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Under Siege 

As illegal immigrants surge across Southern Arizona, life for ranchers living near the border has become a living hell

You couldn't find a better place to have lunch than this cramped, dusty Cochise County cook shack. It has every bit of ambience that Arizona ranch country can offer, including a wood-slat ceiling covered with strips of tin from a dismantled pigpen. In ranching, nothing goes to waste, so when Ruth Evelyn Cowan had the opportunity to collect some scrap from her parents' New Mexico ranch, she grabbed it.

The tin might rattle in the wind and drum in the rain, but those sounds create a symphony for Cowan, who loves this place and this life. She was born into it 57 years ago, and you can see that it suits her down to the mud on her boots. You don't have to listen hard to hear the contentment in her voice when she goes on about her American Brahman cattle--big, silver, hump-backed animals with floppy ears that she talks to as if they were her kids.

But this is Southern Arizona under siege, so there really is only one subject on the agenda, one issue that dominates all others here: the border with Mexico and the invasion of illegals who, every day and every night, rush to fill this yawning vacuum.

They are hungry campesinos; unemployed Colombian dishwashers; Brazilian professors on the lam; Syrian women running from abusive men; felons and child molesters; young Mexican women who've been tricked into believing that Chicago is right up the road from Bisbee, so sure those Manolo Blahnik knockoffs will be perfect for walking there; strong-shouldered teenage boys who can lift everything you own for $7 an hour; dark-eyed men who love pornography and use breaks in their treks to ogle skin mags, then toss them on the ground before moving north again; drug addicts who litter pull-up sites with used needles; children who play with Barney dolls; terrified mothers who nurse their infants while hoping to reunite with their stone mason husbands; coyote guides who carry 9 mm automatics, long knives to slash the throats of barking dogs and epinephrine to squirt up their noses for fast energy; and pregnant girls desperate to birth their babies in the great United States.

You can't name a category of human being--good-hearted or crooked, kind or mean--or a nation, religion or ethnic group that isn't using this border to sneak into America illegally. The numbers boggle the mind. In January alone, the Border Patrol in the Tucson sector impounded 557 smuggling vehicles, confiscated 34,864 pounds of marijuana and arrested 35,704 illegals, according to agency spokesman Jose Garza.

The important number is one they can't pinpoint with certainty: how many got through. But figure it this way, using the common belief that, conservatively, for every arrest the Border Patrol makes, another two illegals make it through: With almost 500,000 arrests in the Tucson sector last year, that means somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million illegals broke into the country successfully last year--an average of almost 3,000 every 24 hours. And arrests for 2005 are up 10 percent, according to Garza.

Because of the sheer number of illegals--as well as their desperation, their willingness to destroy property and intimidate, and the always-simmering fear--Cowan and husband, Bob Giles, have sold most of their cattle and are significantly scaling back their ranching operation.

"I feel such relief," says Cowan of the decision she and her husband made last summer. "I'm tired of continually looking over my shoulder. I'd like to be able to get up in the morning and not have the first part of my day spent repairing damage from the night before. I'd like to be able to live on my own ranch, but I don't feel safe there. I want a rattlesnake to be the worst thing I have to worry about."

Lunch today is tamales and lemonade. It's beautiful outside, the sunlit-gold grass bending in the wind and the Dragoon Mountains standing against the far horizon like black-and-purple pyramids. They make postcards out of scenes like this. Cowan stops to catch her breath. Little in her manner or the setting indicates the seriousness of the topic, or the heartbreak involved. She's good at keeping the rawest of her emotions in check. But there is one tip-off, and it's her eyes. They burn as she talks.

"I'm not an angry person, but I'm just ticked all the time, and that's not a healthy way to live. We're all so angry here. We're tired of the apathy of people who live elsewhere. What's happening here is everyone's problem, not just ours. We're tired of people who live in another country thumbing their noses at our laws, our culture and our customs, and threatening what we've spent generations building."

