Along a desolate stretch of Texas, a jeep makes its way down a winding road. The jeep carries two older men, both equipped with rifles, with eyes sharp to any movement off the side of the road. A coyote can be seen tugging at something. The men shoot the coyote and go to find out what the animal was so interested in. What the coyote found will drive the narrative from this point forward and what the coyote found was body of Melquiades Estrada which had been buried in a grave too shallow.
Melquiades Estrada was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had found work in Texas as a cowboy. Not long before his body was discovered by the two man in the jeep, the coyote had been the target of his aim. The aim of Estrada’s weapon intended to keep coyotes from further reducing his already small tribe of goats is mistaken by a Border Patrol Guard named Norton for a weapon aimed at him. Under this misapprehension, Norton stops masturbating to a girly mag, pulls his back up, grabs his assault rifle and returns fire. When he goes to check on the person he shot, he realizes that the man is not yet dead. He soon will be.
Realizing his tragic mistake and fearful of the consequences, Norton proceeds to bury the body rather than report the accident.
Upon examination of the buried corpse, the medical examiner estates that Estrada was killed seven days by a high powered weapon fired from around 300 yards away. In the words of the medical examiner, he quite simply gunned down. Since the morgue’s refrigeration system is broken, they move to rebury Estrada’s body quickly at the local cemetery under the assumption that the deceased has no family members to inform. A problem soon arises, however: a photo found among the personal effects shows Estrada with a wife and kids.
Then a bigger problem: a friend of Pete Perkins discovers shell casings near where Pete’s best friend tended to his goats. The shell casings are from a higher powered rifle and the bullet of choice for the Border Patrol guards: .223 standard. Pete takes the casings to the sheriff with the expectation that he will investigate the Border Patrol. The Sheriff likens this idea to trying to investigate the JFK assassination. Besides, they already buried the body. Case closed.
Nevertheless, the sheriff finds himself involved when Norton’s supervisor invites the sheriff to step outside the café where a waitress he’s having an affair with, Rachel, works. Rachel listens through a window and hers the supervisor relate Norton’s version of what happened to Estrada to the sheriff. Pete is also sexually involved with Rachel and finds out through her that Norton was responsible for killing his friend.
Pete abducts Norton and leaves Norton’s wife, Lou Ann, tied up while they drive to Estrada’s grave where Norton is forced to dig up the body that he once buried. Pete made a promise long ago that if anything ever happened, he would make sure Estrada was buried in his hometown in Mexico. In the process of exhuming the body, the corpse actually falls back on Norton, briefly trapping him and injuring him to boot. Finally the body is lifted out, strapped to a horse and Pete starts off toward the town of Jiminez, Mexico with Norton his hostage. The sheriff and the Border Patrol launch an effort to find them. The sheriff actually manages to spot them and aims his weapon at Pete, but can’t go through with it. He decides to head back home and let the border guards take care of things.
The trip to Mexico is long, hard and very strange. Along the way are chance meetings with a blind American whose only company is the sound of Mexican radio. Norton takes advantage of an opportunity to escape, but winds up encountering a rattlesnake before a group of illegal immigrants passing into the Texas come across. In exchange for a horse, the immigrants guide them to an herbalist who just so happens to have had her nose broken by Norton during an arrest just a few weeks before. She reluctantly consents to save the guard’s life, but takes her payment in the form of smashing a coffee pot over Norton’s face. Later they meet some Mexican cowboys with a fondness for American soap operas they watch on a TV in their truck.
Meanwhile Estrada’s condition is worsening and Norton’s wife, free from the bondage of ropes, decides to free herself from the bondage of a husband who is beyond redemption. She’s off to Cincinnati.
Finally, they arrive at town that Estrada had said was close to his hometown of Jiminez except that nobody there has ever even heard of a town called Jiminez. A woman that Estrada once pointed out as his wife tells Pete she lives in this town…with her husband and kids. Even when Pete shows her a photo of her standing behind Estrada she fails to have any appropriate reaction one would expect from a widow and says only that she doesn’t want any trouble with her husband.
When the reach a dilapidated house that matches the one Estrada had described as his Mexican home, Pete and Norton set to making repairs before giving the man his third burial. Suddenly Peter whirls on Norton with demands that he beg for forgiveness for what he did, but Norton seems unable to bring himself to do so. Only after Pete fires some shots past him does he finally start pleading for the dead man to forgive him. Pete gives Norton a horse even casually refers to him as “son.” As Pete begins to leave, Norton calls after him with an inquiry as to whether he is going to be all right.
Though he receives no answer, the implication is that he does receive redemption after all.