Buttery was sitting in one of three patrol vehicles parked off the roadway on the west side of State Highway 72 just north of Pawnee.
The deputy was commenting on the fact that none of the speeders being stopped that morning were driving 18-wheelers.
“I wonder what they’re saying on the CB?” Deputy Taylor Clevenger asked. He was parked in another patrol car next to Buttery. On the other side of Buttery’s vehicle sat Deputy Lt. Ronnie Jones and Deputy Jennifer Lopez in a marked SUV.
The deputies agreed; the truckers were tipping off their fellow drivers in the big rigs that have been pounding the roads around Pawnee for months. And they were slowing down as they sailed through the tiny community.
But that word was not reaching other motorists.
“White Ford pickup, 74 in a 55,” Commander Mike Page said over his radio. Page, Sheriff Carlos Carrizales Jr. and Chief Deputy Alden Southmayd were in unmarked vehicles near a church on SH 72 in Pawnee.
Buttery inched his patrol car to the shoulder of the highway and switched on his overhead lights as the offending motorist passed.
The man behind the wheel glanced over at the deputy. From the look on his face, he knew he was busted.
Carrizales had said earlier that with the increased traffic brought to that little corner of Bee County, Pawnee was seeing some huge and probably unwanted changes. To the locals, trying to get across the two-lane highway can be a risky proposition these days.
“Fifty-five in Pawnee is way too fast,” Jones said. The Texas Department of Transportation is working on reducing the speed through the community.
“But they have to study the traffic flow and that takes years,” the sheriff said.
About that time a half dozen trucks pulling flatbed trailers went by, heading north to the Eagle Ford Shale oil fields. Each trailer was loaded down with heavy, steel pipe. Another truck passed by pulling a crane.
The highway is taking a beating from the flow of heavy trucks running back and forth through Pawnee. Although TxDOT is maintaining the pavement, it is obvious that the base material under the asphalt is collapsing under the weight of the big rigs. The shoulders of SH 72 are in better shape than the actual roadway.
The real damage is on the farm-to-market roads and county roads, Carrizales said. Later that morning, Buttery took a drive on FM Road 882. The pavement on what shoulder remains is crumbling and huge ruts and holes are developing next to what is left of the edge of the asphalt.
The story is the same on other farm roads in that area.
The problem is that the farm roads are not wide enough for a truck and a car to pass each other without one of the vehicles pulling to the right and leaving the roadway. Rural roads around Pawnee are getting dangerous and damage is pounding the suspensions of the vehicles.
The vast majority of the traffic is oil field related. Just like the traffic on U.S. Highway 181 through Pettus, the vehicles are mostly big rigs (tankers and pipe trucks), welding trucks and company pickups.
That Thursday marked what Carrizales called “Phase 2” of his crackdown on speeding vehicles in the north end of Bee County.
The previous Monday deputies worked U.S. Highway 181 through Pettus.
With hundreds of vehicles traveling north to the oil fields and south to where many of the employees are living in the RV parks that are springing up in the South Texas countryside, smaller towns are becoming dangerous.
It seems like everyone is in a hurry to get to work or to return to the camper trailer for some rest. Speed limits in smaller communities are a nuisance to them.
But the increased traffic is more than a nuisance to those who live in that part of the country. It can be life threatening.
The number of serious and fatal accidents in the Pettus and Pawnee areas is causing concern.
Carrizales said that is why he and his deputies have been crawling out of bed in the wee hours of the morning so they can take their radar guns to those communities.
The sheriff said he intends to continue the patrols. Only no one will know when and where they will be set up in the future. He said earlier that week that deputies also could start working other parts of the county.
But there is an easy way to avoid an expensive speeding ticket, the deputies said. Slow down and observe speed limits. Especially in the smaller communities where residents only want to be able to use their own streets in safety.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.