The story goes like this:
A ranch hand working in New Mexico’s Bootheel stumbles upon men and two or three vehicles stranded in remote cattle country. They turn out to be drug runners from Mexico who take him hostage, load his vehicle with narcotics and force him to drive to Willcox, Ariz., where they leave him alive but warn him not to go to the police.
They would be watching.
That alleged incident and a host of recent break-ins have ranchers across Hidalgo County and in southeastern Arizona outraged about what they say is a decline in border security. The cattle growers associations of both states are hosting a meeting this week in the tiny town of Animas to air their grievances to elected officials – including pleas for more boots on the ground – and they expect to draw a crowd.
The Bootheel’s rugged terrain of ridges and arroyos, sparse roads and sprawling desert has historically presented challenges for law enforcement charged with keeping the region safe, particularly from illegal traffic coming from Mexico. It’s a corridor favored by traffickers moving dope north to the drug-hungry U.S. market.