These reports were written by an independent Minutewoman.June Cook has gone out alone to watch the border while pretending to be a lone woman camper. Here at Border Guardians, our hats off to her! What a brave patriot!
Yuma Border Watch Sept 05
Being delayed one day due to family complications, I left homeSaturday 1 pm and arrived in Yuma 3:30 pm or so. My designatedborder watch buddy Richard Thompson, a Yuma Patriot, was just out ofthe hospital with abdominal surgery and so I was on my own.
I went straight to work with the Yuma Patriots, getting lostnumerous times to their muster site until one of them Denny gottired of me passing up and down Highway 95 south and parked himselfon the shoulder and waved me down as I passed him for the umpteenthtime. We reported for duty and stood guard over a farmer's land from7 pm to 6 am the next morning, near the town of Somerton just a fewmiles from the main border. Illegal immigrants had been traipsingthrough his freshly seeded farmlands causing hundreds ofdollars of damage every night. Some fifty passed that way thatevening, four just one car over from where I was stationed.
The big excitement that night though was, the Cocopah Indian Policecoming by and ordering one of the Patriot car groups off the road ashe said it was Indian land. The farmer said it was his land beingguarded (I think specifically that it's leased land but not quitesure), and so he needed the road for us to park on (the land wasseeded right to its borders).
The Patriots responded that the road was public road. ThePatriots called the county sheriff to come and arrest the Indianpolice officer for harassing us, and he got stuck in a ditch on theway over.
By this time everybody was yammering on the CB radio what theythought of bossy Indians and unhelpful sheriffs and over-assertiveYuma Patriots ("Does somebody have their Gold Card because I'm aboutto be arrested here I am NOT MOVING")
I hope to God nobody was out there with a scanner and a recorder. Icalled Richard T., recuperating at home and told him what washappening. He laughed. "The cowboys and Indians are at it again,hey?" he said.
I can tell you what it says on my Yuma and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) street maps. It states that public access roads go through Indian land. You may travel along these roads but may not stand, sit, park, idle or loiter anywhere in tribal lands without Indian permission.
That day I stayed in a hotel. Richard T. came by and escorted me to agood camping site that is either on BLM land or privately owned,nobody really knows. I arrived the next morning, Monday, at 8:00 amafter getting lost for two hours or so looking for this particularspot. Now, it’s not enough that we are located generally at a spot inthe U.S.A that borders Mexico, Arizona, and California all withinwalking (and swimming) distance. We also have to contend with bordersbetween privately deeded, leased, BLM, BLR (Bureau of Land Reclamation), Indian, county and city land. Few if any of which are plainly marked. Plus, when you set up a campsite on BLM/BLR landit is like your own home and must be treated as such; meaning you can't discharge a firearm, you can't trespass and commit other numerous offenses only because someone put up a tent/camper there.
About 9 in the morning I started setting up camp. While doing so Iremember why my original dates had been October 1; it was already 105degrees and rising, plus humidity, flies and mosquitoes. About 3:30pm the first immigrants came WALKING up the river, 2 males carryingtheir inner tube. It took them an hour to get past me, with a BPagent on each side of the river and a helicopter overhead. When thatdied down, there were more BP agents racing around catching moreimmigrants that I didn’t see. I finished setting up camp and took myfirst watch at 6:00 pm that night. 10 pm or so 6 men and 1 woman ranacross my observation post.
Many other groups ran across fields or were in the water or woodsaround my site I could hear but not see them, a group of 17 once.They always walk in a row like ducks and speak very little if atall. Presumably the coyote or guide is in the lead, but the smartones usually aren't--they're in the middle or the rear. I had nocell phone at that time, so one of the residents called in all thesightings. Around 1:30 am three came up the trail behind my campsiteand crashed into my tent, stepped into my latrine, tripped over mylawn chairs, muttered something and then moved on. I was so tiredand so jaded I just rolled over and went to sleep and didn't evenreport it until the next morning.
The BP will NOT retrieve crossers from the water. They stay on eachside and follow—follow--follow, in the case of those two men onMonday it was SIX HOURS. Since they have lost at least two agents inTexas, and one agent right here in Yuma (the memorial to JamesEpling is right in Andrade and gets bigger every time I see it), todrownings related to immigrants, they will not go in the water toget immigrants. They just follow for hours if need be until theyget tired or get out of the water on their own for whatever reason.
In the good old days, back in April for example, immigrants for themost part `played fair'. If they were caught over here, they stoppedand sat when told, cooperated meekly and were processed, sent backto the border, and oftentimes returned to the U.S. before BorderPatrol did.
But that's changing now. If one of us stops them, they sit and waitmeekly as they are terrified of cazamigrantes (thanks for that,Mexican media I think you may have done us a favor there). But theyrun and hide and are disrespectful and uncooperative to the BPagents, who by the way are polite and professional in all I haveseen them do. There however has never been harm in this area, I havebeen told, between any of these factions. Yet.
