We went to a dance in Red River. Beer. Music. I danced with a tiny little girl. I was smitten, she was a gorgeous freestyle hippy, having fun and dancing with gay abandon. How old ARE you? she asked when I told her I was repeating matric for the third time. Well, she had asked what I was doing and I’d said Senior in High School. Again.
Eighteen, I said.
I don’t believe it, she said.
And you? I asked – I was suddenly getting good at this wooing stuff. Makin’ small talk, I was.
Twenty seven, she said. What? No way! I do not believe that, says me.
She whipped out her drivers licence: 1946. She was 27. I didn’t even know you got people that old.
I was still smitten.
Come round to our place in Arroyo Hondo tomorrow, she invited. It’s an adobe house right on the road to Taos, you can’t miss it, she invited.
We were there like a shot the next day! Me and Jeff in his blue Willys Jeep. Talk about me being young: Jeff was fourteen. We’d only got back to Granma’s cottage in the wee hours, so it was after midday that summer day when we found the house that looked about as my new focus of fascination had described it.
Sitting on the mud wall of the porch watching the daily non-stop broadcast of the Nixon Watergate hearings on a small black and white TV was a fella with long hair and a scraggly beard, with a fag hanging from his lips. He was filing away at a flywheel. We learnt a few minutes later that it was a Chevy flywheel and he needed it for his old Ford. Or a Ford flywheel and he needed it for his old Chevy. It was too big, so he was filing away one tooth at a time. When it fitted he was going to move on.
But first we said Hi! Is ___ (I really should remember her name for a love story like this, should I not!?) around?
‘Ah, she went thataway about eleven this mornin,’ he said, flicking his head over his shoulder indicating the road South to Taos. ‘Said she wanted to catch a concert in Cali.’
California!? Where . . ?
‘Some rock concert.’
How . . ?
‘She threw her thumb out and somebody gave her a ride.’
Heartbroken, we drifted back to Red River. Took me ages to recover. About as long as the romance had lasted. Hours.
But hey! it’s 47yrs later and I can still remember how she felt and smelt dancing, and what the top of her head looked like, so there was true love involved too.
Jim n Katie Patterson, wonderful host family in Apache, took lovely girlfriend Dottie Moffett and I on a special trip out west in the summer of ’73, driving across the Texas panhandle to New Mexico. Dottie and I went part of the way with the Manars in their beautiful new car towing the newest of the Jeeps.
Jim’s Mom Merrell Patterson had a lovely cottage outside Red River in the Sangre de Christo mountains. It could sleep a whole bunch of people if they were good friends! Some of the families did stay elsewhere nearby though, so we weren’t crowded. It was great fun.
Here we stayed with the gang – the wonderful group of Apache friends the Pattersons hung out with: Manars, Hrbaceks, Mindemanns and Paynes.
The Jeeps were perfect for the mountain trails
After a terrific stay there, we headed off to Vegas in the Patterson’s Ford LTD via Colorado and Utah
Then via Utah, where we visited Bryce Canyon and Zion NP.
In Vegas we stayed at The Stardust on The Strip. I learnt to gamble, I learnt to win. I battled to lose. Dottie was a good luck charm! I kept winning small amounts so kept on and on gambling, determined to lose. Finally as dawn approached we were down by a considerable fortune – $10 – and could go to bed.
We saw Joan Rivers being delightfully rude and Petula Clark warbling away (also Joan warbled a song and Petula told a joke!). I learnt a Vegas rule when I saw Jim slip the doorman a cri$p note to get us a good table!
After Vegas we stopped off at The Grand Canyon: We stared down at this awesome sight from the lookout on the south rim. We only had a few hours there, so we’re just look-see tourists. Suddenly I couldn’t stand it! I had to get down there. I told Dottie I was going and she said me too!
We started running down the Bright Angel trail. It’s about 10km to the river. I’ll give us an hour, I thought. The run was easy on a well-maintained track with the only real obstacle being the ‘mule trains’. Only once we had to step off the trail and let a bunch of mules pass. We made sure we were on the upside!
At first it was all open desert trail, but at Indian Gardens I was surprised by the amount of greenery in the canyon. From the rim it looks like all desert, but in the protected gorges there’s green shrubbery and even some tall trees.
In well under an hour we got to just above the river. I stared in awesome wonder at the swiftly-moving green water. I had never seen such a large volume of water flowing clear like that. Our South African rivers mostly run muddy brown, and I wasn’t expecting clear water. Right then I thought I MUST get onto this river! I’d started kayaking a couple of years before, but if I’d been asked I’d probably have said on a raft, little knowing that in eleven years time I would kayak past that very spot, under that same bridge in 1984 on a flood-level river!
The hike back out was steep, but hey, we were 18yrs old! Cross-country running had been my favourite obsession the year before, and Dottie was Oklahoma’s No.2 tennis player, so no (or an acceptable amount of) sweat!
Then we headed home, by and large following the new I40 – which replaced the famous old historic Route 66 in places. Flagstaff Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, Amarillo Texas, and back to Oklahoma. To Apache and then on to take Dottie home to Ardmore. What a wonderful trip with amazing people!
I learned later:
The name Colorado was for its muddy colour and its clarity is in fact an undesirable artifact because of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell upstream;
The 10km climb down Bright Angel is about 1000m vertically, and every metre down you’re going back in geological time! Fascinating. When we paddled through we had a paddler who is a geology prof with us, who regaled us with tales of how old each section was.
They tell you Do Not try to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day! Why, we thought?
Jim has hiked the rim to rim hike through the canyon a number of times since – an annual pilgrimage – the last time he did it he was 70!
***most pics off the ‘net – I’ll add my own as I find them!***