, band contests, and Mariachi Contests. This was a life that made me both well traveled and well informed of locations. I had been to places with my family, namely Dallas and Houston. My high school travels took me to all the places in-between. I knew I could never get lost in South Texas because, if I was lost, it wouldn’t be long before I made my way to some place I knew.

High school in Premont is a small two-story brown brick building connected by cement walkways. Built in 1971, I always suspected that our school might have been built as a sample of a new design by some construction company. It had what it needed to be a high school, but on the smallest possible scale. Compared to the mammoth schools we visited, our school looked microscopic. Nevertheless, before I was in high school it seemed so big. I once went with my Grandfather, Catarino Saenz, to clean the school when I was in 6th or 7th grade. My grandfather was a janitor at the high school from 1986 to 1998. I remember exploring all the places that I would not see again for three years. I also remember it looking much bigger.

My first day of High school is, alas, lost to my memories. I remember only being dropped off and waiting in what is called the “Milling Area” for people I knew. The first person I remember seeing was my friend, Jimmy Salazar. Jimmy, as when we were in junior high, rode the La Gloria buss and sometimes arrived either very early or very late. The last person I saw before the bell rang was my friend Albert Rios. After that, I remember nothing about that fist day of my freshman year.

Although I don't remember my first day of high school with any degree of worth, I do remember when procedures and general events that marked those days. My freshman year, our school population was large enough to divide the lunch period into two groups. I was in "first lunch," which I remember having after Mr. David Garza's Art I class. That year's art class is very vivid in my mind. The projects we worked on survive to this day somewhere in my storage closet.

Mr. Garza began his class with a lesson on how to perceive art and how to take ordinary objects and portray them in a medium. It's a shame to me that people don't take these art classes seriously. Older people who claim that they "can't draw" or that they are "un-artistic" are probably the people who "mess around" and don't pay attention in art class. Even people who already know how to draw should listen to the lectures and stories of famous painters. Maybe then these good "drawers" could go one to be true "artists" instead of gas station attendants.

I remember the class was made up of some of Premont's future people of popularity. Anna Guerra was in that class, later she would go on to be Mrs. Alfaro, a teacher. Jason Underbrink, Cody Paul and Hunter Hornsby were also in that class. I will always remember the art antics of my friend Felix Chong. Felix would forever try to be Mr. Garza's foil. Felix would always take the art projects to "the next level." Our first project was to draw several parrots in a jungle, Mr. Garza said for us to take our time. He meant a week; Felix dragged it out to three weeks. Mr. Garza got his revenge in the form grades.

In addition, we did a "toothpick sculpture;" this is where you draw a pattern on wax paper and trace it with took picks. This is done twice forming two exact duplicates, which will become sides. These two "sides" are then connected by toothpicks making the apparatus a three demensional "sculpture" of your design. Most people chose to do their name. I did "JOEELY" and Felix did "FELIX." The last step of the project is to cover your sculpture in paper mache. Felix finished his project by the end of the week, and was quite proud of it. We went home for the weekend and when we came back; rats that inhabit the school had eaten most of Felix's project.

Felix then employed me to help him rectify the situation. Knowing that the rats would try that again; we theorized that the use ingredients along with just flour and water would keep all rats away from the projects. We began mixing all manners of chemicals that were present in the Art room. These new ingredients included: "Ajax," "Windex," "Liquid Plumber and Crystal Drain-o," various toxic paints and soap from Mexico called "Don Maximo." The rats never again destroyed any of our projects.

My freshman year was also the year I met Corina Moreno, an English teacher. Her classes were prime examples of how an English class should be run. I can remember almost every selection we read. "Leiningen versus the Ants" and "The Lady or the Tiger." We also did "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. I remember we had to make newspapers depicting the events from the text. Albert Rios was in that class and his newspaper was to be called the "London Liar," he mistakenly titled it the "London Lair." That was not an "Honors English Class." The year before it had been determined that I did not posses the mental skills to survive in an "honors" class. I don't know what forces conspired to put be down by making me out to be an idiot, but I did know that, Mexican-American or not, I would not allow it to stop me from doing what I knew was best for me. Mrs. Moreno saw to it that I would be placed in Honors English Class from 10th grade on.

I received five gold medals at the U.I.L. District Speech and Literary Meet my senior year.

1993 & 1994 were critical musical years for me. First I played with the St. Teresa's Catholic Church Spanish Choir in 1993 and remained with them until late in 1994. I considered this to be the inspirational formative years that shaped my life as a musician. I love my Grandfather, and owe him all the musical success I have achieved. The Choir years insured that, as I took my first musical steps, I would always walk a strait line. I refined my abilities to play by ear literally in front of God. I would follow the choir's singers and began to arrange songs. We played at the 9:00 am Spanish Mass, from where I would then go to CCD classes. We also played several times for His Excellency the Most Reverend Bishop Rene H. Gracida, the then Bishop of Corpus Christi and for the Virgin Mary at 5:00 am on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Mariachi Del Rancho

That year would see the closing chapter of my high school years and my entry into college. During that year I played with my Grandfather and some friends in what we named Mariachi Del Rancho.


Mariachi Del Rancho was my first real attempt at serious mariachi musicianship. I had played with a local mariachi group called Mariachi Tejano. This group was led by Javier Montalvo, a guitar player from my days with Premont High School’s Mariachi Juvenil de Mi Pueblo. We had played many gigs in Premont and Falfurrias, but I had always remained somewhat passive in the workings and musical composition of that group. In Mariachi Del Rancho, however, I played a very active role. My Grandfather taught me how to play music by ear, as well as by note. We played many songs and increased our outlook toward those songs. Jimmy Salazar, my good friend throughout High School, was our lead trumpet player and Michael Garza; another good friend was our second trumpet. I was our violinist, while my Grandfather and his friend Ralph Mata was on rhythm. Later we added Sonia Mata, a then well known singer, to our group. We played our first gig at the Catholic Church in Hebbronville, Texas. Frank Vera, a local guitar player from Rios, Texas, was added and we began to play almost every weekend for divided pay. Our average pay per hour was about 20 dollars, very good for the times.

Frank Vera, Joe Ely Carrales, Ely Carrales, Jimmy Salazar and Hector Cantu

The summer between my high school life and my college years would see many changes in my life. 1994 was the last year I could afford to act like a child. This would be when almost all my childhood friends would go off into the world. Some, like Jimmy Salazar would go off to bigger universities, such as St. Mary’s in San Antonio. Others would go off strait to the military. Even more would go off to college unprepared, mentally and academically, and have to return home in some way. So many leave the small town too immature to survive in a big city and stick to the type of life style that university study demands. Would I be up to the challenge? Would I fail in some way? Only time could tell.

The Cascabel Years

The Peak of Mariachi Cascabel
Mariachi Cascabel at its peak in 1997 when its numbers reached 15 persons

I joined Mariachi Cascabel on August 6, 1994. I had been approached by phone about joining the group sometime in May 1994. The call had come while I was on a family trip to Lewisville, Texas. Since this also coincided with my graduation and other senior year highlights, I did not return the phone call right away. It had been Jessie Rios who called me. At that time in my mind he was just a band director that I had met at a contest in Falfurrias, Texas. It seemed that Mr. Cortez and Mr. Soliz had brought up my name in passing conversation and they had "talked me up" pretty good.

I finally returned the call in late-July 1994. The problem existed in that Jessie had just gotten married and was on his honeymoon and I was unable to contact anyone from Cascabel until August. At that, Joe Figarelli called my house on a Thursday and told me if I wanted an audition on the upcoming Saturday. I said yes and asked where I should meet him. He suggested somewhere on the TAMUK campus. I specified between the Jernigan Library and Rhode Hall (the history building).

Friday night my Grandfather Ely came over to visit. We talked about different things, including my audition the next morning. He asked me if I was excited, I told him that I was not. He then told me that I should be very careful when joining a big group. He went on to say that they would probably look down on me since I was from a small town, not to say that Kingsville is a metropolis. For years I wondered why my Grandfather seemed to be against me joining. I finally realized that, by joining Cascabel, I was signing the death certificate of Mariachi Del Rancho. He felt that I would not be able to play with him as much as I had been. The day I realized that I cried; because the day I realized that fact he was already done.

I met Joe Figarelli on a slightly overcast Saturday in August 1994. I had been waiting in my brown 1981 Pontiac Bonneville playing music on my violin. I had no idea what he looked like or what he drove, but when he arrived in his light-blue Mitsubishi Eclipse I knew it had to be him. He instructed me to follow him, so I did. For some reason that will never be known to me, he chose to drive east on Kingsville's Santa Gertrudis Ave. and over the Union Pacific Railroad. He then proceeded south on 6th Street and turned west on Kleberg Ave going over the railroad tracks again. This would have been fine if it hadn't been for the small train that held me there for a few minutes. I could see through the passing tanker cars that he had pulled into some address down the road. That address turned out to be Kingsville's First Presbyterian Church. I got down and entered the building; no one had arrived yet. Joe came out of two double-doors and asked me what took so long. I let him know about the train, he laughed a little.

The first thing he asked me was about what songs I knew. I gave him an oral list of some thirty songs that I had played and a short history of my musical past. At that time the door opened and a light-skinned baseball cap clad person come into the church. I could tell by his case that he was a trumpet player. Joe introduced me to Armando Botello and explained that he was the group's "other leader." The two then went off together to discuss matter of the group leaving me alone to welcome the rest of the group.

Little by little, one by one, I met the people that I could come to know. I met them all that day with the exception of Maria Figarelli, who had went to Venezuela to visit her family and homeland. I meet, for the first time, Pedro "Pete" Suarez and Enrique "Kike" Ortega. Pete was the guitarron player that I would later count as one of my best friends and advisors, Kike was a vocalist/guitar player that was coming into the Kingsville Mariachi scene. They were a set. Later I learned that Pete had taken it into his power to see that Kike developed properly as a musician should. I also met Armando Robledo, who played the vihuela, Joey Handy, who was a Vocalist/Trumpet player and Tony Moreno, the guitar player. The last person I met that day was Marivel Vela, a flute player.

I greeted each of these people and began to answer their questions. Who was I? Where was I from? What could I play? All this was cut short, however, shortly after Ernie Gutierrez arrived. As soon as he got there he too was taken into what I later discovered to be the piano room. They talked with him for about three minutes, then they retreated to another part of the church. While that was going on, Marivel and Lisa were telling me that being in the group was like. They told me of how they played gigs all over South Texas and how they had once visited the Astrodome for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Christine, who had gravitated to that room across the courtyard where Joe, Mando and Ernie; walked back and told me they were ready for me.

When I got to the room, I slowly opened the door. They sat in three chairs, Ernie to my left, Joe Figarelli in front of me and Mando Botello to my right wearing a long mustard colored choir robe. This produced a smile from me, but looks of distaste from Joe who wanted a professional aura.

Joe explained what he expected from his violin players and asked what selection I knew. I listed about 20 songs. They then asked me if I owned my own instrument and had my own car. I said that the instrument was mine, but I could only get to Kingsville. My 1981 Bonneville was too old to make distant trips. They then asked me to play them a sample of several selections. I began with a slow bolero called Julia, that my Grandfather has shown me from one of his many songbooks. I played it slow, made sure to make the proper tones and played with plenty of vibrato. When I finished, they asked for another selection. I felt I should play something that was standard, I played El Rey. When I was done, they asked me if I knew anything faster that had more technique. I thought for a few seconds and selected Jesucita en Chihuahua. I played it as best as I could, all sections including the section that was the most difficult for me at the time. Needless to say, they were sold. In fact, they wanted to know if I could start that night. I said sure, why not?

