2nd July

The Searchers

Frank and I were aiming for Death Valley but the truck driver who picked us up in Bakersfield en route to Las Vegas thought that was a bad idea. Frank said he’d always had a yearning to see Death Valley and it didn’t seem far on the map so that was where we were going. The trucker took us along Interstate 15 and at the junction where we proposed to get out and hitch down to Death Valley he pulled over, switched off his engine and told us not to be so goddamned stupid. ‘Put your hand out there,’ he said, ‘feel that heat. You’ll fry before you’ve gone a mile.’ It was July and in Death Valley the temperature could reach 130°F. ‘How much water are you carrying?’ We had to admit we weren’t carrying any. ‘And where are all the goddamned vehicles that are going to stop for you?’ We looked around and all we could see was miles and miles of nothing. ‘You ain’t getting out,’ he said. ‘Let me take you to Vegas instead. It’s a hell of a place too but you probably won’t die there, which you surely will out here.’

I have to say he made the right choice for us. Those big casinos would let almost anybody in. They let me and Frank in, in our filthy clothes and with beards down to our chests. We picked up free newspapers and tore out the coupons that gave you complimentary drinks or complimentary all-day breakfasts or a dollar’s worth of dimes to play the slot machines, and we milked that town for everything we could from morning till midnight. We got drunk and ate our fill of junk food, and by the time we found a patch of hard earth on the outskirts to sleep on Frank was two dollars up and I was two dollars down on where we’d started. And that was a lot better than being dead in Death Valley.

Later Frank admitted he’d been thinking of Monument Valley, where they filmed The Searchers and Easy Rider, which is in Utah and about five hundred miles away. We never did make it to Monument Valley.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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