Jim Walker

I was sitting in the shade of a rock wall, hiding from the sun. I had plenty of water and wasn’t working too hard on the Slickrock Trail because my bike had a motor. As we said, for us, it was all downhill.

It wasn’t downhill for the man pushing his bike toward me. He had obviously had a rough time of it. I could see it in his face, in his eyes, and in the way he moved. He was too tired for where he was. He was too far into the trail, it was too late in the day, and it was too hot.

And his bike was broken.

“Hello,” I called to him. “Looks like you’ve had some trouble.”

“He-He-He-He-Hello,” he said.

I remembered stutters like that. When I was growing up, a long time ago, there were many kids who stuttered like that. Now we seem to have found a cure, and we don’t encounter the stutterer like we did. This man had not had the benefit of that cure, and had one of the worst stutters I’d ever heard.

“How long you been out of water?” I asked, noticing his empty bottle, stuck in the bracket on the bike frame. I’ve always felt that those handy brackets, holding one small bottle of water, got more people in trouble than any other equipment failure I see out on the trail.

“A-A-A-A-A-A lo-lo-lo-long ti-ti-ti-time,” he forced out.

“Here,” I said, offering him my extra bottle, “Drink up.”

He looked at me doubtfully. It wasn’t normal for someone to offer water like that, I guess. I get it all the time. They may be dying of thirst, but they won’t ask for your water, and don’t even want to take it when it is offered.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I’ve got extra water for you. Drink up, and let’s put some on your head so we can cool off some of that red you’ve got in your face. You’re overheated.”

“Ohhh, th-th-th-thank-thank-thank-you!” he got out, drinking the cold water I’d brought with me.

“Where you from?” I asked, waiting to see him start to recover. It didn’t usually take too long for the life to come back to their faces and eyes.

“P-P-P-P-Pol-Pol-Pol-Poland,” he said.

By now, I was willing to do most of the talking. I could see that it was very uncomfortable for him to try to talk to me.

“Well, we’d better figure a way out of here for you. That bike isn’t going to get fixed out here, and it’s some walk. I do have a couple shortcuts, though. Let’s head off down this trail here. You’re gonna walk and I’ll ride ahead to that spot there and wait till you get there. Then, we’ll go to the next, and so on, till we get to the parking lot. OK?”

“O-O-O-O-OK,” he said, and we started off.

Like I said, it was too far into the trail, and it was slow, hot going. We drank all my water with about three miles left to go.

“I’m gonna go find us some more water,” I told him, as we sat in a shady spot. “There’s likely to be a Jeep out here and they’ll almost always have some water to spare. I’ll get us some and come back here. You can keep walking, but don’t leave the marked trail. I don’t want to have to find you. OK?”

I found the Jeeps a few miles away, and, as usual, they helped out with plenty of water for us. I headed back and found him walking the trail.

“Drink up,” I said. “We’ve got plenty now.”

“I-I-I-I-di-di-di-di-didn’t know if–if-if-if you-you-you-wou-wou-wou-would-co-co-co-come back.” he said. “I don-don-don-know you. An-an-an-an-and-it-it-it’s so-so-so-hot. Why-why-why-ar-ar-are-you-you-you help-help-helping me?”

I stopped for a moment. Don’t we all help someone when we can? Sure, but why was this one time so much more important to me? It came to me as I told him.

“My daughter is in Prague. I don’t even know where that is. Maybe she’ll get in a tough spot there and find no one understands her or even knows she needs help. And I can’t help from here. Maybe I help you here and someone there will help her. Maybe that’s how it could work. All I know is I can’t help her there. Maybe someone will.”

We stood up to start our walk out of the desert.

He looked at me for a moment and said,”I-I-I-I-wou-wou-wou-would-hel-hel-hel-help her.”