We then practiced as a group, the "play-by-ear" style that my Grandfather had taught me more that paid off. They then recorded me a tape of their arrangements to practice at home. Joe then sent me with Kike Ortega and Christine Perez to try to find me a uniform. I remember the two were fighting every moment I was with them. In fact, the only thing that escaped argument was the decision to eat at McDonald's. Kike was able to get me a uniform made up of several uniforms he had come to posses over the years. All that was missing was the belt and the galas", or botonaduras, that go on the pant legs of Mariachi uniforms and the then trademark personalized Cascabel belts.

I'll take a few lines to explain the importance of the Mariachi Cascabel uniform. In many ways one can trace the history of Cascabel in the various uniforms that were worn at various times (White Jacket on Black Shirt/Maroon with sash pre-1993, Blue/Cream "two tone" 1993-1995, Olive Drab/Brown 1995-1996, Kaki 1997-1998, and Basic Black/various ties 1998-2000). The uniform that was assembled by Kike was the Blue/Cream "two tone." That uniform would be the longest uniform that Mariachi Cascabel would place in service. It also marks what I like to call the "golden age" of Cascabel. This uniform was your basic "two-tone" type. It consisted of a Blue jacket with white "fringes" outlining the lapels and white "highlights" on the pockets. The jackets were worn over a cream colored shirt, sometimes white shirts were used when cream shirts were not to be found. The pants were "two tone," cream on the inner leg and blue on the outer area where galas were to be placed. Another set of pants exists which are inversely colored with blue on the inside and cream on the outside.

Uniform 1993-1994
The Blue/Cream "two tone" (1993-1995) was worn in Cascabel's Golden Age

The group I joined in that year would not be the group I would later leave in 1998. The early group was full of promise and chances to make it big. The music was, too many, awesome. The group often met at Joe Figarelli’s home, which at the time was a trailer on Kingsville’s John Lee street. The group sported flute players. The most difficult song that was played was La Madrugada. The group was very young; most people being in their twenties. Pete Suarez was the group's patriarch, offering the advice of many years in the business to all that would listen. Unfortunately, even in these early days, gossip and backstabbing were threatening to tear the group apart. This would be a major factor in the development of the group for the next four years.

The group’s leader was Joe Figarelli. Second in command was Armando Botello. Trumpet players both; at times they lacked the vision necessary to fully develop a violin section. Although they provided that the violin section have first and second parts, the sound they desired could not be achieved. I tried to explain this point many times, but since I was an outsider, it fell on deaf ears. You see, in Brass wind instrumentation sound is amplified by adding musicians. If a marching band does not have a powerful trumpet or trombone sound, the addition of one to two more trumpet players can compensate. In string theory, larger sounds can be obtained harmonically. Instead of adding more violinists, a strong sound can be reached by division of parts. Three and four part harmony is the key. A group with seven violins can be beaten by a group with four violins playing four parts.

The theory that Figarelli-Botello implemented did, however, give me the opportunity to meet some of South Texas’ best and finest violin players. In the early days I was with the group, the violin section was made up of Ernie Gutierrez, Christine Perez, Lisa Soliz and Jesse Rios. Ernie was a great influence on my playing and I am confident to say that it was playing and watching him for so many years that helped to improve my own sound. Christine and I never saw eye-to-eye on every point, but she showed me that in mariachi, as in life, there are people that will never accept you or your ideas. Lisa showed me that what Christine showed me was not true in all cases. Lisa Soliz and Jesse Rios were the only ones that really accepted me from the first day I was in the group. It is Jesse that I keep a special place in my heart. Jesse Rios is the finest person I ever met in my Mariachi, and later educational, career. He was the voice of reason and friendship when the rest of the group tried to tear its self-apart.

The first gigs I would ever play with Mariachi Cascabel were literally all "over the place." As with my first gigs with other groups, my very first gig with Cascabel was at the Catholic Church in Hebbronville for a wedding. We then sped to Kingsville and played a gig at the Knight's of Columbus Hall. The night finished in a hotel on Corn Products Road in Corpus Christi, Texas. At the end of the evening, I was approached by the group’s leaders, paid and given a few words on how things worked. Every 1st of the month a gig was taken out to cover expenses of the group; telephone, business cards etc. This fact, seeming necessary, would be a point of contention for years to come. Joe and Mando never once told me I was hired, I just showed up and played. I would do that for four years.

The Tales of the Wild Horse Desert was preformed the 18th, 19th and 20th of November 1994

In October and November 1994 Mariachi Cascabel practiced for its first great project of the mid-1990's era, a play about the founding of Kingsville called, Tales of the Wild Horse Desert , by Janell Kleberg and David Deacon. This play had to have been the biggest thing the people of Kingsville had done together in a long time. With as cast and production crew of 125 people, almost everyone of importance in Kingsville in the 1990’s had something to do with the production of that November 1994 production. It was a humongous project. There were schedules to consolidate musical selections to practice and actors to rehearse. Each cast member was given a special rehearsal packet with October and November colanders. Each day was rehearsal for someone.

I played the role of Chista, the camp cook. The play dealt with the life of Capt. Richard King and how he, and his family, built a cattle empire in South Texas. It was seen through the eyes of an old vaquero, cowboy, who told his story of a great trail ride to Abilene, Kansas to his young grandson. It went back well before the Civil War and climaxed in 1904 with the founding of Kingsville.

Mariachi Cascabel-Hacienda Records
Mariachi Cascabel became a group of Recording Artists in 1995 with the release of El Gusto Del Cascabel

Mariachi Cascabel-1997
Mariachi Cascabel remained strong in 1997

Mariachi Cascabel split-up in September 1998. I use the term "split-up," rather than "broke-up," because it was a split. Mariachi Cascabel would go on in just a different form. To use the term, "broke-up" is to say that Mariachi Cascabel dissolved. That was not the case.

Many of the people in the group back in 1998 will tell you of the attitude that the group had. Many people were tired. If you look at the final poster that Hacienda made for Mariachi Cascabel in 1998, you will notice the tired expressions on most of the people.

Mariachi Cascabel-1997
Mariachi Cascabel before the 1998 fall from Grace

The looks on the faces of Joe Figarelli, Tony Moreno and myself say it all. They were tense times. Years of pent-up frustrations and meetings, authorized and unauthorized, were finally showing in the attitude of the group. In some ways, it was the best of times. The group was giging, people loved it and Mariachi Cascabel was popular.

No one can say when the cracks began to form in the group, but what can be said is how the cracks spread. For years, Joe and Mando had been best friends.

Mariachi Cascabel-1996
Mando Botello and Joe Figarelli in Flour Bluff in 1996

It seemed almost impossible to even imagine Mando Botello and Joe Figarelli going in different directions. They often talked about how it hurt them to part down diffrent road when finishing the gigs. Joe would turn left for Kingsville and Mando would turn right for Corpus Christi. They had been through so much together, maybe too much time wears away any friendship.

As early as July 1998, I began to notice a change in the group. Joe Figarelli always liked for the group to eat as a group. People began to resist this, breaking off into little factions. There was too much intra-group politics. Joe had begun to get strict as the group prepared for an upcoming ballet foklorico show that Cascabel had been doing with Esmi Magee's Ballet Foklorico Ortiz for years. More and more people began to show resistance to doing this show again.

The internal politics of certain Mariachi groups can be more complex and dangerous than any in any soap opera. The 1998 Schism is a direct result of a failure of communications, ambitious motives and the need to change things that are already working. I chose to leave Mariachi Cascabel at that time. I explained to Joe Figarelli that I was becoming tired of the "mariachi life" and that I wanted to go out and look for a nice girl. We had played so many weekends in so many years. I needed more, I couldn't be single forever. I will never know if Joe fully understood my intentions. I wasn't leaving his group, I was trying to have what all the other guys had been allowed to have since I had got there. I was going to get a life, a girl and, just maybe, some respect. I was tired of being the "I told you so!" I'm sure that if Joe had listened to my advice, this whole chapter of my life would have ended differently. Since then, more people have listened to me; others have not. I guess being a historian always means saying; "I told you so!"

Texas A&M University-Kingsville (1994-1999)

One day when my friend Jimmy C. Salazar came to visit me from St. Mary's in San Antonio, he took notice to my usage of a particular word. When I was describing one of my adventures in Kingsville I made reference to "The University." He laughed, saying that he had never head anyone call where they went to college "The University." He told me that in San Antonio there were so many. This stayed in my mind for many years. Living in South Texas, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, or TAMUK, was the greatest center of learning in over 150 miles. More than that, to me it was the only "UNIVERSITY."

I had originally tried to write about my University life as part of the Cascabel Era, but my run in college was too different from my life in Mariachi Cascabel. This seems to be the case even though they occurred at the same time. 1994 was the year I entered Mariachi Cascabel, but it was also the year I began my term at TAMUK where I first pursued a degree in electrical engineering and then a teacher/historian, what I would become later in life.

The University would be a very special chapter of my life. Unlike high school, which is just the ultimate expression of kindergarten; it would be my time at the University that would give me almost all the character building I need. These were, at least at the start, lonely days. Texas A&M-Kingsville, which was Texas A&I University when I enrolled, has a freshmen orientation known as "Hoggie Days." Hoggie Days is named after the schools mascot, the "Javalinas." A "Javalina" is a small pig-like animal that inhabits South Texas, less that a boar and more than a pig. Anyhow, two girls accompanied me to this orientation from my hometown, Annette Garcia and Cindy Perez. We had a good time and got all our paperwork done. After that, I rarely saw them again. I once helped Annette with a chemistry assignment and saw Cindy years later as a mother, but for the most part my first two years were dismal.

Adding to this was the fact that I was "Internet illiterate." Days were spent drawing or sleeping in the library between classing. I visited most of the eating establishments in Kingsville as an individual. I had no dates. I rarely saw anyone from Mariachi Cascabel at the University. I, as you might guess, fell into depression.

This all changed when my cousin, Joe David Soliz, began his course at the University. He approached me some time in 1997 about commuting with me to Kingsville. At fist I thought it wouldn't work out. After all, my musical activities sometimes kept me in Kingsville quite late and I was sure that one of us would find a woman (girl) and the whole process would go to pot. I agreed to give it a try. Thus began a grand adventure that continues, in many ways, to this day.

One of the first things we tried was the Internet. I had been somewhat afraid of going into the computer labs for anything other than typing papers. I thought you needed some code to log on to the Internet there at the college. When I had registered they told me I had free Computer Lab service, despite the 5-dollar computer fee on the bill. This fear was with me until Victor and Julian Amado, high school friends of mine, sat across from me as I typed a history paper for Dr. Andres Tijerina's Texas History Survey Class. They showed me how to start Netscape Navigator, how to "surf" the web with "Yahoo" and "WebCrawler" and even showed me some nasty sites I would rather not mention. Thus, I slowly became an "on-line" person.

