Guest column: You never know who you'll meet on the back roads

 


I used to never stop and sightsee when driving on the interstate. I blame my stepfather. He would only stop the car over in the most dire of bathroom emergencies. It’s like there was a black hole relentlessly pulling him toward our destination.

The drive was always a means to an end, but I now look at the drive as an end in itself. I take the back roads, whenever possible.

And this is how Cassandra and I — traversing the desolate rolling deserts of New Mexico — came upon a village called Mosquero, which means “many flies” in Spanish.

There’s a small drag running through the village and a row of colorful buildings caught our attention.

We stopped the car and walked around. On every storefront in Mosquero there’s a painted mural depicting scenes from New Mexico history — cowboys, famous citizens, 1950s homages.

We came upon a small convenience store with a sign that said: “Come on in, I won’t kill you.” Taking the proprietor at their word, we opened the door.

The inside looked like a living room that was converted into a convenience store. It was cozy.

A man was sitting behind the counter typing on a computer. He stood up and greeted us with a warm smile. He was slender, in his 50s, and introduced himself as Jimmie — Jimmie Ridge.

A small table with four chairs were near the entrance. “Some of the men in town take their coffee their in the morning,” he said. “You’re more than welcome to sit down, if you like.”

After purchasing a pack of lunchables, we took Jimmie up on the offer. It turns out we had something in common.

He’s actually (Ret.) Master Sgt. Jimmie Ridge. He served in the Air Force as a firefighter from 1976 to 1994.

Jimmie took an early retirement option — sound familiar? — and purchased a couple of hundred acres in a nearby town. He worked the land for a few years, but the investment didn’t turn out well and he sold the property and purchased the store. He’s been running it ever since.


We spoke for 20 minutes and connected through our military heritage. I doubt this conversation would’ve occurred had we met in a gas station off the interstate.

I noticed a water jug filled with dollar bills and coins next to the cash register.

“What’s that for?” I asked him.

“I use it to collect donations for the graduating high school class. Each student will get $100 this year.”

“How many are there?”

“Five,” he said. “But we’ll have seven next year. I’m trying to get a head start.”

I stuffed a $5 bill in the jug, thanked him for the company, and returned to the car. You never know who you’re going to meet on the back roads.

Kitsana Dounglomchan, an 11-year Air Force veteran, writes about his life and times for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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