The words still hold little heat. As we eat and listen to the breeze sifting through the shack, Cowan continues in flat-toned recitation of what she and other ranchers have been saying for a long time. But no one has listened, and nothing has changed, and maybe that's what you hear in her voice--a sad resignation born of the knowledge that she's powerless to change the ongoing nightmare of her life.

"I'm a rich rancher," Cowan says, her tone mocking the very idea. "Well, I guess I am rich in a way. I have my husband, my parents, my friends, the ability to work and make a living. As far as cash in my pocket, I don't have that. Financially, I've been devastated. But I feel spiritually, emotionally and physically bankrupt, too. In my lifetime, I've never been where I am today. I don't want to see the damage the illegals have done anymore, I don't want to look at it; I don't want to fix it. That's a whole new me, because I'm 9-foot-tall and bulletproof. The illegals have changed everything."


She's right, and it's happening up and down the Arizona-Mexico border. A way of life is being run through a grinder. The way people think, how they go about their days, the way they work, the way they view the government--everything is changing. The smuggling trade has done this, by its sheer vastness, by the corrupting profits it produces.

In towns like Sierra Vista, high school kids earn money making fast-food deliveries for coyotes. A group heading north will lay in a wash to await their pickup rides. They're hungry. A 17-year-old kid, dealing by cell phone, will take an order for 150 burgers from the dollar menu at McDonald's, and deliver them to the waiting mob. They pay $2 each to eat--a 100 percent profit for the kids--then heave their trash everywhere. Thanks and be sure to come again, says the kid, thumbing a wad.

In Douglas, high schoolers make huge profits driving illegals to Phoenix, maybe six to eight of them stuffed into an SUV, each paying $1,200. How does $10,000 for a weekend's work sound?

"A kid making that kind of money, do you think he's going to school on Monday morning?" asks retired Douglas educator Frank Adams. "Those kids used to drive clunkers. Now they drive Navigators. You start out so young making that kind of easy money, where's it lead? He'll be dead or in jail. It upsets me very much."

The same kinds of things are happening in towns on the Mexican side. In Cananea, the smugglers have even changed the smell of the air. It reeks of barbecue now, from the makeshift grills that have sprouted on almost every street corner to fill the bellies of the hordes moving north.

Four Mexican towns abutting the Arizona border--Cananea, Altar, Naco and Agua Prieta--once quiet, traditional, mostly safe, anchored by a few old families, have become the primary smuggler-staging grounds. Their central plazas bustle with men, women and children who stay in the hotels, eat at the restaurants, buy hats, water bottles, clothes and shoes, and lounge around in public until it's time to hop a cab up to the line.

With them comes a post office wall full of bad guys allied with the movement of people and drugs north--enforcers, cutthroat coyotes, gang bosses, gang soldiers and on and on. Ordinary Mexicans, those not involved in the trade, don't like seeing these people filling their streets, the smugglers or their charges. They view the latter just as many Southern Arizonans do--as invaders.

They're from somewhere else. They dress differently. They look different. Fearful parents in these towns order their kids to stay indoors because they don't want them playing near the strangers. They call them crosseros, Spanish for "crossers." Stay away from the crossers, they tell their kids.

Close to dark, the cabs move out. From the right hilltop vantage point on the Arizona side, you can set up a lawn chair, fire up a cheap cigar and watch the invasion. You see the headlights streaming north, virtual convoys of Ford Crown Vics and beat-up old Mercurys filled to the windows with soon-to-be illegals. From Cananea--where a legal taxi permit now costs an astonishing $15,000--they follow a dirt road that splits about 10 miles south of the border, one fork leading to the San Rafael Valley, in the mountains above Patagonia; the other to the San Pedro River Valley. In some cases, their feet don't hit the ground until they're literally a quarter-mile from the international fence.

