Ranchers of southern Arizona stick together. It’s a necessity as they confront the cartels across the border who supply Americans with illicit drugs and kill their fellow Mexicans in appalling numbers. One rancher, Ed Ashurst, has even written a book about another rancher, “The Life and Times of Warner Glenn,” who is portrayed as the model cowboy superior to legend, patient, persevering, good-humored, a skilled tracker of lions and outlaws.
At 81, Glenn is enjoying something of a respite from danger. As he rides his horse around his ranch, he doesn’t see a single Mexican intruder or any sign of drugs. “It’s a welcome relief,” he says, considering the heavy traffic he has experienced in the past. He chalks up the change in part to the Presidency of Donald Trump that has struck some fear into the cartels. They in turn have taken control of most immigration to the United States. Anyone who wants to cross must either pay the cartels or transport drugs for them. If he attempts it on his own, he risks his life.
John Ladd, 62, says there’s been a change in tactics. In the past, groups of drug runners crossed his vast 16 thousand acre cattle ranch furtively at night, clad in black with automatic weapons. Now two or three come quite openly in the daytime as if they don’t have much to fear. This is less of a menace, says Ladd, but reflects poorly on law enforcement.
He’s not happy with the U. S. Border Patrol, some of whose agents he believes avoid catching drug runners because of all the paper work involved. There is also the problem of taking bribes to let drug laden vehicles pass. He asks why not bring some of the U.S. military from their far flung duties overseas to the border where a genuine threat exists?
Warner Glenn has a more positive view of the Border Patrol. Author Ashurst describes a trip Glenn took through the mountains with his daughter Kelly in December 2016. Near the top Kelly was thrown from a balking mule down the mountainside badly injured. With no help nearby on inaccessible terrain, a Border Patrol helicopter risked a landing to rescue Kelly and fly her to medical care. She eventually fully recovered after major surgery.
The ranchers are ambivalent about President Trump’s wall. If there’s proper manpower, a wall wouldn’t be needed, says John Ladd. If one is to be built, it should be an extension of already existing steel fences along the border. They’re preferable to a solid concrete wall that blocks a view of the other side. You can see between the bars of the fence and observe perhaps the Mexican rancher who has switched from cattle to drugs, both enriching and endangering him. Ladd points out a conspicuous yellow building across the border that serves as a cartel lookout. Once the fence was built a second floor was added to preserve the view.
Border pressures have led neighboring ranchers to give up and sell. On one side of Glenn was a rancher who had been in law enforcement. He figured he was too much of a target and left. On the other side was a rancher who made himself a target with vigilante-style dress and behavior. He plainly irked the Border Patrol, especially when he slapped one of its agents and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Ranchers Ladd and Glenn have held their own, combining prudence with resilience on a border generally neglected by the U.S. Government. Today’s frontiersmen, they embody the best of the old west and assure its survival.