by Dick Mauer
The Buffalo Sector has an all water border formed by Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the mighty Niagara River. The only "Iinewatch" duties in the Sector are centered on the 3 railroad bridges coming over the Niagara River from Canada. The one bridge in the Buffalo station area was the Internalnational bridge from Fort Erie, Canada to Buffalo. It is an engineering marvel build back in the civil war era and features a mammoth section that rotates on a turntable pivot point to allow seasonal boat traffic on the Erie Canal. The pivoting turntable Is built on Squaw Island, a small island in the Niagara River that is separated from the mainland by the Erie Canal. This rotating section still opens and closes several times a day during boating season on the original engineering and mechanics.
Squaw Island was also the site of the City of Buffalo garbage dump and incinerator. The rats on this island were magnificent. River rats are big anyway but combine the river location with the garbage and we're talking rats the size of cats. Back in the late 60s these rats provided unbelievable target practice for shooting by headlight and when the Buffalo Police, County Sheriff, State Police, and the Border Patrol were on the island on midnights it sounded like WWIII. It made for great fun and built some great relationships. As to the work: The bridge was also amazing because of the number and diversity of the aliens who found their way to the Canadian end to make the crossing. This is a narrow bridge of massive steel work with only 1 set of railroad tracks on ties fastened to the steelwork.There are no side railings and nothing below the ties except the Niagara River moving at about 12 miles per hour, so fast that it kind of hissed at night. There were no lights on the bridge and you truly could not see a hand in front of your face. For electronics we had an electric eye at the center of the bridge that made a beep tone on our radios when triggered. The radio tone gave you a few minutes notice if a train was crossing or about 5 minutes if it was a walker (or animal). The walk across the island to get into the city took several minutes, so, wherever you were in the city when the tone sounded, you headed for the bridge.
Agents had lobbied for years for real time cameras on that bridge (we had a fixed camera that gave you a picture every 15 seconds) but the $$ attitude was always "Cameras, we don't need no damn cameras". The last year I worked we caught aliens from 26 different countries coming off that bridge and I recall Greeks, Brazilians, Chinese, Italians, and more than a few drunk Canadians. I also recall catching a group of 6 tall, well groomed, well dressed North Koreans KCIA types with diplomatic passports, and some high ranking Sinn Fein Officers, all of which were taken off our hands by the FBI (wonder of wonders) Toss in a whole bunch of Canadian criminals and an occasional herd of EI Sals or Somalians and you had some interesting shifts down there,
The island is now the site of a pristine city park with the dump long covered and the incinerator removed, The Border Patrol now has all kind of cameras there but still spends a lot of time there. For my memories, those January nights of zero degrees, 50 mile an hour winds, and snow blowing sideways while I waited and watched is something I'll never forget.