"Edge lines" Publications

More and more, I became more academic. I began taking my class writing more seriously. This was for one reason and one reason only; a website named We had found much to our glee, a place that would publish any and all of our works. Instantly we fancied ourselves published writers. Sadly, "Edgelines" no longer exists, but we saved a sample some of my writings from that period that had been saved on "Edgelines."

Publications surviving from ""
"Characteristics of a Good Friend" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1994
"The Light and Darkness of the English Moors" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1997
"Cardinal Newman and Apologia Pro Vita Sua" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1998

On the Edgelines-Circa 1997-1998
Three Chapters of a currently unfinished Story

"One the Edgeline-Chapter 1" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1997-98
"One the Edgeline-Chapter 2" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1997-98
"One the Edgeline-Chapter 3" by J.E. Carrales- Circa 1997-98

Also put on the Net at that time was Joe David Soliz "Battle of the Wild"
"Battle of the Wild" by J.D. Soliz-Circa 1995

I continued my studies and played with Mariachi Cascabel as a means of making money to finance my commute to the University. And what a commute is was, 28 miles from Premont to Kingsville, Texas everyday from August 1994 until my graduation from the University in 1999. While the University taught me about how to be a good teacher and historian, Mariachi Cascabel is where I learned the tricks to making a mariachi band function. I also polished my musicianship.

Mariachi Fuego

Mariachi Fuego 1998

During the fall of 1998, Mariachi Cascabel had been thrown into chaos by Amando Botello who had decided that he wanted to run his own group. So was born El Mariachi Fuego. Much like I had planned for my University chapter, I had planned to include this as part of my section on Mariachi Cascabel. I realized, however, that the two groups, Fuego and Cascabel, cannot be properly explained in the same text. While, in many ways, the early days of Mariachi Fuego resemble Mariachi Cascabel; it would be an insult to both groups to describe their history's in the same paragraph. Hence, I decided to explain the 1998 split-up of Mariachi Cascabel as part of that groups story and the formation of Mariachi Fuego in its own section. I also cleverly set them aside by my University years.

Many rumors on the subject of Mariachi Fuego have surfaced as the years have gone by. This has been made ever more difficult as the two groups began to take "pot shots" at one another in the winter of 1998. Many of the more vicious rumors that I was able to prove false will not be mentioned in this text at this time. In addition several rumors about my motives to join this group have also been "in the air." It will be here that I will state my position.

I had been proud to be a part of that new group. It was a fresh start. I believed it was a chance to see what it was like to be in a group from the start. I had a nostalgic feeling about it. It somewhat reminded me of my early work in Mariachi Del Rancho, a chance to grow in a new seedbed. I also felt that this new group would have less gigs than Mariachi Cascabel, this would help me in my quest to see what life was like beyond mariachi.

Some people chose to include me in with the group of people that conspired to overthrow Joe Figarelli as leader. This was not so, if you recall from reading The Cascabel Years, I made several attempts to warn Joe Figarelli well before the point of no return had been reached. You will also note that he chose to dismiss those warnings as my "paranoia" against Mando and Maricela. I was not part of this association. In fact, Mando was shocked that I had elected to join him. I expect it was kept a secret from me because they assumed I would tell Joe.

It is also untrue to say that I joined Mariachi Fuego because I hated Joe Figarelli. I had explained to Joe Figarelli my reasons for leaving that night in front of the Ramada Inn Bayfront. Years later, I heard a rumor that I had blamed Joe Figarelli for the diminished hearing in my left ear. That is not so, the incident of which they speak did occur at a practice in 1998 at Jones Auditorium. Several speakers and monitors were set up incorrectly and resulted in feedback that caused my right ear to bleed. This condition of diminished hearing that resulted from that incident was only temporary, lasting about six to eight months. Since then my hearing in that ear had been restored, as tests confirmed.

All in all, the first few weeks of that new mariachi went pretty well. We got some gigs based on local people who had heard that I was in a new group. Our first gig, as you might expect, was at the Catholic Church in Hebronville. We began practicing in diferent cities. Since Tony De la Rosa and Humberto Saenz were from Beeville, Maricela Amaya, Tony Moreno and myself were from the Kingsville area and Gabriel Gonzalez and Mando Botello were from Corpus Christi; it made sense to rotate practice in that manner. This was one of the innovations that I liked about this new group. Also gone was the first of the month, the telephone bill (since Mando began using phone cards to return calls) and all pressure that had been uttered in Cascabel.

There was a rivalry that began to exist between the two groups. First of all, most people in Mariachi Fuego did appear to have some grudge against Joe Figarelli. Some felt they were being denied basic rights, others felt the musical selections were not up to standard and most people disliked Joe's aggressive leadership style. This made many of the group very angry. When Joe called him about the instruments that Mando was using, a guitarron and vihuela owned and paid for by Mariachi Cascabel, Mando made it sound like it was harassment. When Joe threatened legal action, Mando threatened to respond with legal actions of his own. Tension roared when it appeared that Joe was at a gig that we were to have played. Rumors about Mando calling Joe's patrons and saying the group had broken up in order to steal the gigs flew on almost a weekly basis. Many of these allegations served to fuel the passionate anti-Cascabel feelings of Fuego group members.

Despite these rivalries, the group remained strong as we looked for another guitar player. Soon we had the jewel of all restraints gigs, Rosita's of Corpus Christi. Things really flared up when we were invited to perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It looked as if everything was coming up roses. We imagined that we had gone from rags to riches. I even began to operate a web page for Mariachi Fuego, complete with guest book and links.

Even though things were going well, I still felt like I was an outsider. It wasn't coming from the group members. Joey Handy, Gabriel Gonzalez, Tony De La Rosa, Tony Moreno and Humberto Saenz (my Godson); were my friends. I would go to the end of the Earth for them; all they need do is ask. It seemed as if Mando was trying to alienate me from them. He would make fun of things that I liked to do, including my work for the Civil Air Patrol. Make strange comments that I found offensive. He created a situation, to unspeakable to be printed here, that made my stay in Mariachi Fuego impossible. I confided in Tony Moreno and sought an escape from this uncomfortable situation. We approached Mary Lou Gonzalez of Kingsville's Mariachi Aguilas about joining her group. She said we should close all our chapters with Mango first and we agreed that we would do so after the Houston Competition.

The plan was to wait until after the Houston Astrodome gig, some time in February 1999, and then tell Mando we were walking. I would have kept this plan if it hadn't been for something Mando said outside the VFW Hall in Alice, Texas. He made a comment about a sensitive matter public ally in front of all the mariachi as we were discussing sleeping arrangements for the Live Stock Show. Had he not said anything, I would still be in his group today. What he said filled me with such a rage that I elected to tell him that I was quitting right after out Rosita's gig that next Friday. Tony vowed to leave with me.

The week passed and we played the gig. Afterwards, Tony and I approached Mando in the parking lot. It was dark, save for the lights from the neighboring hospital and from the assorted street lamps along Corpus Christi's Morgan Street. Tony went first. He told Mando he had to leave the group because he had to get a job because he wasn't making it financially. I on the other hand told him I was through taking his abuse and was quitting right then and there. He asked me if I would stay and help until Houston. I said not a chance. He responded by turning away, like an angry child, making no attempt to keep me. That was when I resolved that I would never be a permanent member of his group ever again. Mariachi Fuego is the only group that I reserve with that status. I will help them out if they need it, but I will never be "Joe Ely Carrales of Mariachi Fuego de Armando Botello."

Armando Botello is one of the best mariachi trumpeteers you will ever meet. He is also a very nice person. Mariachi Fuego is equally one of the best groups in Corpus Christi. What Mando and I have is a personality conflict that should never have had to be. I regret that this episode had to happen and bear no real hard feelings against him, but the events of that fall and winter 1998-99 are just to painful to fully reconcile.

Mariachi Aguilas/ Mariachi Kineno

Mariachi Aguilas 1999

To describe what was happening in the South Texas Mariachi scene during the late 20th century (very late, November/December1999 to be exact) one has to remember what we, as a nation, faced that winter. That was the count down to Y2K. Many jokes had been made about this event. Local radio host Happy the Clown joke that it meant, “Y tu que?,” which in Spanish translates to “and you what?” Most of the world was really scared that it was TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). Images of massive destruction, Nike commercials showing a hung over New Year’s Day parties running past National Guard tanks and out of control atomic missiles.

As history will remember Y2K a not event, it’s coming will be remembered as a very eventful year in South Texas mariachi circles. 1999 was a watermark for me. I had ended my first stint with Mariachi Cascabel in 1998 and joined Mariachi Fuego only to be left in what I will call disgust. While I delt with my final months in Mariachi Fuego, I was in secret negotiations with Mary Lou Gonzalez about joining her group, then Named Mariachi Aguilas. Tony and I would start as soon as we gave our notice to Mando Botello.

It was then that I began my brief, but educational and rewarding tour of duty with Mariachi Aguilas. We began playing the very next week and things went very well. I was really impressed by the fact that we took publicity shots right away. The group was smaller than Cascabel had been, but it was larger than Fuego was. The material they played was very different from the things that Cascabel and Fuego were doing. There was more of a connection with the people.

The group was made up of some people I’d played with, some that I had never played with and some I would never play with again. Kike Ortega was head male vocalist and guitar player. I had played with him in Cascabel some two years before. Pete Suarez was on guitarron. He too had been part of my Cascabel years and would be instrumental in my development as an independent mariachi musician. Mary Lou was on Violin along with J.P. Ramirez. J.P. was an encyclopedia of mariachi music and continued to amaze me to this day. He seemed to know every song of significance. I developed greatly under his initial guidance. I learned J.P.’s style, as I had done with Ernie several years before. All mariachi musicians should know that they must learn from people who have experience and knowledge. That is the only way to grow. If you want to make your own style, you must begin with what other’s know. Even a carpenter starts with wood and nails, they don‘t just pull them out of thin air.

Emilio Soliz, Jr. , or just Emmie, was also on the violin. Emmie is also very good on vihuela. His father, Emilio is a popular mariachi expert and well seasoned musician in the South Texas mariachi world. Emmie continued his career helping out various groups and became a renowned musician. Tony Moreno played vihuela for us and I continued as violinist.

Since then I have continued to expand my horizons. In 1996, I became a Knight of Columbus and rose to the rank of 3rd Degree Knight. I serve with the Premont, Texas Council 5348. I later transfer to Kingsvilles 2624. I also did my student teaching that year at Ben Bolt/Palito Blanco High School

The Beginning of the Civil Air Patrol Years of...

Joe Ely Carrales, III- Senior Member thru Second Lieutenant

My First CAP Flight

My Favorite Girl, Norma Mata, and Myself at our 1999 Holiday Squadron Dinner.

There are points in one’s life where one feels the need to lead a more dutiful life. The seed for my life in the Civil Air Patrol were planed back when I was in High School. While I was on the Premont High School Drama team my junior year, I found a patch and a nametape that bore the lettering “CIVIL AIR PATROL” in white on a blue background. I kept the patch where it remained for several months in my backpack. It might have remained there forever if not for the need of an English class report. My best friend, Jimmy Salazar, had beaten me to the topic of the U.S. Border Patrol. Our teacher, Mr. Bobby Galvan, had stipulated that each person’s report had to be unique. In other words, my report on the Border Patrol could not be submitted. I then did a report on the next best thing, the Civil Air Patrol. What started as a joke, led me to a research project I really enjoyed. Still, my years of service in CAP would be five years away and high school and the University were in my path. I kept CAP in the back of my mind until 1998, when my study of History was in my final years. It was then that I turned to the Internet and made communication with my first CAP contact, Capt. Chris Bujanos, CAP.

