Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Moisture, A Trace
by [?]

Last fall I revisited Arizona for the first time in many years. My ultimate destination lay one hundred and twenty-eight miles south of the railroad. As I stepped off the Pullman I drew deep the crisp, thin air; I looked across immeasurable distance to tiny, brittle, gilded buttes; I glanced up and down a ramshackle row of wooden buildings with crazy wooden awnings, and I sighed contentedly. Same good old Arizona.

The Overland pulled out, flirting its tail at me contemptuously. A small, battered-looking car, grayed and caked with white alkali dust, glided alongside, and from under its swaying and disreputable top emerged someone I knew. Not individually. But by many campfires of the past I had foregathered with him and his kind. Same old Arizona, I repeated to myself.

This person bore down upon me and gently extracted my bag from my grasp. He stood about six feet three; his face was long and brown and grave; his figure was spare and strong. Atop his head he wore the sacred Arizona high-crowned hat, around his neck a bright bandana; no coat, but an unbuttoned vest; skinny trousers, and boots. Save for lack of spurs and chaps and revolver he might have been a moving-picture cowboy. The spurs alone were lacking from the picture of a real one.

He deposited my bag in the tonneau, urged me into a front seat, and crowded himself behind the wheel. The effect was that of a grown-up in a go-cart. This particular brand of tin car had not been built for this particular size of man. His knees were hunched up either side the steering column; his huge, strong brown hands grasped most competently that toy-like wheel. The peak of his sombrero missed the wrinkled top only because he sat on his spine. I reflected that he must have been drafted into this job, and I admired his courage in undertaking to double up like that even for a short journey.

“Roads good?” I asked the usual question as I slammed shut the door.

“Fair, suh,” he replied, soberly.

“What time should we get in?” I inquired.

“Long ’bout six o’clock, suh,” he informed me.

It was then eight in the morning–one hundred and twenty-eight miles–ten hours–roads good, eh?–hum.

He touched the starter. The motor exploded with a bang. We moved.

I looked her over. On the running board were strapped two big galvanized tanks of water. It was almost distressingly evident that the muffler had either been lost or thrown away. But she was hitting on all four. I glanced at the speedometer dial. It registered the astonishing total of 29,250 miles.

We swung out the end of the main street and sailed down a road that vanished in the endless gentle slope of a “sink.” Beyond the sink the bank rose again, gently, to gain the height of the eyes at some mesas. Well I know that sort of country. One journeyed for the whole day, and the mesas stayed where they were; and in between were successively vast stretches of mesquite, or alkali, or lava outcrops, or sacatone bottoms, each seeming, while one was in it, to fill all the world forever, without end; and the day’s changes were of mirage and the shifting colours of distant hills.

It was soon evident that my friend’s ideas of driving probably coincided with his ideas of going up a mountain. When a mounted cowboy climbs a hill he does not believe in fussing with such nonsense as grades; he goes straight up. Similarly, this man evidently considered that, as roads were made for travel and distance for annihilation, one should turn on full speed and get there. Not one hair’s breadth did he deign to swerve for chuck-hole or stone; not one fractional mile per hour did he check for gully or ditch. We struck them head-on, bang! did they happen in our way. Then my head hit the disreputable top. In the mysterious fashion of those who drive freight wagons my companion remained imperturbably glued to his seat. I had neither breath nor leisure for the country or conversation.