Editor’s Note: I interviewed and photographed Pedro Rabago Gutierrez several times over the last few months in relation to his opposition to Energy Transfer Partners’ Trans-Pecos Pipeline. I knew him as Pete Hefflin, as did everyone else around. Last week, Gutierrez was arrested by the Presidio County Sheriff’s Department, not for trespassing on a pipeline right-of-way or locking down on company construction equipment, as has become common for ETP opponents in Far West Texas, but for allegedly fleeing to Texas to escape legal troubles in California, a process that included adopting a false identity. You can read the details of his criminal history, which are extensive, at the Houston Chronicle. ¶ Below, Mark Glover, co-founder of the Big Bend Defense Coalition, and co-organizer of active resistance measures targeting the construction of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, writes of his relationship with Gutierrez and offers a firsthand account of the day of the arrest. It is a dispatch that suggests we don’t know the details of Gutierrez’s history, whether his convictions were just and/or accurate in the first place. Of course the alleged victims from years ago—including at least two young women—are absent too. It’s a teachable moment for many reasons and offers an opportunity to discuss from various positions the challenges of organizing, direct action, and lateral violence. In the future, we’ll be soliciting contributions to tackle these issues in more depth. —Greg Harman
Report from Two Rivers Camp
It Wasn’t Supposed to be an Arrest-able Event.
By Richard Mark Glover
The new guy poured Karo tinged with black over my head and it dripped into my beard. It stuck there. Crude oil. At the pipeline construction site across Highway 67 five others from camp wore gas masks and held banners. It took DPS less than three minutes to show. The sheriff showed in ten followed by the Border Patrol and a Texas Ranger. They read our FB posts.
We pulled off the stunt, then the new guy bellows, “See, no arrests.” He’d assured us it was a non-arrestable event. We let him orchestrate it. Now, I studied his face and tried not to use his high-amped confidence against him. We’re all brothers and sisters here united in the fight against corporate greed, I thought, as my stomach grumbled.
The post-protest crowd laughed, smiled easily, the drum beating in victory while a group of cops led by a thin deputy with Sheriff written across his T-shirt walked toward us. They stopped in front of Pete Hefflin.
Pete has been with Two Rivers Camp since it opened in late December. He was an elder of the Society of Native Nations, the Big Bend Defense Coalition’s partner at camp. Steely-eyed, sure, tough, with a menacing scar etched on his neck. He was in charge of camp security and had sent at least seven packing for various infractions including smoking weed at our drug-free, alcohol-free camp.
He led sunrise ceremonies and sang. His guttural hoops sparked the little bit of Quachita in me. Many of the men in camp looked up to him as a leader. I was one of them. He and I agreed: whoever died first, the other would sing at the funeral.
The questioning went on. Too long. Something was wrong. Then the deputies handcuffed Pete Hefflin.
Four women from camp, trained in these situations, swarmed Pete and the arrest party. “What’s the charge? Why’s he being arrested?” They demanded. The camp cook yelled, “Come on. Get outta here. Lets go!” One of the women turned to the cook and shot him the bird.
We piled in the van and headed to the checkpoint following the paddy-wagon. The sheriff suspected an out-of-state warrant and would finger-print Pete Hefflin there. The checkpoint had not been good to us. The dog always seemed to smell something. The week before a Border Patrolman told me, as he rifled through my Toyota, that the dogs were trained to “sniff out illegal drugs and odors from human beings.” Check the latter.
The driver shouted, “Anybody else got a warrant?” We stopped at 169, a mile before the check point and eight of us got out and into the res-truck. We headed back to camp, while the van and the rent-a-car with the new guy and the cook drove on.
I checked the gauge – less than an eighth. I let out seven in the middle of nowhere, U-turned back to Marfa, and gasoline. Luck through the checkpoint, then the new guy and the cook stood waving beside the rent-a-car on the side of the road. I picked them up and we all went to re-fuel.
Clouds streaked the sky. Black Karo hardened in my beard. I pumped gas, that which we are against. I want it in the tank—fast. Dave, the former mayor of Marfa slows, rolls down his window, gestures. I shout out, “Don’t ask!” Then: “Performance Art – Highway 67.”
We made it back to camp. Sullen. Unsure. The cook says he wants to talk and sequestered me to the side. “Those women are spies, infiltrators!”
I listened, my mind drifting, my stomach empty.
“It’s me or them,” he said. I didn’t want to lose him. He’s the cook and I like him, but this time he’s wrong.
“Any word from Marfa?” I asked nobody in particular.
Then the news.
Pete Hefflin is not Pete Hefflin. He is Pablo Gutierrez. A rap sheet a mile long—but as Pete Hefflin, clean in Texas for the last 10 years.
I believe in redemption. I believe in Pete Hefflin. Pablo Who?
I wish the cook would change his mind.
Richard Mark Glover has published short stories in Oyster Boy Review, Bookend Review (Best of 2014), Crack the Spine, Buffalo Almanac, and won the 2004 Eugene Walters Short Story Award, for Chef Menteur. His journalism has appeared in the San Antonio Express News, Ke Ola, and the Big Bend Sentinel, where he won the 2010 Texas Press Association Best Feature Award, medium size weekly for Just Another Night in Marfa. Truth Serum Press will publish his short story collection Luck and Other Truths in early 2017.