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Out of Nowhere

05 October 04
Cottonwood Campground
Near Jemez Springs
New Mexico

About the middle of the morning I walked up to the camp host's trailer. She took a while getting to the door.

"Miz...Radel?" I read the name off the sign. "I was wondering if you could tell me where I could find the nearest laundromat?"

"Oh, my..." she looked at me. "There isn't one."

"There isn't one?"

"Well, maybe in Rio Rancho. That'd be the closest."

I was stunned. "Fifty miles? That's the closest? Nothing down in the pueblo?"

"No..." There was a voice from inside. "Wait just a minute, please..." She went back into the gloom. A few minutes went by. I was seeing the whole day disappearing into my laundry bag. Then she opened the door.

"I'm sorry. My husband...he just got out of the hospital. Pneumonia."

"Oh...well, never mind then. Sorry to bother you."

"Wait. I guess... I guess you could use mine..."

This was unexpected. "Your washer?"

"Yes. It's out in the shed."

"No. No, that's a kind offer, but I don't want to bother you now."

She sighed. "You know, I think I'm way beyond being bothered. Go ahead. It's open. You got soap?"

And it was right about then that I discovered just what a low snake I really am. I didn't want to drive a hundred miles to do laundry. So I took her up on it. If I'd been her, I'd have probably chased me off with a chain saw.

"Well, okay, if you don't mind. I'll be quiet." She nodded, and closed the door.

I got the wash done. She didn't come out again. Later on, while I was eating a sandwich outside at the picnic table, my neighbors came over to check my permit. This lovely couple were Rich and Ellen Jerome from Florida. They were just campers like me, but they had volunteered to do Peg Radel's job for her while she got some rest. Turns out this was just the latest of a whole series of ambulance rides over the last few weeks.

"Peg's just worn out. Clyde's got lung cancer. They keep sending him home, 'cause there's nothing they can do."

Now I really felt bad.

"Tell her...tell her if there's anything I can do, just let me know. Maybe go to the store or something..."

"We'll tell her."

And I'm sure they did. But I never heard anything. I kept walking by the trailer, but I sure wasn't going to knock on the door and wake them up just to tell them I wanted to help. I'm not quite that self-absorbed.

Finally decided the best thing to do was just let them alone. I carry some firewood over to the Jeromes. We talked a lot about Florida, and full-timing.

Gradually it became clear there wasn't any way I was ever going to make up to Peg for that load of wash. Not directly anyhow.

But I definitely owe somebody a favor out there. It's open-ended, and it's on the books.

You know, this is one aspect of full-timing I hadn't considered. Clyde and Peg had been hosting in this campground, year round, for four years. Gradually he had gotten sicker and sicker. This flat spot out in the middle of nowhere was their home. No family anywhere near by.

And he was dying, as we all must.

But out of that nowhere came plenty of help, from complete strangers. Such help as could be had. Different campers volunteered. There was more people than things to do. Rich and Ellen changed their travel plans to stay there longer, and Peg's work was taken care of. Another young couple volunteered to spell them. The Sheriff came by to check on the situation.

While I was there, Clyde had two more trips into the VA hospital in Albuquerque. And came back. He hung in there, and things worked out, day by day. After a couple of weeks, I moved on. There was no lack of hands.

All these people working together, and all of them strangers a couple of weeks ago. Just goes to show, we are not as alone as we think we are. No matter where we are. Even us gypsy full-timers.

Where there's people, there's help.

Whether we know it or not.


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