From time to time, you hear stories of people encountering friends from their past in a distant place, like bumping into a long-ago next-door neighbor in Times Square. It’s kinda neat, but not incredible – these things happen. It would be kinda neat if you knew someone who had this happen to them more than once. Actually, I have 3 personal stories from that genre to share with you (really, only 2 of them are mine, but you’ll see).
Way back in 1961 I had just graduated from high school in Elkhart, Kansas, and snagged a dream job (to a teenager, it was, anyway) working in a little tourist trap town in northeast New Mexico by the name of Eagle Nest. When I was a little guy, my folks had taken us kids camping several times over the years up in the Sangre de Cristo mountains close to where Eagle Nest was located (we camped in Red River, 18 miles away). So, when I had a chance to actually stay there and work *ALL SUMMER*, I jumped at it.
My first job was at the Laguna Vista Lodge – I was taken on as a waiter. I remained in my waiter job for about 3 hours – it soon became evident that I was not destined for greatness in that line of work. So, the boss lady decided that maybe washing dishes was my raison d‘être. From then on, I stayed in the back area of the restaurant, safely away from trayloads of food and paying customers. My co-workers were all nice fellows, for the most part, and were nearly all graduates from the New Mexico Boys School (read:reform school). I learned a lot about life from those guys – I was really green. One guy offered more than once to take me to see an ‘experienced’ girl down in Cimmaron, but I quickly blushed and demurred each time. He would say, “Say the WORD, THUNDER-BIRD!!” 🙂 I never did make it to Cimmaron – I’m sure it would have been educational.
After working there a few weeks I got the opportunity to start working up the street at Horseshoe Camp, a combination motel with cabins, grocery store, curio shop, tackle shop, and gas station. I jumped ship and moved to my new career. I found lodging at a nearby motel/cabin place and rented a one-room cabin with hotplate (no water, no bathroom) for $1 per day. There was a community shower room and bathroom in the middle of the group of little cabins.
So, off to work. My work schedule was from 5AM to 5PM, 7 days a week. 84 hours a week, I got paid $300 per month. I was RICH! Well, maybe not. It was a memorable summer, I have lots of good memories of that time, maybe I’ll share some more of those stories down the line. My job there was selling groceries, fishing tackle, curios and pumping gas. The boss took care of cabin rentals.
Now, a little ‘back story’. I started my senior year at high school at Amarillo High School – the only high school in the city, and it was CROWDED! There were 900 kids in the graduating class. I was there about 9 weeks, managed to get my senior ring ordered, got my annual ordered, then was informed that my dad had found work in Elkhart, Kansas, and that we’d be moving. After we got there, I found out that the graduating class in Elkhart numbered 25 students. I got there too late to order a senior ring or an annual, so I was ‘betwixt and between’ on those items. Oh well, on with the main story.
One fine day, I saw a car pulling into the gas station, so I walked out front to find out what they needed. As I walked up to the driver’s window, the back door opened and a guy about my age stepped out – I looked at him, he looked at me, and he then said, “I’ve got your annual!” Turns out, he was in my class at Amarillo, and out of all those hundreds of kids, he was the one who wound up with my annual, and then happened to pull into my gas station in Eagle Nest, New Mexico! I knew you’d be amazed!
While I was enjoying my summer in the mountains, my brother Bob, who was 3 years younger than me, was working back in Elkhart at a gas station there. Bob told me some time later about something that happened while he was pumping gas there. He said that a car pulled in, the guy asked for a fillup, then while Bob worked, the fellow kept looking at him intently. Bob asked if there was anything the matter, whereupon the fellow replied, “I *swear* you filled my car with gas this morning in Eagle Nest, NM!” Yes, there was a slight family resemblance. 🙂 Small world, eh? (sorry, still speaking Canadian).
The last yarn is a little more tenuous, since I was not actually involved in any way, but it happened to 2 of my brothers. My next-to-youngest brother Ken was living in Liberal, Kansas, and my brother Bob had re-located to Albuquerque, NM. Someone stole brother Ken’s car in Liberal, then some time later brother Bob saw the car going down the street in Albuquerque, recognized it and told the police where he saw the guy park it. Kinda neat, yes?
Okokok, I’ll quit with the brother stories, but I enjoyed the telling.
You never know what you’re going to encounter when you read these here blogs.