It's an enormous business, and by any measure, a historic migration that is profoundly changing our country. But none of it is happening according to anybody's plan, certainly no American legislative body, and here's the biggest rub--it's a revolution of appetites. Mexico benefits by dumping off its poorest, avoiding the thorny responsibility of taking care of its own people, and it benefits from the cash these laborers send home, which, after oil, now constitutes that government's second-largest income source. But American appetites contribute greatly as well, specifically, our appetite for cheap labor and illicit drugs, which creates this powerful magnet effect, pulling people and dope to the border.

For those living on the line, that might be the worst of it--the recognition that their own people help fuel the daily chaos in which they live. It breeds in good citizens a corrosive cynicism, especially toward government--the same government to which they've been loyal all their lives, and to which they pay taxes and rely on for protection.

"I feel kind of betrayed," says Frank Adams, sitting at the kitchen table of his home outside Douglas. He speaks slowly and sadly, measuring words he couldn't imagine saying 10 years ago. "I feel betrayed by the federal government and by the state government, too. All the governor has to do is bring the National Guard down here and seal this border up, but they won't do it. What makes it so phony is you can see these illegals everywhere, so why can't our law enforcement stop them? The answer is they don't want to. It's a political game all the way to the top."

What's happened to Frank and Barbara Adams has happened to many families along the border. Douglas residents since the 1950s, the Adamses have watched their once-friendly town transform, in a scant eight years, into a cold, nearly unrecognizable place. During a home renovation in 1997, a worker asked the Adamses for a house key to get in when they were gone. The couple looked at one another. "Key? We don't have a key. We've never locked the door." Same with the car; they left the keys in it at night.

Now they lock down everything tight as a drum, and Frank won't even drive to the Douglas Wal-Mart in his new Ford F-250, because he's afraid it'll be stolen.

The Adamses are trying to move to Texas to be near their children, but the fingerprints of the smugglers are on that decision, too. The family's property has been on the market two years, and they've had a grand total of two serious buyers. When the Realtor tells callers the property is right outside Douglas, the callers say goodbye, and that's it

This is what life is like on the border now. You don't put your faith in hapless law enforcement or empty political promises, but in your own instinct for survival. You make sure someone is always home. You keep weapons by the door and by the bed, just in case. You rig up burglar alarms. You lock pasture gates. You post "No Trespassing" signs. You toss and turn at night. You watch your property values tank. You cry or punch a wall. You get up in the morning and do it all over again.


We're in Cowan's pickup truck now, driving across a broad stretch of southeast Arizona on an inspection tour of the war zone. The road we're traveling, Davis Road, is a particular menace, a stretch of hot top that connects Highway 80, near Tombstone, with Highway 191 above Douglas.

It doesn't look especially perilous as it rolls over its 23-mile course. But the frequent dips and doglegs can leave drivers blind and at the mercy of smugglers who screech around the turns, sometimes at 100 mph. Cowan has twice been run off this road, and like others in the vicinity, she avoids traveling here at night. But she can't avoid it entirely, because portions of her 17,000-acre spread straddle Davis Road.

Her ancestors homesteaded near here, and Cowan herself was born into a prominent Southern Arizona ranching family, her grandfather a multi-term member of the state Legislature in the 1930s and 1940s. She talks of her girlhood in the tiny settlement of McNeal, near Douglas, as an idyllic time, playing barefoot in alfalfa and cotton fields and riding horses bareback into the mesquites. It was a life of solidity and comfort in a place where everybody knew everybody else.

"As kids, we knew it'd never do any good to tell a lie, because you couldn't get away with anything anyway," says Cowan laughing. "You learned to play by the rules."

After graduating from Douglas High School, she went to ASU before becoming a flight attendant for TWA in 1969. Except for helping her father, she'd never worked full-time as a rancher until 1994, when she bought the property she now owns, from her sisters. Cowan wanted to preserve the family heritage and keep the land from being subdivided. But she held on to her day job, too. By then, she worked for Northwest Airlines, which required three weekends of work a month, flying all over the world as an international flight attendant.

