"It used to be mostly Mexican peasants coming to look for work," Vickers says. "Maybe a couple times a week, they'd show up at my front door, ring the doorbell and ask if I had any work for them. If I didn't, I'd send them across the road or point them in the direction of work. They were very respectful. We'd give them water, we'd give them food."
Now, all along Route 281, bended fences, abandoned clothing and empty Gatorade bottles lay scattered on the road, evidence of groups passing through.
For some the high price is too much to pay to stay on the ranches. Elizabeth Burns, who owns a 38,000-acre ranch, moved off the land and into McAllen, Texas because the influx was growing too burdensome.
"We left because I didn't have any confidence. I saw the situation getting worse and I didn't see it getting addressed," Burns says. "I am not going to stay around and fight a transnational gang because you will lose. After five generations, it was not realistic for me to think this was going to be for the next generation.
In the fields, more canned food and trash lay beneath the trees. And more and more, skeletons are turning up in the high grass. Sometimes the dead bodies are still intact, still sitting uprights, swollen from the hot sun when ranchers and cowboys stumble upon them.
Vickers keeps dozens of blown-up photographs of their bodies in his office, which he uses to make presentations about border life.
The bodies are a disturbing yet routine part of life in Brooks County.
A sheriff deputy keeps a handful of photographs of dead people on his cell phone. As he scrolls through his phone, he stops at a photo of the body of Morales De Beltranena.
Like many immigrants, Beltranena died of exhaustion and was left behind by the man she paid to smuggle her across south Texas. Her brother had gone for help when Beltranena started struggling. By the time the deputy made it to her, she was dead.
"I just don't want these bodies to fall into collateral damage. They fall into deaf ears. All the bodies, the rapes, the property damage. It cannot be collateral damage. We can't have that. It's not acceptable," Martinez says. "This is a humanitarian issue. I know the federal government is looking more at a nationwide issue, rather than a specific issue that Brooks County is going through. After all, we are small in population, our voting is a small percentage and people are not going to get elected with Brooks County, but something has to be done."
Of the 463 bodies found in 2012 along the southwestern border, 129 of them surfaced in Brooks County. In Falfurrias, the largest town in the county, the bodies are buried at the local cemetery in simple wooden boxes under crooked aluminum signs. Waxy fake flowers adorn the graves of the unknown. It's rare for the county to make a positive identification because smugglers often confiscate the ID cards of their cargo. To help reunite the bodies with the families who may be waiting to hear from loved ones, Teams from Baylor University and the University of Indianapolis exhumed more than 50 bodies in May and sampled their DNA in hopes of finding more clues about where to return the bodies to.
"They are kind of at ground zero down here," says Kevin Cottrell, who made the journey from Austin to spend the weekend at the Vicker ranch.