Arizona

his was one hot stretch. I consumed about 3 gallons of water per day and didn’t even need to stop to relieve myself. We were so thirsty, we thought about water all the time. This element that we take for granted on a daily basis suddenly became a central preoccupation, and the sensation of thirst became a very familiar feeling.

One of the hardest tasks was to remain alert. The rhythm of the cars whooshing by, together with the steady rocking of our gait, had a hypnotic effect on us. We got drowsy and Willy and I both fell into a trance. We began to daydream often and the cars passing by played tricks on our minds.

. . . out of nowhere, like a mirage from the heat, I saw a dust storm coming up off the ridge. But no, it was a group of horses, and they were running full tilt right at us. Willy was prancing in circles and I was doing everything I could do to hold him. I was determined to stand our ground because I knew we would tire too easily in an all-out sprint. It was late in the day and we were 18 miles into a 24 mile trek, temperature 104. If we stood our ground, we might bluff them. Willy was all over the place as they galloped our way, and I had to keep him prancing in circles to control him.

Just as they were closing in on us, Willy suddenly stopped prancing, turned to face the oncoming horses, planted his feet wide apart and stood very still and steady, nostrils flaring.

The lead horse, who was red and had a screaming whinny, stopped and snorted. The other horses milled behind. Bluffing confidence, I clicked a knee into Willy to square him off to the lead red horse. We were about 20 feet apart, close enough for the horse to reel and kick us. The red horse was flaring his nostrils and weaving his head up and down, snaking it around as if trying to get a sniff on us. Then he reared up pawing the air. Willy and I had stood our ground . . .