The Devil's Highway

This book has come up in conversation a number of times in the past few weeks, so I figured I'd post these quotes. I typed them up in March of 2011, when I was going to record some thoughts about the book. But all I got to was typing the quotes.

I'm a selective reader and The Devil's Highway makes my list of top 40 books.

Because. . .

It's a compelling story that tells a true story.
It makes me think differently about the world I live in.
It keeps you hooked until the end. (The last 20 pages are the best.)

If you know of other books that fit these criteria, please comment with your recommendations. I'm ready for a break from parenting books.

If it was the Border Patrol's job to apprehend lawbreakers, it was equally their duty to save the lost and the dying.

In Veracruz, things weren't going well. The people were killing themselves working the ranchos on the outskirts. The fisherman couldn't catch enough protein in the sea. The cane cutters couldn't cut enough cane. The small peasant farmers couldn't get good enough prices to cover the costs of planting and harvesting their coffee. Even the marijuana growers were making meager wages once the narcos took their hit off the top and the cops got their mordidas.

Families continued to grow. The gringos and the missionaries and even the government representatives from Mexico City told them to stop procreating. It was simple: too many mouths caused hunger.

And in the economy of hunger, which the fat men of the governments did not understand, more mouths meant more chances to survive. With a high rate of infant and childhood mortality, the lower castes, the workers, and the tribal people of the Third World tended to rely on their own procreative gifts for survival. If one of of five died, that still left four to grow up and begin to work. When Madre y Padre became old, ill, infirm, it was only the family that would protect them. No AARP or Medicare in the jungle. Four children, with children of their own, might suddenly represent a small army of twenty, all working, all pitching in, all offering a tithe of food or money or water or tequila. True communism, on a family level.

Men came from America in cars. Some even had the latest models--new Dodge Ram trucks, bright red, booming Eminem on their CD players. . . They built cement block additions to their tumbledown houses, added aluminum to the thatch roofs. New clothes were signs of great success: satellite dishes, air conditioners, boom boxes, guns, cattle, televisions, coffeemakers, PCs, pigs. Some even got telephones. It was unheard of. Villages all over Mexico were suddenly slotting into the Internet, watching CNN. Families came back with babies who were supposedly American citizens. The neighbors of these adventure-capitalists watched and wanted. Their children were dying. Dengue fever had made its way up from the Amazon. Malaria was spreading again, and it was worse than before--this new black blood malaria. Corruption, political violence, indigenous revolution in the south. People in Veracruz were looking north, as inevitably as the rains came and the mosquitos bit.

More than four thousand men from the region had already left.

For a while, the Mexican government offered the walkers survival kits with water and snacks, but the uproar from the United States put a stop to that. Americans saw these attempts at life saving as a combination invitation to invade and complimentary picnic basket.

Gangs are so in control now that walkers who want to go alone, without a pollero to guide them, must pay a fee just to enter the desert. Criminals are at the gate of Disneyland: they're scalping tickets, and they're scalping each other.

They got all their bags together and choked as the bus pulled away, washing them in fumes and dust. They waved their hands before their faces and waited for a truck to scream by going the other way. The driver knew what they were doing. The United States was less than one hundred yards away. He raised one hand and was gone. They trotted along the road, Mendez in the lead, the other two gangsters taking up the rear. Nobody told the walkers anything. They thought they were going to jump a big fence and hide in trees as helicopters bore down. But they ran in the sand, slipping and struggling, and they dropped into a dry wash and up the three-foot bank on the north side, and they stepped over a dropped and rusted barbed wire fence. "Lost estados unidos, muchachos." That's it? That's the border? This is North America? It don't look like much!

The day tormented them. Thirst. Pain. Men crawled under creosotes, under the scant shade of scraggly mesquites. It was a dull repetition of the entire walk. As rote as factory work. Their hours clanged by like machines. They were in the dirt like animals. Six o'clock in the morning took ten hours to become seven o'clock. A week later, it was eight o'clock. The temperature screamed into the nineties before nine o'clock. They waited. They couldn't even talk. They panted like dogs, groaned. Men put their hands to their chests, almost delicately, as if checking their own pulses. But they were barely awake. They were half in dreams and half in the day, and the day itself was a bad dream. Dry wings swished in the air around them. Voices, coughing. Far above, the icy sliver chips of airplanes cut the blue. Out of reach.

