Crystal City, a small south Texas town was known for two things. It was where the once famous La Raza Unita Political Party was born and it was also famous for spinach. They even have a statue of Popeye in the middle of town.
We were working putting a new sewer system all over town due to government grants that probably were sent there as a result of all the political strings that were being pulled at the time.
I was still involved with Nelson Lewis in those days. His crews had been on that project for around a year. He figured sending an all Hispanic crew there would be the most effective way to get along. Politics were involved in every decision made. The job had become so bogged down that nothing was being accomplished. Nelson asked me to go down and see if I could finish it. I think they had worn him out.
I was young and brash I suppose. I was 25 years old, but I had an intensity about me. I spent the first couple of days developing a plan of attack for finishing the project. It was mostly a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up. I had a meeting with the Engineers and all the City Department Heads. I laid out what we were going to do to wrap up the project and that I needed each and everyone of them helping me. I’ll never know what the transformation was, but from that day forward we never had a minute of trouble out of anyone. I always wanted to think they saw me as “The Enforcer”, but I’m sure it was closer to them just wanting this irritating Gringo gone and out of their lives.
The Worst Of The Worst
We had worked around raw sewage with its horrible gaseous stench for months. When we got to the very end of the project we had one last line to run. It was right out in the middle of nowhere heading out south of town to the sewer treatment plant. We were digging along and broke a 12″ diameter pipe that carried a green sludge, pot liquor, from the Del Monte process plant where they canned spinach to the sewer plant. Before we knew it we were knee deep in that sludge. It was up to us to repair the broken pipe.
That crap smelled worse than any human waste you could imagine. And it was slicker that snot. The whole bunch of us were continually slipping and falling. After several hours we finally got the line fixed and back in operation. We all looked like green Martians.
You couldn’t wash that stuff off either. The whole crew smelled of it for days. I never was a spinach eater but since that experience, I cannot walk in a kitchen with that stuff cooking without getting sick.
I think that green slime could easily be classified as toxic waste.