Death Valley

I’m seventeen years old. It’s 1969. I’m rolling towards a three day stay in Death Valley. All paid for, compliments of Pacific Telephone. I’ve only been with the phone company five months, and I’ve done the Death Valley run consistently longer then any other tech. Our garage at 3636 Beverly took it over after some wheeling and dealing in the corporate towers. All’s I knew, was everyone else at my garage hated it. Except me. I LOVED it! This trip I have a new foreman with me, Larry Mall. He decides he’s going to know all of his crews routes, so, he books a room next to mine at the Golden Choya motel, gets a metal fold up seat from supply for his ass, and comes along…Now, Larry is wearing a Pac Bell blazer, a white shirt and black tie. Also, some loafers. Its five am and no one is there to wave us off. Now at Baker, I check in at our motel, then point the truck toward Tecopa Hot Springs, our first stop…At Tecopa, its now 115 and getting hotter by the second. No air in my Pac Bell coin box truck. It had a service body. One ton. Bad paint on the hood from me cooking eggs on the hood for tourists. This truck has twin radiators, a two way phone that never worked, and an overdrive that really kicked some ass. It also had no passenger seat. It had a lazy susan safe behind the spot that seat was supposed to be bolted. Larry sat in a temp folding seat, all METAL. His legs hunched into his chin like Quasimodo…As we head towards Furnace Creek Inn, we have some other stops. Shoshone, is next. I pull up to the emergency phone in its all glass booth with a pull shut glass door. Not one piece of glass in it with out a bullet hole in it. Ditto for the hand crank to operator phone. I have to use all hand tools to replace the glass and phone. Try drilling case hardened steel in 125 degree heat with no shade sometime, a real slice of heaven…I’m now am in my usual fashion statement, Levi 501’s full of holes, wing tips, and my t-shirt around my head, constantly soaked with water from my ice chest. Larry doesn’t approve of my attire. I ignore him. Its only eleven am. He ain’t seen noth’in yet…We roll to Death Valley junction and the air strip. Its now so hot, Larry has now stripped off his clothes and has his shirt over his head like mine, dipped in my ice chest without even asking me. I smirk to myself in my rear view mirror…I take Larry into the one woman ballet at the Junction. Since we’re the only ones in the small wooden structure, she does her dance right by us. A psycho, sure, but my family is circus, so, I tend to drift towards these sorts. Larry hides in the bathroom. Her fifty years of unchanged makeup is freaking him out…Its now about 250 degrees in the truck. We head towards Furnace Creek. It’s not even two pm…Once at Furnace Creek Inn, blessed relief from the blasting heat. They have air conditioning! They also have regular pay phones. Not like the hand crank, generating a ring to an operator phone like the armored emergency phones on the side roads and bus stops across Death Valley. I show Larry the usual tourist stuff, the pool that has one end that dumps down to water the date trees that Furnace Creek had made famous in their date nut bread, baked on site. The giant thirty mule team wagons parked in front of the old Borax mine entrance. Took a ride out to Scottys castle, then called it a day. First up, take the small paper disc out of the little machine mounted under the dash that records all of your stops and speeds you attain. Since I kicked it every time I climbed into my seat, it was totally screwed, every day. Learned that trick my first day on the job from a crazed nut case named Alan Stovall…Now, I have to tell the Stovall story, so bare with me…Stovall was a big bear of a guy who had a band, a hot babe, and hated the phone company. He finally gets a recording contract. I knew this because I was getting reamed by another supervisor when he stumbled in drunk as a skunk at four p.m., then, shoved me out of the way as he leaned forward over Denny Cross’s desk, laughing like a maniac, while tearing up his route cards. He then spoke. “Hey, Cross, guess what? YOU AND THIS COMPANY CAN KISS MY ASS”! He then spins, pulls down his pants and starts spanking this giant white ass. He then pulled them up, tossed his I.D. and truck keys on Dennys desk and strolled out the door…Now that we we’re technically off the clock, Larry wondered what I usually did on my own time. Since we had sort of bonded, I decided to trust him. I have him buy us some brews, more ice, then take him through the locked gate I had a key for at the Ranger Residence area to head up into the mountains. We end up about an hour before sunset overlooking some wrecked cars down in a gully. They we’re towed there from the highway patrol after big wrecks. I pull out my .270 mag from a side bin of service body and start to load it. Larry starts to freak out. “WHAT THE FUCK, YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT IN A COMPANY VEHICLE!” I tell him to lighten up and have another beer and to stop being such a sissy. I then tell him, “Check out the rear light on that red Chevy!” I jack in a round and blow it the hell away. Larry’s hand is shaking as he lights a smoke. I ask him for a couple. I then take off the filters and stick them in my ears. An old trick from Led Zepplin concerts. I ask Larry if he would like to take some shots. Before he can answer, some Ranger trucks come around the bend in the road, all their light bars lit. Larry looks like he’s going to have a heart attack. As his eyes are looking at me like I just destroyed his life, one of the five Rangers hops out and says, “Well, did it come through?” I nod, go to another bin, take out the two pounds of weed I’d promised them from my last trip…And so began Larry’s internship to the real Death Valley.

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