Roz Saddik (front), a Uygur herdsman, patrols Wushi's border with Kyrgyzstan with colleagues. Provided to China Daily
Roz Saddik is a Uygur herdsman in the mountainous area of Wushi county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which shares a 137-kilometer border with Kyrgyzstan on its northwestern side.
The first thing the 50-year-old does every day after breakfast is check his motorbike. If there is a problem with his "mechanical horse", he may not be able to continue the mission he inherited from his father.
To better guard the border, the local government hired herdsmen to patrol the area and report emergencies. Familiar with the complex mountainous area, Roz's father took the job voluntarily in the early 1990s.
The biggest challenge for his father was frigid weather. He had to return to his yurt before night fell, otherwise he might not survive in the extreme cold, Roz said.
"My father suffered a lot. Patrolling the mountain with its hazardous paths was never an easy thing to do, but he never gave up," said Roz, who was born and raised in the mountains.
In the late 1990s, he took over responsibility with his brother. Every day, they patrol the mountain, just like their father. Each patrol takes eight hours.
During the daily 40-km journey, Roz strengthens the barbed wire along the border. He stops occasionally and uses his binoculars to check for suspicious activity.
As one of China's most impoverished counties, Wushi receives strong support from the central government.
In 2016, the local government started a program to provide free permanent housing with modern amenities to replace the herdsmen's shabby yurts that lacked running water and electricity.
In the same year, Roz moved into a brand new house with amenities and a sheepfold out front so he would be able to raise dozens of animals.
"You can never understand how important such a house is if you don't live in the mountains. The thick wall that keeps out the bitter cold and wind allows me to sleep peacefully," he said.
The rangers are more fortunate than their fathers because they all have motorbikes. Roz can range freely in the mountains with no fear of the dark.
The motorbike has also greatly shortened the time it takes to make each patrol, and the sound of the engine reverberating through the valley makes him feel at ease.
"I used to wear out several pairs of shoes a year because I walked too much, and now both my feet are bent out of shape," he said.
Recently, Roz developed a new longing when he saw vehicles passing on the mountain highway. He wants a car.
"Both of my sons have jobs, and I receive a monthly salary of around 2,000 yuan ($287) as a ranger. All I need is to sell some of my sheep. Buying a car is not just a dream," he said.
As life has improved, Roz has started reflecting on the past.
"The thing I regret most is that my sons did not receive enough education, which could have provided a better life for them," he said.
Now, more than 100 border rangers in Wushi have seen their living standards rise as a result of the job.
"I am proud of my work. I will dedicate myself to this glorious mission to carry on my father's example and spirit," Roz said.