Story One.... The Visitor's Center at White Sands is where I met George. At the desk and greeting visitors was his job. That along with selling the books and other park mementos was his job a couple of days a week. Probably just a few years younger than me, he was the one time morning news face for 20 years at a TV station someplace in Indiana.
Eventually, it was burn out as the consultants said how to present the news. "It leads if it bleeds". Poorly researched stories. Beat the competition for advertising dollars. He also said that gray hair and an aging face is not what the consultants or station management wanted to see in 2003.
It would have been easy to talk more of our respective experiences in corporate America, but he was frequently interrupted by arriving visitors. The nerve. And some only wanted to know where the restrooms were.
Story Two.... Three Rivers Petroglyphs was a two hour visit just a five mile journey off the main road. (A blog about that stop will appear here sometime.) As I was headed onto the trail to view the petroglyphs, a retired guy about my age was signing up to stay for another day in one of the two electric RV spaces. I commented that petroglyphs must be a focus for him. Yes. It was. He did field research for ten years and published materials. Difficult field for research with many conflicting opinions. The best that can be done is to date the petroglyphs. Beyond that, symbol interpretation is near impossible for most.
Currently teaching at a Utah college, he was on the road just a few days after the end of classes. As we chatted, he received a phone call about some grades that didn't get recorded. After the phone call, our conversation was over. He was upset with the issue. He sure didn't want to drive back to Utah after having just left. Damned cell phones will find you anywhere. And this place was remote -- over 20 miles from a small grocery store.
Story Three.... Yesterday I was camped at Valley of Fires Recreation Area. A stiff wind blew me into the visitor center and bookstore. Manning the center was an elderly gentleman. He was reading a book when I arrived. When asked what he was reading, it was another on New Mexico history. He has over 300 of varying titles in his library at home.
I asked if he lived in nearby Carrizozo. Yes. For 94 years. A fit 94 years, he was born there. The only reason he was there was that his father had come from Ohio to work for the new railroad in Carrizozo in 1899. After high school, the gentleman worked for the railroad for a number of years and then worked at a bank in Carrizozo until he retired in 1982. Today with nothing to do, he volunteers at the visitor center and bookstore.
Asking about the dying town of Carrizozo, he said that it was a thriving town until the railroad converted to diesel from steam. Railroad employment kept the town going. Today, the town struggles to attract new business to the mostly abandoned down town.
The guy probably had few visitors most of the day. As soon as I arrived, they kept coming in and interrupting me from getting more of his story. What is it about me that draws visitors.
There is a story everywhere. Sometimes I wonder. Was my life so interesting. Perhaps to someone else.