In June of 1998 I joined the Civil Air Patrol. The Civil Air Patrol is the Official Auxiliary of the United States Air Force. Capt. Bujanos directed me to a CAP member that had come the Kingsville to Study at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. This was the first time I would meet then TFO Juan F. Arredondo, CAP. Arredondo gave me my first introduction into CAP on the 1st Floor of the library at A&M Kingsville. My first mission was on 6 June 1998 when a rescue helicopter from the Rio Grande Valley was dispatched to aid an injured motorist and never made it. The CAP then went into action and I was there. I received a promotion to 2Lt. in April 1999. I began my service with the Air Force Auxiliary as a member of the Brownsville Composite Squadron/ Charter 42091. There I was under the command of Capt. Chris Bujanos and made many friends, including TFO Juan Arredondo and Major Edmundo Arizpe. I served my first CAP mission as a member of 42091(now TX091) in June of 1998.

My cousin, Joe David Soliz, agreed to join the CAP with me and we speed off 150 or so miles to Brownsville to begin our service. We marveled in awe as we entered the Confederate Air Force Hangar where the Brownsville Composite Squadron conducted its meetings. From that day, we were both hooked and dedicated to CAP. In August of 1998 we requested a transfer to the Corpus Christi Composite Squadron/ Charter 42026 (now TX026) in order to assist Capt. Ivan "Swede" Atchisson and his wife Lt. Gloria Atchisson with that unit's cadet program. At about that time I began my service as Webmaster for Group III/Texas Wing. There I committed myself to the three missions of the Civil Air Patrol and continued to work for a new unit in the Kingsville Area. My goal became renewed with vigor on 21 May 1999, when a meeting was held at the Kleberg County Law Enforcement Center where the first true seeds of that unit were planted. The actual formation of that squadron would remain in the workings to for a long time.

I also became a shelter manager for the Red Cross. This occurred while I was Student teaching at Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School in the fall of 1998. I had been detained after school, a student had been having problems with World History and elected to stay for tutorials. As I was leaving; I saw several, actually very few, teachers and principals gathering in the Cafetorium. I followed to discover that they were having hurricane relief training. I asked if I could join them. I figured that the Civil Air Patrol could benefit from having a member with such training. I was told that I could and that no one was ever turned away for such meetings. The main person in charge that day was a very nice lady named Jackie Terrell. She was from the Alice Chapter of the American Red Cross. We saw some videos and took a test covering what to do during a Hurricane. I kept the manuals and continued to study them.

That summer, Mrs. Terrell called me to set up some Hurricane Awareness meeting in Premont. We meet in late-June at the Premont EMS center; formerly the Premont I.S.D. Elementary School lunch room. The first meeting produced few results because very few people attended. It was decided by the Emergency Management Coordinator, Mr. Don Gibson, that the meeting be postponed until we could "get the word out." Wiser words were never spoken. The persons that had attended the first meeting went all out to make public the new date. Newspapers were contacted, flyers were put up and more "word of mouth" was spoken than a small town can stand. Needless to say, the next meeting was standing room only.

We did the same in the summer of 1999 and quickly got a chance to test our metal. This time it was in August, storm clouds gathered over the Gulf of Mexico and gave birth to a monster hurricane named Bret. So, in August 1999 I ran the Hurricane Shelter in Premont, Texas during Hurricane Bret. The storm did mild damage, but demonstrated that the Hurricane Prep Meetings we had in Premont at the opening of the season were well worth it. It was a long night that August 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. We set up the shelter long before the storm hit and signed everyone in. 2Lt. Joe David Soliz and I were the only two CAP officers in attendance.

Along with the Hurricane, I was knocked off my feet by another irresistible force of Nature. That was Norma Mata, my girlfriend. I have never been happier with anyone and I know of no other woman that has brightened my life like my Bella. Norma and I started out in an unusual manner, I asked her out to eat more that 10, yes 10, times before she finally said yes. I am very glad that she did. When she did say yes, I asked her to our annual CAP holiday dinner, almost two months in advance. She said she would have to think on it. Needless to say, I will always love her.

Y2K was an interesting experience. Aside from a few cellular phone disruptions, everything went well and was festive. I had played a gig near Freer, Texas with a friend of mine, Ralph Cuellar. That, as you know, was the last night of the 20th Century and everyone was ready to have a good time. I was, until we came back from Freer. I thought I would change into BDU's in order to handle some $100 worth of fireworks. This meant I would have to go home to Premont, change and then drive to my Grandfather's ranch. This plan was followed up to the point I had to drive the 5 miles to the ranch. Remember that the trip had been pretty routine all the way to and from Freer, Texas. On that short trip, I hit a large dog that was standing in the middle of the road as if it could not be killed. Well, it completely miscalculated. The dog was dead, my new car was ruined and my night was destroyed. How could something like that have happened?

As I entered the ranch (with my car's fiberglass facade in pieces) I tried to recover from that evil that had robbed me of what should have been the happiest night ever. We threw some meat on the pit and listened as the 21st century came all over the United States of America. Norma, my parents, my brother and myself then popped some bottle rockets on our ranch, heeding all possible fire safety and model rocketry guidelines (yeah right).

The new century rolled into Premont, Texas with a heavy fog. It was the thickest fog any of us had ever seen. We laughed to ourselves because we were still living. Didn't we know that the world had ended? I'm sure every doomsayer that evening was either drunk or getting that way. The new century had arrived and we were all, no matter how much we had wished we weren't, alive.

2Lt. J.D. Soliz, 2Lt. J.E. Carrales and 1Lt. J. F. Arredondo
January 2000 would be a great year for us all. As the days passed, and we attended more meetings. We began to have more function in our Civil Air Patrol unit. Major Arizpe had told us in November 1999 that they had planned a Squadron Leadership School (SLS) for some time in this new century. When we heard that Group III/Texas Wing was going to have it in Corpus Christi, Texas, we jumped at the chance. So, my cousin, 2Lt. Joe David Soliz, CAP and I attended an SLS in Corpus Christi, Texas on January 28, 2000. We had a great time meeting with members from our Group. There we saw our friends from Brownsville; Captain Bujanos, now 1Lt. Juan Arredondo and Major Arizpe. We learned many things about how the squadron is run and I gave a mock briefing to test one of the skills we had reviewed. It was a long weekend, but we did it. From that weekend on, we felt that there was stability never before felt in Group III. Brownsville, Corpus and Victoria seemed to be working in complete harmony. All was well, until...

A Change of Command ceremony was held on 19 February 2000 to install the new commander of Group III of the Texas Wing as well as new commanders from the Brownsville Composite Squadron (B-CAP) and the Corpus Christi Composite Squadron (CC-CAP). Lt. Col. Mucio Garza, CAP was installed as the new Group commander. Lt. Col. Garza has served with distinction as the CC-CAP squadron commander for nearly 9 years. In his non-CAP life Lt. Col. Garza is a registered engineer and Water Production Superintendent in charge of Water Production for the City of Corpus Christi. Assuming command of B-CAP is former Brownsville Cadet officer 2Lt. Ariel Merrell, CAP and for CC-CAP former Hawaii Wing member Mario Reyes, CAP.

I was appointed Group III Public Affairs Officer by Lt. Col. Garza on 19 February 2000 where I publish our Group's newsletter, Through the Air, Over South Texas . This newsletter is part of my plan to revive the CAP Public Affairs Program in South Texas. The First Issue was for March 2000 and covered a few events and promotions. It was one page, front and back. From the most humble seeds grow the world's tallest trees. With that fact in mind, I continue to publish.

A Tragic Turn

The Loss of My Grandfather
Ely Carrales
(March 28, 2000)

In our lives we all have moments that we use as mileposts. These moments can be happy or sad. This milepost for me is a tragic one. My beloved Grandfather, the man who taught me to play the violin, passed away on the 28th day of March the year 2000. Grandpa Ely left this Earth surrounded by the ones he loved, as well as the ones who loved him. He passed away in his home, his brothers, children and grandchildren helping him "to the door." As we stood there, eyes filled with tears, we knew that my Grandfather had touched the world and us with his humor, personality and, most of all, his music. I will always be aware of my Grandfather's memory every time I walk into a church and hear a guitar. Every choir that ever sings will always have a part of him.


Grandpa Ely was only the second person really close to me to have die. Back in 1996, my Grandmother Estella Saenz died of cancer. My Grandfather's Brother; Horacio Saenz, known as "Lacho", passed away in May 2000. Slowly, it seems, all the wonderful things of my past were slipping away. Long ago images of Sunday parties at the ranch, distant Easters and countless holidays going further and further away into the past.

I am glad that I was so lucky. To have know these people when they were in there prime and be blessed with so many memories of them is what drives me everyday to better myself and make our family as great as it should be.

A Turn for the Better

Summer 2000, Civil Air Patrol and Engagement
(April-July 2000)

April 2000 marked yet another change in my life. Tragic losses always pass as life begins to heal, stronger and more able to handle the stresses of life. Norma and I went to Lake Jackson to visit with her sister Tommie Ann Deleon, her husband Steven, their son Stevie and newborn daughter Emily. We had a great time, went to the mall and went to church. Lake Jackson is up near Houston where things are very different from South Texas. I didn't see a single Mesquite tree while I was there. Now, you must understand that Mesquite is a very popular tree in South Texas. It is favored because it is one of the few trees that has roots that run deep to find underground water. The trees in Lake Jackson are big and beautiful and everything is green. This was our first long distance trip together, we vowed to go back again.

I was promoted to the Rank of First Lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol in May 2000

My Civil Air Patrol career also began to prosper in these days. Our Group Newsletter was overflowing with news and articles by members of our Group. I was promoted to 1Lt and became eligible for the Leadership Ribbon. Corpus Christi was thrown out of their regular meeting place and we began to search for a new one. Also, Lt. Col. Mucio Garza began to assign his Group Staff officers.

Back at Memorial Middle School, the last week of school proved to be both good and bad. I enjoyed the company of the students as the school year ended. We took our team, Team D, to Super Splash Adventure in Edinburg, Texas. The Kids had a wonderful time and I am glad that we got to share those moments together. Mrs. Cynthia Santana, Mr. Gustavo Garza, Mrs. Sophie Pena, Mrs. Mari Garcia and Mr. Danny Vidal bonded on this trip. I only hoped that the next year would be just as good. We said good bye to Mr. Leo Ramos, our longtime Memorial Middle School Principal, over a stupid petition that had been circulated among the teachers. Never again will I ever participate in any such political action. That type of matter just does not fit in our education system, especially when it sours success and effects good people's lives. Mr. Ramos will no doubt go on to run Harvey Elementary School to levels of greatness. That could have been Memorial, to say that we can't advance. What could have been exists only in the mind of great thinkers, but never really exists.

My first full year of teaching was over and I had a great time. I still think about the kids and will make it a point to visit with them next year at the high school. There is a special attachment that a teacher makes with his first group of kids that make him care for them until they graduate.

