View from the West: The Robbery and the Ring

When I was a boy, I had a bad habit of opening the front door to my house the moment someone knocked. I never bothered asking who it was; I was just so excited to greet people as they came to the house.

I always liked greeting people, saying “hello, how are you?” I was just brought up that way. At my favorite restaurant, El Morocco, located in the heart of the Anapra neighborhood in Sunland Park, New Mexico, I would wait outside and open the door for people and greet them as they walked in. All while my food was being prepared.

My parents always used to tell me, “Always ask who it is before opening the door, Jack!”  Nowadays, I always ask who’s at the door. It’s a habit now that cannot and will not be broken.

My father was a gambler, boxing trainer/promoter and loan shark, if you look him up in the El Paso Herald Post archives, “Jack Lutz nineteen fifty eight through the sixties”, you’ll find certain articles of him.

Certain articles detailing his adventures, others detailing…we’ll call them “difficulties” with another certain police officer and other sporting events happening around town.

Many people knew my father; many people loved him while many others were afraid of him as well.  I guess you could also say, there was a love-hate relationship with my dad and the gambling community.

Every so often he would host poker games at the house. These games would last days. I mean we’re talking cigarette filled, beer and whiskey serving, house on the line, pink slip to your car type of games. The kind of game that could make or break you.

Alright, there’s the setup and here’s the full monty.  I’ve only told a few people this story and recently now; I’ve just become comfortable telling it completely.

I remember it being a very warm Summer night in 1988. After a long rigorous afternoon at a birthday party, I had just arrived back at our house, a two story classic brick manor located at the corner of Kansas and Cincinnati.

I was in the den watching Looney Tunes with my brother’s then girlfriend sitting on the couch watching over me as my dad was having his usual Texas Holdem game with about eight or nine people.

Late in the evening, a thunderous knocking came from the door. I jumped up, happy and eager to open the door with a smile on my face because I thought it was my mother returning from the store and maybe she needed my help, which is why I thought she couldn’t open the door! Completely possible in the mind of a seven-year-old.

As I opened the door, I was jolted by the opening force and thrown to the ground by some large man in blue jeans, a worn out brown collared shirt and a blue bandanna covering his face, leaving his eyes and black hair exposed.

His eyes were cold, dark and unforgiving with mean furrowed eyebrows as he ran past me with what appeared to be, no joke, in my mind I remember it being an Uzi 9mm machine gun in his right gloved hand . He sprinted through the kitchen and quickly made his way to the living room where the game was taking place and demanded everyone to put their hands up.

I ran the opposite direction into the den where you could also enter the living room only to see the robber clock my father on the head with his gun because my old man, of course didn’t cooperate and tried to stop him.

As my father tumbled to the ground, I screamed for him and wanted to charge the assailant. Before any movement came from my body, my brothers girlfriend threw me to the ground and covered me with her body, protecting me from any foolish harm I was about to bring upon myself.

I looked up, screaming for my father and saw this man, this tall, muscular masked man, reach down and take my father’s ring.  This gold, diamond and emerald ring was now in the possession of this desperate criminal as he took all the money on the table and quickly fled the house.

Minutes passed as everyone at the game was in complete shock at what just happened. My father regained consciousness and was helped up by some of his friends. Blood was pouring down his right temple on to his shirt and trickling down to the floor.

Immediately he asked where that s.o.b. was and ran out of the house to see if he could catch him. No luck, the robber took off on foot and was never seen again, or so I thought.

After the police came and took down their report, time passed and some information was brought to my father’s attention. Information like, how the robber ditched his gloves no more than a block and half after holding the poker game up. This was information that my father later used.

Weeks later, my dad and his bodyguard strapped themselves with I can’t remember how many pistols my dad and his bodyguard had but it looked like they were on the set of the latest Death Wish movie.  All I could remember hearing was, “we know who did it.”

Now, here’s the part of the story where I wish I could tell you there was some dramatic climax, some epic finale to this tale where revenge is being served on a cold and bloody dish but I can’t. I have no idea what happened. It was never spoken of ever again.

What I CAN tell you is that my dad, since the incident, walked around once again sporting his ring.

To tell you the truth, I don’t want to know what happened.  I have an idea, but some things in life are best kept a secret.

All I can say – at this point – is that I’m glad the ring is now on my finger.