One issue to be addressed in this area is that of the leased (andsometimes private) farmland. The Colorado River is a great ancientriver that generally runs deep and swift. However, great canals havebeen built here, and much of the water from the river has beendiverted to these canals. It may run back out eventually to theriver further down towards San Luis in Mexico (some 20 miles) but inthe meantime the river is very low and very sluggish and green anddirty.
You can walk across in most places, and in one place a few milesdownstream you can DRIVE across it is so low. In its natural statethe river acts as a barrier to illegal immigration, but now thanksto U.S. government leasing out BLM (that's yours and my publiclyentrusted) land and building these water diverting canals, it is soopen to immigrant crossing it is a horrendous security risk. ThanksU.S. government and Yuma! Not!
Unlike what I had envisioned, the immigrants do not swim with theirinnertubes like we do recreationally. They place a change of clothesin sealed plastic bags, and those go inside or on the tubes. Theymostly walk up the river holding onto these tubes. There may be aninfant inside the tube with the clothes. If they encounter an areaof deep water all swim and one person holds onto the tube to keepa hold on it. When they get out of the water they walk in the brushalong their well-known (to the guides) trails but they keep theirinner tubes with them in case they have to dive into the water again,whether because their way is blocked by impassible brush or they getchased by BP.
I saw firsthand for myself, since I am alone and have to do all theplanning and logistics, how important it is to think ahead beforeyou do a border watch. We know we are merely diverting, not stoppingthese people. They get caught they try again, and most of the 30people who crossed in front of me that first day and night werenever even apprehended that I was aware of. While selecting a sitefor a station, and in my case a physical barrier with my tent,campsite and car, thought has to be given to where you are divertingthem TO. You don't want to divert them into the water where BorderPatrol can't get them out. Nor to the brush near the river as thatputs Border Patrol in harm's way to apprehend them—they will go inand get them but at risk to themselves, and there is also the addedissue of uninvolved campers, hikers, swimmers, fishers and othersthat will be stumbled over or into by a wave of immigrants andpursuing LEO's. You don't want to divert them into the farmer'sfields and cause negative impact to our food supply system.
Nor do you want them herded into private citizen's back yards, withtheir pet chickens and their children playing on their outdoorswingsets. Here, where I am, that leaves you only the canal and leveeroads, the safest place for everyone including the immigrantsthemselves, but the last place they are going to voluntarily go.
I selected my first campsite based solely on the fact that it was awell-used trail as evidenced by the worn paths, and discardedclothes and trash. There were two exits from the bushes to the road,and inside were trails and a clearing used for changing clothes andeliminating human waste. That first night, as mentioned, three camethrough early in the morning, as the moon set. That was the lastthat trail was used and after two days I started scouting foranother site. A mile or so down the road, I found a huge site well-known as a changing station, strewn with clothes and bottles, withfour trails, two tunnels in the brush, and two `caves' made ofvegetation. In all honesty, this area didn't seem to be in useat present. I stayed at the first site about six days. I checked the newpotential site twice a day, once in morning, once just before dusk,and saw no sign (such as new trash, waste or broken vegetation) of life.The first morning I spent at Site Two, I set up my tent right on theside of the road, probably not legal as there are rules about howfar from the canal (unused and dry at the time) and how far off theroad you can be.
I spent hours clearing the ground of rocks and brush and levelingthe dirt and getting my tent set up. I left the rest of my gear inthe truck. It was dead and dull from 3:30 pm all the way till thenext afternoon, nearly 24 hours. I was told later, that all theactivity was on the California side.
Site Two was pretty much a visual observation post only. It isdirectly across from a water treatment station that makes hellaciousnoise all night long (and occasionally belches nauseating fumes in thedead of night). That's the east side of you, the other side has thenoise of the rapids all night. So it is hard to hear anything.
You cannot hear the immigrants walking in the river nor making theirway through the bank brush. What you have going for you though isthe wildlife, and particularly insects. An occasional bird such asdove or quail, or crickets or grasshoppers will make noise and aslong as you can hear them you know all is quiet and safe. If thenoise suddenly stops there is the likelihood a person or largeanimal (and there are no large animals here in the wild) is walkingthrough there. Then you sit up and listen for brush cracking or forvoices. Unlike Naco and Campo, the immigrants don't use flashlightsand rarely have them.
That second morning I spent moving my whole camp setup from the sideof the road, down into the bushes RIGHT INTO the clearing. A BPagent drove by and came to a screeching halt to observe the backhalf of my collapsed tent sliding down the trail into the brush,seemingly under its own power. He laughed and said it looked like itwas running away from home on its own.
