Texas is the second largest state in the country and its counties are no exception when it comes to size.
For Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson, patrolling his county is just another day on the job.
Except, the county he covers isn’t for the faint of heart.
“In law enforcement, you go from a calm to a 190, just like that,” said Dodson.
Though it may not be the “Wild Wild West”, Dodson says there are plenty of factors that can pose a threat to his deputies.
“Some of the groups of illegals that the deputies, down South, encounter by themselves can be in the 20s and 30s,” said Dodson.
That leads to what the Sheriff believes is his department’s greatest threat, distance.
“You got deputies answering domestic calls by themselves. I got ’em going to bar fights by themselves, where in other areas you’d have two or three other guys to help back you up,” said Dodson.
A rotation of three out of eight deputies covering more than 6,192 square miles, even patrolling border lines in Sanderson.
A feat that Dodson says is accomplished by assigning working deputies to a 65-mile radius.
While the 65-mile radius may not seem like much, Dodson says his deputies’ response time can be longer if the location they have to respond to is on the opposite end.
“You know, no person in need wants to wait an hour for help,” said Dodson.
Deputy Willys Drawe has been with the sheriff’s office for five years and works the Marathon area.
“It’s me out here and maybe one or two other deputies when they come on overtime, and it can be a challenge to keep up with everything out here,” said Drawe.
While Border Patrol can sometimes back him up when things get hairy, Drawe says it can still be a scary thought knowing his fellow deputies could be hours away.
“An individual may have to wait for thirty, forty, minutes maybe an hour for a deputy, and that’s getting there trying to drive really fast,” said Dodson.
Dodson says it comes down to a lack of resources, funding, and manpower.
“If I could have four or five extra men, we’re not talking that great amount of manpower, but it would give these other guys some breaks,” said Dodson.
According to Dodson, his men are constantly clocking in overtime, reaching 24 plus hours on a consistent basis.
In recent years, the county commissioners approved adding several more deputies, but there’s just one problem.
“Commissioners courts were gracious enough last year to give us two additional deputies, which we were ecstatic to get those two, but one of those positions have been open for most of the time,” said Dodson.
Long hours, low wages, and undesirable living conditions are just a few of the reasons Dodson can’t find willing applicants and has lost six deputies in the last four months.
“We’re not a very rich county. There’s no oil here or anything like that, so it is funding,” said Dodson.
The sheriff’s office relies on federal and state grants, money that doesn’t last very long when Dodson is constantly having to maintain his department’s vehicles.
To help compensate for the lack of manpower, Dodson has placed cameras throughout the county to help monitor as much as possible.
This financial uncertainty isn’t easy, leading to the biggest question, is there a solution?
“You know, we’re hoping that in time we can get some more funding. Our county judge and our commissioners are looking for different funding for us whether it be the pipeline or the solar plant,” said Dodson.
While it may not be the “Wild Wild West”, it’s Dodson’s home, and he’s determined to do all he can to protect its citizens and deputies.
“I have a special love for it, you know. I really admire the people that we got a lot of new folks moving here and they expect services that they had when they were in larger cities,” said Dodson.
As for the future, Dodson says his office is planning to partner with federal agencies in hopes of using some of their equipment to be a more efficient sheriff’s office.