My pregnant sister wanted to have her baby in New Mexico and the father was not ready to leave Seattle, so she asked me to take her. I was in a bad relationship, working a couple of crappy jobs and young and adventurous. Sure, I’ll leave everything and take you. We packed up my VW bug and took off for the 3 day trip. I’d been to California and Montana to visit relatives with my family but nowhere else. An adventure! I quit my jobs, left the relationship and we were off. We chatted non stop until we hit Utah. Sheila didn’t drive and I was teaching her on the road through northern Utah. Even though it was spring, we happened upon a snow storm. It was one of the more frightening experiences I had been in. She was driving and there was no shoulder that we could see due to the snow covering the ground. Semi trucks were passing us and shooting snow up on the windshield. At least it was a straight road for quite awhile. Finally we reached an area with a turn off and we switched drivers. She had a crash course in driving in snow. We had been driving all day and we somehow ended up staying at someone’s house in Provo, that Sheila had met. The people were Mormon but still drank alcohol. They drank it out of a paper bag so as to not be obvious, which I found odd. Apparently, this was common practice for Mormons who were on the lighter side of the religious doctrines. Sheila did all the talking, since they were her acquaintances and she was older than me, and I really did not understand their religious practices. It was better to stay silent. The next morning we were up early and off again. We drove to Arches National park. Sheila had been there before and wanted me to experience it. It was beautiful country that I had never seen. Sheila was quite a hiker so I followed her lead. It was late and we didn’t have much money, so we decided to camp. Remember, that I just had a bug. We managed to fit in the back of the tiny car with the seats pushed forward and my sister 7 months pregnant. I still don’t quite know how we did this. But, it was warm out in southern Utah. We drove the entire day. It was dark when we finally entered New Mexico. Sheila guided me up this very narrow, winding road. All along the way were “coyote fences” that I had never seen before. Smoke was billowing from chimneys on adobe houses. The smell was Juniper and Pinon and I have loved that smell ever since. The yards were dirt, the mesas were red and yellow. The trees were short and sparse. I couldn’t see it at night, but we passed the Truchas Peaks, which are astounding. There is a cross in snow during the springtime as the snow melts. There is a saying that you can’t live in the shadow of so much beauty. Since then, I have experienced an odd sensation on several occasions while driving through that caused me to drive a bit faster. This is penitente country, a small group of Catholic origin (not sanctioned) that believed in self flagellation. It continues today, but in secret Morados – adobe churches without windows spread across NM. We came to a muddy road and I immediately found my little bug stuck in what I later found was called “the big muddy”. We walked the rest of the way. My “uniform” at the time was a peasant blouse, a long skirt made from an Indian print bedsheet and Red Wing boots. Still, we were pretty muddy after walking the 1/4 mile road in. I was living under the motto of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so I was up for anything. We saw kerosene lights in the distance, so walked toward the house. On opening the door, two men stood there, one with flowing white hair and one with black. They were both naked. The house was adobe bricks and not square and the ceiling was marijuana stalks. I was in heaven. Sheila left the next morning to rent a home for the birth of her baby and I stayed for 10 years in this commune with no running water or electricity. The rest is another story.
By Paul DeLong
On June 20, 2022
There are many “fun” surprises here, at least for the reader! The Mormons drinking out of a paper bag; two women sleeping in a VW bug, one pregnant, no less. The self-flagellants. The overwhelming beauty. Men answering the door unclothed. A decision which lasted 10 years. A remarkable story, leaving us wanting to hear the rest of the story that is “another story!”