The inspiration for Border Field Blues happened many years ago, when my wife and I first stumbled on the place while out for a Sunday drive. It was a rare combination of place – both forlorn and beautiful. There was only a single rusty fence at that time, a flimsy chain link structure. Separated families met at the fence — passing food, money, and conversation through the rusted links. Forlorn and beautiful.
The monument Max and Rolly talk about is real. Before the second fence was added to the border, you could walk up to it. Now it’s only accessible on specific days prescribed by the Border Patrol.
Image based on photo by Sarah Karlson, Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0
As Max indicates, the monument commemorates the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. There are a 276 monuments like this along the Mexican-American border, with Border Field Park the farthest western monument. The farthest east is somewhere in Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico.
As far as Max’s story about Pat Nixon dedicating the monument, it’s true. You can find more about it online.
Spotted Grackle — Max might have misidentified this bird. I can’t actually find a species called Spotted Grackle, but according to my 1990 edition of A Field Guide to Western Birds the Great-Tailed Grackle does display some spots during the Winter. And it does appear (barely) in Southern California. I’ll leave it to you to decide what kind of bird Max really saw.
Photo by “Mike” Michael L. Baird, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Western Tanager — I can vouch for these making an appearance in my part of the world, so Max is solid on that one.
Photo by Kati Fleming, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
While writing my first Rolly Waters novel, Black’s Beach Shuffle, I decided on a specific method for coming up with character names. They would all be combinations of musician names, musical instruments, and/or musical terms. I decided to continue the tradition with Border Field Blues.
Max Gemeinhardt is a combination of Max Weinberg, the drummer in the E Street Band and Gemeinhardt flutes. The first (and thank God only) flute I ever played was a Gemeinhardt.
Rolly Waters’ first name is short for Roland, an electronic instruments manufacturer (the Roland RS80 was the bedrock drum machine of early rap recordings, but the company has made make all sorts of synthesizers and electronic instruments over the years). Roland is also the protagonist of the epic romantic poem The Song of Roland from the 12th century. The mediocre college literature major I once was feels compelled to mention that, in case it’s symbolic. Rolly’s last name is for Muddy Waters, the seminal Chicago bluesman. But if you were thinking Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, I’ll give you half credit.