Monday, 17 December 2012

Desert Drive: The New Mexico Crossing

ONWARDS to New Mexico. To get there, we took the I-10 which gave us the gift of actual tumbleweed sightings but also took us to El Paso, Texas, on the TexMex border, and from across which Ciudad Juarez lay. Filled with thick mustachioed hombres all hellbent on beheading their drug smuggling competitors, Ciudad Juarez has made the papers A LOT in recent years and earned the accolade of Mexico's deadliest city thanks to its penchant for female homicides and hoardes of lawless drug cartels.

I spent a significant majority of the drive mewling in fear and imagining that the Texans would take me for a Mexican runaway, disregard my British passport and mercilessly throw me over the barbed wire into Ciudad Juarez where I would have to toil illegitimately as a jalapeno harvester or sombrero weaver until somebody notified the Embassy, and sent in the SAS to return me to the quiet suburbs of North Wembley. My imagination works harder than Kris Jenner at a US Weekly press conference.

In the end we made it through with barely a glance and jaunty tipping of the hat from border control. And then, finally, in New Mexico, in a pastel-coloured town called Mesilla, we found that cowboy we'd been searching so long for. A real-life, swear-to-God cowboy.

We were innocently stuffing our faces with the best steak tacos in the world in this small cafe off the town plaza when a bespectacled, white-Stetson'd young buck rode up on his chestnut stead. Cheeky mare leaned right over the white picket fence and tried to have a gnaw on my nachos.
a horse walks into a cafe..

Anyway, we conversed genially in the late November sun ('How you doin' ma'am?' 'GOOD FANK YAAAW') and as I went over to stroke his horse, he pulled out what looked like a bottle of Gatorade and offered me a sip. IT WAS FILLED WITH GIN. Straight up. Alert the Sheriff, someone's poisoned the waterhole!
Which led me to mull over the following questions: Can you get done for being inebriated on a horse? Is it regarded as the same as drink driving, or is this another shifty misdemeanor protected by the elderly and creaking US Constitution?
Whatever, it's not everyday you get the chance to drink gin with a loitering cowboy so I slotted this in my valuable cultural experience mental compartment and got my swig on.

Things moved quickly after that, and the Bespectacled Cowboy offered me a trot around Mesilla on his Mandy. I blame that steak taco for hindering my leg swing over the horse's rump. I just couldn't get enough range to slide on. I don't feel too badly - there was a smattering of faecal matter where he wanted me to sit, being picked at by hungry flies, and I was wearing cheapo Primark leggings which weren't thick enough to provide an adequate barrier against equine anal seepage, so I politely declined and went to look at where Billy the Kid was hanged instead.

Then, in the local craft store I found a tiny Day of the Dead diorama depicting a skeleton giving birth to a baby skeleton. The artist had bothered to paint in blood and everything. Marvellous. This, along with the warehouses of fireworks sold at every petrol station, and dots of tumbleweed marooned on highway fences, is my everlasting memory of New Mexico.

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