Once again, for the third time in a week I spent hours levelingdirt, moving rocks, clearing dead brush and this time I had tochop down two small trees with a household claw hammer. (Note toself--include hatchet as integral part of camping gear.) Still thetent didn't actually fit into the space I had chosen for it but Isquashed it in there anyway.
The good part of camping on the roadway was that I was easy to see byBorder Patrol and by myself if I was driving around the canals andlevee roads. Immigrants could easily see me too and 99 percent ofthe time they avoid humans as much as they can. They don't wanttrouble, they just want to get to where they are going to dowhatever it is they are here to do.
I also had a clear view of miles of roads not just from outside orfrom inside my car, but I could even sit in a chair inside my tentand see everything. This comes in handy after two hundred mosquitobites.
The down side of that roadside location was heat from the morningsun---I was driven out at 6:30 am that first full morning--noise,excessive light from the water treatment plant, and the fact thatwhen I did sleep in my tent my head was practically in the road. Andwhile I protected myself by strategically parking my car so as toblock the tent, that was only safety from one side.
From the other direction BP and human smugglers sometimes engaged incar chases and it wouldn't take but once slip of a hand on a steeringwheel and my life problems would be over. Messily over.
The upsides of the off-road location, which is actually Site 3 butbeing so close, I'll still call it Site 2; was cool shade—I couldsleep to at least 10 in the morning, sometimes later with some cloudcover—and less noise from the water treatment plant. I had moreprivacy too. You could not see the tent except by standing almost infront of it, from all sides including the river, just a few yardsaway.
Someone Saved my Life Tonight
One evening was stranger than fiction. It was a cooler than averageday thanks to cloud cover. I thought I would do a full night shiftfor the first time. Richard T. came by for his daily check on me,and we parted company for the night until the next day. I hadplanned on going to bed at 6 pm and waking to a shift from 10 pm to6 am. The phone rang and I was distracted and didn't get off thephone until 7:30 pm and had just hung up when I saw two quiet maleHispanics walking north past me.
They took little if any notice of me and I called them in only aswalkers, hoping they weren't just farm workers going home late. BPanswered quickly and sped past me.
Shortly after that 8 more Hispanics wearing white T-shirts and baggyjeans ran across the road—sort of coming from the wrong directionactually-- and into the brush right into the area of my tent. Icalled that in. BP sped right by and parked down the road. I couldhear the people crashing into my security barriers and muttering tothemselves.
Had my plans held, I would have been laying asleep when those peoplecame upon my tent. One of the walkers came out of the brush andapproached me in my vehicle and although I didn't understand hisSpanish I thought he was asking for a ride. I politely said no, andhe said `No problema" to which I replied the same, and he beganwalking SOUTH, back toward Mexico.
I called that in. BP came up beside my car, and I motioned toward thebrush "That way!" The agent exited his car and charged into thebrush and shortly emerged with 7 people, one of them a youngHispanic woman, very cute little thing. While he was loading themall into his truck, I heard the people saying "Senora" and lookingmy direction.
Afterwards, the BP agent came over and said that they were making apoint that they wanted nothing from me, did nothing to me, and hadnot wanted anything to do with me or my tent or car. They were quiteemphatic about that. He also said that he told them, I had a gun andalmost shot them.
He offered to wait while I got anything out of my tent, to which Isaid I had everything of value with me. I remarked to him hisbravery for charging into the woods after eight unknowns and he justlaughed it off and said "That's what we do." I thought it was nicehe let them keep their gallon bottles of water, and he said henormally does that since they might be in that vehicle a whilebefore processing. "There are drinking fountains and water there sowe take away their water at that time, but they can drink it insidethe vehicles until then."
We both agreed I shouldn't go back there that night. I spent from7:30 that night to 7:30 the next morning in the driver's seat of thetruck not getting out once, not even to use the bathroom (like wherewould I have gone, side of the road?) get water, or get my spotlightout of the bed of the truck. I just locked the doors and sat thereall night occasionally flipping on my headlights to deter anyoneelse thinking of heading my way. It appeared to me, this particularbunch didn't chose to go into the brush at that point and time, theyhad been seen and were fleeing to there as an afterthought.
Although I could be wrong and their guide was very familiar withthis well-used area and deliberately led them there.And as I said, these immigrants usually want nothing from civilians,but one has to wonder…6 men stumbling upon a woman sleeping in atent in the dark; would they have passed up an opportunity to doharm? Thanks to my friend who called that evening, to check on mywell-being in fact, we will thankfully never know.
The man who walked away was their guide. The BP saw him on camerawalking toward the water near the Mexican Algodones border about amile away from me, and they lost visual on him and didn't catch him.They did catch the first two men I saw and they were illegalimmigrants. I went into my tent that morning, and nothing had beendisturbed.
