Sunday, November 20, 2005


"The gate's broken and the door on the trailer's open"

Guess who's a bit angry about the fact that their land is being used by Mexican nationals to run drugs and bodies across the border? You guessed it, guys on horseback who have guns. Big guns, to be exact, such as M-16 A2's with wooden grips and full-sized clips. Roger McCaslin is one of those guys, and he's one of the many who are
taking matters into their own hands to stop the flow of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

As he careered along the rock-strewn gulley towards his silver mine deep in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona, Roger McCaslin first checked his bowie knife, then his pistol, and finally his Kalashnikov. From the road, he had already noticed that something was wrong.

"The gate's broken and the door on the trailer's open. They've been here, I know it," he said ominously. "I just hope they've moved on - for their sake."

Under the harsh sun, Mr McCaslin's black cowboy hat cast a shadow over his droopy moustache and a face so deeply creased that it resembled cracked saddle leather.

Welcome to the Wild West 2005, where modern-day cowboys still guard their land from interlopers - but using AK47s and four-wheel drives instead of Winchester rifles and horses.

Mr McCaslin's small mine sits on a knoll of red earth and scrub near the Mexican border. Like his 19th-century predecessors, he is sure there is money in "them thar hills" after a geological survey indicated there may be rich veins of silver.

Today, however, he has other priorities. For the mine also sits in the middle of a network of trails used by heavily-armed Mexican trafficking gangs to smuggle people and drugs into America.

Notoriously porous, the border has reached new levels of lawlessness this year as smugglers, known as "coyotes", have become increasingly brazen, willing to fire on anyone - from border patrols to the likes of Mr McCaslin - who gets in their way.

I think I'd be a little bit mad if my property was being used for illegal activities, too. As you can see, horseback riders save the day again.

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