Part Three, Arizona Immigration Struggles
Rob Krentz’s Memorial Service and his wife Sue
Approximately five years before his murder, I first met Rob Krentz’s wife, Sue. That was when she spoke passionately to the Douglas Noon Lions Club, about her fear of encroachment on her families’ ranching livelihood, by the environmentalists, a group which, like the illegals, she has tended to think of as outside invaders. She sees both groups as making it ever more difficult for one-hundred year plus families, like hers, to graze federal land. She seemed especially worried about road closures by the National Park Service and habitat shut-down for endangered wildlife species, including a jaguar, protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I complimented Mrs. Krentz on her sincerity and she, in turn, suggested I see the family exhibit in the Douglas Historical Museum; and she then invited me to attend the upcoming Thanksgiving luncheon at the Arizona Cow Belles, Douglas Chapter meeting hall, at the corner of Pan American Ave. and Tenth St. I was pleased that she thought of me as an ally.
At this event, I was one of only two or three men among twenty or more women, each kind, interesting, and welcoming. They are denizens of the west; and they were respectful to me, a midwest retired dairy farmer, who recently became a trustee of a small bit of ranch land, which one of them had once owned. Again, Sue Krentz pleaded for their collective support against her perceived threats of seizure of locally vested historic rights for ranching livelihood.
Over the next five winters, I have seen Sue frequently as she has reported officially to the Whitewater Draw USDA Natural Resource Conservation District Board of Supervisors, chaired in my first years of guest attendance, by our next-ranch neighbor and good friend, Chuck Chambers; and then by Sue’s husband, her high school sweetheart, Rob Krentz.
It is a measure of Sue’s community respect, held in both the cattle and jaguar camps of opposition, that somehow she became the rancher representative to the borderlands endangered species habitat protection committee. She has worked at this unpaid job with a passion by issuing hundreds of messages and attending dozens of meetings. On one of these occasions, she reported to us that the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Service had decided to place a new electronic collar on the jaguar, which they had been following for many months through the high mountains back and forth into Mexico. After the giant beast woke from his anesthesia, he walked a few hundred yards and fell dead of a heart attack! Sue reported this bizarre happening with neither sorrow nor glee in her voice. She did say, “He was twenty years old and ready to die, a lone male cast off from his mating group years ago”
So, in a sense, the ranchers did then, no longer need to worry about their loss of vast habitat to him, but to his successors of prey, the some twenty pairs of gray wolves recently turned loose in Mexico, but probably coming north soon. Rob said at the NRCS meeting on March 8, 2010,“I am more worried about the wolves than I ever was about the jaguar”. As it turned out, he died 19 days later, not by the fangs of a wolf, but by the gun of, perhaps a “coyote”, a human one.
At the political meeting, four days later, I looked for either Sue or our mutual friend, Chuck Chambers, who’s big “Lee Station Ranch”, joins our little, “Azcrazy Ranch”. I could spot neither of them in that crowd which I estimate to have been as many as seven hundred people. However, three days later on a nice Easter Sunday morning Ruth Stuckey and I attended the sunrise breakfast, hosted annually by Chuck and Patty Chambers in their beautiful home nestled in the southern most pass of the North American Rocky Mountains. From this special spot, the Rockies start to Canada; and a few miles to the South, the Mexican Sierra Madre stretch to Guatemala. From there, the Chambers can also see our home in the Arizona friends community in the valley below.
We ate at a card table in Chuck and Patty’s bedroom and there, he graciously came to sit with us, and to tell us about Sue Krentz. He and Patty had driven out to see her and found her in a distraught condition. I replied, “She will come back, more of an activist than ever. She is tough and she is committed!” The first reporter to interview her was not kind. He printed a malapropism she uttered which is completely out of character with her normal clarity of verbal expression. I do not feel right in repeating it here, even in explanation of her grief. However, I am pleased to read that Sue seemed back to her normal eloquence, six weeks later, when the reporter for Time Magazine, Nathan Thornburgh, quoted her as follows:
Standing in front of the Krentz’s ranch home on a weekday in April, his widow Sue offered bottles of Coors Light and cranked up the car radio to listen to the song they played at his wake.; “Standing Deer’s Lament” by Brenn Hill. “If you want to know Rob, she told me, then listen to the words of that song; “If he believed in hatred we would not be friends… Mi compadre, Buenos noches. Good night , my old friend” She started to weep and then stopped herself , “ Rob would not want me to be a wimp” she said, ‘” even though I feel like setting my hair on fire”.