Tommy Vick is a long time resident of Del Rio. He has lived in town and now lives a few miles outside of Del Rio. He has worked the railroad all his life and currently enjoys retirement. He is a close friend of our family.
Q: Would you please state your name.
A: Tommy Vick
Q: Mr. Vick, What is your date of birth?
A: February 1, 41
Q: Where were you born?
A: Del Rio, Texas
Q: So you have lived in Del Rio, all of your life?
A: Not yet!
Q: What High School did you attend, when you were a teenager?
A: Del Rio High School
Q: Did you go all through High School?
Q: What grade did you get out?
Q: How were the classes back when you were in school?
A: Compared to
Q: Compared to how education is now.
A: I guess itís probably the same, but I donít go now so I donít know, it would be hard to answer.
Q: What kind of values did the schools try to teach you?
A: Well you know I had some very good teachers I think; still some of them are friends of mine to be honest, fair.
Q: Did you work while you were in High School?
Q: What kind of job did you hold?
A: Oh I did labor work for my father and my uncle building houses
Q: How was the pay then like what you got compared to how pay is now?
A: Oh it was very, very small then if you got a dollar an hour you were lucky
Q: After like High School how did you choose your career like how did you decide what you were going to do for the rest of your life?
A: Well I had a friend that worked for the railroad so I decided to go work for the railroad
Q: When you first started the railroad what was your job like what was your?
A: I was I was a laborer
Q: And what kind of work did you do to help out for the railroad?
A: Track maintenance
Q: Is that what you started as?
Q: Have you made any advancements since then or have you just stayed as a rail worker?
A: I was a track foreman
Q: And what kind of things did you do as a track foreman?
A: Well you supervised the track maintenance which could be a tie gang, rail gang or could be just general maintenance, depend on what type of job you bid on.
Q: Did it involve a lot of work, when you had to go out and do something?
A: Oh yes, it was, it was a lot of work. Of course after I got to be a foreman, I was supervising instead of working, I didnít have to work as hard as I did when I was a laborer.
Q: Have there been any serious problems with the railroad or any derailments through the time youíve been working?
A: Oh yes, quite a few derailments
Q: Could you like tell me one of them that you remember pretty well?
A: Well like I said there were quit a few, I remember at Shumer a very bad one they um, a train set out some cars at Shuman and went back to pick up the rest of the train and I actually I guess they forgot where they left their train and ran into their own train, and killed some people.
Q. About, how many causalities?
Q. How long did it, were there still bodies when yaíll were uncovering everything or were there just?
A. No they had just removed em. I did work one derailment where there were still some bodies, not bodies but body parts laying.
Q. Did you have to help like clean up the tracks and fix the tracks or what did you do to help out?
A. Well, we had to remove all the wreckage you rebuild the track depending on how much damage but usually you put new rail and ties and ballast.
Q. After the accidents do they like check out the railroads more to make sure they are safe like perfect?
A. The government standards say the they inspect the track twice weekly so then of course theyíve always done that as far as I know they still do it.
Q. When was the first time you were married, like before you started with the railroad or after you started the railroad?
A. Before I started
Q. What age did you get married at?
Q. Did you have any children from that marriage?
Q. How long did you, did you get divorced in that marriage or are you still with her?
A. No, I was married twice and divorced before I had any children
Q. Are you currently with your second wife?
Q. Were there any economical influences from the railroad for Del Rio?
A. Oh yeah, I think the Del Rio is probably one of the highest, the railroad is probably one of the highest paying jobs around Del Rio. Itís either the railroad or the Border Patrol.
Q. And has it helped the economy by helping like different products get here faster has it helped the economy that way?
A. Oh yes a lot of businesses, you know, they rely on the rails for their supplies, merchandise.
Q. Besides the railroad for being an economical influence, what do you think the Laughlin Air Force Base has contributed to the economics and the expansion of Del Rio?
A. Well theyíve brought a lot of people to Del Rio, and they buy here and live here itís helped the businesses quite a bit and the schools
Q. How has it helped the expansion of Del Rio though has it helped us expand like out toward the base?
A. Business, yeah I would think they built that way, out toward the base. Didnít use to be anything out there.
Q. How much has Del Rio grown since your life time?
A. Well itís suppose to be 35,000 now I can remember when it was half that
Q. How were the businesses back when Del Rio was real small?
A. Well of course there werenít as many of em, and they were, they were good businesses but like I say there werenít very many of em, they did well.
Q. Were their a lot more people coming in from Mexico back then?
A. Not as many, as compared to now.
Q. Do you think itís a good idea to have more people come over; does it help our economy here, for more people from Mexico to come over?
A. Well, thereís some who come over to spend money, some that come over to take money.
Q. Would you expand on what you mean by take the money?
A. Well, thereís people who come over here, they can go to schools free, they have free breakfast, free lunches thatís not helping us. They get free schooling and they donít pay school taxes and they go to our hospitals free of charge get all medical free that donít help our economy. It comes out of the citizenís taxes, its taxes payerís money that theyíre not contributing, theyíre just taking, and you know that doesnít help us.