She fits the role well--welcoming, confident, polite. Think of June Cleaver with close-cropped silver hair. But Cowan is no shrinking violet; a few years ago, she organized the first concealed-carry gun class for women of Cochise County, drawing a crowd of 28 to the Benson firehouse. And at most public meetings she attends, Cowan stands to give a rousing recital of a poem she wrote called "Ode to the Vigilante":

If I haul them to town, I'm trafficking.
If I take them in, I'm harboring.
If I feed them all, I go broke.
If I deny them, they steal.
If I'm vulnerable, they take advantage.
If my dog bites them, I have to pay their medical bills.
If I haul off a known trafficking vehicle, I face auto theft.
If I carry a gun because I'm afraid, I'm a vigilante.

"The media always twist everything we say, making us out to be these terrible vigilantes," says Cowan. "But we're just vigilant Americans."

Cowan keeps her own gun stashed under the console of her truck as we drive Davis Road, a supremely sane thing to do in a place where automatic-weapons fire from drug runners shatters the night quiet, and the daytime signs of smuggling are everywhere. Just look around: hubcaps hooked to range fences--signals for coyotes or druggies to cross there; cars with Florida and California plates, probably stolen, wheeling up and down the road; cattle gates mangled by smuggler cars. Cowan says every single gate along Davis Road has been smashed at least once.

With her weekend's work as a flight attendant done, Cowan would return to Arizona to run the ranch. Her husband, Bob, now 58, who lives and works in Phoenix running his own company, would drive the 200 miles to Tombstone, work with her on Saturdays and Sundays, then drive the 200 miles back to Phoenix on Sunday night. "It was very hard," Bob Giles says. "I wonder now how the hell I survived it. But we needed the money I sent down there to run the ranch."

But the damage caused by illegals in Cowan's absence kept getting worse, which made going to work a peculiar torture. She knew the odds were good that something bad was happening back on the ranch, but she didn't know what it was, and couldn't do anything about it anyway. "If I'm in Japan, what can I do about a problem in Arizona?" she asks. "All I can do is worry. It got to the point where I stopped calling home."

Illegal immigration became the hell that followed her around the world. There was no escaping it.

On work weekends, her routine was to drive to Phoenix, catch a flight to L.A. and begin whatever assignment she had from Northwest. But while parking at the Phoenix airport, she said, she'd sometimes spot vehicles that she'd seen crossing her property the day before. The van or truck would park, and a dozen or more illegals would jump out, then head to the terminals to catch flights all across the country.

Sometimes, Cowan says, they were even on her flight to L.A., and because she speaks fluent Spanish, she was often asked to translate for, quite possibly, the very same individuals who'd just trashed her property.

"So many things have happened; I can't remember the chronology," Cowan says as we drive. "It all blends together."

She points to a pasture out the driver's window. "See, over there, I have a water line they keep cutting. So I rigged a faucet to it so they could drink without letting thousands of gallons drain out. But now they don't turn off the faucet, so the water runs out anyway."

A little farther along, she recalls another disaster: A gate the illegals left open allowed a nurse cow to wander onto the road. It was killed when a passing motorist smashed into it, demolishing the car. Then the motorist, who'd suffered a broken arm, threatened to sue Cowan.

On and on it goes. She and Bob have had one truck stolen and another vandalized, jacking up her insurance rates. One of her prized bulls ate a plastic bag, the kind illegals discard everywhere, blocking its intestines and creating such agony that she had to kill the animal. Cost: $2,400.

Three north-south smuggling trails cross Cowan's land, and so many illegals walk them that they spooked her cattle, making them wild. Wild cattle don't gain as much weight, and when ranchers go to market, they sell quality and weight. She also followed a specific breeding program, but with her gates constantly left open and fences cut, her herds were becoming mongrelized and more susceptible to disease from neighboring cattle.

