Saturday, September 5, 2009

THE PECOS PIG - Part 1. A Not-So-Good Friday

Lying here naked and drinking wine at 4:00 in the afternoon in a Motel 6 in Pecos, Texas, was definitely not in the plan. I was supposed to be driving east to San Antonio to pick up Craig for a week of birding in South Texas. Blame the pig.

Late yesterday after driving 60 miles out of my way to camp in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I found the campground full. So there I was flying down deserted TX 652, hoping to find a motel in Pecos. Turns out, all the motels were full. But that’s getting ahead of the pig. Which I didn’t.

As the sun set over the pancake landscape the pig (a javelina) came trotting across the highway, left-to-right, hesitating, then going. Bull’s-eye! Like hitting a bowling ball. In my mirror I watched him rolling down the road, a 60-pound sack of dead lard.

No damage to the car was apparent. But 30 miles later, it died too. I told AAA that I was 24.1 miles south of Orla and about 17 miles north of Pecos. AAA’s message to B&B Wrecker Service, however, was “south” of Pecos. It took two hours waiting in the dark with erratic cell phone service until we finally connected. “They screw everything up,” the guy said philosophically as he winched my poor car up on his flatbed truck. The best mechanic in Pecos is at Eagle Automotive Repair, he told me. So he dropped me and my dead Honda Pilot on a weedy side street next to a ramshackle steel building and junkyard. The place was dark and deserted, with no discernable entry door or sign, surrounded by a rusty, barbed wire-topped fence. One street light and a full moon gave everything creepy shadows and a Mad Max glow.

After a long night half-sleeping in the back of the car, listening to passing trains and very early-rising roosters, I met Gary opening up. Over his first-of-the-day coffee, he learned about the pig. I learned about Gary, who started the day with hands already dark from grease stains. The most amazing thing, which Gary told in his matter-of-fact way, was that six days ago he got married to a Filipino woman. And went back to work three hours later. “She was real mad,” he admitted. He had met her on the Internet two years ago. Gary, who has this unsettling way of pausing for a few seconds when he talks and staring blankly with his slightly mis-aligned eyes while he collects his thoughts, told me that it cost many thousands of dollars to bring her over. Now he needed even more to get her work papers and to bring over her young son. So it seems the boy is going to have that pig to thank, at least in part, for getting him to the USA.

I almost left the USA by accident earlier yesterday. On a whim, I tried to find this “wildlife sanctuary” I saw on a map of El Paso. Somehow, though, the highway I sought became the freeway to Juarez, Mexico. After passing numerous “no guns” signs (I have one), the big sign overhead proclaimed: “Leaving the United States of America.” Then, just before the border guards a little sign read “U-Turn OK, 350 feet.” By the way, I did finally find the “wildlife sanctuary,” a scruffy square of dry vegetation and ponds surrounded by chain link and No Trespassing signs. Some days whims pay off. Other days, not so much.

Tomorrow morning, Gary’s friend, Edel, and his monster Chevy truck will pick me up from the Motel 6 to go to Midland, thanks to Gary calling all over this part of Texas to find a replacement for the radiator that the pig destroyed. He used private numbers to reach guys who ran the parts and radiator shops; all were closed, as today is Good Friday. “I’ve got a customer here who broke down ‘cause he hit a pig and needs to get to San Anton’ tonight,” he explained to each of them. Finally, after many dead ends, Frank in Midland said he could get one by 10:00 tomorrow. $250.

Edel is charging me $120 for the 180-mile round trip to Midland. I told him I thought that was fair. Edel, a large, friendly 48-year-old Hispanic man, works the oil fields around Orla (near the dead pig’s home). Tomorrow is his day off and he’s free because his wife is having a Mary Kay cosmetics party at his house. Edel came by today and gave me a ride to the Motel 6 around noon. The woman at the check-in desk said, apologetically, “They raise the rates over spring break,” regarding the $57 price.

Room 120 is on a corner near the fetid-appearing pool. Outside an Asian man with a pick is digging in the baked dirt. I went for a hot, bleak run through this sad, desolate town. Then took a shower. Which is why I’m now naked. As for the wine at 4:00 in the afternoon, that should be obvious by now.

Tomorrow: "Part 2. Easter in Pecos"

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