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In 1983 or 1984 I was sent to the Salton Sea to photograph a California State Park Ranger who had what the newspaper called "the worst State Ranger job". The day I went it was 117 degrees and it had been that hot for a week.

As I was leaving early in the morning Rudy saw me and asked if he could go. Since he had just gotten home from prison a few weeks earlier I said yes. We stopped for coffee in Covina and he stole a sugar dispenser. Later in the trip he took off his pants and decided to make the rest of the trip in his state issued boxers. At the Cabazon mini market with the dinasaurs outside he stole a cap that read, "I have something money can't buy, POVERTY. He said he would have taken more but he was not wearing pants. At our last stop before getting to the Salton Sea he stole a case of warm beer out of a delivery truck at a Circle K.

When we got to the station the Ranger was in an airconditioned office in a nicely pressed uniform waiting for me. Rudy introduced himself as an undercover LAPD cop and handed the Ranger a crumpled business card to prove it. After I shot the Ranger at work, Rudy wanted to take a photo with the Ranger even though he would not let Rudy shoot his gun.

On the way back we stopped in Palm Springs to make a phone call. At the end of the call I looked for Rudy but did not see him until I saw a motel manager behind him screaming "Get out of here". Rudy had decided to go for a swim in his state issed boxers.

I have not seen Rudy in a long time but I heard he was in the hospital not doing well.

Photo and text by Aurelio Jose Barrera

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