Angel Resendez

My Girlfriend's little sister, Margie Angel Resendez, graduated form H.M. King High School that May. We threw a big party for her at the Kingsville Woman's Club. This was my chance to meet more of Norma's family. I also got the chance to play Mariachi for them as well. The night was wonderful, the food was good and the company was the best. This was the first time my parents were fully exposed to Norma's family. My Mom and Pop had meet Norma's mother one time at Wal*Mart, but only briefly. This was the first time the families began to bond.

Rio Grande Valley Road Trip,
McAllen, Mexico and Mariachi Estrella

Summer was in the air and, for once, there was time to have fun. It was now June 2000 and the wonders of life were our to grasp. On 10-11 June 2000, Joe David and myself were invited to attend a Corporate Learning Course (CLC) sponsored by the Brownsville Composite Squadron. The event was to be held on the University of Texas at Brownsville Campus in Brownsville. In addition to this, Pricilla Garcia, the director of Mariachi Estrella, booked us a gig in Harlingen, Texas. It was evident that that would be a Valley weekend. Norma and I traveled to the Rio Grande Valley for the first time together. We would, however, not be alone. Jessie Rios and this wife, Patsy Rios, joined us. It was our first road trip with the Rios' and much planning went into that adventure.

The first plan involved going to Mexico and staying at a hotel in McAllen. We would drive out Friday after Jessie's music lessons, get to the hotel and travel south of the border to Mexico. There we visited shops and mercados, Mexican market places, and walked the streets of Reynosa, Mexico. It was a rainy, humid and gray day. Despite that, we had fun looking at various curios for sale. I made the mistake of wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes talked about this in June 2000. He said, while talking about the Tourism industry, that a tourist wears a special uniform and that that uniform marked a person as a tourist. Well, needless to say, every little child selling something and every vender vending something tried to flag me down. They tried to make me deals I couldn't refuse. I played along and answered them in Italian. It worked!

Patsy Rios (left in picture) and Norma Mata (right in picture) at the Rosa's House, Me and Jessie Rios clowning around at a restaurant in McAllen.

We then drove through Mexico to Nuevo Progreso. The trip was relaxing and I tried to absorb the landscape. I marveled and Mexico's frontier countryside. I saw the state of Mexican Railroads, a Mexican Army Post and the open areas that surround Mexico's gateways to the United States. You see, inland Mexico is very different from la frontera . The border communities are highly "Americanized," that is, they are influenced by the need to sell, and buy and act like United Staters. This is the bulk of their industry and income. While I did see several factories, the bulk of the people are employed in the shops of the mercados. Countless doctors, dentists and pharmacies selling all manner of services to the public. Many United Staters, driven by inflated medical costs and even higher pharmaceuticals, go to Mexico to buy Penicillin, Amoxicillin and other drugs for as much as 200% less than in the United States. It's an irony of modern times that the citizens of the "greatest country on Earth" have to go to a so-called "Third World Country" to buy medicines.

We cam back from Mexico and relaxed in the hotel for an hour or so. We contacted many of our friends down there. I called Pete Suarez and even convinced him to play a gig with us. Jessie contacted his long time friend Alan "Sonny" Rosa, the songwriter and arranger. We had dinner that night at "Don Juan's" in McAllen. Sonny offered us his house to spend the night; we thanked him and went back to the hotel. Upon seeing a cock-roach emerge from a wall socket, we contacted Sonny and came to the conclusion that we might take him up on his offer after all.

The next day I drove to Brownsville and went to the CLC. Many of the Group's finest officers were present to learn and instruct on that hot June weekend.

Brownsville Commander 2Lt. Ariel Merrell, CAP, Major James C. West, CAP, Corpus Christi CS Finance Officer 1Lt. Maria D. Castro, CAP, Corpus Christi Cs Admin. Officer 1Lt. Fidel Alavrado, CAP, S/M Jaime Leal, CAP, S/M Nydia Ruiz, CAP , Maj. Marisela Montalvo, CAP, Brownsville's former CO Maj. Chris Bujanos, CAP and Major Edmundo Arizpe, CAP. Major Frances Garza, CAP was the MC of the CLC and provided much needed drive. The activity went well and a light-hearted spirit descended on all present. On Saturday, the staff and students enjoyed a wonderful lunch at "Los Camperos" in Brownsville. There we all had a great time. "Los Camperos" is one of the finest eating establishments I have ever had the pleasure of eating at. The service was excellent and the decor was breath taking. Waiters wait on you in formal attire and meet you needs with grace and caring. I vowed to return and suggest that, if you are in Brownsville, you visit it.

Later that night we played our gig at a place called "Casa del Sol." It turns out that their are two places of that name, one is a cantina, a bar, the other is a civic center. Prissy Garcia neglected to ask for an address when she took the gig and we, as with Murphy's law, showed up to the wrong place. Upon looking on the Internet, it seemed that his bar was the correct place. After looking at the surroundings, it was obvious that that place was no place for a wedding. We then sought out the correct place and played the gig. Things went well and the gig was successful. We later met Sonny and his wife Bell at a restaurant where it was a custom to eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.

The First Week of July 2000

Norma and myself on my very surprising 24th Birthday!

If the tragic events of the start of 2000 had stood alone, I would count 2000 as the darkest year of my life. I do not believe that God gives us hard times as punishment. God's reasons for sending us adversity, as unknown to us as they are, must be to make us really love and cherish the good times.

I will begin writing about the best week of my life starting with an insignificant event that took place on Saturday the 1st of July the year 2000. It was on that day that Group III/Texas Wing had its first meeting in Corpus Christi. This was my official transfer to Group III/Texas Wing and appointment as the Group 3 Training Officer. We discussed several CAP activities including initial training plans for 2001, the appointment of CC-CAP/G3 Staff and the Rockport Air Show that was to take place on the 4th of July 2000. Now, normally a CAP event of this scale would have been a grand point for me, but the events that would follow would be so happy that the Group meeting is almost forgotten in my mind. In fact, I am writing this to preserve the eclipsed memory of it before it is all but gone.

What does remain clear about that day was stage 1 of my plan. In late-June I had discussed with Jessie Rios my plan to ask Norma an important question on my birthday. We quickly agreed to keep this a well-kept secret. I also told my Cousin Joe David Soliz, who was working as a waiter at the Oasis Restaurant in Premont. I had taken Norma out to eat there, and also played a gig there with Kike Ortega's Mariachi Kineno. I informed Joe David of my plan as quickly was I could, he told me he was going to Austin, Texas for the Forth and would try to make it. That occurred on Friday 30 June 2000. The next day, after the G3 meeting, I called Norma to tell her that we had to divert to Alice, Texas to pick up a "CAP File that had been left there by the Brownsville squadron when they had done a Counter-Drug flight." Norma said that it was O.K. since she was getting her hair done at Joanna's in downtown Kingsville, Texas. We went to Alice on Highway 44 and went to the J.C. Penny's. I asked a jeweler there to show me some wedding rings and she showed me a nice set of beautiful antique-looking rings. I feel in love with them and ordered them on the spot with my seldom-used credit card. The Problem, I wasn't sure of her size. My mother tried to get it from her by trying on Norma's rings, but my mother had no idea what her own size was. I then tried to ask her in a strange way, Norma told me that she either wore an 8, 8 1/2, 9, or 9 1/2. I took an average and told the jeweler to resize them to a 9.

Stage 2 was simple, keep the whole thing a secret until the Fifth of July. This would be hard since I would have to tell almost everyone else to help me pull of the remainder of my plan.

The Third of July was a day that we set aside to celebrate our Nation's 224 birthday. We would celebrate with fireworks, mostly rockets. I bought hundreds of rockets, 245 to be exact. In all, our entire ordinance was over 800 explosive or combustible items. We invited family and friends out the Ranch. I was determined to make up for the rude events of Y2K where, as you may remember, my car had been imprinted by a dog. I got dressed in my CAP BDU's and took out the old barbeque pit. This time we tried pork ribs, slow roasted on the old red barbeque pit. I helped my father bring my Uncle Steve's black barbeque pit from his trailer. We used the black one to roast the other meat. We broke bread with Jessie and Patsy, my relatives, my parents and Anthony. J.D. Sanchez also made a guest appearance. We popped fire works for three hours and still had over a hundred left at the night's end. We were going to Norma's Ranch the next day, so we figured we could pop them there. There was only on small glitch, rockets are illegal in Kleberg County. While we were on my ranch, in Jim Wells County, we could pop rockets to our hearts content. On Norma's Ranch, in Ricardo, Texas, we were in Kleberg County.

That next day was the Forth of July. Norma spent the night over at my house. Wait, before you dirty minded people start to talk; she slept in a different room. We woke up early and went to the Air Show in Rockport, Texas. We drove over there and spent the day among flyers and their aircrafts. It was hot and sticky. We were lucky we took some chairs or I'm sure we would have collapsed. I had some waffles and got two news stories for our newsletter. We then drove to the Ricardo. The party was out of this world. All of Norma's family was there. It was fun. We played a little music, ate a little barbeque and popped some fire works. Keeping the secret was getting harder as the beer and liquor flowed. I should mention that I don't drink, remember the joy of this secret. Everyone had to know except Norma and her dad in order for the plan to be successful. Luckily, loose lips were not to be found that evening.

Evening came and morning followed. Stage 3 was now in effect. I had told Norma that I had bought some really expensive luggage, I had said this because I had let it slip that I had a "special surprise." I was sure that she suspected, so I made up a story about some expensive "Italian Luggage." I also wanted to see what she would say about buying such an expensive thing. She said that it was O.K., anyhow we needed good luggage. I then told her that I had cancelled it, hoping this would throw her off the track even further. I resolved that, even if she did know, I was going ahead "full blast." My family was going to take me out to eat at Sirloin Stockade in Kingsville. I had told Norma's mother, Margie Resendez, that I planned to ask Norma to marry me on my birthday; while Auntie Irma, one of our good friends and protectors, kept Norma locked in a closet. Juan Resendez, Norma's stepfather, had planned to go to the greyhound race track on the 5th, but was talked into going to the Sirloin Stockade instead by Norma's mother.

I had to go pick up the rings in the afternoon in Alice. I had told Norma that I had a CAP function to attend to in Alice. I know what you must think, so many lies. I was quick to let Norma know that I only lied to her if it was a good surprise. The rings were finally ready at 2:00 p.m., only 5 hours before the party. I also bought some plastic farm animals. Everything else (the how we got our food, who was there, and how I obtained the courage to ask her) was in the hand of God. I will forever be grateful to Him for all that He has done for me and for the forgiveness he has given me in the face of my sins, wickedness and evil. We got to the restaurant. In attendance were the following: My parents, Norma's parents, Norma's sister (Tommie Ann) Norma's Sister's Husband (Steven DeLeon), their daughter (Emily), Joe David Soliz, our friends Jessie and Patsy Rios, Norma's little sister (Angel), Angel's boyfriend Michael Peralez, Angel's friend Melissa, Norma's other sister Crystal, Crystal's boyfriend Alex and my brother Anthony R. Carrales. We sat in a PDR, Private Dinning Room, and ate. I keep asking Norma for my presents, chiefly because I planned to ask the big question after that. She kept telling me to wait. This took a toll on my digestive system; I began to feel the effects of nervousness. I played in front of 60,000 people at the Astrodome, but I had never been more nervous. I received my cake in the usual restaurant manner and blew out the candles.

