IF ITS TUESDAY THIS MUST BE CLOVIS

Living the life of the vagabond without a care or worry may sound good or look pretty in the moving pictures but so does Oz and the stuff we are sold every election cycle. However, when the fantasy meets the reality it is sort of like what happens to your cardboard house in an Arizona monsoon.
For reasons that escape me now and that must have made sense then, there was a time when I decided to try my hand at living free and easy in the land of opportunity. To that end I divested myself of motorized transportation, thinned out my worldy goods so that all I owned fit in a good sized pack, and had a friend drop me at the intersection of I-40 and US 93 south of Kingman at about sunrise on a beautiful summer morning.
By around 10:00, as the temperature was nearing the century mark, doubts about my plan began to seep into my mind. When it hit noon those doubts were full fledged concerns about any semblance of common sense in what I was doing. At around 4:00 when I had made the decision to begin the long walk back to town and shelve this adventure under ideas not to try a second time, an old man stopped his battered, rusty, smoking Subaru Brat, and asked if I needed a ride.
As his huge black lab dominated the front seat, I got the jump seats in the rear. But this was of little concern as my doubts vanished with the warm desert breeze that whipped around my face as the driver piloted his wreck toward the little mining burg of Bagdad!
Surely my master plan had received the blessings of God for my destination was Bagdad and my little sisters house. How else could one explain getting a ride to a town in the middle of nowhere where the welcome to Bagdad sign shared space with another that announced the highway ended in fifty feet?
I stayed with my sister for two days, turned down an offer to get me an interview at the mine from my brother in law, accepted a ride to the junction on a motorcycle, and with conviction in my heart that I had chosen the right path for an adventuresome summer, stuck out my thumb in the hopes of getting a ride to Yarnell, Skull Valley, or even better yet, Prescott. My pack had barely touched the ground when an old Ford stopped, pleasantries were exchanged with the old cowboys, and I climbed in the back amongst the tack and straw for the trip to Prescott.
All went rather well for about five short miles. Then the old Ford began to shudder to a stop before turning into the dusty parking lot at the little bar in Hillside.
Well, it was a hot and dusty day so surely a cold one couldn’t hurt even though it wasn’t quite noon. One led to two and two led to home made burritos and another round of beers. You know the rest. At around 4:00 it was becoming quite obvious even in my foggy state that this ride was over.
So, I stumbled out to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and waited under a blazing sun that made my head pound. As the sun began sinking behind the rocky hills in an explosion of various shades of reds, yellows and oranges, I decided that perhaps it would be best to walk it off and cover some ground. After all, I knew a rancher in the area that might put me up and give me a couple of days work and I was quite sure his place couldn’t be more that 15 or 20 miles down the road.
What I tripped over in the dark will never be known. What I do know is that nothing wakes you up and chases away the cobwebs in the brain like going backside over tea kettle down a mountain, through the gravel and thickets, in the dark, and having a huge barrel cactus break your fall.
As it turned out, the distance to the road was only a dozen feet or so even though at the time it felt like I had fallen into the Grand Canyon. After extricating myself from the cactus that was now festooned with bits of my shirt and hide, I sat on a rock to evaluate the situation.
To date, this was the stupidest thing I had done but with the luxury of hindsight, I now know there were better stunts to come in the years ahead. 
Some were good enough to have folks question my sanity. From the perspective of late middle age (if I live to be 106), most of these were enough to convince me youth is something that is survived only by the grace of God because it sure isn’t accomplished through swift thinking.
From my vantage point on that rock I began to take stock of my situation. Nothing seemed broken but my hat was missing, as were my glasses, and a patch of skin on the side of my head.
I dug through my pack, found my spare glasses, located my hat, found my other glasses, and climbed back up to the road. So there I sat with my torn shirt, ripped jeans, skinned knees and elbows, with blood trickling into my eye and the growing sense that by morning I was going to ache most everywhere.
So, I again set off into the night under a dazzling sea of stars upon which wisps of clouds floated. In the glow of the lighter my pocket watch showed one in the morning when I decided to hunker down in a sandy spot below the road about half way up the grade to Skull Valley. 
It was a pleasant evening and, almost as soon as I found a comfortable spot to lean against my pack, exhaustion swept me into a deep sleep. My little touch of heaven was a short lived venture as a crack of thunder, a blinding bolt of lightning that turned a yucca into a smoldering crater on the other side of the road, and wind whipped rain violently jerked me back to reality.
The vagabond life was less than a week old but I was already beginning to tire of the grand adventure. If I had known that the adventure would continue for another couple of weeks or that I would wind up at the Rainbow Gathering for misplaced hippies or that I would be robbed and tossed out into the desert near Lordsburg or that I would …
All of that, however, is a story for another day.

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jimhinckleysamerica

Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.

Thank you, shared adventures are the best adventures.

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