Brown baked earth showed that there had been no rain for a while. The tinder-dry branches of the few shrubs in the Arizona desert gave no respite from the Sun. Dust rose in clouds in the gentle breeze, whirled around until it finally settled back down on the grey rocks and covered the black asphalt road. The road wound around the edge of a small canyon, and a few solitary vultures wheeled overhead.
A weary man trudged along the side of the road. His face was caked in sweat and dust and he would bring his broad brown hand to his face, wipe the perspiration and grime, and smear it on his faded-torn jeans while occasionally drinking a bottle of water. But he was happy. He had made it. The border was behind him, greener pastures before him.
Even on the deserted road, any noise like a helicopter made the man crouch or hide behind whatever boulder he could find. He had made it this far and he did not want to get caught by the border patrol or some “minute-man” now. He remembered his wife and children and their tear-stained cheeks as he left the pueblo, Magdalene de Rio in Sonora. He would call her when he arrived at Pheonix. He trudged on underneath the hot Sun.
But a soft sound broke into his thoughts. It was familiar but faint. As he walked on, the noise became louder and louder, and now … his 10 year-old son. Yes, that was it. It was a boy crying.
He began to run; his father’s instinct overcame his tiredness. A boy, a panting dog by his side was hobbling with a terribly bruised leg along the dusty road. He was wiping his eyes with his sleeve, almost dazed, alone and it seemed as if he couldn’t make it far. He sat down and clutched his leg. The Mexican came up to the boy.
“Okay?” he asked in broken English.
The boy had not even noticed him. Startled, he looked up into the man’s brown eyes, tears rolling down his own. With a shaking hand, he pointed down. At the bottom of the canyon, a car lay. The marks on the side of the bank showed how it careened 300 feet, flipped, and collided with a large boulder.
“Mom,” the boy said in a choking voice.
He grasped the boy’s hand. Suddenly the boy clung onto him. After a while of awkward silence, the boy stopped crying.
Helping the boy to walk, he went to the wreck, and he looked in. The front windshield lay in shards around the car and the face of a woman looked out, dry blood caked to her once golden hair, glassy eyed – dead.
He pointed up, “Cielo, she there.” The boy’s teary eyes looked up at him, surprised.
“Y dad?” the man asked. The boys face looked at him blankly; it seemed as if he had never known who his father was.
Now the Mexican had to make a decision. Staying with the boy until help arrived meant certain deportation, and his family would again need to struggle for survival. Yet as he gazed at the boy’s young face, he saw one of his sons, José as he gazed up at his father before ‘Papa’ left the pueblo, with that childlike trust. No, he couldn’t leave the boy alone. The boy couldn’t make it without him: shorts and a t-shirt wouldn’t be enough to make it through the night.
There was enough food in the wreck for a day or so. It was dusk now and the cold of the desert night was just beginning. The boy began to shiver. The man took his sweater off, handed it to the boy, and began to make a fire.
During the night, they heard a car drive by above them. The in the early morning, as the man was preparing a meager breakfast, he was startled by a man’s voice.
“What ya doi’n here?” the hunter growled, pointing his gun at the man.
“He helped me,” the boy blurted out.
Christopher, the boy was taken to Tucson, Arizona for medical treatment of his broken leg. When they put him on the stretcher, the Mexican waved and smiled. The boy waved back, just before they lifted him into the ambulance. He was oblivious to what that Mexican had really done for him. Soon the Mexican was taken to a border patrol van, to be taken back to Mexico, back to his family, and back to a life of extreme poverty. But as he looked back as the van drove along the desert road, he was glad he chose this way. “I am the father of four. I could never have left him.”
Information taken from Associated Press, Nov. 20, 2007
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