Myself, Pat McCoy, and Ron Weaver left Virginia to do a six month exploratory project for Public Service of New Mexico. We relocated our families to Rio Rancho, just northwest of Albuquerque. Our job was sixty miles west of Albuquerque on a small Spanish Land Grant named Seboyeta. The Spanish Authority under Gov Chacon decreed the land grant to 30 settler families in 1800. The location was in close proximity to the Laguna Pueblo of the Navajo Indians. Seboyeta is still populated by many descendents of the original families. From Albuquerque to the Laguna Pueblo exit on Interstate 40 is sixty miles of nothing. Grants, NM, a productive mining area, is about 30 miles west of Seboyeta. Our exploratory project was to mine a test chamber underground to determine feasibility of a hydro-electric powerhouse using the discharge waters from the large mines near Grants.
We worked two ten hour shifts at Seboyeta. Most of the time there was nothing notable about our commutes back and forth across the semi-arid high desert. The return trip off night shift at four in the morning consisted of country music on the radio, a little CB chatter from the trucks, and an occasional distant light at a remote dwelling in the high desert. Any distraction from the drive was normally welcome, as long as it didn’t come as a result of accidents or injuries. Cruising along one night I noticed all the trucks were running in the left lane instead of the right lane. Everything else was normal so I didn’t dwell on it. I caught sight of something on the edge of the right lane and swerved left to avoid it. It was a person laying flat on their back with their arm in the air hitchhiking. I couldn’t believe what I had seen out here in the middle of nowhere. Before hitting Albuquerque there were several more in various positions on the pavement at the edge of the traffic lane. All were hitchhiking. Come to find out, it was near the first of the month and payday for the Indians. They would buy liquor in town, take it home, and get drunk. When the liquor ran out they would walk miles to the interstate and hitchhike to town for more. Being drunk and tired, they would get comfortable right on the white edge line of the traffic while sticking out their thumbs at the vehicles. The first week of the month people familiar with the area would stay in the left lane to avoid them. Once in a while you would see one of them sleeping in the center median of the interstate.
Going to work one day we saw a car that looked like it was bouncing up and down in the distance. As we got closer it was bouncing. The hood had unlatched and blown up breaking the windshield. The brave was standing with his arms crossed on his chest. The two hundred pound squaw was jumping up and down on the crumpled hood so they could latch it or tie it down.
I always thought drunk Indian stories were jokes………until I commuted to Seboyeta on Interstate 40.