Friday Open Thread ~ "What are you listening to?" edition ~ American Coyote
… what it’s like to be America’s wildest coyote.
Coyotes are “people smugglers” who help immigrants like these cross the border from Mexico to the United States. (These immigrants are crossing the Rio Grande beneath the International Bridge, leaving Matamoros, Mexico, and entering Brownsville, Texas.)
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic
Journalism Becomes Art
Brigham Young meets Breaking Bad
Between 1987 and 2001, one American crossed over 1000 migrants from Mexico into the United States, using a variety of wild, comical and harrowing schemes to outwit authorities on both sides of the border. This is the story of a legendary man and unlikely hero, Elden Kidd, who supported his family of five as a Coyoté and gave countless others a chance at a better life.
This is the story of Elden Kidd, a legendary coyote and unlikely hero, who helped over 1000 migrants come to the United States from Mexico.
The origin story of Elden Kidd details his sun-soaked Mormon upbringing, early trauma and injustice, and a harrowing mission to Northern Ireland at the height of "The Troubles". During this time, Elden's views on society are forged and he emerges a freethinker determined to follow his own path. One night, while guiding rafting tours in Mexico, Elden discovers two young stowaways in the back of his tour van and his life is forever changed.
Elden tries to balance family life with his new career path— working as a people smuggler. Evading authorities and other smugglers is hard work, and things start off rocky, but he finds his footing, recruits some help from an old friend, and sees an opportunity to make a living in the illicit trade.
Tim finds himself in trouble with Mexican authorities and goes into hiding, forcing Elden to continue operations on his own. His creativity leads to some hilarious and harrowing crossings, and he completes his transformation into a true coyoté: capable, respected and not to be trifled with.
As immigration and border enforcement move into the national spotlight, Elden discovers his old routes won't work anymore, so he has to find new, more dangerous paths to continue his people smuggling operation— eventually finding himself in an unpredictable situation that will begin the darkest chapters of his life.
Elden's story takes a dark turn as he finds himself incarcerated in one of Mexico's most dangerous and corrupt maximum security prisons. There, he struggles with being separated from his family, faces danger at every turn, and realizes that survival is his only option.
As Elden's freedom remains elusive, his situation only grows more dire. The prison's director decides to make the large, lone gringo into entertainment, forcing him to fight bi-weekly in boxing matches for the rest of the prison population. However, a local visitor soon comes to Elden's aide, allowing him a new opportunity at freedom.
Now back home with his family, Elden tries to return to work -- specifically legal work. But he knows where his true skills are and the call of the Coyote lifestyle ultimately proves too strong.
The border Elden returns to as a Coyote is now more dangerous than ever before, yet he is also more skilled and daring. As smuggling operations pick back up, Elden brings an old, familiar face back into the fold as his reliable partner.
Elden and Tim have their operations down to a science -- but the law will ultimately catch up with them. However, as he stares down the barrel of a long prison sentence, Elden will cut a deal with the Feds and begin working undercover for them.
End of the Line | Chapter 9
Now a DHS informant, Elden will continue his operations while also busting corrupt border agents to fulfill his deal with the government. Today, we will join Elden along the border and see his new life, while exploring his impact on the border and the ongoing immigration issues in our country today.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
The Legend of Elden Kidd, America’s Most Dedicated, Most Creative People Smuggler
These days, Elden is still an impressively large man, thick-necked and bear-pawed. I first met him in a pancake house in Riverside, California. He had his second wife and her two kids with him, his pride and joy. He didn't walk so much as surge and shamble. Even though he's 62, it's not hard to imagine that he'd once shepherded scores of people across the border, becoming a legend in a time and place now long gone. He'd created dozens of routes and perfected an endless array of ploys, cover stories, costumes, and props—all products of a profoundly devious and clever mind.
A lot has changed since Elden prowled the border—though, to listen to Donald Trump, you'd never know it. A cornerstone of his campaign for the presidency is to build a wall to save America, and so, naturally, he doesn't mention that much of it—some 700 once porous miles—is already sealed off. Nor does he mention that more Mexicans leave the U.S. today than enter it. Today, the wild and untamed border—an unruly netherworld where hordes of Mexicans pour into our country—exists mostly in Trump's mind.
A decade in the life of our country’s wiliest coyote.
BY KATHY DOBIE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF RIEDEL