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Day 7: Change of Pace

Our day seven began as normal: getting to Sacred Heart at 7:30 and jumping right into digging. Our new area is quite large, so we are all motivated to work as efficiently as possible to clear it. We began the day by extending our two long trenches and adding a third in the middle. As we move down, we will cut across perpendicularly while continuing to extend the long ones.

Long story short: we have moved and will continue to move a lot of dirt.

Just a fraction of the dirt we've moved in one area
Just a fraction of the dirt we’ve moved in one area

While we love the work, we welcomed a change of pace today when Dr. Spradley said Deputy White needed a team to go on a search with him at a local ranch. We were set to leave at nine, so we set a timer for thirty minutes and got as much dirt moved as we could before it went off. Then, we headed out to the ranch.

Once inside the gate, we were met by two Border Patrol agents. We went to the area of interest and began to search.

When you take a crime scene investigation course, or even an introduction to forensics course, you learn different search methods: line searches, spiral searches, grid searches, etc. None of that training prepared me for searching this ranch. Walking ten feet in one direction is basically impossible due to the brush-filled terrain. If you kept up with the blog from the Summer 2018 search season, you have a better understanding of what I am talking about. If not, start here. Dr. Latham and Angela are the only ones who have done a search like this before, so the rest of us were learning as we went.

As I was searching, I came up with a system where I would walk from one landmark to another before moving forward: jacket to water bottle, water bottle to large cactus, large cactus to broken branch. This was a way for me to try to keep the main area in mind and to not wander off. I had my phone, but with no signal it would not have done me any good. At one point there was no one within my line of site. It was high noon and the visibility was as good as it could be. I couldn’t see Sammi’s white jacket or Dr. Latham’s red bandana. When migrants traverse this area it’s most often in the dead of night. I cannot imagine trying to navigate the rough terrain in total darkness, no compass, and no idea of where to go. I was thankful we did not have far to go and were able to stay relatively close to each other.

A panorama of my view while searching, not able to see my team.
A panorama of my view while searching, not able to see my team.

After we finished our search, we returned to Sacred Heart and found out the Brooks County Judge had brought everyone pizza for lunch. We took a small break to eat and then continued in our digging efforts. We worked for a few more hours but called it an early day so that we could get cleaned up before heading out to La Copa ranch where our Texas State colleagues are staying. The people who run the ranch (The Ed Rachal Foundation) were kind enough to throw us a barbeque! We were able to eat and drink with those who we normally only get to see in the field, offering a nice break from our day-to-day efforts in the cemetery.

We only have two days left in the field, and our plan is to get as much done as we possibly can while still remaining confident in our work.

Thanks for continuing to follow our progress!

Day 7, complete with ticks and Mexican Coke
Day 7, complete with ticks and Mexican Coke

~Sidney

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Travel Day: Expect the Unexpected

Our motto for this trip is as follows: expect the unexpected.

After the seven of us gathered at the American Airlines counter at 4:30 AM (eastern), we ran into our first unexpected. As Dr. Latham was attempting to check us in, we were informed that our flight to Dallas would most likely be delayed, meaning we would miss our connection to San Antonio. From here, we had two options:

  1. Wait until tomorrow night to fly out since all later flights to San Antonio were full
  2.  Fly to Dallas and take our chances, even if it meant driving the seven hours from Dallas to Falfurrias.

We did not want to wait until tomorrow and miss a full day in Falfurrias, so we took our chance with our first flight to Dallas. Thankfully, our flight wasn’t delayed by much because they were able to swap planes instead of wait for maintenance, and we made it to Dallas with enough time for me to spill two coffees and still make our connection (which was delayed due to weather).

The five of us and Eleanor at the airport
The five of us and Eleanor at the airport

The flight went smoothly, and we landed in San Antonio only a little behind schedule. We picked up our slightly wet checked luggage and went to get our rental car. Here was unexpected number two: somehow we had seven reservations for minivans — I guess they thought we needed one per person! This was quickly resolved, we packed the van with room to spare, and headed to Torchy’s Tacos.

The Trailer Park and Tipsy Chick tacos from Torchy's.
The Trailer Park and Tipsy Chick tacos from Torchy’s.

I had heard Dr. Latham and others mention Torchy’s before, but was waiting to see the hype for myself. And let me tell you, the hype was well deserved! I had two of the best tacos of my life, and with full bellies we began the drive to Falfurrias.

With Dr. Latham at the wheel, the rest of us were free to nap as we pleased, and we definitely did. As we got closer to Falfurrias, we noticed the difference in the landscape from Indianapolis — mesquite trees, cacti, and dense brush replaced the greenery we see on a typical day. We reached town, checked into our motel, and rested for a few minutes before heading to our third unexpected: the madness that is H.E.B.

As a native midwesterner, I had never been to an H.E.B. before today, and I expected something akin to any local grocery store. I was sorely mistaken. It seemed that H.E.B. was the place to be on this dreary Wednesday night. We wove through the crowd to get snacks and food for lunches, and once again packed into the van to head to the motel.

Before heading to Whataburger for dinner — another first for me — we had our planning meeting, running into what I will call the True Unexpected: our plan for tomorrow when we reach Sacred Heart cemetery. Collaborating with Texas State University, there are a few areas of interest to which we may be assigned to explore. We were unable to extend our plans past breakfast at 7, to Sacred Heart by 8. Our team will take each day in stride and continue to expect the unexpected.

~Sidney

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1285 miles from Home

Our travel day was a little longer than expected. But after two delayed flights and a long, wet drive south on Highway 281, the UIndy team made it to our destination in Falfurrias, TX. Please check back daily to learn more about our work and follow our progress.

HWY 281 South
HWY 281 South
Welcome to Falfurrias
Welcome to Falfurrias

 

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