I turned 24 with the permission of my friends and family.

I again asked if it was time for the gifts, I was again told to wait. Everyone had a piece. Finally it was time for the gifts. I got them, everyone a new tie. After the crowd calmed down, I made my move.

I got up from my chair and began to thank everyone for coming and making the day special. I then walked over to a bag that I had Tommie Ann hide before things had started. I then said, "I'm going to break tradition a little and give some gifts myself." I walked over to Norma's father and sat in the chair closest to him. "Sir," I went on, "I don't know if you remember. But back...a few months told me that you wanted two cows and two horses for Norma." I then pulled them out of the bag that I had hidden. "Well, here are the two horses and here are the two cows. I would like to ask for Norma's hand in marriage." He paused a while, gave off a serious face and spoke. "Is that all you want, just the hand?" The crowd laughed. "Well," said I, "I'll work on the rest."

I then turned to Norma and began, "Norma, I would..." Before I could even properly start she asked, "Did he say yes?" I stopped, stuttered and, upon seeing him confirm the affirmative, began again. "Norma, I would like it very much if you would be my wife." She the said yes, making me the happiest man in the recorded history.

I asked her to be my wife and she said yes!

The Longest Wait
(Fall 2000-Spring 2001)

I am a very patient man. At least that’s what I say. I can hold small parts and glue them together for 2 hours on my various model train projects and teach some of the toughest generations of kids since the Children of the Corn to the point of loosing my voice. All that aside, this wait...the one to the wedding...was extremely long... at least for me. At the time I first wrote this, I had about four months to go until July 2001. July 2000, one the other hand, saw me turn 24 and engaged to a very beautiful woman. We then began the long wait that everyone told me was going to pass quickly. I have a problem being “in-between” two stages. Before I was promoted in the Civil Air Patrol and had the title of “Senior Member,” I felt uncomfortable. I was neither a cadet, a “non-com” or an officer. I had to explain to everyone what my title was. I am reminded of Benny Goodman’s song, It’s Gotta be This or That when I think of such positions. I couldn’t call Norma my wife nor could she call me her husband.

The wedding is my biggest single project and source of enjoyment. I have always wanted to be a husband and father, the marriage is the ultimate expression of my life’s long dream. To have a wife is a source of great happiness and security; the day of the wedding is the pinnacle of any man’s existence. Men who say that they are independent are fools or lonely. Loneliness is the pit of human emotion, stronger even then the feeling of love that breaks it. That is the paradox.

People, men and women, need each other, despite what feminists or macho male chauvinists have to say. Any position that takes a side of the spectrum, such as the above two, and does not acknowledge the colors between is an anti-humanistic cancer that threatens us all. I sat at lunch with a group of female teachers on day in the teacher’s lounge and I discussed it with them. “Would it be a better world if people didn’t take sides? ...a world where people didn’t care if you were a man or a woman, or what color you were or where you were from? ...a place where no one hated you because you were a man or if your sister broke your brother’s heart?” They all agreed that such a world would be a great place, but it was an ideal that could never become reality.

The simple fact is that sexism is as dumb and stupid as racism. A man hates a woman, or vice versa, forgetting that they are both people. People that would die in the pit of loneliness with out another.

Love is the most precious emotion, delicate and pure. I love Norma, plain and simple. I know this because I need her. Norma is like waking up in the morning and realizing that you are alive. Loving Norma means that I have no other important goal but to make her happy. I love Norma because, on the occasions when we become cross with each other, I don’t sleep for days. When she is quiet, something must be wrong with the world. When her voice is gone, I am nothing.

Norma and I wanted to marry within the Holy Catholic Church. We spoke to Father Richard of St. Joseph’s Church in Kingsville. We needed to meet with him and discuss this matter. I was very impressed by Father Richard and he told us that we would have to participate in an Engaged Encounter Weekend. I had never been to a Church retreat before and was very wary of what would happen there.

In addition, Norma would need to complete the sacrament of Confirmation. For those reading who do not know what Confirmation is, I will explain. In the Catholic Church there are seven sacraments, a sacrament is a holy ritual that allows believers to attain Grace by emulating events in the life of Jesus Christ. The sacraments of the Catholic Church are Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Sacrament of the Sick. I will explain them for the benefit of non-Catholics.

Norma completed her Sacrament of Confirmation. Next up...Marriage!!!

One of the most important religious doctrines in the Christian religion is Baptism. Catholics, like most Christians, undergo Baptism when they are very young. This is to cleanse the soul as Jesus was cleansed by John the Baptist. It also removes the “original sin,” committed by Adam and Eve in Eden. Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. In the sacrament of the Eucharist bread and wine are turned into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is consistent with Luke 22 where Jesus Christ transforms bread and wine at the Last Supper. Reconciliation is the sacrament of confession. Sins are forgiven by confession in a Priest, the disciples of God. Confirmation is the sacrament where you confirm your baptism and accept God and his wisdom into your life. Marriage is a sacrament in which two people are joined in the body of God’s church and with each other. Marriage is a Holy bond that must not be broken by the carnal desires of human weakness. Holy Orders are the way you service for God. Priests, deacons, the Pope and husbands and wife are examples of Holy Orders. Sacraments of the Sick are also known as last rites.

Remember, practicing Catholics believe that Jesus Christ gave them these sacraments as a tool to obtain God’s Grace. I have come to believe, as the Bible and my Catholic teachings confirm, that the sacraments are such tools to obtain Grace. One must, however, be sincere and accept Jesus Christ. It isn’t enough to “go through the motions” and expect heaven. The Sacraments alone will not get you to heaven. Their works alone cannot get you a “free ticket.” It is the Love of God and of your neighbors that will help you find Grace. I feel that I can obtain Grace through the sacraments, anyone who starts this should have conviction. One should not proceed with doubts or because there are forced. Your relationship with God is a personal one that you make. If you want to be Catholic, go for it with all your heart. If you want to be Protestant, that is your path to Grace. I am fond of saying, “A person can get to Houston by many ways. I could drive in on one of hundreds of roads, I could ride in on any of a dozen railroads, I could sail in by boat, I could fly in or I could walk in. That’s how heaven is, except Heaven is much bigger than Houston.”

The Cascabel Years (Take Two)

Cascabel 2000

At the beginning of the year 2000 I was a Mariachi free agent. This was a fine turn of events from the perspective I had at the time. I was recently engaged and walking the long road to the alter. My free agent status made it very hard to have steady mariachi income. My school check gave me enough money to pay for the wedding in spades, but part of planning a wedding is planning the future. The School check needed to be saved for the future. I was doing fine, but was also missing the security of building a group and working to a goal. I made Mariachi Estrella my primary group and played with who ever needed an extra violinist.

While this was transpiring, Joe Figarelli's Mariachi Cascabel was prospering. They had fully recovered from the 1998 Cascabel/Fuego fiasco. They had Eddie Mendoza on guitarron and Vicente Barrera on Harp (a first for Cascabel). It all seemed like the turmoil of the past was over. Joe had asked me to join his group in late December of 1999. He asked if I would help him out at a gig at the K.C. Hall in Kingsville and for some gigs in Corpus Christi. I turned him down, things were going very well and I felt that he had enough violinists at the time. I did not want to become just a face in the crowd. I did have a lot of fun that day, but I had gained kudos as Joe Ely "El Mariachi Loco" Carrales and had no desire to become just another violinist. I told him that I was not ready to join the group. I also said that I didn't want to make any long lasting choices before the turn of the century.

Joe Figarelli continued to tell me that he would hold an opening in the group for me for a few months or, until he got another violinist. I told him to call me when he needed me and that I would be glad to help him, but I was still going to freelance a bit longer. He remained cool and we parted from the K.C. Hall in good standing.

The waves of time and society churn more violently than any terrestrial ocean. People come and go and minds change on an almost daily cycle. Friends are dedicated to each other one day and turn to bitter enemies the next day. So is the cycle of the mariachi band. Most mariacheros are like a dam, holding back emotions and ambitions until it snaps like a balloon. Other mariacheros are like leaves blowing in the wind, the drift from place to place. Mariachi groups too are as different as hot and cold. Some groups operate with military discipline, others as loose as that sock in the wind.

Mariachi Cascabel was in a precarious situation during the summer of 2000. Eddie Mendoza, a native of Corpus Christi and former mariachi bandleader, was ready to form a new group in Corpus and gave Joe Figarelli his notice. With Eddie would be going several players from Corpus. I do not know the full story and will not attempt to say more. Whatever the reason, Mariachi Cascabel was once again in a state of flux.

Early in July of the year 2000, Tony Moreno called me and let me know that there was again an opening in the group. Tony gave me a short explanation of what had happened and that I should be ready for a call from Joe Figarelli. The call came that evening.

Joe told me that he needed a violin player and offered me the position of section leader. I told him that I would help him out as long as he could on a month to month basis. In other words, I would be there until thing got bad. I had been burned in too many groups to deal with a new string of bad politics. Additionally, I told him that I didn't want to ride in the back seat ever again. This was a point of respect; I had ridden in the back seat 80% of my first "tour of duty" and did not want to revert to those days. I was to be treated with the respect of a musician, and would return the compliment.

I was back. I resolved to improve the condition of the group and re-establish Mariachi Cascabel's Internet presence. I also had some money set aside to record the group again. I was read to promote and go. The main point that influenced my decision was the need for steady money to pay off the up-coming wedding. This time I would not be alone, Norma would be at my side. Going through life with an equal partner is the best way to make sure that you will both be strong in the face of hardships.

Our first gig as Cascabel 2000 would be in Beeville, Texas. Our group was made up of Ernie Gutierrez, Isabel Salazar, Lisa Soliz and myself on violin. On trumpet we had Joe Figarelli and Rolando Reyes. The Rhythm section was made up of Tony Moreno on guitar, David Gonzalez on vihuela and Vicente Barrera on Guitarron. Later J.P. Ramirez joined us, briefly. J. P. began to show the violin section some new innovations on some of the old parts. In the end Cascabel 2000 was not for him. April Santa Anna also played violin for us in that period.

We soon had steady restaurant gigs in Alice and San Diego, Texas. We began Friday nights at the Taqueria Jalisco in Alice and finished the evening in San Diego at a restaurant called "La Sierra del a Silla." We prepared music for these places and were beginning to draw crowds in Alice. San Diego was a different story. We lost the San Diego gig before the end of the year. We played at the Alice restaurant until about mid-December. This was no set back though, we found ourselves playing ore and more engagements in Alice due partly to the restauants. Alice was becoming a mainstay for us. Every weekend for months included at least one Alice gig.

All was well and we were without problems until one weekend night when I need the night off for a personal engagement. It seemed that David Gonzalez and Vicente Barrera had got in some sort of disagreement. The result was that Vicente would not be in the group with David and, since they were cousins, April would not be in the group either.

This was, at least to me, a bolt from the blue. I had not expected such a move. But, fortunately, the new group was strong enough to recover. David switched over to guitarron and our music was again back on track.

