Disclaimer: THIS DID NOT HAPPEN IN HAWAII
The most difficult thing about being on a road trip through west Texas other than the miles and miles of open space, tumbleweed, and flash floods, is the fact that just about every piece of land around I-10 has a NO TRESPASSING, PRIVATE PROPERTY, or KEEP OUT sign.
Locks, fences, and boundaries make it tough to find a “legal” place to pull over and set up camp away from thehighway where your two furry children can run, jump, and play in the parched dust without worrying about being hit by some semi doing 90. We expected to search for about an hour, at least that’s the mental note I made while taking the exit into the unlit expanse.
The very first road we went down felt good…in the beginning, but after a point, it turned into a trashy wasteland. There was a big skeleton with ratty pieces of a tattered leathery hide still remaining, sagging between brittle ribs like wind torn tents with broken poles. I thought, “Huh. Skeleton. Cattle? Maybe?” then backed up, quickly. We picked a spot we had seen earlier on the same road, between two bigger bushes of sage, and proceeded to make ourselves at home.
The first thing we did was release the hounds. As they investigated the layout of the land, John knelt in the sand and chopped veggies with a Gerber on our granola bar box cardboard cutting board and I prepped some prime rib (yeah, we went big) to accompany a sweet quinoa mushroom pilaf. We listened to The Black Keys on a pair of battery operated speakers hooked up to my Ipod as I cooked dinner for the love of my life under the vast desert night sky on a two burner propane camp stove that sat in the back of the Rav4 we call home.
The scene seemed beautiful, but I couldn’t help feeling a little twinge of apprehension. Something was wrong. Not terribly, but enough to be unsettling. Corky seemed agitated, Lily wanted to be back in the truck. Suddenly I was worried about coyotes. I allowed Lily into the car and went to investigate the source of Corky’s agitation. He was treating a large rice bag laying in the shrubs like he treats the vacuum cleaner or the paper shredder (He’s a JRT (Jerk Russell Terror, remember!!!) I brought my headlamp over and shone the light into the bag. I jumped back at the sight of 4 bloody hooves.
A mutilated goat. Stuffed into a rice bag. Huh.
I looked around suddenly expecting to see somebody watching me discover the grotesque corpse, but nobody was there. The music played on without missing a beat. John glanced up and caught my expression. I told him. He inspected.
Huh. A mutilated goat. Stuffed into a rice bag.
I continued with dinner with the dogs both in the car, lest we smell mutilated goat layered Corky breath all night. We locked up from the inside, and enjoyed a headlamp lit dinner. We sat together, cross-legged, savoring the meal from the shared pot between us while the pups looked on from the front passenger seat. We had a few swigs of an inexpensive Riesling from the bottle, shared just as equally as the food. We split a Dove bar, and promptly fell asleep in a close embrace, his chest cradling my head, my hand cradling his neck. Our legs entangled in a carefree dance dictated by the rhythms of our dreams…
Until 3:00 AM, that is, when two four wheelers screamed up to the vehicle and stopped, headlights trained on the back window. We popped up, but then ducked low again.What if they are a bunch of kids about to pull a prank?
I caught an elbow in the face in the confusion.
For what seemed like an eternity but was probably only two or three minutes, two males discussed us audibly. We heard muffled, quiet voices and began to look around the car… no gun but a nice kabar in the cargo carrier. Not that it could help, being attached to the outside of the roof.
They began to make their way towards us, flashlights dancing ominously. We popped up and visibly startled the two men.
“Border Patrol, please open your window,” the first man called quickly after he took a half step backwards. I unlocked the door with the remote lock, and immediately asked if we were doing something wrong by being there. (THERE WERE NO SIGNS!!!!)
He asked less gruffly than with curiosity, “What are you guys doing here?”
“Umm…well, we were sleeping. We are driving to Austin tomorrow…We got tired and decided to try to find a bit safer spot to bed down.”
They laugh at us audibly, “Where are you coming from? This place is NOT safe. There is a huge amount of crime and drug trafficking through here.”
“No shit? We are coming from Alaska. We had a weird vibe about the place…There’s a mutilated goat over there.”
He doesn’t flinch and seamlessly transitions to the typical, “Do you have any identification?”
“Yes,” we hand over our licenses.
He looks at us sternly for a moment and asks, “Do you have any drugs of LARGE QUANTITIES in your vehicle?”
We looked at him in shock for a nanosecond and in unison answered honestly, “Large quantities? No.” I held my breath. He seemed satisfied.
One of the guys disappears into the bright headlights of the four wheelers. I couldn’t see what he was doing. It felt something like an interrogation room. I was glad I had pants on. While he was gone, we explained our story to his sidekick through a series of questions.
“Yes, river guides in Haines, Alaska…” “…Yes, he trained me to be a guide.” “Yes, we live in the car.” “Yes, that’s unusual…” “Yeah, we think it’s awesome, too!”
The guy returns with our IDs, and while handing them back says while gesturing towards the license plate on the back of the car, “Who’s the veteran?”
“I am,” I say as I watch the poorly hidden moment of shock.
“Oh, uh…thank you for your service…So, uh…” I smile… “How long do you guys think you’ll be here.”
“Well, we were thinking 7:30ish?”
“Ok, well…we patrol around here…if you see anything suspicious, PLEASE dial 911 immediately and ask for us. We’ll come out here very quickly.”
“Thanks again for your service. You guys have a good night,” and with that, they both TURNED AWAY AND GOT BACK ONTO THEIR FOUR WHEELERS!!! We looked at each other and laughed…
Then we looked at each other with a serious note…wait. THAT JUST HAPPENED. He told us it was a super dangerous spot, ran our IDs, asked if WE had drugs in LARGE QUANTITIES, then left us there and told us to call 911 if we need help. Hmmm…
We laughed, immediately lay back down, and fell asleep in a warm embrace, feeling safer than ever in our closeness.