John and his wife Martha had a unique relationship. This is an understatement. Mostly what they had was a war of long duration interrupted now and then by skirmishes that came close to truce talks.
They lived about 20 miles from town, the last five miles a dirt road. Most days one or the other went to town so they didn’t often have to, as they say in these modern times, interact. Mostly, one acted and the other yelled about it, with the “inter” part not involved.
During the 1950s, the time of the “big drought” in the Southwest, John got himself a Geiger counter and often went uranium prospecting. Martha got herself a job in town that summer. They didn’t have to see each other for days at a time, which suited them both.
This, of course, left nobody in charge at the ranch, but they didn’t have any grass anyway. John did have a few young Hereford bull calves he was proud of though, so he got the neighbor’s boy to feed them during the week and haul hay, clean corrals and all that stuff on the weekends.
That’s how we know this story. The neighbor boy was there — and he told.
One day in August it actually clouded up and rained — a lot. That old ground hadn’t been wet in so long it soaked up rainwater like a diaper on a kid old enough to be potty trained. It got just about as gooey, too. Two steps afoot and you were three inches taller on account of the mud stuck to the bottoms of your boots.
Martha slid off the road about four miles from the house. Talk about stuck. She surveyed the situation and figured they might need two jeeps and a tractor to dislodge her little Ford from the ditch.
So she started walking.
She hadn’t gone 50 yards when John came along. She slipped and slid to the side of the road and put on her best smile. John drove right on by, splashing mud on all her body parts that weren’t yet messed up.
He didn’t look her way. He didn’t slow down.
Much later she made it to the house. He had made himself some fresh coffee and settled down on the porch to watch those great rainclouds, a sight he hadn’t seen for a long time.
Martha was carrying her high-heeled shoes. Her face looked like it belonged to a speckled hen, her hair was glued to her forehead by mud. Her once-pretty dress hung in wet globs from her generous hips.
Without a word, she stepped onto the porch and her shoes became the most lethal weapons known to man. Between mud-laden, high-heeled whacks and unprintable comments concerning his character, or lack thereof, she screamed, “Why didn’t you give me a ride home?”
As he tried to dodge her well-aimed blows John said, “You told me never to pick up a woman by the side of the road.”
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her: