Mr. Hawkins sent me an e-mail (read it here). After receiving this e-mail, Neil Morgan, Voice senior editor, sent him an e-mail asking that the euthanasia be delayed for at least 72 hours while we try to work out this difficult situation. – Barbara Bry, Voice Editor in Chief
At about 7 p.m. on July 12, 2005, I went for a walk from my house on Marron Valley Road in Dulzura, Calif., to my land a mile down the road.
I do this often. It had been a long hot day, and it was after sunset when I walked back. As I passed D.K.’s house, he was out grooming a beautiful large red horse by the light of an incandescent flood light in front of his barn. He called out, “Is that Robin?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I have a story to tell you.” I walked over and sat on the ground and petted his old yellow lab, “Buddy,” as D.K., in beard, T-shirt, shorts and old Birkenstocks combed his horse’s long red tail.
He said in essence, “I saw something last night about this time I have never seen before.” I said, “What’s that?”
He said he was out here grooming a horse when he saw a Mexican man walking down the road leading 10 cows.
Now I should explain that Marron Valley Road is a pastoral dirt road that dead ends at the U.S.-Mexican border. Here, there is virtually no border fence as the line runs down the middle of the Tecate River. About 10 miles from the ocean (and the well known craziness of Tijuana’s “busiest border crossing in the world”), “La Linea” is simply a broad, fertile valley. But it is also a “no man’s zone.” Where in the 1900s there were cattle ranches, the U.S. Border Patrol is now active, and the land is part of the recently designated 45,000-acre Otay National Wilderness.
It is about five miles from D.K.’s spread to this “border,” and there are only about five houses in between along the narrow, steep meandering road, with its occasional locked livestock gate.
We often see Mexicans who have crossed the border here illegally. They are usually alone, or in groups of two or three. They are usually male, wearing dark colors and they cross via the wilderness. Looking for menial work up north, they rarely take the road, but if they do, they are thirsty and are trying hard to look inconspicuous – and thus they are easy to spot because there are rarely any other pedestrians than myself.
This Mexican man had 10 cows, several of whom were pregnant, a bull with long horns, which he could ride, and a lamb. The animals were all named and were all under voice control. This really amazed D.K.
He kept saying. “I’ve never seen anything like it before!”
As a cow started to wander off, the man would say (in Spanish) “Paloma (White Dove), what are you doing? Get over here!” And she would.
The man told D.K. that he had no land, and he had16 cows and had started with one or two originally. He said that he was tired, that he had been beaten and robbed of six cows recently in Mexico. As he was homeless, he stayed with the cows all the time. He had no land, and thus no fences – and so he wandered with the cows from place to place, being kicked out when the landowner realized he (and they) were there. The man said he was tired, “and I just want to go over to the ocean and catch a fish.”
So he decided that he would give his precious cows to an American as long as the person promised to keep them together and not to kill them. He had faith in Americans, as he had worked in the state of Washington a long time ago. He said he believed that “Mexicans would kill them and eat them” – and not keep the cows together as a family.
So this was the day. He crossed the border at the river valley west of Tecate, Mexico and walked the cows the five rural miles up the steep and narrow Marron Valley Road into the United States. His plan was to give them away to someone here and then walk back.
The man and his herd approached D.K. and asked D.K. if he would take his herd. D.K. said he did not have the land to do so, but he would call E.C., who might.
The man’s plan was not a bad one. Five years ago there had been cattle herds on Marron Valley Road, but no more. The last had been killed in the 2003 fires. Their owner was 80-something-year-old E.C. (who wears a worn-out “Eat Beef” baseball hat and is a son of an original pioneering family of Dulzura). E.C. came over and said he was interested, but in the meantime, the Border Patrol drove by.
Well, of course an “illegal alien,” in George Bush’s America, cannot walk a herd of cows across the border, and then give them away, even if they are pregnant and tame and loved and named.
What were they to do? The cows were thirsty after their long trek, so at D.K.’s suggestion, the Border Patrol allowed the man to walk them over to the little lake on the Bureau of Land Management property. Then he walked them over next to my land (as it is fenced there). D.K. brought the man a sleeping bag, and the Border Patrol let him sleep with them in the open.
The next morning D.K. brought him a cup of coffee for which the man was very grateful, as he had not had a cup of coffee in “a long time.” D.K. asked him how old he was. He said he was about 50 but D.K. thought he looked over 70. Agent R.S. of the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Department of Agriculture came with a huge trailer. The Mexican man loaded his animals into the large, noisy, metal and completely unfamiliar trailer – completely by voice.
Agent J.C. later told me, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I asked D.K., “What will happen to them?”
D.K. said, “They will go into quarantine, and then to the auctions in Chino,” where, we both knew, no one will know that they are tame and loved and named … and not to be eaten or separated.
Then they put the man in the back seat of Agent J.C.’s car, to be deported back to Tecate, and “the lamb stood at the car door and cried and cried for the man.”
July 18, 2005 Postscript: The animals are still alive, in quarantine and seem to be in startlingly excellent health. To remain that way, by July 25, 2005, people need to come forward to pay for lab tests for the animals – and then they need a good home. Otherwise they may be euthanized.
It is unclear if the man has been deported or is still in detention.
Robin Brailsford is an artist who lives and works in San Diego’s east county.
Please e-mail Voice editor Barbara Bry at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping either the man or the animals.