I was expecting something a little more dramatic right about now, but the primary emotion flooding my mind at this moment — three hours after Brother Jerry pronounced us man and wife, and fifteen minutes after I broke out a four-way lug wrench and wowed Grant with my best impression of a NASCAR pit crew after he ran over a broken beer bottle in the middle of the interstate somewhere between Dilia and Starvation Peak — is relief.

Flat tire notwithstanding, the day went very smoothly, and if the rest of the evening goes according to plan, I’m less than an hour and a half away from a long, hot shower, a cold bottle of champagne, and a much-anticipated evening at the beautiful El Rey Inn in Santa Fe.

In case you are wondering, I will be out of pocket for the next few days….

— Sierra

Wedding gift

At five minutes after seven tonight, Dad’s agent, Valerie, pulled up in front of the Tumbleweed in a rented Lexus and presented me with a small package wrapped in yellowed paper with wedding bells on it and a slightly frayed silver ribbon around it.

I opened the package. Inside were a CD and a small envelope containing a note written in a familiar hand:

Dear Sierra,

I wanted so much to be there to give this to you myself. It breaks my heart to think that after missing so many moments of your life through my own selfishness, I’m missing this one through a cruel trick of fate, but I console myself with the knowledge that I am there now in the same small way that I was there when you lost your mother.

The enclosed CD is my wedding gift to you. Do with it as you will. I hope you enjoy it, and should you choose to release it, I hope and pray that it will be the most successful album of my career. I’d like nothing more than to provide my daughter a proper dowry.

I wish I could have met your fiance. I wish I could have heard you squeal with excitement and stumble over your words, giggling breathlessly, while delivering the news of your engagement. I wish I could have glanced down and seen my own dark eyes sparkling up at me, your mother’s smile spreading across your beautiful face, on the way down the aisle. I wish I could have hugged your husband and congratulated him and whispered, “Welcome to the family, Son.”

Some wishes are impossible. Love and a dozen songs will have to suffice.

I love you, Sweetheart. I always will.


P.S.: I am proud of you, even if I’ve no right to be.

I have no idea when or how he recorded it without my knowledge, but it couldn’t have been too long before he passed, because in addition to ten songs I’d never heard before, the album includes the song Dad was singing while we looked at the stars.

It also includes a cover of “Coldwater Morning.” Really.

— Sierra


Remember the old Burma-Shave ad campaign, which involved little poems written on carefully spaced signs placed along roadsides during heyday of Route 66?

Yeah, I don’t remember them, either. Too young. But I’ve seen plenty of replicas along the road in recent years. They’re really popular with Route 66 travelers.

Set of Burma-Shave-type signs that mysteriously appeared along westbound 66 in front of the Tumbleweed yesterday afternoon as I was coming back from a grocery run in Tucumcari:


Set of signs attached to the backs of those signs at some point between the time I went to bed last night and the time I slipped out for a jog this morning:


Set of hastily made cardboard signs currently taped over the westbound signs for Grant to see when he picks me up for church this morning:


Back in Coldwater

I can’t decide whether to thank Grant for posting in my absence or slap him for being a smartass. I think I would die of embarrassment if I found out that Joey really did tell Ryne Sandberg that I said he had a cute butt. I wouldn’t put it past him. It’s not as if Joey has a really solid grasp of the difference between Things You Should Tell People and Things You Should Not Tell People.

Oh, well. I’ll just console myself with the knowledge that Sandberg has, like, umpteen kids, and I’m sure at least one of them has said something outrageous to embarrass him in public at some point.

Joey was so funny after he got Sandberg’s autograph. He carried that baseball everywhere he went: to the aquarium, to the botanical garden, to all the shops in Old Town, up the Sandia Peak tram … you name it. He showed it to the waitress at the Route 66 Diner, who was too young to have the foggiest clue who Ryne Sandberg is. He showed it to the tour guide at the rattlesnake museum. He showed it to the animals at the zoo. (Some of them actually looked sort of interested, which was hilarious.)

Grant did a good job with the Tumbleweed while I was gone. I don’t know how he managed to put up with kids all day and then deal with customers and turn over rooms and do laundry all evening, but he really did a great job.

When we got home, Joey presented Grant with a rattlesnake fang he’d bought at the museum gift shop. He wanted to buy one for Sandberg, too, but I managed to convince him that there is an old baseball superstition that states that if a baseball manager touches any part of a rattlesnake before a game, his team will lose. (Yes, I realize I will probably go to hell for lying, but you have to understand that when Joey gets it in his head to give somebody a gift, there is no talking him out of it unless you can persuade him that the gift in question will actually harm its intended recipient.)