Nobody knows the name of the man who took off all his clothes. It was madness, surely. He removed his slacks, folded them, and put them on the ground. Then he took off his underwear, laid it neatly on the pants. He removed his shirt and undershirt and squared them away with the pants. As if he didn't want to leave a mess. His shoes had the socks tucked in them. They were placed on the clothes to keep them from blowing away. He lay on his back and stared into the sun until he died.

Nahum Landa said he wanted them to forget giving him a drink--he wanted them to pour cold water over his head. The sound of helicopters filled the sky, the calls of Migra agents. In spite of their terrible situation, it was still tempting to hide for a few of them. Even then, they didn't want to give up.

Later (Rita Vargas) calculated that the dead men's flight along had cost over sixty-eight thousand dollars. "What if," she asked, "somebody had simply invested that amount in their villages to begin with?"

Consul Flores Vizcarra says it isn't the desert that kills immigrants. It isn't Coyotes. It isn't even the Border Patrol. "What kills the people," he says, "is the politics of stupidity that rules both sides of the border."

Perhaps, ultimately, what is so remarkable about the Mexican border is not how many of Them have come across, but how many of Them have not. It is not hard to imagine any one of the Wellton 26 deciding it was time to put a roof on the house, to build a small concrete room for the new baby, to buy furniture for his wife, to feed his family. Their reasons for coming were as simple as that. . . To hear politicians and talk show hosts tell it, the entire population of Mexico is on its way.

Numbers never lie, after all: they simply tell different stories depending on the math of the tellers. . . The same facts and figures add up to different sums.

The Center for Immigration Studies did a number crunch in 2001, and they came up with the alarming data that each illegal costs the United States money. "The estimated lifetime net fiscal drain (taxes paid minus serviced used) for the average adult mexican immigrant is negative $55,200." That is, welfare, medical services, school services, various outreaches, cost of $55K+ over a lifetime of menial labor.

If there are eight million tonks slaving away in the United States right now, most of those workers pay federal income tax: shaved right off the top. no choice, just like you. They pay state taxes: shaved right off the top. They get tapped for Social Security and FICA. There's a whole lot of shaving going on. If you multiply $4.50 an hour by eight million workers, that would mean there are 36 million taxable dollars being accrued every hour by illegals getting tapped for some percentage by Uncle Sam. Those workers will not receive a refund.

What about sales taxes, gas tax, rent? What about Pampers at the local Vons supermarket? Cigarette tax. Beer. Tortillas and BVDs and cable and used cars and speeding tickets and water bill and electric bills and tampons and Trojans and Mars bars. Movie tickets. Running shoes. CDs. Over a lifetime, how much does it add to the American commonwealth.

UCLA's North American Integration and Development Center released a twenty-first-century study that found that "undocumented immigrants" contributed "at least $300 billion per year to the U.S gross domestic product." . . . Researcher Marisol Sanchez told the EFE News Service, apropos of this study, that "although conservative groups claim that undocumented immigrants are a social burden," illegals tend to shy away from seeking social services because they don't want to be deported. Wherefore $55K+?

How many toys. How many phone bills. How much in the poor box at church. How much for pencils, steaks, charcoal, glasses, panties, bras, bikes, skateboards, concerts, Blockbuster, Monistat, Head & Shoulders, Listerine. AOL. Computers. Backpacks. Uniforms. Night school.

The secretary comes back in and notes the woman is crying. "Oh!" she says. "We've upset you." She sits and says, "Senora, you must forgive us. We deal with death so often in here that we forget. We forget, you see. We're indelicate. If you don't work here, death still means something to you."


All is Well

Last Sunday, we attended the Pioneer Days Devotional at the Dee Events Center. When they announced in Relief Society that seats were available "first come, first serve", someone commented that they'd probably need to go at 3:00 or 4:00 pm to get a good seat. I chuckled because the devotional is poorly attended and there are thousands and thousands of empty seats.

Not this year.

photo credit: standard.net

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the speaker, and he knows how to draw a crowd. He also knows how to engage his crowd. He started out with this apology, "We were almost late coming here because Harriet and I were busy winning the World Cup."

At the beginning of the devotional, the Pioneer Day royalty stood up and waved to the crowd. This includes the rodeo queens (in full rodeo clothes and hats), the grand marshall of the parade, and the DUP queens. Every year, they stand and wave while the audience claps. But this year, the audience kept clapping for everything. . . throughout the whole devotional.

You can read the full version of President Uchtdorf's address (minus the World Cup reference) here

But here are my notes: 

With such great things happening around us today, it is wise to prepare for the future by looking to the past. This generation will need to stand on our own achievements, not on those of previous generations. 