Q: Do you think theyíre taking our jobs also?
A: I think theyíre taking some jobs, yes.
Q: ok, and also, what has the building of the Amistad Dam done for Del Rio?
A: Well itís uh, of course the lake is a, it brings a lot of people in. Fishing, bass tournaments, things like that. Itís a, it brings in a lot of tourists.
Q: Were you around when the dam was built?
A: Yes, I was.
Q: Did you help with it or know anyone who helped build it?
A: I knew a lot of people that helped build it; I didnít personally work on the dam. My father had a tire business and uh, and we did a lot of work on the tires for the people that and the company that built it.
Q: How long did it take them to build the Dam?
A: Oh gosh, I canít remember. A couple of years or better, I, I was, I mean I just canít say for sure.
Q: How is the lake now compared to how it used to be, is it smaller or larger, or about the same?
A: Well when they first built the dam, they started catching water and they let it get real big. It was a lot bigger than it is now. Actually they let it get into flood stage. Tried to make it a big lake and they did.
Q: What did they do to stop that, did they let more water out on the river?
A: Well yes they uh, I forget the exact year but it was, uh, the 70ís I believe. They had a big rain above us, they had to let it out cause like I said it was in flood stage, and they had fifteen inches of rain up above us. And they had all sixteen gates open and it flooded the Vega then. Thatís when the Vega got flooded out.
Q: How close do you live to the Rio Grande?
A: I live right on the Rio Grande; the water is right on the grass of my yard.
Q: And during that flood how far did the water go up to your house or how did it affect you?
A: Are you talking about the flood of 98 now.
Q: Either one of the floods.
A: Well on the first flood I didnít live here, I lived in town. Lived out by the lake, and in 98 it didnít affect me other than I couldnít get out, I didnít lose anything in my home. We were trapped in here from the duck pond and the only way we had out was through the duck pond. It was on the road and we couldnít get out for about two days.
Q: Do you think anyone here suffered as many tragedies as they did in town?
Q: Do you think there are any advantages to living outside of town than there are living in town?
A: Well that would depend on the individual. Personally I like living out in the rural area, I donít, ya know, have the hussle and all this that you do in town, uh, I have more privacy living out in the country.
Q: Out on the river how are the neighbors; are they close by or do you keep in close contact with them??
A: Here on the Vega I donít have any door to door neighbors, uh, the Dubyís are my closed neighbors. They live about a block away. And they are real nice people. Good neighbors.
Q: Do you ever have gatherings of friends?
A: Quite often.
Q: What do you do at your parties out here?
A: We barbeque, we uh, have a bunch of musicians friends, and we, we play. We have music barbeque.
Q: Do you sing personally at these parties?
Q: What kind of songs do you sing?
A: Old country and western.
Q: Do you make them your self or do you kind of find songs that youíve heard?
A: I do both. I sing uh, I sing songs that, that are common today. I have written songs.
Q: How many people usually come to these types of parties when you sing?
A: Oh, Iíve had em anywhere from 25 people up to 200 people. Depends on how big a party you want to have you know.
Q: Living on the river have there been any problems with people coming from Mexico?
A: Oh yes. Anyone thatís lived here, long enough on the Vega has had problems with illegals coming across.
Q: Has there been any major problems?
A: Well, other than getting a bunch of merchandise stolen. Thereís been one wounded and on killed. Course that made all the papers. Patrick Borderlong, as a matter of fact heís in the pin right now for killing an illegal that was robbing his house.
Q: Do you think it was right to put him in jail for defending his house?
A: I think they should have given him a reward. He was uh, the law plainly states that anyone fleeing from your house in the process of burglary and you feel it is the only way you can retrieve any tangible property of yours, you have the right to use deadly force. I canít see where he did anything different than that. And yet he went to the pen for it.
Q: If something like that had happened to you, would you have shot at the person?
A: Iíll have to take the fifth on that.
Q: Did that case effect anyone on the river?
A: It affected everyone I guess. No one feels like the man should have been punished. You should have the right to protect your property, and everyone I know feels that way, because, of course on the jury when they tried him there was one Anglo and the rest were Hispanic. As you know he didnít have very good luck. I donít think you could try that case in Val Verde county and get twelve people who werenít who werenít prejudice.
Q: Because of this incident did, or were any laws changed or any rules changed for people coming into your house?
A: No, the law still stayed the same.
Q: Besides the problems with people from Mexico crossing the river have there been any other problems like drug trafficking?
A: Oh thereís quite a bit, during the season, they have what they call a harvest season, thereís a lot of drug trafficking, a lot of it.
Q: How do they do it, do they float it to the river or put it across and have someone pick it up?
A: Both, they float it across and some brought across in vehicles, boats or rafts or whatever.