Cowan takes pride in how she manages her property, and in the past six years, she's received more than $375,000 in various grants for watershed rehabilitation. But the illegals leave behind piles and piles of human feces, which, after a rain, drain into the gullies and into the water supply.

"Should we test to see whether the feces in the water is from cows or people?" she asks. "In some places on my land, the native grasses have been trampled so heavily they won't grow back in my lifetime, and I'll be blamed."

In October, she had nine at-risk kids out on the ranch picking up the illegals' garbage. They bagged a spectacular 6,080 pounds over five days. Four months later, it was all back again. She once called the EPA to report dumping of trash on state trust land. "Who's doing the dumping?" the bureaucrat asked.

"Illegals."

"Oh," said the bureaucrat. "We don't have a department to deal with that."

Everyone along Davis Road lives the same horror story.

Fred Davis is a professional rodeo roper, and he furnishes horses and equipment to movie companies on location. He's worked on The Alamo and Braveheart, among others. On the Fourth of July weekend last year, he settled some of his horses into a pasture on Thursday night, leaving the gate wired open so they could drink at a draw nearby.

When he went to check on them Monday morning, he found the horses in terrible shape, their stomachs hollow from lack of water. Davis watched as one mare kept tangling her feet in the pasture fence, and at first he couldn't figure out why. Then he realized she'd gone blind from dehydration. Illegals had closed and locked the gate, which took considerable effort, cutting off the horses' access to water.

Davis had to shoot the $7,000 mare. "I'm sure it was intentional," says Davis. "Why else would they go to the trouble of closing a gate that was wired open?"

Another time, Davis' daughter Marlo, then 23, was home alone when a man rapped at the kitchen window. He wanted to come inside and use the phone. She said no. He persisted, telling her that the man with him had hurt his leg, and she had to take them someplace in her car. But she kept saying no.

To back him off, Marlo told the invader that her father was in the back room. The man at the window said, "Your father isn't home, and I know your neighbor isn't home either. I've been watching the house from the barn all day."

Now terrified, Marlo noticed that he held his right hand in a strange way, the knuckles forward, his fingers curled up as if concealing something in his palm. She was about to get the family shotgun when the mysterious man finally gave up and left.

Later, on the ground outside the kitchen window, the Davises found a knife from a rack the family keeps in a workshop near their barn. They surmised that the man at the window had been holding that knife.

This happened in August 2001--domestic terrorism a month before Sept. 11.

Every rancher has a similar story. Sue and Rob Krentz, who live north of Douglas, lost a baby calf when two illegals beat it to death with a metal fence post, then barbecued it on the spot. The animal, barely 12 hours old, still had afterbirth on it. The two were arrested, spent 52 days in jail, and were ordered to pay the Krentzes $100 each. But they fled back into Mexico without paying.

What has changed since Sept. 11? Not much, except the invaders have become more aggressive. They're a scarier breed now, with an attitude of entitlement about what they're doing and a willingness to threaten anyone who interferes.

One day, Cowan came across a blue Chevy pickup with a camper shell parked off Davis Road. Opposite it, on the other side of the road, there was a man standing near his truck. He pretended to be inspecting a sign that Cowan had put up. It said: "If this were Crawford, Texas, the National Guard would be here." She knew immediately the man was spotting for a coyote. She drove up to him and rolled down the window. He was Anglo, middle-aged, with tattoos along both arms and bright blue eyes.

In a sickeningly sweet voice, he said, "Oh, do you have a problem with illegals around here?"

Right then, the Chevy across the street bolted toward Tombstone. Even though she was pulling a 16-foot stock trailer, Cowan roared off in pursuit, punching 911 on her cell as she went. Tombstone's marshals intercepted the Chevy, finding 19 illegals inside. It was a good outcome, except that the coyotes, listening in on police scanners, heard everything the dispatcher and the deputies said. A few days later, a relative with ties to the sheriff's office delivered a chilling warning to Cowan: The coyotes know who you are, and they know where you are, so watch your back.


