short story about an unforgettable train trip and a surreal drive on a high desert highway
|" The Land of Enchantment "
Taos, New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment, was the destination for two ladies. Best friends, they were. To celebrate their retirement from teaching, the two spirited ladies set their sights on New Mexico by train. They took their journey on Amtrak from Kansas City, Missouri, to Santa Fe. An eighteen hour adventure on the rails across Kansas and dropping south into New Mexico proved to be anything but boring. Interesting passengers were aboard. A few were most entertaining. One fellow was a chatty guy. He walked the aisles making conversation. He even sang to them. One song over and over. And then again after he took a nap. I guess he needed a break. The others were grateful for the reprieve. Everyone learned in that song all about how the Amtrak began in 1971. I bet you didn't know that tid-bit of information. And now you do, and I didn't even sing it to you. Be glad. That tune got stuck in everybody's head for the duration of the train ride. Maybe forever. The young man slept stretched out the best he could on his seat, covered up with his plastic garment bag. A silly looking sight, but indeed it was quite chilly on the train. And that was the best he could do to keep warm. Others had purchased a small blanket from the conductor, or they had brought their own.
From Santa Fe, the vacationing teachers rented a car to drive to Taos. The next day was a planned short road trip up the mountain, only 12 miles to the next town from their Best Western Motel in Taos. Because their car died in route, they never saw that town. In the high desert that day, the temperature rose to 118 degrees. Neither had the forethought to take along extra water bottles for such a short drive. While capturing some shade off the deserted highway from a nearby stand of trees on the edge of the woods, their efforts getting a signal for their cell phones was difficult to keep. Therefore, obtaining road service was impossible. Five hours later, when one of the ladies finally connected with the rental agency, she was told that all towing services in the nearby areas closed at 5:00 p.m. It was already nearing 6:00 p.m. Who ever heard of tow truck drivers clocking out at 5 p.m. and not at least be on call?
Meanwhile, as dark would soon approach, and not to be eaten by lions, tigers, and bears in the forest, the two exhausted damsels in distress decided to return to the car parked on the highway only a few yards away from blessed shade. All afternoon, there had not been any traffic on the highway to hail a passerby for aid. But now, as they approached their broken down rental vehicle, an odd and amazing sight caught their tired eyes. Was it an illusion stirred up by the vapors swirling on the heated highway? Was it a figment of hopeful imagination? No. It was truly a pickup truck parked not far behind their own car. The truck hood was raised and two young men were peering under it. One man closed the hood and the two gents appeared to be leaving. Not to be abandoned and stranded again, the ladies anxiously, yet cautiously, approached them before they drove away. The men said they were on their way home which was in the next town. Would you believe that town was only two miles away? Had the ladies known that earlier, they could have walked there seeking help. The guys promised they would send their friend back to them with a tow truck. Their friend happened to also be the town's mayor. With the gentlemen keeping their promise, ten minutes later, the mayor and his tow truck arrived. That kind man towed the dead car ten miles back to the motel in Taos. Sighing with relief, the ladies rode in the cab with the heaven sent rescuer.
So this was the story as it was told to me. I am mystified, however, by the uncanny timely arrival of the two young men in a truck parked a short distance behind the teachers' car. Happenstance? I think not. Indigenous magic? Perhaps. And how about the mayor, a seemingly credible town official assisting with a tow truck after the ladies were told there was no tow service available? Apparitions or spirits in the mountain desert heat? Maybe. Nevertheless, aid came to the exhausted ladies in dire need.
Taos, New Mexico. The Land of Enchantment. They were told. And they believed. So do I.