National Geographic : 1968 Jan
Vigilant forestales of Mexico's Forest Service raid a wax smugglers' camp across the Rio Grande from Big Bend Park and set fire to bundles of candelilla-a plant processed for a fine wax used in many products, from chewing gum to shoe polish. Because the Mexican Government sponsors the industry and sets a ceiling price, bootleggers find it remaining 20 miles without incident. In places the river ran but little wider than the boat, and for the fun of it we leaped back and forth between the U. S. and Mexico. We picnicked pleasantly on a sandbank. Unseen canyon wrens filled the gorge with music to match that of nightingales. Once, far above us, we heard the soft tonk-tonk of a goat bell on the Mexican side. "Oye, chico!" I called, and the echoes mul tiplied the words into a veritable barrage. "Buenos dias, compadre!" a boy's voice re plied from the top of the cliff. We saw a small goatherd peering over. "Boy, could he bomb us with rocks!" re marked our bow paddler. About a year later, reading that Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson made the Mariscal Canyon run, I wondered if the same thought had occurred to the Secret Serv ice! The First Lady's trip, however, seems to have gone off as easily as my own (page 112). The Comanches, when using the easterly detour around the Chisos, crossed the Rio Grande some 15 miles downstream from Mariscal. Each Wednesday afternoon at two, a party of Mexican horsemen still splashes through what must be that same shallow ford. On the United States side, one and a half miles from the river, two large mailboxes stand beside a desert road. One is marked San Vicente, the other Boquillas; these are sun baked villages on the Mexican side of the Rio. U. S. Mail Serves Mexican Hamlets On Wednesday the park mailman's truck comes to the boxes from the north, the Mexi can horses from the south. The men form a circle, sort letters and packages, and make stamp transactions in dollars and pesos. For years, the postman said, the United States Post Office has been handling the mails for the people of San Vicente and Boquillas, Mexico (pages 126-7). "Only the sorriest trails come north through Mexico to these villages," he explained. "The Mexican service may take months. We can give them quick weekly deliveries, and we're glad to do it."