The latest? A truck roared across Cowan's property, mowing down five fences. She repaired them, but two weeks later, another invader mowed them down again. She and Bob figure it was a drug truck. "We have a president who doesn't understand the Constitution and two representative bodies that are afraid to do anything," says Giles. "I don't know what it's going to take for them to wake up. Maybe a little revolution wouldn't hurt."

If you listen to border residents up and down the line--at least those few brave enough to talk--the drug traffickers, a decades-long presence, have become much more aggressive, violent and visible of late.

In the San Rafael Valley, in the mountains above Patagonia, they've been known to enter sovereign American territory simply by driving over the international border fence, plowing down the barbed wire line in huge pickups, some actually equipped with armor plating. Marshal Goodwin, who does maintenance work for Arizona State Parks there, says he's repaired the seven-strand barbed-wire border fence three times in the same place on the same day, after drug runners have broken it down.

It's not at all rare now to hear a rancher tell of coming across heavily armed men escorting drug shipments across their land. It only has to happen once--you look out your kitchen window and see guys carrying AK-47s--to make you realize there's a new force in your life, a controlling force, and it's not American law.

Every rancher makes his own peace with the outlaws. Bud Strom's ranch sits at the east base of the Huachuca Mountains, south of Sierra Vista, and he's experienced all the standard troubles--a truck stolen, fences cut, illegals boldly demanding beer and getting angry when he refuses. For a long time, before the feds built day/night vision towers on the southern part of his land, which cut foot traffic, the 72-year-old Strom estimated that 1,000 illegals a week crossed his property.

But the retired Marine officer says he never confronts them, and when he finds bales of marijuana, which he occasionally does, he steers clear of them as well. "Someone else could be watching me, and you don't want to mess with these drug guys," says Strom.

When asked about the accommodations necessary to live in such a dangerous place, another border-area rancher (who spoke on the condition of anonymity) said, "I've sent a message to the drug dealers: 'Don't let me see you, or I'll have to report it.' I've let it be known to my help that if I find out anyone cooperated with drug people, they're fired. But it's not my job or my business to stop them, and it'd be foolish and dangerous of me to try. It's kind of live and let live. That's the only way I feel it's safe. I could disappear so easily, and there'd never be a trace."

This rancher added that the status quo is actually better than a crackdown: "If the drug people and the illegals can't get across, and things get more complicated, the people now making easy money might resort to kidnapping. We've actually been warned about that possibility. It's better for us to have the drug dealers and the people smugglers making money the way they are, rather than through kidnapping. ... Kidnapping is always in my head. I take different routes."

In some places, the smugglers have made the border their own. Right across the line from Lukeville, in far western Pima County, stands a shrine believed to represent a Mexican drug-hero, Jesus Malverde. No one is quite sure whether the bandit Malverde, supposedly hung by the Mexican government in 1909, was a real person, a composite of two men or pure fiction, but to the Mexicans who mule drugs for the cartels, he's a Robin Hood-like character, and there his monument stands, near Lukeville. The traffickers pray at the feet of this so-called narco saint on their way into our country.

Davis Road has a shrine of its own, a strange monument anchoring its west end. Locals call it the "Pee and Pray." The ground around it is usually littered with trash, some dumped by area residents who don't want to pay a $5 dump fee. But smugglers use it, too, according to Larry Talvy, a deputy with the Tombstone Marshal's Office. They use it as a landmark and pull-up spot, a place to take a leak, light a candle and say a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Talvy says he's noticed a funny thing: the number of drug cars that have statues of the Virgin hanging from the rearview, or the dashboard.

Hail Mary, mother of God, please smile upon us as we violate American sovereignty, flaunt its laws and poison its people. Amen.


