Oct

7

Last moonless midnight I bumped my CSC-259 along the railroad right of way looking for the old RR stations. I was 20 miles south of Niland when I passed a railroad signal and the arm went down. But there was no train, and the arm went up again. A minute down the track, I turned back and this time the signal faced me. The arm went down, and I stopped.

The Salvadoran carried nothing but a jug of water, new blanket in a package he had found in the track, and an extra pair of tennis shoes strung over his shoulder.

Three nights ago, he stood at the Trumps new, unclimbable border fence and climbed it. As he got his first foot off the ground a gun pressed his temple, with the order, ‘Not yet!’ The Mexican Mafia robbed his cell phone and wallet. He had $2.75 in his pocket when he dropped to the other side in USA.

The railroad track here begins in El Salvador and passes through Mexico to Calexico, and north through Slab City to the promised land. It is the notorious La Bestia line that is the rolling pipeline of Central American immigrants into America and jobs. He had taken one month to pass through Mexico, worked a week in Mexicali to buy the phone and stake the border hop. Now he had turned himself into a RR signal to try to stop the only passerby he had seen in three days of walking the hot track.

‘Is this California?’ he asked in fair English. I laughed in Spanish. He had lived for fifteen years in Virginia, owned a house, car, and then his wife took everything and reported him to immigration. They had flown him back to his native country, where he turned around and rode La Bestia the second time. His goal was to recover the American Dream.

I have ridden La Bestia myself and, knowing the travails, picked up the walker. He had not eaten for three days.

He ate the same as I did that night, canned spaghetti, and the following morning I outfitted him to hobo the freight out of Niland. There is a patch of bushes on the west side of the track to twiddle the thumbs until, daily, a Union Pacific pauses to change crew. There would be orchard work at the next stop in Indio, CA. He carried a copy of my ‘Executive Hobo: Riding the American Dream’.

He ducked into the portal of a cement car. There you are in a steel rolling hotel room looking out. I waved goodbye like a RR signal, and he mechanically waved back.


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