Q. Have there been any big bust?
A. Oh yes, right, just right above me here, they busted over a thousand pounds at one time. Which three hundred pounds is usually average.
Q. I read something in the paper; about an address change for this road will you tell me some stuff about this?
A. Unbeknown to us they changed our street number, street name without telling anyone they just changed it, from Vega Verde to Cienegas and now weíre in the process of having it changed back. We have a petition going around to get it changed back to Vega Verde. So I donít know, they didnít have to do anything like this to change it but we have to do all of this to get it changed back. But we about got it done.
Q: If they change the address, how will it affect the residents?
A: Well they donít have to change our address; they just changed the street name. But em, when youíre coming out here, when you come to the Duck Pond, everyone knows Cienegas you turn to the right to Cienegas, left goes to Vega Verde. And if both of them are Cienegas itís going to be very confusing, if they send a fire truck or an ambulance out to a residence they donít know which way to go, right or left when they come to the Duck Pond.
Q. For that problem, what would the residents have to do clear for which way for emergencies to go?
A. Well weíre getting it changed back, so cause everyone knows that this is Vega Verde and north of here is Cienegas Terrace so if you told them to come to Cienegas they would get to the Duck Pond they would go right, the opposite way from Vega Verde is. It would be a costly delay if your house was burning or if you had a heart attack or something. Could be crucial.
Q. Could you tell me some of the advantages and disadvantages of living on the river?
A. Well your advantages would be uh, living out in the country thereís no heavy traffic, uh, and itís peaceful, quiet, thereís a lot of beautiful views out here you know. Riding up and down the river, a lot of folks just come out here to site see. And itís nice living out here, live right on the river. Kids and grand kids can go swimming. People take floating trips. Have Sunday barbeques, take floating trips, fish, it, itís real nice. And you have the disadvantages of living out here next to Mexico. You have the thieves that come over; constantly you have to out for them all the time. They steal things, anything they can pick up. They break into your homes and still the personal belongings. They tear up your house, and thatís a definite disadvantage. The law, they do the best they can, it takes them longer to get out here where in town they might be right behind the corner. Out here we theyíre not, like we only have one or two deputies for the county sheriffs office on duty at a time and theyíll be on the other end of Val Verde county. The Border Patrol is our main help here. Theyíve increased Border Patrol quite a bit. And thereís always a Border Patrol around here. You can their office down here, or a lot, a lot of the Border Patrol are real nice, and they come by and give you their cell phones number. Yeah so you can usually get a Border Patrol within minutes, if not sooner. That helps a lot. Of course we have, we donít have trash pickup out here on the river, we have burn holes or barrels or we haul our trash off, where in town you can get trash pickups, regularly. Out here we canít get that. And thatís an advantage or disadvantage, but of its well worth it. We donít have TV cable out here, well but we donít have any problems because we have satellite. Which is a good or better than cable. We donít have city sewage, which is natural living out in the country. I donít know the neighbors across, just north of us have, sewage disposal over there. I donít know how they got it, we donít have it. And theyíre rural also. As a matter of fact their sewage plant is on our side of the tracks, ya know. We have their sewage disposal plant, but we donít have sewage.
Q: How is the water? Is it drinkable or do you buy your water?
A: Well most people have to haul water to drink it. The, a few people have wells here and they are good. My well here, the water is not good. I have a well, you canít drink the water. And I have neighbors who have good wells. Itís a hit and miss proposition on drilling a well. I would say there are more bad wells then there are good wells. Other than that, some people pump out of the river water the lawns with and stuff.
Q. How does the county treat the roads?
A. Well, originally theyíd been treating them good, before that it was pretty poor. And we had big pot holes you had to. It was really unsafe. But now, now theyíve improved their fine right now, before that they were pretty bad.
Q. How long did it take them to get the road fully paved?
A. Way to long. Yeah, it took a long time; it took years to get them to do anything. But I can remember when this was just a trail out here it wasnít no road it was just a trail.
Q. How many people, or how many residents are out here?
A. I heard it, I, I canít remember exact donít quote me Iím thinking around three hundred.
Q. Are there more people moving in or is the road expanding more?
A. Well, the roadís not expanding, but people are, real estate sells out here. Ifís thereís something up for sale, well then it usually sells.
Q. Has the new gas line going to Mexico affected you, or do you think it will affect you in any way?
A. I hope not, I donít know much about it. I understand thatís itís going to be pumping natural gas into Mexico. But em, but em like I said I donít know much about it. I donít know the safety factors on it whatís the possibilities of having a accident, I have heard of these things blowing up. I hope that we donít have that here. But I donít know what kind of safety features it has. I wouldnít want to live right by it Iím close enough, but I want to live right close on it. Like some people have to.
Q. So after all of these disadvantages and advantages of living so close to the river, do you thing itís pretty fair living out here?
A. Well Iíve lived here over fifteen years so I can guess so. Iíd be a fool if I didnít like it, so yeah I guess itís nice, nice living out here.
Thank you for your time.