— Sierra

Sierra and Joey’s Excellent Adventure

This is Grant, posting an update from Sierra and Joey, who are busy having fun at the ballpark in Albuquerque this week. I’ve never attempted blogging before, so please bear with me if I do this wrong.

Sierra reports that after a lengthy wait, Joey did manage to get Sandberg’s autograph yesterday afternoon. She said she was too busy trying to take a picture of them to hear what was going on, but apparently Sandberg was laughing when he handed Joey his baseball back. She asked Joey what was so funny. He replied that they were talking about “guy stuff.” He refused to elaborate.

Of course, Sierra being Sierra, she is obsessed with finding out what Joey said. I told her not to worry about it, because Joey was probably just saying something subtle like, “Hey, Ryno, my Sissy really likes your butt.”

Sierra didn’t think I was very funny. Given the number of comments she’s made about Sandberg’s backside in the past month, she probably *shouldn’t* think I’m funny, because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that were *exactly* what Joey said. What Joey lacks in social graces, he more than makes up in comic timing — especially when it comes to memorizing things he hears and parroting them back at inopportune moments.

In any case, they seem to be having a good time in Albuquerque. Sierra took Joey to the rattlesnake museum yesterday, and they’re going to the zoo tomorrow. She says Joey bought me a present at the museum. I’m afraid to ask what it is.

If anybody needs a room at the Tumbleweed this week, the office is open after 7 p.m. daily. If I don’t answer the phone right away, it’s probably because I’m outside hanging up laundry. And yes, I know how p—-whipped that makes me sound. Three of the boys from the football team drove by last night and caught me bringing in sheets off the line. I heard about it all day today. I guess I can’t fault them for laughing. If I’d seen my high-school principal standing around with a bucket of clothespins like a washer woman, I probably wouldn’t have let him hear the end of it, either.

— Grant


Part of the roof blew off the high-school gym in yesterday’s storm, and several people are going to be replacing some flooring this weekend, but the flood damage could have been much worse. Joey and I went up to the school early this morning and helped the maintenance guys mop up the stormwater and clear debris off the basketball court.

Once the gym was taken care of, Grant sent us down to the grade school, where Brother Jerry and Dr. Scherer were busy busting up a fallen tree with a chainsaw. We managed to get it and the rest of the debris — broken lawn chairs, dented trash cans, roofing shingles, pieces of siding, and just about every trash-tree limb in northeastern New Mexico — off the playground before the kids’ lunch recess.

While I came back home to do laundry, Joey spent the entire afternoon and part of the evening going over every square inch of the playground with his metal detector (yes, I caved and bought him one a while back) to make sure there weren’t any stray roofing nails lying around for a little kid to step on.

Miss Shirley would have been so proud of her boy.

— Sierra

Lighting one candle

It may be better to light one candle than to curse the dark, but when you spend a week running a motel on batteries and breezes while the temperatures approach triple digits, you get kind of sick of lighting candles.

A violent storm blew through Coldwater last Sunday afternoon. The Tumbleweed didn’t have any serious damage, but the power was out all over Coldwater for an entire week after lightning hit the substation northeast of town and high winds downed half the power lines in Coldwater.

There were a lot of hassles, but it was pretty great to see the community come together in the face of a potential disaster. On Sunday evening, while Grant was smoking all the meat I had on hand to keep it from spoiling, Brother Jerry came by to see how we were doing. He and Grant got to talking, and by Monday morning, Brother Jerry, Grant, Bill, and all the deacons from church had set up grills and smokers at Veterans’ Park and organized a sort of communitywide barbecue/potluck to keep everybody’s perishables from going to waste.

Despite being thrown together on the fly, it turned out to be a really nice event, and everybody loved it so much that we’ve just about decided to do something similar as the centerpiece for our fall festival — maybe a chili cookoff or something.

Brother Jerry also got a couple of generators on Tuesday and set them up to create a cooling center at the church for anybody who needed to escape the heat. Here at the Tumbleweed, we handed out a lot of PBJ’s and bottled water, and a local Girl Scout troop came in and used my old treadle sewing machine to make enough cool ties for everybody in Coldwater to have one. Joey thought this was a brilliant idea and jumped right in, helping the girls measure out the little water-absorbent crystals to put in each tie.

The fire department got into the act Wednesday, deciding that this was a perfect time to flush the lines by opening a hydrant at Veterans’ Park so all the kids could come and play in the water.

The weather still sucked, and we were all still pretty glad when the power finally came back on last night, but it was good to see people pulling together and pooling their resources to keep each other as safe and comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

— Sierra