As drug cartels clash in border cities, rival traffickers are expanding to a remote stretch along the Texas border.
Brewster County spans more than 6,000 miles miles of rugged terrain. It's the largest county in Texas. Some of it borders Mexico.
The local sheriff is coping with a spike in crime.
Sheriff Ronny Dodson's family has lived here for five generations.
"Pancho Villa had run my great-grandfather and them off. They were trying to hide from him in all these places; everybody was. So they moved into the park," claims Dodson.
That's Big Bend National Park, now part of Sheriff Dodson's territory. We took a drive to see how this historic smuggling corridor is now the latest border hot-spot.
The new breed of drug traffickers reopening the old trails are more brutal and better armed. Two rival cartels now operate there.
"I'm still of the hope that the only people they're killing is themselves," says Dodson.
He hopes smugglers leave the ranchers and residents near the Rio Grande alone.
"The Border patrol's watching this and they're doing a good job of stopping it right here. But just right down the river they're doing it again. They're going across," says the sheriff.
One old bridge leading to Mexico is barricaded because it was shut down in the early 90s. Now some locals want it reopened to promote tourism. But the sheriff and others in law enforcement say it will only turn this a bigger and better staging ground for the smugglers who operate there.
Sheriff Dodson relies on eight deputies to cover the vast county.
"I have a deputy who lives on a ranch right now, that if he called for help, it would be probably an hour and a half to two hours to get to him. He's actually better than the last one I had on a ranch because it would have been a 3 hour drive to get to him," says Dodson.
It's a big county with a small budget - and growing problems.
"As they increase security east and west it's going to funnel it right through here.But we're kind of gearing up for it, dreading it," says Terlingua resident Blair Pittman.
The signs are troubling.
"We're up about 100% on burglaries. They're terrorizing us. They're stealing the guns. They're stealing jewelry," Dodson reports.
The sheriff says he could use a half dozen more deputies.
Sixty-three-year-old deputy Martin Willey was set to retire in 4 days when we met him in the tiny town Terlingua.
"The Sheriff''s 100 miles away in case you need back up, but the locals out here will assist you in any way they can," says Willey.
This story might remind you of that movie "No Country for Old Men". But this sheriff says now more than ever he needs the old men.
"They've forgotten more than some of these young guys will know," he says. "And those are the kind of guys we need back training. We need some of that old man still here."
That experience is critical as this isolated stretch of border braces for more trouble.
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