Wrong Turn - A Dan Turpin Adventure
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"Simply because there are cars and planes and paved roads many people failed to realize the desert had not changed . . . that one could die just as swiftly today as in the days of covered wagons. " . . .
He slowed the jeep when he saw the diamond-shaped tread of the tire tracks in the sand. He braked to a stop and then reversed until he was alongside the tracks.
A car had turned off the highway, probably early this morning, and had gone off up the road toward the blue, distant mountains.
He glanced along the road, which was scarcely more than a track. Now why would anybody in their right mind want to go up there? He glanced again at the tracks, and when he did he remembered the girl with the blue eyes.
When he first saw her in the filling station at the motel she was having two new tires, with exactly that tread, put on her convertible.
But a girl like that? It was ridiculous. She was obviously a city girl, neat and trim in her tailored outfit. Yet she had checked out before he had, she had been leaving the breakfast room as he entered.
Irritably, he stared along the trail. He could see four or five miles of it before it disappeared into the mountains and there was nothing in sight. The tracks could have been made by someone else, but the tread on the tires was certainly new and she had left only just ahead of him.
Returning to the jeep he got his map from the seat and checked it. This road was on the map and it wound back into the desert mountains for some thirty odd miles. There was a mine at the end of the road, only indicated by the crossed picks, and a tank. Up a long draw near the mine, and perhaps a mile from it, there was a spring.
Dan Turpin stared at the road again. It was none of his business, of course, and the odds were that it had been some other car with new tires that had taken the turn off, yet suppose it had been her?
It was not yet eight o'clock in the morning and it was almost ninety, by noon it would be no less that 120 degrees back in those mountains, did she know how hot 120 degrees was? Every year eight or ten people die in the deserts of Arizona or California, and most of them through ignoring the few simple rules of living in and with the desert.
If her car became stuck would she have sense enough to wait in the shade beside it or near it? Or would she try to walk out in the day's heat?
Simply because there are cars and planes and paved roads many people failed to realize the desert had not changed, that one could die just as swiftly today as in the days of covered wagons.
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COMMENTS: Throughout my childhood we were always exploring mysterious or abandoned looking desert roads, mines and canyons. We were always driving out to the site of those crossed picks on the USGS topo maps to see whatever there was to see. I cannot imagine what Louis's life would have been like if he had married a prissy city girl. My mother was raised in considerably more upscale surroundings than my dad but she was the daughter of an early Southern California land developer who's projects were all situated in the mountains or desert. She was no stranger to bad roads and hot weather.
I remember a morning in 1967 when my mother had just completed the deal to sell our ten year old Cadillac. It was so worn out from hundreds of miles of exploring that she and I stood at the edge of our driveway praying that it would make it down to Sunset Blvd and far enough away so the new owner could not bring it back if it broke down. I think Dad had paid for that car with his advance from "Sitka" and, because car loans were not really an option for us in those days, it had had to last a good long time.