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True Stories by Steve Keely
Hobo Memoirs

Good Times in the Desert

Today I subbed auto shop which is most surprising as I found out about it two midnights ago while broken down in my own car in the desert wilderness.  The VW stopped without warning on a sandy track 12 miles from where I live, and wouldn’t start after an hour of amateur stabs at the plugs, fuel filter and kicking the tires.  I pulled a cell phone to call a neighbor despite the hour, and noticed an incoming message.  “Mr. Keeley.  We’re in desperate need of a sub for the college auto class tomorrow.”  Inspired, I ran-walked four hours through open desert and napped until sunrise before rousing my neighbor, a shade-cactus mechanic, so he wouldn’t shoot over my head with the AK-47 like last time.  We raced in his dune-buggy to my bug with a fresh coil and fuel pump, his diagnostic guesses, and both were correct.  I was tired – mistook a crow for an airplane – but made it to teach class on time and earn a hefty paycheck.

Actually, I was leaving my desert property when the car broke down.  The day before, in my tool shed, I reached down to pick up a screw on my workshed sand floor, touched it, and a sidewinder coiled 4.5” from the washer.  I yelped.  Sidewinders make a neat dish while coiled in the sand, so I put an empty coffee can over him, dug a shovel under the can, and carried the lot 200-yards to a wash.

The day before that, I admit to the backward trots that filled a couple paper bags that I disposed of in a burning barrel.  I sprinkled 3 oz. of gasoline on top, filled the barrel with paper trash, and leaned over gingerly with a match.  I dropped it, and there was a hellofa bang as the contents exploded in my face.  No worries, but I had to lick my lips walking away.

The reason I left the property before the car breakdown is the well has dried up - the sub-teaching well, that is.  There hasn’t been work for months other than subbing welding and auto repair due to a recent sub influx.  The school reserves vocational classes for me because the students are hard-nosed but treat me with greater respect because of a standing of Sand Valley residents, where I live, for being a sandwich short of a picnic.  We know this isn’t true, but it keeps me in work.  Yet, the paycheck isn’t enough, so I’ve decided to return to college on the west coast for a few remaining courses to earn a full-teaching credential.  That’s the reason I left home, not the breakdown, auto class, rattler, or face-lift.

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