The first big engagement of the new group was played on April 21, 2001. At the Bishop Old Tyme Fair. This is the annual "spring fling;" Cascabel has played for years. The last one I had played was when I was doing my student observation assignment in Bishop in 1998. We made the cover of the Kingsville Record.

Memorial Middle School in 2000-2001
We began the year at Memorial Middle School on August 7, 2000; the students began the next day. We had a new principal and a new set of teachers. Our new principal was Jose F. Esquivel. Team D, which had been my team, was combined, with Team C. Mrs. Santana was our team leader and math teacher, Mrs. Wanda Smith was out ELA teacher, Mrs. J. L. Wheeler was our science teacher and I was the American History teacher. Mr. Gus Garza had been transferred to another team. Additionally, our teams were given a name chosen by us. Team C was now Team Enterprise.

The students thought that this new name was kind of a "corny" idea. One student commented that, "having a team named after a rocket ship isn't really that cool. This was a general feeling among the students." At the beginning of the year this confused the students who were used to the old alphabetical system. This was seen as a general start-up problem, most students adapted pretty quick.

This was a whole new group of children, some of which I got a sample of during the previous year's T.A.A.S. math class. This was also the first year I had a challenge class. I would, before the end of the year be certified to teach this class. Challenge students are very difficult cookies. Smart, brilliant and motivated; they represent the culmination of the best students chosen for their abilities and talents far beyond those of mortal students. Yes, challenge students! Able to leap the next level in a single bound.

As a whole the student body of out team was very diverse and healthy. As seen in their ability to be loved. I only hope that I can be the guide they need to excel. Every student is capable of really great things. Especially in this world where its more popular to worship the dumb and stupid. Our students need positive role models to counteract the effect of the "dumbing down" of America. It is sad to say, but many smart children are lost when they try to be like characters they see on television that are purposely dumb and attracted too things that are stupid, like drugs and alcohol.

This year would be very innovative. I would get a computer; I would work more in the library and even teach the children how to march. I would get to complete my second full year of teaching with students that I could always remember.

I helped in a new project that Librarian Nancy Hauske intended to introduce to the school. At Memorial, during the lunch period, a national news program for Children called "Channel One" was shown to the students. Normally, my students didn't get to watch it since we were out in the Portables and didn't have a cable "hook-up." Mrs. Hauske, who had acted as our librarian since 1999 thought she could spark renewed interest in the program by filming (video-taping) a short 7 to 10 minute segment called the "Brahma Break room." This news show featured a cast of 8th graders and guests in the form of a news program. Announcements, school news, birthdays and all manners of materials were presented to the school populace. Common recurring characters were, Mr. Ismael Maldonado, the 8th Grade Principal; Coach Charles Anders, 7th grade Science Teacher; and myself.

Notable performances included the show on Dr. Pepper Clones. This segment actually has a story and can trace its beginnings to the afternoon 8th period. Normally, to relieve the pressures of the day, I spent some or all of my conference period in the library. It was quiet and it had the Internet. Unexpectedly, I began to befriend the 8th period library aids. One in particular was Marie Holt. Marie enjoyed looking up strange bizarre, but clean, things on the Internet. Of these included railroad "wigwag" grade level crossings, the World's Largest Catsup bottle and, of course, Dr. Pepper clones. What is a Dr. Pepper Clone? This story actually has its roots in my college days with Joe David Soliz. We were looking for web sites on cloning and discovered Dr. Pepper clones. You know, drinks that try to taste like Dr. Pepper, but aren't really what the doctor ordered. Well, we had a show with several Dr. Pepper Clones (including Dr. Stars and Stripes, Dr. Wells, Dr. B, Dr. Parade and Mr. Pibb to name a few), we then had an informal taste test.

Another, filmed when Mrs. Hauske was out, was filmed outside in front of the glass windows. People would pass by and make strange faces. In yet another, I gave students ideas on science fair projects. All in all, it was great fun. The crew would tape early in the morning, at about 8:00 a.m. It was mostly student driven, written and produced.

One of the issues of the day was the coming of my new car. I began the year telling the students that I was going to get a new car. That car was the Chrysler P-T Cruiser. I ordered it before the school year began from Love Chrysler in Alice, Texas. My brother worked there as a porter and then as a mechanic. By the 9th of April 2001 it had still not arrived. This was over 7 months in waiting. I was warned that the car's popularity might delay its arrival, but I grew weary of having to explain why I was not driving it.

A Memorial Tribute to Baldemar Gutierrez
Baldemar Gutierrez

(March 12, 1941-March 5, 2001)

One mainstay of my childhood was the many visits of my Uncle from Arizona. I can remember looking forward to the visits with happiness and anticipation. Baldemar (Marty) Gutierrez was my Grandma Estella's brother. He had been in the U.S. Air Force for 6 years and met my Aunt Olga in Tucson, Arizona. They lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. My mother recalled visiting them several times. He worked for the Corpus Christi Army Depot, where I attended my first Civil Air Patrol meetings in Corpus Christi and where Norma's Uncle Bob works (life has a funny way of using the same setting for different stories).

My earliest memories of his visits go back to when I was in Kindergarten in the early 1980's. He, his wife Olga and their two daughters (Annette and Christina) would come down to visit Texas. They would stay at my Grandpa Cat's house for most of the stay and visit the surrounding friends and relatetives throughout the vacation.

When I was in about the fourth grade, we searched through my great-grandmother's old house for a Halloween costume. It was then that I first saw the air force uniform. It was too big to be used and would remain in that house for many years. From time to time my brother and I, who would play in the dirt at the small gardens my Grandma Stella planted around her trees, would sneak into the old house to see the uniform. We would always, despite parental orders not to, go in the old structure and search for the “air force hat.” We never found it.

I had noticed, each time we ventured into the house, that moths and other insect too unspeakable to be described here had ravaged the rest of the clothes. I was sure that it was only a matter of time before the insects would damage the uniform. Still, being a child, I was given to permission to save it.

The uniform remained in my mind for years and I formulated plan after plan to wear it. Finally, when I was in High School as a senior the uniform finally fit and I wore it to school on a "Dress-up" day. It was a big hit. Everyone at school loved it. When the day ended, my mother was all for sending it back to "Ama's House." I protested that it needed to be preserved. My mother's objections were based on the fact that the insects might still inhabit the uniforms and eat all our new clothes. The uniform had to be saved. So with out any knowledge toward my parents, I took it from the old house and stored it in the closet. I dusted it off and insured that I was aired our on a regular basis. Additionally, we began to use it in a series of short films we produced. This had the effect of restoring it to a presentable state. The wearing of the uniform released decades of dust from within the fabric and insured those would-be insect diners would not cause any further damage.

My decision to join the Civil Air Patrol was partly influence by my Uncle Balde's service in the U.S. Air Force.

Uncle Balde was always a treat to listen too. He always had a story to tell us. He told us about how he had trained guard and attack dogs in the air force and about how he had done many other things all over the country. Once, when my brother and I began collecting coins and old dollar bills, Uncle Balde told us about the coin he had seen and owned. He told us about a twenty-dollar bill that he had that said "HAWAII" on the back. This sparked some research on my part and I learned that such dollars were issued in World War II so that, if Hawaii fell to Japan, they could not use that currency against us.

Once he visited when the John F. Kennedy assassination was big in the news. Oliver Stone had released his feature film on the event and the media was explaining new theories on the assassination. Uncle Balde added his input. I remember him vividly saying that, "Lyndon Johnson was the crookedest man that ever lived" and that "he had something to do with it." My Uncle Balde was the most outspoken man I ever met. This is a quality that I try to imitate in my own life. His ability to spark interest in me and my brother about how thing are and why things are a quality that we must all strive to develop.

On one of his last visits to South Texas, an Easter, there was a great celebration. Happiness echoing back through pictures shows the last great happy moment of the 20th century for our families. Soon after, Grandma Stella would pass away and everyone would begin the "drift." That sad moment when a close family breaks into several smaller close families.

Eva, Elva, Balde and Estella

That Easter will always be vivid to my family and me. It was wonderful. Hundreds of colored eggs and good feelings mixed with the ignorance of the evils that the next years would bring. It was at my grandmother's house in the early spring. Balde and his family came down and we decided to spend the weekend there, instead of anywhere else. My cousins from Dallas, Monica and Marcos, were there. So was my cousin Anna Mariah from Falfurrias, Texas. From my Uncle Balde's family was Nettie and her husband Henry.

Henry will probably always remember how I accidentally hit him in the head with an Easter egg. It was not on purpose. I had intended to break an egg with a tennis racket. I threw the egg up in the air and hit it with the racket. The egg, instead of breaking on the racket, instead sped through the air and headed hit him just off center on his forehead! This left him with a small lump.

I am grateful for the happy memories. I feel that God gives us little funny moments to help to take away the pain we feels when a loved one passes away. With these small stories we can recover from any loss, defeat and depression and repair any rift we might experience.

Uncle Baldemar Gutierrez passed away in March of 2001. He will never be forgotten as long was we hold him in our hearts. My only regret was that I never got to visit with him in Arizona. We never really traveled anywhere when we were growing up. That was a shame. If I had been able I would have gone in a heartbeat, but a child with no reliable car and over protective parents has no ability to manifest his own destiny and head west.

It is my goal to travel in the summers, when a teacher recovers, to visit all my relatives and see the United States. Arizona will be foremost on my list. I want to see the things my Uncle Balde told me about, I want to meet the people he knew and the musicians that he described. Then and only then, can I find some solace.

The following poem came to me when I was teaching class. It’s hard to mourn the loss of a loved one in our modern world. There is work to do and meeting to attend. There is music to play and students to teach. God has mercy on me at such times; he has given me poetry to release the pressure.

Lines to my Uncle By Joe Ely Carrales, III April 9, 2001

The winds of the desert tend to blow,
The leaves of our God to and fro,
But in the heat so sharp and so grand,
We follow it meekly, our heart in our hand.

When a leaf from us is parted,
We all stand the wind broken hearted,
Yet, none are ever so lonely,
If they stand with memories only.

To us our dear one is not hear us,
But be sure that he'll always hear us,
When we need peace, love or assistance,
He will be heard, from a distance.

But, winds of our deserts will always know,
The man we miss here, in heaven's sweet glow.

What can be said when you lose a loved one; many people live their life and never find the right words. We are gifted with long lives and have to remember those who have gone before us. We must preserve them with our memories and make sure that we pass on their bits of wisdom. For Uncle Balde, I intend to continue his spirit in my life and let posterity know who he was and how great he was.

From the Bonneville to the PT Cruiser
The Automotive History of Joe Ely Carrales, III

The Automotive History of Joe Ely Carrales, III

We, historians that is, measure the ages by the tools and implements of the day (i.e. the stone age, iron age etc.). The society of the Industrial Revolution is no different, except with the possible exception of having more tools and implements in faster cycles. If the 19th Century’s popular culture was marked by a railroad culture, then the 20th Century was marked by an automobile culture.

In reading this autobiography, you have seen my history in terms of classical learning, music and by looking at the events as they unfolded. Popular culture, however, dictates that I now measure my triumphs and sorrows with and automotive hue.

When it came to driving, I was a relatively late learner. Most of my friends had been driving since their feet could reach the pedals. Being from a ranch required that a person learn the driving arts as a form of daily life. I, as known to most, was from the city. Had lived in my home on Bernice Street since I was a infant. I had never come close to “needing” to know how to drive, so I was never taught.

