POSTCARD HOME: When you take an old car on summer vacation, you're sure the engine won't choose death over you on a stretch of lonesome desert. Happily, my sister is with me and the kids when the car dies 150 miles from our destination, her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mother persuaded her to come drive with me, saying, "Hannah will need you to watch the kids while she hikes 12 miles to the nearest gas station."
It was 24 miles and we got a tow to the homely town of Truth or Consequences, NM, where I learn that in 1950, radio host and fundraiser Ralph Edwards announced he would broadcast his 10th anniversary show from any city willing to change its name to that of his popular program, Truth or Consequences. The contest winner was Hot Springs, NM, slightly known for its healing waters and children's rehabilitation hospital. Edwards, now in his 80s, still leads the annual three-day commemorative event each hot spring.
It's enough to make a girl forget her car. Not quite. I can't bear to leave an old friend to be parted to death in a town re-named after a radio show. Heck, I wouldn't do that to my mother, except she jinxed me and now I may have to.
Tow Daddy Jay King surfaces quickly when word is out there are desperate women who need towing. Mixing possible truth and healthy rumor, he talks about the parting out of New Mexico to rich Hollywood types on our slow drive north. He points to a former family ranch spread along the banks of the 72-mile, manmade water wonderland Elephant Butte Lake. King claims cable magnate Ted Turner and pumped-up bride Jane Fonda picked up the property after coming up with a million more bucks than the locals offered. "Guess they wanted it to go with the Ladder Ranch across the street," he says referring to the land where the famous pair let buffalo roam. King even went on to say the cable czar is charging folk to shoot the hairy beasts as a bit of sport. Unconfirmed, but where is Current Affair when you need it?
In Albuquerque, my appetite awakened with tales of local celebs, I am attracted to the headline, "Flames Doused at Newsman's Ranch." A lightning fire on the eyebrow-excessive Sam Donaldson's 27,000 acre spread is out with little problem and perhaps some fortune. As a fire official was quoted as saying, "There's nothing like fire followed by rain to regenerate grasslands," meaning Sam's sheep and cattle are in for some mighty fine grazing since rain fell promptly.
That gives me hope. I leave my sister to sell the car, grab the son who is still muttering, "You should have pulled over sooner," and his brother, the traveler from hell, and hop a plane to Atlanta.
What, you thought maybe I would take a buffalo?
Wish you were here. Will write soon, warriors.
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