In spite of having every reason to shout, "All is not well," they looked beyond their troubles to eternal blessings.

#1 Compassion

They helped each other. Even when it slowed their progress, even when it caused inconvenience, even when it meant personal sacrifice and toil. Success is not worth it when it hurts other people. Don't isolate yourselves. Depend on each other to become strong. Reach out to help others. 

#2 Work

Pioneers knew the value of work. "No toil nor labor fear." They woke up with clearly defined purposes and goals. In spite of many reasons to become discouraged, they did not give up. Work diminished their natural tendencies toward self love and magnified their understanding of their divine nature. It heightened their compassion for others. Work does not just bless us temporally, but spiritually as well. 

#3 Optimism

It is one of the great ironies of our age that we are blessed with so much and yet we can be so unhappy. The pioneers understood that happiness doesn't come as a result of luck or having all of our wishes come true. Happiness doesn't come from external circumstance. It comes from the inside, regardless of what is happening around us. 

When we complain about a church meeting that has gone four minutes over its allotted time, perhaps we can hear the voices of those pioneers: "Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? Tis not so; all is right."

So often our excuses for not being happy are in reality trivial and vain, as though we are looking for a reason to be at odds with the world, as though we want to prove somehow that we cannot experience joy. 

The pioneers were not supermen and superwomen. They were just like you and me. How often did they wonder if they could go on? But they pressed on in faith. One step at a time, they pressed on. They trusted in God, and they left a legacy that will inspire and strengthen generations to come. 

The pioneers had their trials, we have ours. The best way we can honor the pioneers is by incorporating he faithfulness to God's commandments, the compassion and love for our fellowmen, the industry, optimism, and joy the pioneers demonstrated into our lives. The same principles will help us succeed in our community today. 

There was more clapping after the closing song. . . Best Pioneer Days Devotional ever. 


Malouf and Franson. The wedding of my sister. Here are some Haikus.

We were on our way. 
I had everything ready. 
Then a flat tire. 

We made it in time. 
Big thanks to Sam's Club Tire. 
Hair was still undone. 

Rachel took these shots. 
She is my second shooter. 
Cora makes me smile. 

(P.S. That's a joke. 
I'm not a photographer. 
Doing as was asked.)

Four cute little kids. 
Plus two cute older ones too. 
Good luck, Rebecca. 

We all took our seats.
We sat at the Grape Arbor.
At Thanksgiving Point.

The chairs were all filled. 
Each one with someone special. 
Just close family. 

The children darted
In and out of the tables.
Like a fairy tale.

Two boys, new brothers. 
What was their conversation?
We will never know. 

The tables were set. 
Far more than glasses and forks. 
So many details. 

Cousins were giggly. 
India smelled the flowers. 
Finn got wet. 

Ivy was ornery. 
I told Kacie to smile. 
She said she couldn't. 

Presenting the bride.
She never stopped smiling.
That's the honest truth.

We posed for pictures. 
Before the ceremony. 
It was required. 

Two girls, new sisters.
Inseparable all night.
Leah and Sydney.

Then, here comes the bride.
Escorted by her father.
The sun was golden.

Everyone stood up.
But then nobody sat down.
It still makes me laugh.

Mr. and Mrs.
They look so good together.
Walking hand in hand.

Here are the six kids.
Trevor forgot to smile.
You need a big house.

Emily and Steve. 
We are not photogenic.
Just take a look here. 

There's Steve and his purse.
And I look like I'm flexing.
What is going on?!?

Rachel is too short.
So we look like huge giants.
Really Steve, duck lips?

Then here comes Kaleigh.
It happens all of the time.
At least Steve smiled.

We almost gave up.
Nice composure, just fuzzy.
I guess this will do.

Then Steve said one more.
"Let's pose like at the temple."
I didn't smile.

Then Steve got bothered.
"What are you even doing?"
That's when I smiled.

Not at our faces
The camera was pointed.
She wanted our hands.

Enough with pictures.
Or rather, being in them.
I am the photographer.

This girl makes me smile. 
Except for when she gets lost. 
She was in the loo. 

We ate lots of food. 
Lots and lots of yummy food. 
I like to eat food. 

I am so tired
Of composing these Haikus.
I am breaking the syllable rules with this one,
But congratulations, you two.

P.S. Here are a few of the images the photographer took at the wedding. . . 
hope I am okay to post them?