Owner of Big Bend Saddlery sees effects of border issues in business, community

ALPINE, Texas (Border Report) — The city of Alpine sits about 90 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but the owner of Big Bend Saddlery says he still feels the effects of border issues in his community. He sees it in his customer’s shopping trends.

Most of Gary Dunshee’s customers are cowboys that work along the U.S.-Mexico border. They’ll often travel to Alpine to shop at his store.

“We pretty much cater to working cowboys, guys that make a living working on ranches, tending the cattle,” he said. “That’s what we concentrate on.”

Dunshee’s shop sells nearly everything, from boots to belts. However, the most popular item that’s sold is a holster. Big Bend Saddlery received requests from customers about making a holster that fits on a saddle.

“I think almost all of them have seen something going on that they were really uncomfortable with,” Dunshee said.

He now also uses this type of holster, saying that “the border gets up here” to his area. His own ranch is located 10 miles south of Alpine. He remembers one day when he came across what he believes is from people who crossed the border.

“My wife and my grandkids were out feeding,” he said. “It was an abandoned backpack and they had their shoes, carpet shoes that they tie over their boots for shoes so they don’t leave prints.”

“A good preparation is better than a poor defense,” Dunshee added.

Alpine Station of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Alpine Station opened in 1924. It oversees 157 miles of international border with Mexico and more than 6,100 square miles that cover Brewster County, Texas.

It operates two highway checkpoints – one on Highway 118 and Highway 385.

The Alpine Station includes the Big Bend Sector. Roberto Dominguez, Patrol Agent in Charge of the Alpine Station, says he’s been seeing children as young as 18 months old who are being brought through this West Texas region.

To reach migrants, Border Patrol agents use ATVs and also rely on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations.