The four of us were sitting around a mesquite-wood campfire at the base of a canyon amid the hills high above Tucson, near the old Tucson to Tombstone stagecoach road. We had spent all day in the saddle, my horse and I following Joe Valdez and his pack mule. Joe was a small grizzled man who seemed, to this East Coast sailorman – who was in those days running a whale-watch boat – to be the epitome of the western wrangler. It was the wrong season for an overnight in the hills, but I’d talked Joe into it, saying I was an ocean guy and just had to try this.
All day during the ride, I kept trying to get Joe talking, asking what I hoped wouldn’t be stupid questions. But all I ever got back were a few grunts, yups, and mebbees. That night, while intently remaining silent despite my questions, Joe cooked some tasty steaks on the mesquite fire. Coyotes howled in the darkened hills above us. A small stream bubbled past. The horses were bedded down inside an abandoned old corral. Still no talk from Joe. But quite a day, regardless.