Wednesday, September 9, 2009

THE PECOS PIG - Part 5. The Evil Pig, Texas or God

“Does it show Rick’s third eye?” the mechanic asked me this morning. I had just taken Rick’s picture next to my Honda, my rental car and my newly reorganized bags on the floor of the repair shop. The mechanics all think that Rick is cursed. I assured Rick that it’s not him. Blame it on that evil pig. Or Texas. Or God.

Now I’m spending the day, Tuesday, here in the El Paso airport waiting for my flight home to Oregon. Eight days is enough. Rick still marvels at my ability to keep smiling, but last night, when it became clear that my car’s overheating problems are more serious than just a blown head gasket, I confessed that I was running perilously low. “I can’t imagine,” Rick said. “I can’t stand to be away from home even three days. You know, I get home from a tough day at work, my wife’s upset, the kids are fighting – that’s where I belong.” I think my travails have re-enforced priorities for Rick.

And mine. My lifeline has been my cell phone connection to my wife. Yesterday morning when it still appeared my car was going to be fixed, I said to her, “Meet Rick,” and handed Rick the phone. “That was mean,” he said after he had promised her to get me home. “I thought you needed more pressure,” I explained.

I really thought my luck had changed. Saturday, driving south across New Mexico, where “only the curvature of the Earth limits your view,” a warning light came on my rental car about 50 miles north of Roswell. Despite my initial panic, it turned out to be just a faulty sensor – probably from the dust.

Then on Sunday hiking eight miles up a canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park with Mark from El Paso who I met at the trailhead, he told me that it was good luck to rub the “smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt” bark of the Texas madrone tree. You can bet I rubbed hell out of every damned one I saw. For good measure, Mark told me he would “say an extra prayer for me” that night.

Before I left the park for the Super 8 Motel in El Paso, I stopped at the Frijole Ranch and met Jo Ann, a retired park volunteer who took care of the little museum in the desert homestead. She stayed past her 4:30 closing so I could study the pictures of Mescalero Apaches, soldiers and ranch families – all whom had called home this remote canyon with its precious springs. The Smith family had grown apples, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, figs, pecans, blackberries, strawberries and corn in the early 1900s, hauling their produce 65 miles over rocky roads to sell in Van Horn, covering their wagon’s cargo with wet rags and paper and traveling by night to keep it fresh.

A tiny red building next to the house, no larger than a big closet, had served as a one-room schoolhouse for up to eight local students. “Can you imagine going to school in such a place,” I asked Jo Ann. “Yes,” she said, “I did.” Jo Ann showed me more fuzzy pictures of the Kincaid family, who followed the Smiths’ residency there. They looked a lot like the pictures of my own great-grandparents and their families. “I guess life was hard for everyone in those days,” we agreed.

I keep playing the blues line in my head, “if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” But I don’t think that’s right. In the lows of this bi-polar journey it would be easy to attribute direction or malevolence – to the pig. To Texas. To God. But like the stringing together of happenchance, perception and wishful thinking at the “International UFO Museum and Research Center” in Roswell, that would be a fool’s errand.

My real errand? I’ve got a plane to catch. Going home. At least for now.

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