When I entered the Junior High years, my father took me for a total of two driving lessons. The first was without incident, the second end with me running a local denizen off the road into a drainage ditch. Both of these lessons were in our red DODGE truck. I never again went on a driving lesson with my dad and my mother soon took over as I entered high school.

The only problem with my mother was her tendency to “side seat drive.” She would alert me to non-existent hazards that would cause me to flinch. I would step on the break or jerk the wheel. I was then yelled at of driving carelessly. Believe me, you would freak out too if your passenger suddenly yelled out at the top of her lungs “A CAR! LOOK OUT ! A CAR!” when that car was still several (more than 3) blocks away and hardly with vision.

My driving was not improving and my only remaining confidence was erased by my mothers ludicrous warnings and superfluous lessons. I had finally reached my junior year and was now eligible to invite a date to the prom. I had asked a girl, she said yes and then no. This brought me down, but my depression had got me a date. I was now going to the prom. “WUNDERBAR! WONDERFUL! MILAGROS!”...but, a problem. I would now have to drive.

Years later, as I became more familiar with the Civil Air Patrol cadet program, I kept being reminded of my 1993 Prom night. You see, a CAP Cadet has to “solo” as a part of their training. I, too, had to solo. My driving was terrible. What I was lacking in maneuverability I made up for with nervousness.

The Prom went well, the driving was a disaster. I was in the biggest, most awkward car we owned. The big brown 1981 Pontiac Bonneville. This was the car to end all cars. I often joked that I was in good shape because, if one engine gave out, I would still have three to reach England. It really was a bomber. It was also a cumbersome vehicle to drive in the crowded streets and one-lane back-roads of Premont, Texas. Added to this was the uncertainty of night driving.

This episode led me to pursue a drivers license and I, as all small town boys and girls must one day do, enrolled in DRIVER’S ED. I should have realized that there was trouble the first night me met as a group. All my long-time friends had gathered with their parents and listened to Mr. Salvador Chapa, our principal and future driver’s ed instructor, talk about the expectations of the class. Afterwards, we returned to our cars and Frank Vera had locked his keys in his truck. I learned what a “SLIM JIM” was.

And so, after unlocking his vehicle, we began our quest to become official drivers. This included some time in the classroom and that we all take a test to see if we had enough wits to be drivers. This also meant that we would have to hone our skills in the old “RED BARON,” a somewhat older version of the classic Driver’s Ed Car. Mr. Joe Soliz was the director of that particular operation. We would have many taquitos form various restaurants as we learned to drive. Mr. Soliz even partook of lunch at my Grandma Stella’s house.

Life after Driver’s Ed was easy, yet still my still was lacking. I would spend my final High School Days and Early University Years behind the wheel of the Bonneville. My early Cascabel experiences were included in this adventure with the BIG BROWN CAR that had belonged to the Salvador Montemayor family, my Grandparents and finally me.

In the Bonneville, I would...1) Spin out getting on Santa Getrudis Ave. in Kingsville with a full car load of Mariachi Band Members... 2) overheat numerous times in numerous hard to reach places and...3) as a topper, run over a horse on Highway 141 when being late to a gig on West Main Street in Alice.

Let me explain...well...uh...?! Number one, we were late to a gig at the Southgate Mall in Kingsville, it had been raining and the roads were wet. I had a full carload of people Ernie Gutierrez was in the passenger seat with several sombreros, the back seat was overflowing with Figarellis and I stepped on the pedal. We spun...I will never really know what they mean by “turn into the spin,” because what I tried didn’t seem to help.

Number two, the radiator and other coolant systems on the Bonneville were as reliable as a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. If I was in a hurry, or if it was an important event, it would overheat. All other times it was ideal!

Number three (oh boy!), on our way back from playing an engagement at the Bayfront in Corpus Christi, Texas we were separated from the others. The Bonneville was not a speed demon and we were left in the dust. Tony Moreno, myself and a very pregnant Gracie Garcia were completely lost in South Texas. After remaining in that dazed condition on the front roads of South Texas, we made our way to being lost on the back roads of South Texas. Eventually we made our way to Highway 141.

Sometime in the darkness of the Wild Horse Desert night, a horse had slipped off a trailer onto the road and remained there undetected. It was discovered by my cars left front tire. We must have passed over the head because we hit it with great force. Force enough to produce an impressive sound and cause the car to list 45 degrees for about 20 seconds. The car then hit the ground with a force enough to make us a groan. I fought to retain control of the car and, somehow, recovered as if nothing had happened. We were all stunned. The Bonneville had preformed a stunt only witnessed on the Dukes of Hazzard, it went up on two wheels.

After all these incidents with the Bonneville, alas we had to part with it. My aunt Alma C. Adamez had bought a new car and had agreed to see us her old 1986 Dodge Lancer. It was a wonderful car. Compared to the Bonneville, it was state-of-the-art. It had a tape deck instead of the familiar, yet useless, 8-track player. It also had push-button radio. Truly, the Lancer was a fitting automobile.

The Lancer survived several ordeals that made the Bonneville’s adventures seem like nonevents. The two most remarkable were the flood, the Victoria Crash and the spin-out on 141.

When I first ventured to Kingsville and met Joe Figarelli, he lived in a trailer home in a stable portion of Kingsville. It was located in a trailer park that was next to a creek. This fact in mind, it never flooded there. As the years moved on, the Figarellis moved to a home in, what I would have called a safe-area. This was not the case. One overcast day after a gig, I went to eat at the Casa Garcia with Jessie and Patsy Rios. It began to rain. I paid little attention and continued to eat my meal.

The town had flooded. We were hard pressed to cross the rapids that, just hours earlier, had been streets.

I called the Figarelli house to let them know where I was and they told me that my car was underwater. I laughed. When we actually arrived at the house an hour had passed. My car was, in fact, under water. I cried.

It was soaked. Water was all over the inside. It pooled in the foot areas and the seat was a sponge. A cellular phone I had under the seat was ruined. Water was in the glove compartment and the gear changer. Water even came out of the tailpipe when I tried to start it.

Jessie Rios helped we to deal with the situation. We did what we could. First, we bailed the visible puddles out with several 44 oz. cups I had collected. The water we bailed looked like tea. This was cause by a combination of dirt, dust and rug pigment that had dissolved out of the rug and penetrated into the water. The we took it to a local car wash and used several dry vacuum cleaners to suck up any excess water. These machines would short out from the wetness, we used a total of three. Lastly, we took the car to one of Jessie’s friends and they dried the engine wiring and replaced every wet part with a new dry one.

My car limped home. The normal 30 minute drive took 2 hours as I tried limp home. The car would drive quite well for about three miles, then start to sputter and then die. I would then coast as far as I could and turn it off, say the Lord’s Prayer and start it again. This repeated itself many times, until the familiar lights of home were on the horizon.

From the flood, the car made a full recovery. It was with out major incident until we played a gig I 1998 in Victoria, Texas. Every year, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce hosts a large Cinco de Mayo celebration in its downtown park square. As always, we were asked to play there. My Future Godson, Humberto “Bert” Saenz, had become a member of Mariachi Cascabel and was soon a regular source of transportation for the group members. I tried to take my vehicle from time to time as no to appear to be mooching off the others. One such trip was this Victoria trip.

Victoria is a 2-hour journey from Kingsville. We had taken three vehicles in regular convoy. In the lead was Mando Botello’s blue Mighty Max Mitsubishi, the Lancer was second and Bert’s Ford Taurus was in the gunner’s slot. As we entered Victoria, to the sound of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s Zorba the Greek, we were stopped by a red light. The blue truck stopped, I stopped and Bert’s car continued to grow larger in my mirror. Soon the sound of tires screeching began to grow more and more audible. I threw it into drive as soon as I could and ran the red. Due to this quick action, my car was spared major damage. I had a crushed tailpipe and a bent bumper. Bert’s car was not so lucky. My jolt forward had spared us the impact, but Bert’s car had gone under mine as I drove off. As a result, his front end was more wreckage that automobile. Steam was escaping from the ruptured radiator and glass form his shattered headlights filled the street.

None of us had paid attention to the two Semi-trucks that nearly broad sided me as I went through the red light, nor the hub cab from Bert’s car that slammed loudly into an object before us. We were in trouble once more. We played the gig and I traveled home with a full crew of sore mariachis. Again the car made a remarkable recovery.

The fatal incident for the Lancer came on the Highway 141. Maricela Amaya and myself had agreed to give vocal and violin lesson to the Premont High School Mariachi. One day, when I was driving with Maricela to the lesson. A large vulture swooped down on the car and we spun out of control. Since the car had no air conditioning, we had the windows down. One minute we were on the road, the next minute we were in the ditch covered with grass and dust. I drove the car until it was hot, then pushed it. Finally, we were within enough distance to use a cell phone to call for help. My Grandpa Cat came and got us.

Driving the car hot spelled the death knell of the Lancer. This had cause the heads to crack. Like a lame horse the Lancer would have to be sold or shot. It would cost more money to repair the Lancer than it took to buy it. We sold it and I began to use a 1991 Ford escort that had belonged to my Grandpa Cat. Thus, the “Silver-streak” became my vehicle for 1998 and 1999. But it too was defective and soon I would be force to take a bold step. I would by a new car.

My first new car was a Pontiac Sunfire that was gold in color. It was a big bold step indeed. I felt the need to return to my Pontiac roots, but large cars like the original Bonneville were not to be found in the late 1990’s. My parents had scoped out several vehicles as I taught my first half year as a history teacher at memorial. One was a 1999 Sunfire. I loved it from when I first saw it, tested it once and purchased it. It was great. It was a bachelor's mobile.

Despite the numerous vehicles that I had had, I paid special care in treating the Sunfire with respect. I washed it more time in the first month that I had washed the Bonneville and the Lancer combined. I vacuumed the seats and had the oil changed regularly. All was well.

The only damage to the car was a large scratch... oh, and I nearly forgot, the New Years Day Dog that nearly destroyed my life. All this was fixed, however, by the results of the last accident. I lent Norma the car on afternoon before our wedding and she returned it with a gash. This was fixed by a miracle of modern automotive genius, FULL COVERAGE!

This is the point where we return to the regular chronology of this autobiography. As you may well remember, I was awaiting the arrival of the PT Cruiser. It finally arrived on April 23, 2001. It was glorious. The students loved it, other teachers loved it (and were asking for rides) and, best of all, I loved it. It was the car the world had built exactly for me.

Here lie the links of Joe Ely Carrales, III
These are all excellent links that I maintain, or am associated with. Thank you for visiting this page and you are most welcome to return. Soon other pages will be added soon. Take it easy all you cool Cats. More to come...
Visit my other links of interest
Group III/ Texas Wing--Civil Air Patrol
Battle of the Wild
My cousin Joe David's Page. A great Science-Fiction story in production.
Group III Weather
Texas Wing Unit Pages
Corpus Christi Comp. Squadron
Brownsville Comp. SquadronMaintained by my friend 1Lt Ariel Merrell, CAP
McAllen Comp. Squadron
Victoria Comp. Squadron
Group III/Texas Wing
Hurricane Survival Manual
Through the Clouds, over South Texas
Anthony Rey Carrales