Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is only the beginning for the estimated half a million immigrants that enter the United States illegally every year. Once inside the U.S., there is still a 100-mile trek to be made through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s “constitution-free zones” in which their law reigns supreme. The majority of major U.S cities are all located within this 100-mile no rights technicality. Detailed in this article are a few methods for avoiding checkpoints, not dying, and an account of our idiocy in the venture to discover these things within the eighty miles of the Texas-Mexico border.
“Yo Timmy, Hueco just offered me two grand to give him a ride from Weslaco.”
“Yeah, he figured he doesn’t want to go back to Mexico.”
“No shit. Throw your shit in the truck and let’s go.”
With a very limited knowledge of South Texas, being from the North, we set out with three things.
1: Timmy’s lifted full size Dodge Pickup, to blend in
2: Springfield 1911 and a Ruger Blackhawk .357
3: Balls, poor judgment, no will to live
Once you can meet these minimum requirements, you are ready to blatantly drive down the road less traveled, and potentially escape from Texas, to further into Texas.
As we approached from the north, which admittedly is not the typical direction of approach from anyone else who might be trying to pull off this feat, the sun was just starting to rise over the south Texas landscape. That’s when we saw a white Mitsubishi crossover completely engulfed in flames in the passing lane on the freeway with the heat waking one of us up. The first sign that we were officially entering what remains of “The Wild West”. Everything about this place gives off the feel that, although it’s technically U.S. soil, it’s just one of those places that we’d like to think doesn’t exist. The deeper we got, and the more time that passed by, the less it felt like we were in the U.S., and the more it felt like we were in some purgatory.
After having a flat tire we changed at Buc-Ee’s patched we got some morning coffee and WiFi at McDonald’s to plan our next move, cut short by Timmy’s paranoia. The old guy next to us was apparently listening. Hitting the road with the route we planned to bypass any potential checkpoints we began getting further from civilization, and more lost down farm roads. After an hour of venturing for leads on a potential route, we stumbled upon our first clue. A large bright blue barrel with the word “AGUA” written on it, visible from a great distance due to a tall home made red-cross flag jutting out the top of the barrel. Upon closer inspection, the barrel contained exactly what we suspected. An ample supply of 1 gallon jugs of Nestle water, sealed. Great! Let’s take some selfies, this is cool, we thought. Little did we know, we’d be hiking back to one of those barrels as if our lives depended on them, which they did.
We continued to come across barrel after barrel of emergency water as we cautiously continued along our sketchy route through a south Texas no-man’s land. It wasn’t long before we came across a landmark of sorts, a ranch that seemed to be friendly to immigrants in need. The only ranch out of the dozens we had driven past that had it’s gate wide open, legally obligatory trespassing signs absent, which in that area seemed like quite the invitation, so of course, we rolled over the cattle guards and invited ourselves in.
The first thing we noticed upon entering was a very obvious Border Patrol SUV parked, facing the opposite direction of us within the property. Felt a bit eerie, yet reassuring that no one was in the vehicle, just parked there, completely empty. I figured, foolishly, that it was just parked there in that position all the time, like a scarecrow. Regardless, it made for a great photo-op. After making it to the end of the long ranch road to the house on the property, we decided to go bang on the front door, which would’ve been a great way to get shot in this neck of the woods. Although tons of dogs barked wildly at us, and there were 3 vehicles parked at this quaint ranch house, no one ever came to the door, so we bailed. “I heard you dickheads calming your dogs down. You could’ve at least said hello, even if the law was looking for you.”
At this point we drove back past the parked border patrol vehicle, exiting the property, and continuing down our unknown and lonesome dirt path. A short distance outside of the ranch we come across yet another Border Patrol vehicle, this one also parked and empty. The scarecrow theory seemed less likely at this point, and things were feeling significantly more dangerous, sketchy and just weird. Then out of nowhere, like a supersonic bat out of hell, a Border Patrol drone flew directly over our heads, essentially, scaring the living shit out of us for a brief moment. We had just stumbled into a couple of Border Patrol agents on foot, pursuing people in a nearby patch of private property, who were being assisted by a surveillance drone. “Wow” we thought out loud to ourselves, and decided to just continue going about our business.
We continued following the amazingly accurate “roads” provided to us by Google, with our GPS located blue dot, in an area where there was no phone service whatsoever. Eventually came the next threshold in our perilous trek, the large gate to a ranch, bound by chains and about 8 pad locks. But Google says it’s a public road, so they must be right, and if something happens to us, we can blame it on Google. Timmy should’ve known better given how bad Google fucked over him and Weev in Bosnia, but whatever. Turns out that gate isn’t actually locked, probably because of the vandalism and apparently frequent forced entry, so we decide to gracefully open it, drive through, and close it behind us.
We continued onward through about 5 miles of non-roads, all of which were clearly mapped out on Google somehow. We hadn’t seen another living soul since the first water barrel, which had been at least a couple hours, and now we were starting to see cows. Lots of random cows, with no tags or branding, and no sign of civilization, other than a few neon flag markers attached to tree branches, marking the secret route.
A few more miles of driving around dirt roads, then trails, then dumb stretches of sand, then grass that I guess a truck must’ve driven through at some point in the last year. The occasional bright color tied to a mesquite tree, pockets of trash that are obviously personal checkpoints for anyone running north. Then, undramatically, we make our way to a gate which faces a major road that intersects a major highway, bypassing one of the most notorious checkpoints in Texas and also where any potential temporary checkpoints could be put up.
