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June 20, 2012 / Ronald Chapman

Unlikely Places

The track running north from the interstate alternated between heavy, muddy ruts and bone-jarring washboard on sections of higher ground. More than once Pitcairn uttered his gratitude for four-wheel drive. The way snaked along the eastern edge of the Rio Puerco, a typically muddy trickle with alkali-stained banks that had become a torrent with all the rain.

He crossed several cattle guards then passed through a particularly muddy wash that almost swallowed the Jeep. Swearing under his breath, he rattled up out of the swale to see Rancho Sereno tucked between the river and the cusp of the mesa. Surrounded by a few scrubby native trees, it was an ugly site.

Immediately, Pitcairn thought about changing his mind and returning to the city. Were it not for Clint’s voice in his head urging him to be open minded, a byproduct of many years of coaching, he would have turned around. A few bounces and mud puddles later, he came to a stop in front of the place.

Scanning the rancho, he was amused to realize he had no idea what to call it. It could never pass as a house. After a short contemplation, and a snap decision to call it an improved shack, his gaze was drawn to the sweep of green rising up to the mesa. Lucy’s whimpering to escape added to a compulsion to walk this new yet familiar terrain. He opened the door and was nearly bowled over by the excited boxer scrambling past him to romp. Lincoln sat patiently in the back of the Jeep until Pitcairn opened the back, after which he leapt down gracefully and began to slowly sniff his surroundings.

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