Before the sun can hit Cole Border in the eyes at 5:00AM, his alarm clock goes off with an energetic, "¡Buenos días!" The mechanical cactus clock was a gift from Cole's family when he graduated from the Academy. He had never been to the desert before, and they thought it was funny that his new career took him straight to the land of coyotes and cacti in Yuma, Arizona.
As he stretches and stumbles out of bed, Cole releases the most massive of groans. It feels like he only slept for a few minutes. Since he's only been on the job for a few months, Cole has been working the typical twelve-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week shifts that they give to trainee agents. By the time he gets home at night, he barely has enough energy to make a microwave dinner and sink into his bed.
After slowly making his way through breakfast, Cole grabs his coffee and walks to his car at 6:30AM. He sees his face in the windshield—it looks like someone put the sun out on it. Cole never remembers his sunscreen.
At 7:00AM, Cole arrives at the Patrol Station and walks into the office to get his assignment for his shift. His section of the imaginary line between nations is pretty tame compared to other border cities. Some places make over 2,400 arrests a year—his station calls a few hundred a busy year.
After a morning briefing and check-in with his superiors, Cole's hitting the road. By 8:30AM, he's on the eastbound back road that'll take him to a high point in the desert where he can watch the fence. There have been reports that this section of the grid has seen a rise in undocumented crossings in the last couple of days. Cole's job is to report what he sees—which means he's about to spend the better part of his day looking.
He spends the next few hours watching and waiting. The graded barriers allow him to see through into Mexico. Today he doesn't see much out of the ordinary—just kids going to school and people going about their lives. Noticing more people than usual eating, he figures it's a good time to have lunch himself. It's one of very few breaks he has in the monotony that is waiting for crimes to happen.
At 2:00PM, however, something finally happens. A call comes in over his radio to be on the lookout for runners. He busies himself looking through his binoculars, communicating his position, searching for tell-tale signs of tunnels that he may have missed, and thinking about who could play him if his life was turned into a movie.
"We got three," says a call over the radio, followed by the coordinates. Cole jumps in his SUV to search for the three border crossers. He radios in that he's close and sends for backup. He can see the dust clouds of other patrol vehicles centering in on the same location. A couple of agents walk along the fence while others drive around the terrain.
Within minutes the action is over. The three men who dug a personal tunnel are taken into custody. Cole puts his Spanish to good use by talking to the men and detailing exactly the process they'll get put through, just like he was taught at the Academy.
Cole goes with a few other agents as the men are taken to a holding cell. He also assists in processing, where they're fingerprinted and photographed before being allowed to return to Mexico. He's just relieved this wasn't a family situation. It's never easy taking a mother and her crying baby into custody. Sometimes Cole's job really stinks.
By 6:00PM, Cole is back along the border for his second patrol shift of the day. He watches the sun go down over the desert, never taking his eye off the south. He's had a successful day so far, but he's not one to rest on past glories. Staying vigilant in defense of the fence is the name of the game.