Night begins to fall over a long day in the war zone. We're on Leslie Canyon Road, north of Douglas. It's two lanes, no traffic, mostly pastureland straddling the blacktop. One of the pastures belongs to Cowan, and there's a red truck parked on the shoulder near her pasture gate, two men standing beside it. They have no reason for being there, and they're acting strange.

Cowan drives a mile past the gate, pulls to the shoulder to wait, and we talk some more. She has remained even-tempered through the day, in the telling of every wrenching episode, and she has tried to keep perspective. She acknowledges that many factors have contributed to the difficulties of ranching in Southern Arizona--everything from the nine-year drought to housing development that has brought dogs that run in packs, killing calves.

But the illegals have been the tipping point. She could survive everything else. She can't survive the invasion. "It just consumes you," she says. "If you're not at a meeting talking about it, you're repairing something they've done, or you're standing on the highway looking at a dead animal, because they left a gate open. You have to decide: Is this more important than my quality of life, my health, my marriage?"

Asked what she has to say to executives of American companies that feast off the cheap labor, Cowan pauses, and the anger returns to her eyes.

"I want them to have a Martha Stewart experience," she says. "I want their sentence to be two years living on the border. Then tell me how great cheap labor is."

Five years ago, Cowan took a leave of absence from Northwest, forfeiting the much-needed income and losing company health insurance, which she has since been paying herself to the tune of $400 a month. But the move gave her more time on the ranch, and she hoped that with her increased presence, and Bob's on the weekends, and their energy, they could save the place. It didn't work. Everything came to a head one night last June. Unable to sleep, the tension knotting inside her, Cowan got on her computer and typed out the pros and cons of staying in ranching. No matter how she parsed the list, the answer came out the same.

The next day, she and Bob called a family meeting at her parent's home in Tucson. Dad, Bill, was there; her mom, Cordy; and her sister, Marguerite. The discussion went smoothly, without rancor or even much emotion as everyone agreed the time had come. In July, Cowan unloaded most of her cattle, lucking out by hitting the market at its peak.

But she kept her American Brahmans, and right now, sitting in her pickup off a lonesome two-lane with darkness coming on, those misshapen critters constitute the best part of what remains of her ranching life. "They're regal, wonderful, intelligent animals, smarter than we are," she says. "I need them to soothe my soul."

We double back to check on the mysterious red truck and the two men. They're gone. Then Cowan spots them again, down the pasture road, about a half-mile beyond the gate. The men have cut the lock, closed the gate again and looped the chain back into place. You have to look closely to see it, which is no doubt what they wanted.

Now it starts--the uncertainty, the jangled nerves. Who are these guys? Are they using the pasture for a drug drop? Are these the coyotes out to get even with Cowan?

She gets on her cell and calls the Cochise County sheriff. Then we wait, wondering if this time, she'll have to pull that gun.

It's a rotten feeling. It shouldn't be this way. For the first time all day, Cowan's temper cracks, and under the strain, she cries. She makes a fist. "I feel so violated. I just get wound up so tight I want to scream. It's just goes on and on and on, every day."

This event ends much better than it might have. The men tell sheriff's deputies they're Douglas residents and American citizens out hunting for the afternoon. They claim the lock was already cut when they came along. Cowan wants to press charges, saying she's placed legal notices in three area newspapers, describing the property in English and Spanish and stating that her land is off limits to hunters, and the pasture fence is plastered with "Keep Out" signs.

But on the border, gates mean nothing. Your possessions are up for grabs. Private property means nothing.

Later, driving back to Tombstone, Cowan calls Bob to say she's on her way home. It's become part of life here, making sure your loved ones know where you are at all times. Then you say your prayers to help you get over the ache in your gut from the way of life that's being taken away from you--the life you've chosen, the life you loved, that's now slipping away.

Driving through the night, Cowan says, "I have to think God's guiding me through this maze, that he was with me the night I got up to make the list, and when I sold my cattle at the top of the market. I believe he's guiding me through this. I really do."

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