Sunday, March 13, 2016

From the Big Empty to the Big Entry

The Big Empty
It is time for that penny!
The Big Entry
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I talked to Bunch Thursday morning.
            We are trying to get two solar pumping units installed and our primary discussion was an update and timing issue with them. Bunch was busy. We are all busy. Our lives are chaotic, but they are the lives we live.
            Thursday, March 10, however, was a particularly stressful day for the folks at Elbrock Water Services. They were on the program for that evening’s 6:45 time slot in the “Calling Washington HOME to the Border” meeting at Animas. Bunch and his mother, Tricia Elbrock, were asked to speak about the border violence and its impact on local businesses. They are very important in the discussion because of the role they play in the provision of water infrastructure throughout the Bootheel. They are constantly exposed to the lawless border maintaining those services to ranches and citizens alike. Theirs is the business recently shocked with the seizure of one of their service trucks and the kidnapping of an employee.
            “We are constantly worried about our safety,” Bunch acknowledged.
            While the rest of the nation knows little or nothing, our rural community knows about the kidnapping. We know about the encounter and the seizure of the vehicle. We know about the hood put over the head of the employee, we know what they told him, and we know where they left him. What we don’t know is how to get national leadership’s attention in the matter. There is a diminishing bridge of communication between the federal government and us … ordinary citizenry.
            The big empty
            I can remember the first time I was in what to me was the ‘Big Empty’. It was a time of decades ago when there was no paved road from Hachita to Animas. It was a dirt road and it ran along the recently abandoned east bound rail line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. We were quail hunting and the concentration of birds was amazing. It made a quail hunter out of me at that time of my life.
            The Big Empty thought came to me as I sat on a rock still thinking about what I had just witnessed. A covey of scaled quail had crossed the road in front of us in the big curve across the valley to the west from Hachita and I had given chase with my Sweet 16. I was trying to get a shot when out of the open creosote right in front of me bounded one of the great mule deer bucks witnessed in my life. He was magnificent. I watched him initially from a line of sight down the gun barrel and then with eyes wide as I dropped the barrel toward the ground. He tilted up the hill to a point on the crest, turned to look at me, and was then gone.
Quail, deer, big sky, and miles of basins and mountains ranges were the mix of memories in the Big Empty, but there was also something else that only escalated while the most eventful of youthful images have declined. Human and drug trafficking operations have found the geography and isolation of that border area ideal for entry.
In fact, the Big Empty has become … the Big Entry.
            The Big Entry
            Years ago, we identified the characteristics making the Arizona smuggling corridors so dangerous. The Bootheel, New Mexico’s version of those corridors is blessed (or cursed) with the same features. North /south drainage and mountain range orientation, strategic high points of observation, a scarcity of rural resident American citizens with assets at risk, the domination of federal lands with agency management (and or de facto representations thereof), the inability of Border Patrol to go anywhere at any time, and designated federal lands with safe havens (or de facto representations thereof) are all present and contribute to widespread lawlessness. The cumulative vacuum has resulted in chaos.
            Drug cartels control the northward migration of all illicit trade and they “own” those corridors.
            The Albuquerque Journal carried the story on the front page above the fold the morning after the meeting. That is quite a feat for a place like rural Animas. The local folks told their story once more and generated interest, but where does that leave them and their discussion?
            I saw Hank later that same afternoon. He had come from the Bootheel and a pasture that had several hundred head of heifers turned out in it. Its location is about 20 miles north of the border in the Playas Valley. He said there were more illegal alien tracks than there were heifer tracks in the pasture. He said there were mountains of trash. So, while the local folks reached out to a world gone mad, the illegal trade of humans and drugs continued unabated.
The Big Entry is … business as usual.
The Truth
Are we to the point that we must recognize there is no absence of communication to Washington on this matter? Washington has made its position known. We just haven’t wanted to accept the truth. We are just too naïve to realize our issues are unimportant.
Both major political parties have too many vested interests in the cross border trade. Washington has long decided that special interest is the driving force. The Democrats want votes and nature preserves. The Republicans want labor. They both want the money and promulgate the constitutional upheaval that is taking place. The facts are clearly defined that votes, nature preserves, labor and constitutional upheaval trump American security and citizenry pleas.
“Calling Washington HOME to the Border” is certainly on our minds.
Calling Washington home period … may be the better choice.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “We are to the point our own words don’t make any sense to us. Our best choice is to send every elected representative a penny and … suggest they accumulate enough for a ticket home.”

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