Flora and Fauna and Stuff
For company at this site I had little yellow-breasted birds whochirped all day and flitted through the trees catching insects. Ihad two wasp nests buzzing over my head that I left alone there—they were here first anyway—and a road runner.
All the birds took about two days to get used to me, and then theysat and jabbered or—especially the case with the road runner—sat andlistened. These creatures seem to love the sound of the human voice.I have heard quail at this site but as yet haven't seen them. Out onthe river are big white stork-like birds (these are also inthe canals sometimes) big brown stork-like birds and mud hens. Themud hens like to sit and listen to you as well and the stork-likebirds will listen for a while before they fly off.
I arrived in Yuma on the 17th,and dove-hunting season just finishedon the 15th. Although I saw no dove bodies, I see everywhereincluding this very site, small piles of dove feathers and I haven'tseen any doves since I arrived here. There are flocks of black birdsthat fly out in the morning and back in the evening but I don't knowwhere they are during the day. At night I can hear coyotes wailingbut I think that's in Mexico. I have seen little brown orgreen fish in the river, and big silver-gray fish with whiskersaround their mouths.
There are a number of small to medium sized lizards, but I seldom ifever see them on the ground, they seem to live mainly in the trees.I've seen a few tiny grey spiders.
As for plant life, the river is slow-moving so there is a lot ofplant life in it, including mossy green stuff in the mud near theArizona banks, some kind of floating ferny type plant, and sadlylots of bamboo and salt cedar, both of them invasive non-nativeplants that are doing a lot of damage here.
The salt cedars are beautiful ferny-looking trees with raggedy barkand feathery purple flowers. They are big and shady, but they giveoff a lot of litter that falls on your clothes, in your drinks andbetween the keys of your computer keyboard. Nothing will growwhere they have taken hold, and plants that were there have died,making a huge fire hazard.
Plus they pull up hundreds of gallons of water a day so that isn'thelping the river any. There is lots of dead bamboo wherever thesalt cedar is, contributing to fire hazard (there are firesall the time along this river, in California, Arizona and Mexico withsuspicious origins and mostly benefitting Border Patrol) and therewas a fire right in this site about a year ago, and at Site 1 sixmonths ago.
One of the biggest impediments to wonderful camping is the heat—heat—heat. It is hardly ever less than 105 to 110 degrees, and the nightsare in the mid to high 90's. Which is why I originally scheduledthis trip for October in the first place and I highly recommend thisunless you have a cooling system with generator for your tent or RV.
The high humidity makes it worse. The other big impediment are themosquitoes, especially the closer you are to the water until, whenyou are as close as I am, you live in big clouds of them 24/7. Theyare extremely aggressive and come in several sizes. Your best friendout here are the dragonflies, they come in every color of the rainbow, black, brown, blue, green-gray—and they are very docile andwill sit on your knees or your hand if it's outstretched long enough.They usually sit with their bulbous eyes facing you and when they dothis look closely...they probably are ingesting a mosquito on the spot---usually head first.
If you can get a few of these into your tent or vehicle, they willeat your mosquitoes for you in short order. I let them out after aday so they don't starve, and get new ones in. No matter what I do Iget no less than twenty mosquito bites a night out here every nightI've been here, even through my clothing and my shoes, except in mytent where I have pet dragonflies.
Keeping a candle burning seems to help, I'm sure my bites would bedouble without it. It's too warm to wear long protective clothing orbug screen or keep the car windows rolled up.
I borrowed a tactic from one of the locals and I wash my clothes byswimming in the river while wearing them. While this does get them(and me) fairly clean, I found that after two weeks my denim shorts canstand up straight by themselves because the water is so alkaline.
When it does rain, it does so in droplets just enough to totallydirty your car windows. It takes a half gallon of water to wash all myRanger's windows. My next project is to wash the entire vehicle with riverwater and I'll let you know how that went in part two of this review.
The little inverter I got from Fry's grocery store for 20 dollars isrunning everything just fine. It keeps my cell phone, my Gameboy, mylaptop (though I don't use that much), and my little FRS radios fullycharged and still starts up easily. I drive about five miles everytwo days for ice, sundries, and to charge the car battery.
I spend my days sleeping, playing Zelda on Gameboy, keeping apersonal log of events here at BorderWatch, and reading Tolkien. I keep busyenough that amazingly I still haven't even finished the Silmarillionafter two weeks, and I was hoping to finish that, The Hobbit, and TheLord of the Rings before coming home. I brought chess/checkers, andDeluxe Scrabble ---Spanish and English—but being alone I have no oneto play with. I have listened to the radio a few times, including theMark Edwards show when it isn't drowned out by a nearby Mexican station.
Thanks to my friends and family for their support, advice, and forbelieving in me to carry out this project. Coming up soon: part two.