Wonder Valley

Wonder Valley, photo by William Hillyard

Below are links to  the first  four Wonder Valley stories.  They are meant to be read as a piece…

Wonder Valley The first in the series.  It introduces the place as it explores the life and death of  one of the residents.  The story was listed as “Notable Nonrequired Reading” in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010

Laying Tracks with Jack McConaha Travel the dirt roads of Wonder Valley with the area’s self-appointed guardian.

Falling to Heaven The lives of two men intersect in the loneliness and isolation of Wonder Valley

The People Vs Thomas Ritchie Busted at the Cat Ranch, a man fights felony charges while struggling to survive.

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Where is Away?

“When ‘off-shore’ is Tijuana, just the other side of a rusty metal border fence, there is little to prevent the problems we send away from flowing back north.”

the US-Mexico Border fence at the Pacific Ocean, photo by William Hillyard

The international border fence as it enters the Pacific at Tijuana--photo by William Hillyard

I got the idea for this story standing on the San Diego side of the border fence watching people squeeze north between the jagged stakes to have their picture taken.  It seemed to me that the fence only kept out those who were willing to be kept out.  The photos are by award-winning Tijuana-based photographer Guillermo Arias.

“At low tide, you could walk to Mexico, around the crusty palisade of the border fence, without even getting your shoes wet. The thinnest can slip between the stakes, as kids do, dashing into America—‘look at me, mom!’—and slipping back again over the line. The Pacific’s relentless waves and salt spray have long ago eaten the fence’s metallic flesh, leaving a disheveled skeleton of rusty spikes, 12 feet tall, like the broken and bent teeth of a giant scaly comb.” Read the entire story

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There is Only Waiting

There is Only Waiting cover, Story by William Hillyard

Denver Voice, November 2008

This story examines the relationship between undocumented day laborers and the Lake Forest, California community in which they live.  It appeared in the November 2008 issue of  the Denver Voice.

“Wedged between the railroad tracks and busy El Toro Road, bound by auto repair shops and a lumberyard, near the now vacant nursery with the dead potted trees and rented security fence, Orange Avenue meets Jeronimo Road…” Read the entire story

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Pichoneros

 

A Dana Point Pichonero Photo by Preston Drake-Hillyard, Story by William Hillyard

“Pichoneros” are what the day laborers who hang out along Camino Capistrano in Dana Point, California call themselves.  They liken themselves to pigeons (pichon is pigeon in Spanish), scratching their livelihoods from  the dirt.  This story looks at the pichoneros who, as the economy falters, find it harder and harder to survive.  And many contemplate returning to Mexico, a place some have not called home for decades.  This story was a finalist for the 2010 NASNA Best Feature Award.

“Patti Church eased her car around the corner and into the swirling crowd, stopping near the piles of clothing spilling from ripped plastic trash bags. Flimsy folding tables stood waiting for her. As Patti opened her car door, she became the center of the crowd; volunteers looked to her for direction, asking questions—where do you want this, who is to do that? One man, his face bristling with a silver stubble, opened Patti’s trunk and began unloading paper grocery bags to the folding tables, others grabbed cases of soda, boxes of cakes, plastic trays of salads, until the wobbly tables were top-heavy with food. Another, Francisco, grabbed a box from the car’s back seat, then stood shuffling from foot to foot, looking for an opening to the tables. As Patti approached, about fifty men, their weathered hands warmed in worn pockets, congealed into a tight group…” Read the entire article

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Wonder Valley by William Hillyard

Ned Bray's Wonder Valley Parcel--photo by William Hillyard

Ned Bray's Wonder Valley Parcel--photo by William Hillyard

Below is a link to my story on Wonder Valley which appears in the July issue of the Denver Voice.  It is the first of what will be a series of stories on Wonder Valley, one of the last homestead tracts in the United States.  It’s a strange place, dotted with tumble-down shacks it is peopled by an diverse mix of artists and retirees, losers and lowlifes, drunks and druggies, eccentrics and out-right wackjobs.  This story was listed as “Notable Nonrequired Reading” in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010

“You might have passed through here, maybe. Out for a drive with time on your hands, you might have taken the long-cut to the casinos of Laughlin, Nevada from the soulless sprawl of Los Angeles. You’d have driven way beyond the outer reaches of suburbia, beyond its neglected fringe of citrus groves, past the outlet malls and the Indian casino, past remote Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Desert Combat Center, past the Next Services 100 Miles sign and any reason anybody really drives out this way…” Read the Entire Story

Check out more Wonder Valley photos HERE

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William Hillyard

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