Time: About 5:45 pm
Wait: About 10 minutes
From: Castle Rock Exit (Denver to Colorado Springs)
As always, I meet Kathy off of the County Line light rail exit in Denver and we head first to the local scrap yard off of Santa Fe, where she has collected hunks of iron, metal, and other miscellaneous hunks of junk for exchange of cash. I’ve never been to the scrap yard, and on the way Kathy shows me a slide show she is making of pictures of her son for his high school graduation on her laptop. She tells me she thinks that her son will be getting married soon. “Every time I take a picture of them as a couple, I always ask my son, am I taking wedding pictures, and he always says ‘maybe.”
Kathy and I make it to the scrap yard, where giant claw machines rip off fragments of metal and crush discarded American junk into a huge mound of metallic crap. They weigh us in and take an ID, and Kathy and I open her trunk and begin tossing the stuff into the huge mound. It is a collection of metal that she collects from her work site at the end of the day that her boss does not want. All in the all, they weigh us in again on the way out, and we’ve added about 3,000 pounds of metal to the pile of discarded junk, to be melted down and used again. An old piece of sheet metal will maybe one day become the fork on your dinner table.
While driving, Kathy tells me that she once had a brain tumor and had to get radiation therapy on her head, and that is why one of her eyes is not right. “It gets really dry sometimes”, she tells me. She hired somebody to photo shop the pictures of her with her son for graduation. I’m speechless, and really not sure what to say, so I just tell her that the video is looking great. Shitty things can happen to great people.
We drive out to her place in Sedalia, Colorado, which is on the way to my hitch point in Castle Rock. Sedalia is a small town on the outskirts of Denver of only 211 people according to the last consensus. Old houses with much character and old pickup trucks, dogs running loose, and non-running vehicles and tires laying around seems to be the norm. Many of the old houses used to be seedy brothels during the days when the railroad was making the west. Also, many of the houses have deep wells that go into the underground aquifers, which many of the railroad workers used when they were hauling things across the country. “It wasn’t like you could just stop at a gas station and get water”, Kathy explains.
She wants me to meet a few of her friends, who have taken an interest in my book. I meet Ronny and Carl, who are hanging out in a large garage and Kathy shows me her Harley, and says that I can take it for a ride, to my surprise. I ride it about a mile or so out and come back, energized and wishing I had my old 1983 Honda CX 650 still. Maybe I’ll have to get a motorcycle this summer, I think.
Ronny has an alien-like miniature dog with Batman ears and an under-bite that hangs out in the garage. I go to pet it, and it spins around in a circle, barks, and then props its front legs on my kneecap and breaths heavily, happily into my face as I pet him. Ronny shows me pictures of the motorcycle he had back in the 50s and 60s, which was a bike from the ’40s that had what is known as a suicide shifter, where the shifter was on the side of the tank rather than on the left side lever like it is on modern day motorcycles. It was called a suicide shifter for a reason, and was eventually discontinued and taken completely off of the market.
Kathy gives me the grand tour of the place, and there seems to be about every tool known to man scattered across Carl’s large workshop. Outside, I nearly stumble across a pot billy pig who is just chilling out in the sun, seemingly watching the train pass on by the Rocky Mountains. I pet him and he makes a pig of himself with the sounds that come from inside him. He gets excited and snorts. I try to imagine the life of a creature like this, just laying here all day long on a dirty blanket and watching the cars pass by.
Kathy shows me the main office, and the million dollar homes around Colorado that Carl’s parents have made. The brochure shows their own home, with a winding staircase, a roof that looks like some kind of medieval castle, and a beautiful landscape. Kathy works for them and helps with the business, she tells me. She says that Ronny liked my book and would like me to perhaps work for them this summer.
Kathy tells me that it is her birthday, and I offer to take her out to lunch, but she says she’ll take a rain check for next week. She drops me off at the usual spot near Castle Rock, and I set off to hitch a ride. The weather today is like the middle of summer, yesterday felt like the middle of winter; this is typical Colorado.
I’ve only waited for maybe ten minutes when a Ford Explorer pulls over. Two young Hispanic guys are in the front seat. “Heading to Colorado Springs!”, the guy in the passenger seat says. His name is Hernando, and his brother’s name is Javier.
“We work in Castle Rock every day”, Javier tells me. ” We live in Colorado Springs, but work in Castle Rock.” They tell me that they are from Honduras, and I tell them that my brother was stationed at the Air Force base in Honduras for a year. I try to use my limited frame of espagnol (Spanish) as much as possible. They are from San Pedro Sula, specifically, which my brother later tells me is a coastal city, and in fact one of the most dangerous in the world. No wonder these guys wanted to come to the States for better opportunities!
“Tu familia es en Honduras?”, I ask them in my broken Spanish. “Si, yo tengo dos hermanos en Colorado”, Javier tells me. (He has two brothers who live in Colorado.) We’re listening to Spanish music on the radio, Los Amos, Javier says. The bass keeps a steady thump and an accordion blares in the background.
We make small talk despite the small communication barrier, and Javier talks about how he loves being in the States. ” Everything is pesos in Honduras”, he says. “When I go back, nothing expensive.” He says that he likes to go back and visit his family. “The only thing I no like is that mangos and bananas are not free”, he tells me. “In Honduras, they are large, and all fruit is free or picked off the tree.”
I agree, I tell them. Porque tengo dinero por bananas et mengos?, I say in my broken Spanish.
His brother drives and laughs, spitting his tobacco into an empty Budweiser can. I tell them about the bad words I learned in Spanish while I was a busser at a restaurant during high school, the first bits of Spanish I ever learned. “Muy bien!”, Javier says, and they are both laughing hysterically.
They drop me off in downtown Colorado Springs, and I hope to meet them again. “Gracias amigos”, I tell them. “Encantado.”
“De nada, amigo!”, they say, and drive off.