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Border life

Did I mention that Patagonia is at about 4400 feet elevation? It does get pretty nippy here at night. This morning I woke up to find our water hose frozen. The hose we used (one of those roll-up types you can get at Camping World) has developed some tiny pinholes over the months, and so it acts as a sort of ground watering system. You can barely see the miniature sprays, but this morning their existence was made very clear by the little ice formations in the lawn.

PG hose.jpg
Time to get a new hose.

Over the past few days I’ve talked about the nearness of Mexico and how it influences life along southern Arizona. But nowhere has this been more apparent than here in Patagonia.

Because of the rugged terrain, the border here is very porous. The Border Patrol maintains a huge fleet of vehicles in the next town, Sonoita, and they have all the toys: night-vision goggles, ATVs, paddy wagons, cruisers, trucks, and helicopters. Still, I am told they catch only one in ten.

Last night while I was sitting in the dark on a bench outside the Public Library (snarfing the free wifi signal), a DEA or Border Patrol helicopter came by and began circling the town at low altitude with a multi-million candlepower spotlight. They hit me with the light a few times as they passed, in their hunt for drug runners from Mexico. Somewhere, perhaps only a few hundred feet away, someone was hiking north with a 60-lb sack of marijuana on his back, trying to evade the infrared eyes of an observer in the right seat of a Blackhawk helicopter.

It’s commonplace to see Border Patrol trucks off the highway every night, spotlighting and capturing “mules” (drug couriers) and UDAs. Hike into the backcountry and you’ll see piles of trash dumped where they walked the dry washes in the dark. They have no interest in Patagonia — it’s just the first of many towns they must pass to get to the American Dream. But we don’t see the people themselves. They are, like the poorest third of this town, a subtle presence most of the time.

The one time they are visible is when walking south. A drug courier, having made his drop, walks home again along the roadway. At one time the Border Patrol used to pick them up and deport them, but then realized they were just becoming a free taxi service for drug runners. So now, if they spot somebody heading south, they let them keep walking.

PG parking.jpg

All these little intrigues go on around us, but Patagonia takes little heed. Our courtesy parking spot under the big mesquite trees on the corner of 4th and Duquesne is quiet, and we have been undisturbed. The locals slow down and stare at the trailer as they go by, but nobody has had the temerity to knock on our door yet. Still, I am reliably informed that everyone in this small town knows we are here. We may have an Open House later this weekend, just to satisfy curiousity.


We wandered the town Wednesday night to see some of the eclectic features. There are many: the “Politically Incorrect Gas Station” (PIGS), the one-room Museum of the Dead, Velvet Elvis Pizza Parlor, Dos Palmas Vacation Resort, the combination nightclub and community center, and the backyards filled with “antiques” of all descriptions. Patagonia has layers of complexity in it that we have barely begun to appreciate. It is without a doubt the most peculiar town we have visited in the past four months.

Would you like to join us for a mini-caravan? Check our Schedule page to see where we will be in the next three months. If you can cross paths with us for a few days let us know by clicking the “Contact Us” link.

2 Responses to “Border life”

  1. Krista Says:

    Rich, Are you near Herford, AZ? I have relatives who live near to where you are . . .near the Mexican border. Ever hear the locals talk about Sierra Vista? Or Hereford? I believe there is a military base nearby. One of my classmate works there. Anyway – when my parents were in those two locations many years ago, they had their Airstream with them all 32 feet. I recall my dad saying the hose froze – but the view of the mountains was AWESOME from my relatives home. Enjoy the view!

  2. Lou Woodruff Says:

    I checked your schedule and see that you are headed to White Sands. See if you can find something for Emma to sled on. Going down those white sand dunes is a blast. Snow saucer, plastic sled, she would have a big time!
    Glad to hear you are in a neat spot.