Janet Jacobs

The news, both international and state, has been talking about the Texas man who wandered into Mexico in his pickup truck, and got some cookies. Everyone is assuming he’s senile, but I understand perfectly, and can see that happening to me.

Here’s roughly what the Associated Press reported: Philip Kneifl, 67, diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, is from Victoria, roughly midway between Corpus Christi and Houston. His adventures started on Nov. 12, when he called his sister in Kansas to say he was coming to visit. His wife, who usually keeps close tabs on him, was away on a church trip.

So, lacking the old ball and chain, Mr. Kneifl hopped in his pickup and headed to Austin, using his credit card for gas and food. Somehow, he ended up in Laredo, which is the type of thing that might happen to anyone who’s driven in Austin. I’m not sure if it’s all the Californians or the college students, but Austin can be a very hairy place to drive. I once got caught in south Austin traffic on a Friday afternoon and drove halfway to Houston, although my destination was Corsicana. I’m still convinced it was the fastest route.

Mr. Kneifl, quite wisely I think, fled as quickly as possible in whatever direction he could, which was south.

When he got to the border, he got into a long line, and crossed into Mexico. Once there, he realized it wasn’t where he wanted to go, and came back to Texas, and then somehow ended up back in line and went back to Mexico and just kept going.

I’ve done this also, and I don’t think it’s that unusual. You get stuck on a one-way road going the wrong direction, and after getting back onto the right road it changes again, and you end up back on the original road, which at least had good lighting, and you decide “Hey, I’ll just follow this road. How bad can it be?”

Then, before you know it, you’re in Amarillo or Mexico.

His family reported him missing on Friday and the sheriff’s office issued a Silver Alert, which is like an Amber Alert for grown-ups.

But it wasn’t until he ran out of gas on Sunday that the villagers of Zacatecas found him poking around. While they fed him cookies and coffee, the local English speaker got on his own cell phone and called around to see if anyone was missing an older gentleman.

With help, they got him as far as Mexico City, where security didn’t want to let him on the plane because he didn’t have a passport. Eventually, the Department of Homeland Security helped clear him for take-off.

I would imagine he was happy to be home, until Mrs. Kneifl got hold of him, and then he probably wished he was back where people couldn’t communicate with him and they just smiled a lot.

Now, there’s much to admire in this story. Mr. Kneifl is clearly not a dotty old fool, even with the Alzheimer’s. This guy drove from Victoria to Austin to Zacatecas, Mexico, without a single traffic ticket, border issue, or problem other than running out of gas once. I’m not sure I could do it, and I’m young-ish and relatively sane.

Also admirable are the people of Zacatecas, who found a stranger wandering around the village and instead of calling the cops or the Mexican version of INS they used their own cell phone minutes to help him out.

Mr. Kneifl’s family claims he doesn’t even know he was in Mexico. Perhaps so, but I’ll bet he’s marveling at how much the food in Kansas has improved.

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Janet Jacobs is a Daily Sun staff writer. Her column appears on Sundays. She may be reached by e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com

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