We made it, that’s great. I’m not about to cut this gate open though unless it was an emergency from the other side, so we turn around and start heading back the way we came. That’s when things went from splendid, to totally and completely fucked. Before we knew it the truck was completely stuck in soft sand, and we were surrounded by a bunch of angry cows. Pumpkins on the front and rear axle were both beached, leaf springs on the rear looked like they were having a blast. After us city boys struggled to fend off the angry cows, began the hilariously futile struggle of getting our truck unstuck. With all of the energy I was putting into digging out this tire, I started becoming pretty weak and on the verge of fainting. This is when the 5-mile hike to the nearest water barrel became a necessary life saving measure. Whether you are a privileged white boy, or a Latin American immigrant in search of the American dream, collapsing out there would mean certain death.
After a Dum-Dum sucker, and a gulp of water we had available, we made the trek to the nearest water barrel. Timmy was chain smoking and yelling at cows the entire way with two guns strapped to him. I was simply trying to survive and deal with the humor of our ineffable idiocy. We made it though. Those bottles of water meant for struggling migrants were now reappropriated for dumb white folks with more time and gas money than sense. Maybe we were gentrifying South Texas, maybe this is how it starts.
We were reasonably certain that we were going to make it out of this situation alive but we were still totally fucked. Timmy’s truck is stuck in what turns out to be four layers deep of private property, night is falling soon, nobody is going to pick us up, and the hike back to civilization and cell phone signal is going to take overnight.
Finally, in the distance, other humans, with cars, a white truck and a backhoe approached from afar. To me at this point it seemed like almost a mirage, but I was ready to embrace whoever or whatever it was. The truck drove past us to my surprise, making me realize that people are very cautious to approach strangers out there. However, the Mexican man in his rancher cowboy getup driving the backhoe stopped.
He just stared at us for a bit after we said howdy, trying to figure out what the fuck he was looking at. “Well, what’d y’all do” he asked. “We made an error” Timmy replied. “The minute I saw you boys walking down the road I knew something was wrong with you two.”
He looked at us in dismay, shaking his head and said “I should shoot both of you.” We didn’t disagree. He was still very cautious of us, not sure what in the possible fuck we could’ve been up to out here that wasn’t nefarious. We showed him how we ended up the roads with cached Google maps, our ridiculous selfies, pictures and video of the truck stuck in the sand. We made it clear that we’re not smugglers or anything, just dickheads. We just kept saying we were journalists, which I guess we are. Maybe.
“Where you two from?”
He shook his head.
Once we all had conveyed a full understanding of our predicament to our potential host and savior he explained that our truck was on private property and not some county road like we thought. Now, nobody out here likes treading on property they don’t have express right to for reasons we were about to learn.
After standing on bed of the white truck that had passed us he was able to get enough cell signal to call the owner of the first piece of property we had gone on. He explained some dumbshits had gotten their truck stuck somewhere on it, asked if he could go on to pull it out. Luckily, he said yes, as this was not something I could’ve had towed or done anything about through any traditional channels.
Needless to say, our truck would’ve stayed there forever had this man not had the heart to help tow us out of there, and just like in the Wild West, he told us he doesn’t ever want to see our faces around there ever again. We whole-heartedly promised to keep our trouble making journalistic asses out of that neck of the woods for as long as we live.
With night approaching a lot of what we had seen was explained to us. While during the day this area is fine, pretty much all you see at night is to help coyotes and smugglers make their way through. All property damage we had seen of bits of abandoned and neglected land was due to the persistent less savory elements that know this land as well as the owners that come through every single night. You don’t leave your property when night falls and you shoot any intruders on sight out here, which could’ve easily been us had we decided to try to spend the night in the truck. The bodies of locals, smugglers, and migrants litter South Texas to such a degree that forensics agents are trained using the copious amount of corpses available to them out here.
The only thing we weren’t chided for was having guns on us. That was apparently the smartest thing we did. Border Patrol doesn’t come out this way for safety reasons. If you needed emergency services out here beyond the means of the good old boy network you’re plain fucked. Nobody is coming. It’s plain dangerous. There is no United States out here, only Texas.
After opening multiple gates and our host being dumbfounded at our foolishness to go this far deep in we got to the truck and pulled it out with the tractor. To demonstrate his graciousness to our host and savior Timmy asked him if he could give him anything. “Could I throw some money your way, or do you like presents?” He asked what we had, he asked if he liked Ruger, and that’s why he no longer owns his .357 magnum revolver. C’est la vie.
Lessons learned? The entire situation in these border areas is out of anyone’s control. It’s a lawless land, where danger awaits at every turn. The empty and arid wilderness is too vast to control, as hard as the Border Patrol, and Homeland Security might try. People die out there, Border Patrol allows a certain level of support networks to exist, such as the emergency water barrels. And the point of view least expressed seems to be that of the landowners, who get violated by smugglers and Border Patrol alike on a daily basis. After an up close and personal inspection of the clandestine routes around the interior checkpoints, I’d say that the best route involves flying a gyrocopter, safely over the entire region. For those that can’t afford that luxury or just don’t know any better, they will continue risking their lives attempting to bypass the increasingly perilous U.S. border regions. We got lucky, but even as a couple of white boys with a big truck and U.S. passports, we could’ve died. Not so bad.