Tresspassers Will Be Prosecuted

Ranch Rescue's Jack Foote swears he just wants to mend fences. Is pseudomilitary secrecy, right-wing rhetoric and an armed vigilante militia the best way?

The average number of sons of bitches, a Spanish friend of mine used to say in Catholic acceptance of human imperfection, is just about the same no matter where you go. Most wetbacks Hispanically share his opinion, and exemplify it too. By no means are they a uniformly delightful category of our species, for you can easily find among them individuals who are morose, lazy, conniving, murderous, quarrelsome, drunken, thieving, or otherwise quite human. Coming from a hard-scrabble old-style rural background, within the framework of their Indian-Latin ways they tend like the vanishing Somervellian cedar folk to be what they are all the way and to hell with bland dull sameness. By and large, though, the bulk of objectionablemojados -- wetted ones -- seem to gravitate toward urban places, where there may be more scope for their propensities. Those who reach us on the land are most often simple tough peasant villagers used to hard labor and austere living, and willing to work for a time in woman-less exile for wages which, though usually scrawny by gringo standards, can add up to a wad of cash to carry home to wife and children, or to parents, or to the affable whores and hawklike con men awaiting their return in Mexican border towns.

-- "Helpers," John Graves, 1973

Jack Foote shows up for lunch at the Applebee's restaurant in Arlington just off the I-30 feeder west of Dallas wearing jeans, a pager clipped to his belt and a khaki camouflage vest over a long-sleeved shirt. He's a white man, handsome, in good shape, a shade over six feet tall, with close-cropped brown hair and a mild, slightly pinched voice that sounds, over the phone or on the radio, as if it might feel more at home in the mouth of a 60-year-old small-town city councilman. He orders the lime tortilla chicken, hold the tortilla (his wife, he explains, is on the Atkins Diet; "Do you know any man who's not on his wife's diet?") and begins describing, with impeccable manners, unflagging patriotism and the outward trappings of logic, a world in which the sky -- the proud, blue, American sky -- is falling.

The rhetoric is familiar to anyone tuned in to the short-wave frequencies of right-wing radio, or even, increasingly, to network news spots from the American West. Eight years of Hillary Klinton's "tin-plated socialist dictatorship" have led the country to the brink of a One World Order in which America's sovereignty and the American citizens' birthright are being sold wholesale to shadowy global elites, somebody or something both unelected by and unrepresentative of We the People. United Nations "biospheres" are reservations for unaccountable foreign interests. Bill Clinton's late-term establishment of new National Monuments is a thinly veiled federal land grab, one more policy designed to steer the remaining American frontier's pioneer spirit off the wholesome land and into the cities, where populations are more efficiently surveilled, more easily controlled. The Mexican-American border is leaking like a sieve, diluting the American character, and the Ford Foundation wants it that way.

He describes himself as "a member of the gun culture, no apologies."

He is also a "total creationist, but that's another story entirely."

So. Focus: Jack Foote has agreed to meet at Applebee's to discuss Ranch Rescue, of which organization he is the spokesman, Webmaster, volunteer coordinator and guy who answers the phone. He is reluctant in these roles, he says, because he is a busy man, designing Web sites for a living and trying, with his wife, to ramp up their fledgling Percheron operation in Arlington, Top Notch Ranch, into a going concern. Also, Jack Foote says, because Ranch Rescue is not about Jack Foote, who is personally without ambition in this regard, and neither is it solely composed of Jack Foote. Ranch Rescue was birthed by five or six citizens who met, and communicated, over the Internet. There are maybe 20 to 30 dues-paying members, he says, maybe another 200 "volunteers."

What Ranch Rescue is about, Foote insists, is property rights. Private property rights. The kind of private property rights that have historically served as the "cornerstone" of "our great nation." The kind that place "stewardship" of the land in the able hands of individuals who must remain free to use it, to whatever end, without restriction, and preferably without advice, in whatever way they see fit, for only so has the full glory of American achievement and culture been attained, and only so shall America, as we know it, continue to prosper.

The kind of property rights that are trampled when, say, millions of illegal Mexican immigrants cut fences or pull them down, discard empty water jugs, steal livestock, accost landowning citizens and/or tear up water lines on the privately owned border land that they cross on their forays into the United States.

Criminal trespass, legally speaking. Misdemeanor. Usually trumped by the higher crime of crossing the border in the first place.

Ranch Rescue proposes to organize private citizens into volunteer missions to aid and assist border ranchers from Arizona to Texas. They will attempt to go, Foote says, when and where they are called, upon invitation only, to act as private guests in accordance with the laws of the nation, its states, counties and municipalities, and further within the submissive strictures of the guest/host relationship.

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