Walking On Down (Re-write)
Nira Visa, New Mexico The Western Stars Motel
Sometimes I write for speed and totally miss what it was that I wanted to convey, the light or burden I have been digesting over these cold empty miles can easily fall away where even tractor trailers and motorhomes have become rare in passing, and strangers no longer stop to share a smile or their likeness of a dream. Alone in thought I drift until I remember everything, and forget the feeling of warm fingers, and the taste of conversation as if I had never spoken before.
I walked 45 miles to get to this town without promise of a hot meal or a place to re-supply, that will take another 25 m of talking to God. Instead of looking at the whole southwest map when I set out from Delhart I looked at Texas and foolishly believed that once I hit New Mexico I would be at a market, replace socks I burned by the fire in a hurry to get dry feet, and feel real food melt into my mouth that has begun again to dream in flavor and smell far away from powered meal stired over a palm size fire.
One red dog barks at me angerly from the middle of the road as I enter Nira Visa, then I am heading back into an ocean of less plant, more earth and snow and silence broken only by a train that blows softly each day because we are cast in the same lot of emptiness, and close to drowning in it save this one touch. Silence is everywhere. Everything except the husk of what once was a town has blown away from here. Old trucks wait beside an antique shop begging to be painted on canvas. The camera clicks a likeness, broken windows tasting the din of new snow, cloth seats opening to a rib of springs. At the Western Stars Motel I see a sign that advertises in vintage flare, "Sleep Under The Stars.' I laugh and take a picture. A smaller sign by the door reads 'sandwiches for sale'. Wearing fingerless gloves I ring the buzzer and hope that one sign in this town is still holding true. Georgia Collins walks from apt. seven, taking in my story before she is in the office. My need for food is serious so my intro goes right to Q and A, knowing that the chance of a back street market is slim leaning toward none, and yet I ask hard with my eyes. With a pocket worn five soft as a tissue I buy two mini microwave pizzas and thank my blessings through each swirling bite. In the corner of the motel office on television the weatherman is getting loader as if he knows that we are not giving him all of our attention. He is talking about last night's 2 degree temp that climbed into my tent, and the ten inches of snow that hit my world two days ago and made DeeOhGee and I stay in tent city for two days and nights till the roads held some promise like they might let us live if we walked on.
I have been given a room for the night by Patrick and Georgia Collins, owner of the motel and their church due to the deadly cold. Grateful I wash all the clothes I can spare in the 10x20 sink in my room and feel indoor heat return life to my bones, but with warmth comes all the thought that are just waiting to acke in me. Feeling have a wait of reading trail better than any dog I have known. Ten minutes in and a sorry spreads over my heart that has slid under the door while the hot water ran soot off my fingers.
D.O.G. and I had been together for four days including the snowstorm. We shared the tent nightly, played with found cattle bones, skinned and quarter rabbits that mis-timed the traffic, talked endlessly, and became easier in our interactions as time erased novelity. Once camp was set in the evening the leash was stowed and we wandered the open lands around our new and temp. wayfayer world. Even if Dee ran over the rise to check out a sound, or follow the low red flight of a male pheasant his return was sure. The walking was hard on DeeOhGee though. We began with only two miles out of Delhart being our first camp by Dee's insistance. We were set up in the park, and the local law paid us a curt visit wearing a dandy of a handlebar moustache over a mouth that wasn't about to break a smile any day soon. I was told how my gear would fail, my dog was elderly at best,and I had better move on at first light and then find a place to hunker down because a Texas storm like the one heading in would flatten that tent of mine. DeeOhGee didn't like him, and hid under a picnic table. After twenty yes sir's, and few no sir's that left me winded for want of light, the officer drove away taking his cloud with him. I had asked him to ask D.A.W.G.S. to please check on our course in the next few days. Diane Trull had been far more than generous, personable and loving when DeeOhGee prepared to leave. We even had a care package with chew toys, snickers, dog sweaters and a gigantic heart thrilled to see us prepare to take on the rest of my journey. Everyone at Delhart Animal was truely behind the belief in a loving kennel for dogs that matter. The Sheriff said he would be in touch with D.A.W.G.S. and I worried that he would be as curt and foolish with them. With that thought though he was already another car moving into the night.
