Guest post: Two Nights in Fort Sumner, New Mexico by Tim Shey

North america on globe - by Alex Grichenko

In this week’s guest post… we join experienced hitchhiker Tim Shey getting a ride and helping someone haul railroad ties…

I was hitchhiking in southern New Mexico and ended up somewhere near Las Cruces. It was probably back in 1997. I headed north on I-25 and got a ride or two to a little town called Mountainair on Highway 60. I ducked into this gas station and got something to eat. As I walked east on Highway 60, I had this peace in my spirit that surpassed all understanding. I knew that something good was going to happen.

I walked for a while and this four-door pickup and trailer pulled over. I got in the back seat. In the pickup was a man, his wife and two kids.

He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad as a welder. It was his day off, so he was going to drive some place and pick up a load of railroad ties (I believe these are also called “sleepers”). He asked me if I could help him out. I said, no problem.

Sunset in autumn on the Rio Grande with Turtleback Mountain in background, New Mexico, USA - by Summer Foovay. Fort Sumner

We drove for a while and then turned off the highway onto this gravel road. We drove close to these railroad tracks to a pile of railroad ties. He bought the used railroad ties from the Santa Fe Railroad and then resold them to people who did landscaping work. We loaded his trailer with railroad ties, strapped it down and headed out.

We got to his home in Fort Sumner that evening. We had a nice supper and then watched a movie. They had this couch that folded out into a bed; I slept there that night.

The next day we delivered and unloaded the railroad ties some place. Then we drove to another place and loaded up his trailer with some more railroad ties. I think we hauled two or three loads that day.

White Sands National Monument,New Mexico, USA - by Kondo Yukihiro. Fort SumnerAfter we were done with the railroad ties, we picked up his wife and kids and visited a friend and his wife. This guy also worked for the Santa Fe Railroad.

As a welder, he worked on the railroad tracks. He welded “frogs” on the tracks (I am not sure how to describe what a “frog” is, but they are made out of steel and go between the two rails). He told me that it can be dangerous work because you can’t hear the trains coming down the tracks. The diesel engines are built behind the cab, so the sound of the engines goes out from the sides, not from the front. Once he and his fellow welder were busy working on a “frog”. This train almost ran them over because they couldn’t hear it coming down the tracks. They barely had time to throw their welding equipment off the tracks.

He said he liked being a welder. He made enough money to take care of his family. I was grateful that he picked me up. He gave me a ride even though his wife and kids were in the pickup. Some guys would not like the idea of having a hitchhiker and their family in the same vehicle. Staying with that family for two nights was a pleasant memory.

My second evening there, the welder and I practised hitting a target with his bow and arrow. The next morning we had breakfast and his wife gave me some food for the road. I thanked them for their hospitality and hitchhiked to Lubbock, Texas.

Tim Shey hitchhiking in Idaho, 2013. Fort Sumnerwritten by: Tim Shey

“I have hitchhiked the United States for most of 16 years. BA in English Literature, Iowa State University, 1995. I have had two books published: “High Plains Drifter:  A Hitchhiking Journey Across America” (2008) and “The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & other hitchhiking stories” (2012); available on Amazon.com.”

visit his blog at: hitchhikeamerica.wordpress.com

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