On Patrol in a 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Brian Konoske

I suspect that the law would get there sooner than that, though. As we approach what is evidently a new area, a Border Patrol truck comes roaring toward us. "We must've tripped a sensor," says Wilmot. I ask what kind of sensor we might've tripped. He doesn't elaborate. When the Border Patrol officer pulls alongside, he gets out to scope the Raptor. "This thing's a mule," he says, gesturing to his Silverado. "It doesn't have as much power as the 2006s we had." I'm guessing that the older trucks had the discontinued 8.1-liter big-block, which put out 330 hp and, more important, 450 lb-ft of torque. The new 6.0-liter makes 360 hp but significantly less torque. Which must make a difference when you're slogging through sand dunes all day with an air-conditioned jail stuck in the pickup bed.

Greetings concluded, we continue on our way, again at a high rate of speed. I've taken the wheel of our civilian Raptor (probably to Jimmy's dismay, since he seemed to be enjoying it) and find myself amazed at the ease with which this thing soaks up flinch-worthy obstacles -- you keep flinching, but then it just glides on its way. You start to feel invincible. And that's always a bad way to feel, in the long run. Soon enough, I go too hot off a whoop and bottom out the skid plate with a vertebrae-rearranging crash. When you manage to bottom the suspension on a Raptor, you need to take a time-out to contemplate the law of gravity and how it applies to a 6000-pound truck, tricked-out suspension or not. We stop for a break, and Jimmy and the major hold court on the topic of cutting sign.

"Cutting sign" is the lingo for tracking footprints. It's a big part of border patrol work. The Stonegarden Raptor has LED lights under the running boards that shine down at an angle, illuminating footprints in the sand. Of course, once you find some footprints, the truck also has a FLIR-Forward Looking Infrared-night-vision display built into the passenger-side sun visor. ("Yo, dawg, I pimped your Department of Homeland Security vehicle so it can see in the dark.") The Border Patrol trucks routinely drag tires along the fence, smoothing out the sand so that any new footprints will be instantly noticeable. Cutting sign still sounds like an art, though. "When you first learn how to do it, the old-timers make you take off one of your boots," Jimmy says. "Then they carve your initial in the heel, so you'll know when you're tracking yourself."

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