DeeOhGee was already taking the idea of walking in a less than favorable light himself. I tried to keep things positive although I felt I was selling turnip to someone that had actually tasted turnip.
Two miles became seven the next day , and ten the next before the snow found us and made us tell camp stories in our tent until all we could do was sleep and listen to each other breathe heavy with eyes closed, as wet snow popped all over our world. It was a moment of comfort and feeling safe even though inch after inch of white piled on our house..we had food, water was falling down we could later scoop up and cook with, and we had each other in a relatively free land. For a night into a day back into a night falling on morning we made simple games and cooked pancakes I would throw out into the snow for Dee to find, bury with cooling snow , and then eat in delight before returning to begin again. When I went to the road to check the conditions I could see black patches, and traffic moved along thin and slowly. Food would not last forever. Cooking snow to make water was draining out supply of wood and the blower fan battery for my stove. It was time to walk. DeeOhGee was as anxious as I was to set out...until the plows came, and his tender paws began to collect burrs from the exposed roadside. I pulled the most recent sticker from his foot and decided that I could trust him to walk in the deeper snow to my left. His leash was chewed short..and then shorter, so I had no choice but to let his walk free. At first he was a delight of bounds and checking my words as I talked out a story without point or reason. In less than a mile Dee was stopped behind me looking off onto the road, and then at me. In a stern voice I forbid him to go in to the road. He studied my face, tone, intent. After less than a minute having returned to walking I looked back again. Nothing. No trucks, cars, trees...Dog. It was standing in the snow waiting, looking with one hundred fifty pounds of gear either buckled to my back or pulled on ice choked twin tires behind me keeping it safe from roving plows. Still nothing. Tracks were everywhere. Coyote tracks became dog, dog went in and out of deer. In Delhart 20 miles to the rear DeeOhGee had a known world, ahead of us there was only uncertainty. I chose to walk on and still pummel myself with that decision. My trac phone was cold plastic with no signal to stand on. I walked on not knowing the night would fall to 2 degrees. I walked on not knowing anything except that things had broken without tape, without glue, without instructions on a fix. I walked on because it was what I knew, did, found sainity in.
Just because we bail a friend out of jail doesn't mean that said friend wants to spend the rest of their days making hot air balloons beside us...or begin walking across America. My clothes are washed in a small sink to remove a constant that no longer is; to take off a ring of scent that no longer links one life to mine. In three days DeeOhGee and I made less than 20 miles and his feet pads were worn from heavy leather black, through pink, and near to flesh. Already I was moving as slowly as I could with Dee asking for a break every twenty minutes by walking in front of me then sitting down. There is no questioning DeeOhGee's intellegence, for even in the end it was a decided thought to leave the walk. I watched the thought being made although I thought it was just a curious look. As the semi's threw slush and snow, and the plows pushed dry steel against complaining drag of tar DeeOh could stand for none of it. There was no turning back even if it appealed to me. I released the harness clip to let DeeOhGee walk in the deep snow to my left, while I stayed the roadside with cart and pack. We moved well for a few miles and then there was nothing beside me. Looking back I saw Dee looking at me from the snow bank over the shoulder. "Don't go in that road,"I called out. Dee stared as if working out a composition on the word 'road'. No partner came to my side. Looking back over road that was clear for miles and semi desert plains open to the gentle roll of hills, there was no dog. Again I walked on a few minutes thinking he was head in a rodent hole and would catch me in a few minutes. No DeeOhGee.
Now twenty five miles later and I try to re-fashion thoughts I used to carry, things I could have done differently. At a rest stop I leave the dog food down low just in case. I leave the leash and Dee's blue toy. The other side of just in case.
I had forgotten how dominant a television is in a room. The weatherman is talking about another storm coming in for the end of the week. I look outside wondering if Dee made it to the place he remembered loving, or a Delhart he knew before the kennel. Or was it freedom he returned to? I am in New Mexico now and I remember this whole walk started with a dream to hot air balloon across America as a six year old dreaming while looking at a map. Not always did I want to walk either, but it is cold tonight and nothing has changed by washing my clothes.