A line at the border does not always divide

Take a look at a map of North America and you will notice a sharp dark line denoting an almost 2,000 mile border dividing two nations, Mexico and the United States. Residents near this line, on both sides, know the map is misleading. In real life, the line is actually a watercolor stroke that spreads across the paper, stretching back and forth. Life on the border has merged, and has been for centuries.

I started thinking about lines, spots, and international borders during a heated conversation a few nights ago with my friend Lloyd, a third-generation rancher whose 10,000 acres line the Rio Grande between Del Rio and the Big Bend National Park. Lloyd – a pseudonym for reasons that will soon become clear – is a living, breathing symbol of the complexities and contradictions of the US-Mexico border, complexities and contradictions that rarely find their way into public policy.

Weller’s whiskey lover and rowdy storyteller, Lloyd is a bluffing former college football star who scored a try with the Houston Oilers in the late 1970s. He is also husband and father and local politician. A Trump supporter – “Trump made me a lot of money,” he says – he is fluent in Spanish. Although he knows and respects his neighbors across the river, he supports a border wall, not for the rugged Big Bend region where he has lived his entire life, but across easy, flat farmland. to cross into the Rio Grande Valley and through New Mexico. / Arizona desert portion of the border.

Like other ranchers in the Big Bend area, including his nearest neighbor 20 miles east, he’s used to undocumented travelers knocking on his door. He tells me that they have grown even more since Joe Biden was elected president. They never caused any problems.

Lloyd’s clifftop ranch house, built of native stone and offering stunning views of the mountains of Maderas del Carmen in Mexico, is 30 miles from the nearest asphalt road. To get anywhere near the house and nearby casitas, undocumented immigrants heading north must traverse rugged rocky peaks and steep-sided gorges. If it’s summer, a relentless Chihuahuan Desert sun is a punishing reminder that if they run out of water, they’re in big trouble. As they look around, they will see that every piece of vegetation that has managed to survive in such hostile terrain is armed with fearsome thorns. Almost all creatures, no matter how small, bite or sting.

Yet they are coming. Not so long ago half a dozen young men showed up. He could tell by their accents that they weren’t Mexican. From their clothes, he could tell they were from Central America, probably city dwellers.

“Can you lay tiles?” ” He asked. ” Pouring concrete ? Repair fences? “

Each question elicited a nod of the head. Something about them – maybe their tattoos – made him uncomfortable. He gave them food and water and sent them.

A man and woman showed up at Lloyd’s door on a cold, dark night last winter. “My wife is sick,” said the man, a worried look on his face, his voice shaking. “Can you help me take him to a doctor?”

Lloyd could tell she was gravely ill, maybe with Covid, maybe something else. He also knew he couldn’t get them into town without passing the Border Patrol checkpoint. He decided to load them into his truck and take them on a gravel road to the junction of Boquillas, the Mexican village opposite the national park. He knew there was a clinic there.

A few hours later, he dropped the couple off by the river. They waded through the water, cold and up to the waist. Suddenly, a national park ranger – not a border patrol officer – appeared from a tall cane stand where he had been hiding. He called them back and arrested them.

Lloyd was furious. “You chicken-sh–!” He shouted. “She’s sick. They were gone!

Lloyd has cameras located near the house and in various locations around the sprawling ranch. He was in Del Rio one day when a camera activated a signal on his smartphone. Calling up the picture from the camera, he saw a gray haired man, shirtless and obviously confused. He was going in circles.

Lloyd called him on his phone. The man, who must have thought that God was speaking to him, looked up to the sky. “Stay there,” Lloyd told him. “I’ll be there in a few hours.

His name was Ephraim. He told Lloyd that he had been with a group trudging through the desert with a coyote they had paid to guide them. Older than most of the group and out of shape, he fell behind shortly after their guide brought them to Texas. He watched the Border Patrol officers apprehend them all. Desperate, not knowing where he was, he waved his arms and cried. He too wanted to be arrested, but no one heard his screams.

Ephraim’s feet were a sparkling mass of painful blisters. Lloyd looked after them, found him clean clothes, and told him to stay in the house for a few days until he recovered.

Ephraim admitted that he was returning to the United States, that he had worked in Atlanta for several years operating a ditching machine for a cable company. He and his wife had an argument, he said. The police have come. He was kicked out.

As Lloyd tells the story, he looked Ephraim in the eye and demanded the truth. “If you beat your wife,” he told her, “I’ll find out. The border patrol will be here as fast as I can call them.

– No, no, begged Ephraim. “It was just an argument, a little misunderstanding. We couldn’t make the police understand.

He gave Lloyd the phone numbers of his former wife and their adult daughters. They testified to his good character. Lloyd was convinced that Ephraim was a good man. Unlike the Central Americans, he could lay tiles, pour concrete, repair fences. He ended up staying at the ranch for three months.

One day when the checkpoint was closed, Ephraim made it to Austin. Friends drove him to Orlando, Florida, where his daughters lived. He found a job. He is still there today. He and Lloyd keep in touch.

Boundaries get mixed up, Lloyd told me, taking a sip from his nearly empty bottle of Weller’s Special Reserve. Whiskey too. And the people.

Dear reader:

Running into a book deadline, I take some time off. I will be back, so please keep the ideas and suggestions coming.

[email protected]

Twitter: @holleynews

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