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his modest office on Allen Street in Falfurrias \(population our own.” About a third of Brooks residents live below the poverty line; average household income is $21,000; jobs are just plain scarce. Pictures of the dead are kept discreetly in certain places in this town, a collective album that tells an important part of what Brooks Countywhich used to be better known for oil, watermelon, and a Halliburton facilityhas become in the last couple of years: a grave for the weak or unlucky. The local Minuteman-type militia, for instance, has a collection of matted 1 lx14’s. Some are artful: a skull amid crawling vines, a kind of meditation; a young man’s figure with legs softly bent, his head thrown back against a bush with the arc of a ballet dancer’s neckonly an accompanying close-up of the winsome face, mouth open and vacant eyes, speaks death. Some remains are partially clothed. There is a condition that comes with too much sun: judgment wanes, and the affected person mistakenly believes stripping will assuage the heat inside. Many fallen dead from dehydration are found with jugs of water lying nearby; the inexperienced trekkerespecially when lostwill save water instead of sipping it periodically, until a line is crossed in the brain and the person no longer feels thirst even as he is expiring from it. Among the pictures are corpses bloated so grievously they look ready to pop. The body of one young woman is not badly swollen, lying with face and torso intact, but her legs have been gnawed down to the long bones by a feral pig. Luis M. Lopez Moreno, Mexico’s consul in McAllen, said there are other changes that may add to the death toll. Since the border has become so difficult to cross, working men who moved back and forth annually are now stuck in the north, and family members unaccustomed to the trek are “trying to reunite” by traveling to the States. Women, arguably less able to withstand the journey, sometimes caring for children, are represented more in the migrant stream. Young migrants, the majority of those who come, are likely to be better educated and more urban now, less aware of how to manage themselves under extreme conditions. “Hank,” a guide for high-end hunters who doesn’t want his real name used, thinks he saves lives. Unobtrusively, he turns hunters’ blinds away from nearby trails so the “illegals” don’t get shot by accident. This is also an attempt “to protect the psychological state of the hunters.” They may be men fearless in high finance and politicsWashington figures including both Bush presidents have hunted here, with Air Force One parked incongruously on the county airstrip. And the gentlemen may have the confidence big wallets can bring, paying well over $1,000 a day to stalk deer, spring turkey, exotic animals, and to stay at lodges with gourmet meals, bars, and wireless. Surprised in the wild by local human traffic, however, they can quake. “Hunters, they get scared and panic, especially if it’s some Luis M. Lopez Moreno, the Mexican consul in McAllen thing like a group of 30 coming through,” Hank explained. “The illegals got so bad last year we had to buy two-way radios?’ Hunters can use the radios to call their guides for help. Hank’s job has changed in other ways, too. “Before there was downtime to be in the truck, kick back, park in a pasture, and wait for the hunters.” No more. “We stay within 100 yards.” Hank once discovered a man lying on his back, one hand on his forehead, knee up, as if he were resting. He had been cooked in place. Another body fallen in the middle of a trail had a path worn around it, where migrants stepped to avoid the corpse. Last Thanksgiving, he found one with “still a little meat on the head, but the arms and legs were detached, pretty much just bones, lying nearby?’ At home, Hank reaches into the bed of his pick-up and pulls out a black backpack like the ones he finds “most every day?’ Inside are dirty clothes, a comb, deodorant, a razor, mirror, a pair of tweezers. It’s typical of a pack left behind as a migrant emerges at a highway pick-up point, ready to blend in to America. Inside the house with his wife and two small children, Hank displays a silver-handled .380, which he started carrying only recently for protection, after 14 years on a job he used to love. Coyotes, those who guide the migrants for high fees, are vicious, he says. That’s a good reason for not JUNE 1, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9