Last summer when I read The Last of the Saddle Tramps it seemed like Mesannie got a lot of help from small town sheriffs. She told of sheriffs coming out to meet her as she approached their town, helping her find a place for her horses and putting her up in the jail! (Long Riders are grateful for “a hot and a cot”!) With the notable exception of a wonderful police officer in Dixon, CA, I haven’t been having those sorts of experiences. In fact, most of the times that I’ve tried to wave down a sheriff to ask directions or something I’ve been treated like I’m invisible (at best he’ll wave back). OK – so things change in 60 years – I can accept that.
Yesterday morning, in the midst of this incredible stretch of being passed from ranch to ranch, being taken in by great people and spoiled rotten ;-), a NMDOT truck pulled up as the ponies and I rode along the side of the road. (That’s New Mexico Department of Transportation for those of you following from afar.) The window rolled down and the driver said that he’d heard I was coming through and asked how things were going. “Great! I’m heading for Grady tonight, hoping to find a place to stay so I can pick up my mail in the morning.” He gave me directions to his house (go to the water tower and head south) and asked how fast I was moving. “2 1/2 miles an hour or so” (the “long acre” has great grazing along this stretch) and he drove away.
I’d been riding 6 hours and could see Grady up ahead when another truck pulled up. A man told me that there was water in the stock tank at an abandoned farm I’d just passed on the north side of the road if I needed to water the ponies. I thanked him and mentioned that I’d been wondering if the small building I saw was an outhouse? He laughed and said that I could use it as one if I wanted. Have I mentioned that this part of the country is vast and flat and open? With no trees to hide behind when nature calls? This is an issue for the females of the species! I watered the ponies and then hid behind the old dairy barn, out of sight of the road, Grateful!
I rode into Grady, found the NMDOT truck by a house South of the water tower and knocked. “Can I help you?” I started to explain my presence on her doorstep to the woman who’d answered the door when the driver of the truck appeared. I followed them to where a pen had been prepared for the ponies and before I knew it they were fed and watered and settled in for the night. A man loaned me a truck to transport my gear (keep it as long as you need it) and I was taken to the Fire Station! Turns out that the NMDOT man is also the Fire Chief and here I sit in the office, typing out this blog entry, after a peaceful night on a cot in the office with heat and a loo. The post office is two doors down so I was able to walk over this morning and retrieve my mail.
“Dear Mesannie Wilkins, the America you rode across 60 years ago still exists!”
And now it’s time to pack up and ride out. I’m heading for Bellview, NM tonight and then tomorrow I plan to ride into Texas on the one year anniversary of the Journey. It seems like forever ago and no time at all since Gryph and I rode out of the Apple Farm in pouring rain, green as grass and wondering if we’d make it to Ukiah! The ponies and I are all in great shape and it feels great to finally be making some consistant miles. Texas, here we come!