My wife had just finished a mystery by Michael McGarrity set in the Gila wilderness area, a central southwestern portion of New Mexico that we have skirted to the north and to the south, but through which we have never traveled.
“I can’t believe that such bad people can live in a place like that” was her summary comment. I agreed with her.
In the first week of June, 1976, we were on US60, along the northern fringe of that area, in a pickup and travel trailer borrowed from the wife’s dad. We were about halfway through the absolute biggest prairie dog community we had ever seen, when there was a jolt, and I looked back to see the trailer trying to dig itself into the pavement.
We pulled over and found that the extended trailer tongue had folded. We disconnected and drove the pickup about six miles toward Arizona to the next “town”, Red Hill, New Mexico. Red Hill was a combination filling station, café, dance hall, and convenience store surrounded by two or three mobile homes.
I explained our plight to an old fellow named Bill Stroud, who said “you need someone who has one of those portable welding machines, now let me see,....”. He paced around for a minute or two, deep in thought, and said “I know a fella in Quemado (about 25 miles back), and I think I saw one of those machines parked in his yard”. He got on the phone and called the guy (on a Sunday morning), telling him what had happened.
About 45 minutes later, a young man showed up with his son in a pickup, pulling a trailer mounted welder. We bought five gallons of gasoline for his generator, and he followed us back to our broken trailer. After about half ah hour, while our girls and his little boy watched the prairie dogs together, we were whole again.
When we asked how much we owed him, fearing the worst, he said “nuthin’, glad to help out”. My wife handed the little boy a ten and told him to buy his dad and mom a hamburger. We continued our journey to a fine time at the Grand Canyon and then down to Oak Creek and Sedona.
We will never believe that the kind of renegades and murderers described in the mystery novel could live around there.