Last week, 3,600 pounds of marijuana were seized by Border Patrol agents about twenty miles south of the ranch. The bales were stashed in the back of two pickup trucks covered with camouflage tarps. Three people were arrested, and one man got away. This is the report the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) shared with the public in their statement. The rest of the story is the stuff legends are made of.
Once the trucks were discovered, Border Patrol went in search of the smugglers. Soon we learned someone had stolen a prized horse worth thousands and expensive tack to boot. The owner wanted his horse back. Local ranchers and cowboys saddled up and went looking for the drug-smuggling horse thief. My husband and a friend took to the air hoping to spot the outlaw.
Meanwhile, a phone chain rivaling a PTA bake sale was underway to warn local community members. Figuring the smuggler traveled back to Mexico, it took some time to realize he’d ridden north. A quarter mile from our place, he cut fence on his way down the valley headed for I-10. Over the next several hours, many fences were destroyed as he rode just east of the local highway. He bedded down at a neighbor’s ranch for the night, where he fed and watered the horse before continuing on. The following day, a few folks remembered seeing someone riding through open country. Eventually, the smuggler made it to the interstate where he surely caught a ride. The horse was recovered in a pasture several miles south of the highway, most likely making its way home. The stolen tack was found on the roadside.
This story will be told with varying degrees of fact and fiction as it morphs into a local legend. Remember the time that drug smuggler stole a horse and got away? Over time, the details of the story will fade as legends are designed to make us feel invincible. But today, we are concerned for our neighbors. We understand the repairs to fences will cost ranchers time and money. We recognize the toll on Border Patrol agents who put their lives on the line every day. We contemplate the proposed border wall.
If history is any indicator of the effectiveness of walls, Washington will soon be erecting an eyesore on the landscape as another costly example of government’s lack of foresight. The drug smuggler’s story is fascinating because of the lens in which we currently view the border. A bad guy got away, build the wall! In political debate and even in some social contexts, the wall sounds like a good idea. None of us want criminals sneaking past law enforcement and infiltrating our communities.
The psychological costs are far greater than anything Washington has up its sleeve. Feeling overwhelmed by big issues, we build our own walls; oftentimes relying on the opinions of family, social, political, and religious networks as brick and mortar. Fueled by fear and uncertainty, these barriers can cause us and others harm.
Build the wall. Don’t build the wall. Either way, it won’t stop the drugs and illegal immigrants from coming into this country. The problems are complicated and require mindful solutions to repair the destruction caused by a history of threats and empty promises on both sides of the border.
The street value of 3,600 pounds of marijuana pales in comparison to the cost to this valley, our communities, and beyond no matter how fantastical a story the outlaw left in his wake.