Jay Meehan: Border tag
“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me — and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
~ Donald J. Trump
There was this game we used to play with the U. S. Border Patrol during the mid-to-late ‘60s in the hills on the northern outskirts of Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.
In our feeble minds, these antics were done in a way to both irritate our longtime nemesis Richard Milhouse Nixon, as part of a quite-low on the food chain trade agreement with some amigos to the south, and as a way of proving the old axiom that stupid is as stupid does.
Back then, Tecate was a nearly forgotten outpost. Cool, though. It flaunted those over-the-top accessorized Mexican trucks that were decorated to the point they could come and go as they pleased across the Afghan border if only it were closer. Not to mention food carts to die for if only our peso stash had made interaction feasible.
It wasn’t actually “tag,” as it were, but that’s what we came to call it. We would hop the hip-high barbed wire and then proceed in a northerly fashion until we stumbled upon and through a tripwire that would alert the local constabulary that the game was afoot.
And, before you could say “ditch the backpacks,” we would usually find ourselves playing kissy-face with one indigenous shrub or another. Careening Border Patrol trucks only added to the festive atmosphere – which was Chaplin-esque to say the least. We couldn’t get enough of it.
And then there were the sirens, which, while not incessant, probably rivaled in decibel level those used for shift change at General Motors.
On our initial excursion, while huffing and puffing and hacking and slashing and dragging our canoe behind us, we came upon a settlement that was almost as quaint as Tecate. In fact it was exactly as quaint as Tecate. Somehow we had managed to travel in a circle.
Now, at an average elevation of 1,770 feet (540 m) above sea level, it’s not like the terrain of greater Tecate is easy countryside to negotiate. Not when your base camp of Compton provides training grounds in the neighborhood of 69 feet, give or take. Plus, I should probably mention, this was all done without the use of supplemental oxygen.
On excursion number two, we made no such navigational errors. Learning from our mistakes, we followed the northern star, Polaris, and kept the peninsular mountains to the east.
What we did not do, however, is correctly time our walk in the woods in order to arrive back at the border station prior to them locking the 20-foot high gates. With a different modus operandi on the table for this episode, we had left our vehicle in Tecate before hoppin’ the “bob-wahr.”
So there we were, under lighting bright to the point of sunburn we scaled Nixon’s border wall to get back into Mexico to reunite with our ride.
The winding road back to Tijuana, through the checkpoint, and back to Tecate on the US side, however, proved perfectly suitable for a Triumph 2-seater convertible with a hole cut in its hood for the MG-A 1500 carburetor to stick through.
In fact, the two Border Patrol agents who stopped us on our way back from Tecate got a kick out of it. The muffler, however, which had jumped ship somewhere between Culiacan and Ajijic and by then rolled around the passenger floorboard, enabled their mirth-meter somewhat less.
This was the same vehicle in which we lacked the confidence to go to Tower Records in Hollywood to grab the new Dylan album but in which we took a 3,000 mile jaunt through Jalisco and back. Go figure!
On our third excursion, things went so smoothly we headed east out of Tecate and swung around via a myriad of two-lane byways through the backdoor to our “ranch” at Lake Elsinore. This time we sported a family sedan. For us, it was like being Grand Marshall of the Rose Parade.
I imagine the border around Tecate is a different slice of zucchini these days. I wonder if there is a decent Hatch Green Chile connection thereabouts and if they have their own version of Tag going.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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