Around Bisbee, as in many other warm-climate towns and cities, odd people are often encountered, homeless and/or eccentric folks who appreciate the ability to live a rough life of sorts without having to worry about freezing to death.
A couple of weeks ago I was camped out up on Juniper Flats, a place I have grown to love. Not many people come up there, largely due to the steepness and roughness of the switch-backed road. The ridgetop is the domain of agaves, yuccas, pinon pines, lizards, and of course alligator junipers.
The vegetation is scanty, interrupted by expanses of pinkish granite. Water is in short supply, though I did experience a hailstorm followed by rain which filled cavities in the granite, forming ephemeral pools.
One morning I was standing near a steep drop-off, looking down at the traffic on Rt. 80 and at the town of Bisbee, improbably nestled in a canyon towards the south. The sky, as almost always in these dry months before the monsoon season, was deep blue and cloudless. The sun and the dry air had yet to become oppressive.
I heard something approaching through a cluster of pines and silk-tassel trees. A feral cow, or a javelina, perhaps?
A sun-browned man came out of the trees, his clothes just rags. His hair was long and tangled and he had a patchy beard.
As he approached I said, “Hello! What brings you up to the flats, and how’d you get here?”
A closer look revealed that the man was dark-complected, not just sunburned. He wore sandals fashioned from tire rubber.
“I could well ask you the same, my friend!”, he said. “I don’t see many people up here, one reason I like the place.”
“My name’s Larry; what’s yours?”
The man chuckled. “If I told you you would think I am crazy or deluded, but what the heck, what do I care what you think? I’m Jesus Christ, but you can call me JC, like the Junior Chamber of Commerce organizations found in most towns in this vast country. Hey, you were born a US citizen, I presume — why Junior? Are there Senior Chambers of Commerce as well?”
“As far as I can tell, the senior business-folks of a town don’t need to have a formal organization or name — they tend to be known as The Old Boy’s Network.”
I’ve met deluded people with Christ complexes before, and I’ve found it best to humor them. Generally it doesn’t pay to argue or try to reason with crazy people. But this man intrigued me. He did look Middle Eastern, and he seemed to be very comfortable in the desert.
I said, “So what brings you to these parts, JC? You seem to be a long way from home.”
“Truth to tell, I’ve about had it with Palestine and the Middle East in general. Too many people, not enough water, the corruption caused by the oil industry, and incessant strife. The last straw was a few weeks ago when an unmanned drone aircraft started following me around. I believe it was controlled by a military minion in Colorado Springs.”
“That’s probably true, unfortunately. So what did you do?”
“I hacked into its control system and caused it to crash into the Mount of Olives. I’ll bet that whoever was controlling the craft had bright spots dancing before his or her eyes!”
The man continued:
“I thought that the time was ripe for a change of scene. I stowed away on an oil tanker, with the help of some friendly crewmen, and ended up in New Orleans. Turning the contents of one of their water tanks into wine helped. I’ve long wanted to see your country, home to so many people who, it seems, worship me.”
“So what do you think about the religion you seem to have inspired?”
“Oh, don’t get me started! I get tortured to death on a wooden cross, and now people wear effigies of that cross around their necks! You must realize that the Christian bible was written by people I never knew, for the most part. Have you read the Book of Revelations? I did know John, but he was psychotic. I suspect the influence of certain psychotropic desert plants, to be frank. A sad case, indeed.”
“Have you encountered any interesting new foods here in the New World, JC?”
“Oh, yes! I’m quite fond of chile peppers, and the pods of the mesquite tree remind me so much of those of the carob in my native haunts. Showers of manna seem to be rare around here, but really they seem to have declined in the Old World of late.”
I was enjoying this odd conversation, but then a white SUV pulled into the clearing. It was a Border Patrol vehicle; they patrol the Flats about once a week. A Hispanic man in a uniform, armed with a pistol, got out and approached us. How ironic that Hispanics are often employed by the patrol to apprehend Mexicans who happen to have tried to enter this country during a terrorist scare period!
Sotto voce, I said to JC, “Act autistic! No personal affect, sit down and look away. I’ll handle this.”
The man said,”Hi, you two. I’d like to see some ID, please.”
I was a bit annoyed. “I’m an American citizen and I don’t need to show ID on American soil. Unless I’m driving or disturbing the peace, of course. My friend here is my cousin; he’s autistic, and he lives in a managed care facility in Sierra Vista. I brought him up here for an excursion into the outside world. He won’t talk, as he doesn’t know you. He doesn’t have any ID — I didn’t think it would be necessary.”
JC played the part well. He sat on a granite boulder looking away and seemed oblivious to the agent’s presence.
The Border Patrol agent looked confused.
“Autistic? I have a nephew who is that way. Oh, well, I guess I’ll leave you two and keep on looking for real illegals.”
The man drove away.
“Man, you handled that well! Autistic, eh? I’ll remember that, as I probably can use that ruse in the future.”
JC stood up, shook my hand, and wandered off into a canyon.