Movie revives suitcase memories

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

The movie “No Country for Old Men” is up for eight academy awards this year. That’s pretty good for a flick shot on location here in New Mexico near Las Vegas.

The film grabbed my attention from the get-go after I saw the preview. I recognized the landscape and the Southwestern vibe. It was New Mexico, even if they were pretending it was Texas.

The plot got my attention too. The story is set in motion when a guy stumbles on a sack of money in the desert. It reminded me of something I encountered along the border a few years ago.

I lived a few miles over the New Mexico line in Cochise County, Ariz., in the town of Bisbee, just a rifle shot from the Mexican border.

Every morning I would take my dogs for a run on a road that ran south to La Frontera. Some mornings the dogs would go bonkers over something in the bushes. One time it was a javelina guarding her babies. She came running after us. I think that was the fastest I’ve run since high school.

Most of the time the dogs were flipping out over people down over the embankment, folks who had snuck into the country.

One time the dogs brought my attention to a suitcase over the embankment. It was one of those old, hard, imitation blue leather things, maybe a foot by two feet in size.
Why would someone leave a suitcase in the brush? Was someone supposed to pick it up later? And what was in the suitcase?

Maybe it was full of cash. I imagined the Border Patrol closing in on some dudes in a drug bust and they toss their suitcase of cash out the window of their speeding car. Money! Enough to pay off all my bills and move to that Caribbean island where I could laze around all day and read books.

Maybe it was full of marijuana. Well now, that would present a problem. If I called to report it the cops might wonder how I knew about it.

Or were the dogs going crazy over the suitcase because they smelled blood? Was the thing filled with something gruesome? I’d read stories about stuff like that. What if I opened it and found something gory grinning back at me? Could I handle it?

Out for my morning jog the next day I eased down the embankment with the dogs. They circled the thing, sniffing. No, not today, nope, I wouldn’t open it today. Tomorrow, if the thing is still there tomorrow, I’ll open it.

The next day the dogs and I went off the road down the embankment. And there it was. The suitcase was still there. Today the dogs acted differently. They sat down by the suitcase. Dogs know things.

I crouched down and unzipped the case. I opened it and smiled.

It was just some everyday stuff: a bright print polyester shirt, a pair of jeans, a pair of black leather shoes, some kind of crunchy food in a plastic bag and an unopened pack of smokes — “Raleigh con filtro.”

I wondered why someone would go through all the trouble to bring this stuff with them across the border then leave it with the mesquite, cholla and ocotillo.

I closed the thing, zipped it back up and left it where I found it.

The next day the bag was gone.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: