Taxi Tales: Strange times in the Pandhandle

By Louie de Palma
Reader Road Warrior

In the off-season of sleepy little ski towns, the streets are lonely and vacant. Nights such as these only yield two options: I’m not going to do a damn thing all night, or something weird is about to blow my way.

On one such night, I’d made so many left turns I found myself becoming dizzy. I contemplated pulling over for a third cup of coffee or sixth stick of jerky just to ease the spins. My mind wandered to the familiar faces of my regulars. Where were they? Should I check on them? Maybe they’re in trouble. That one lady with the stinky wounds is pretty old, after all. But just when I’d convinced myself the entire town is in dire need of assistance, the phone rang. I frantically  searched out the phone, answering with an all too chipper, “Hello, this is Louie with Road Warrior Taxi! …Hmmm, uh huh, well … It’s pretty busy for me to go that far, but I guess for you, we’ll make an exception. See you in just a deer tick, jiffy.”

The client had called for a lift up to yonder border. Final destination: Daddy’s Pub. It was approaching midnight, and although I wasn’t afraid that my taxi would turn into a pumpkin, I figured I should probably transform my dog into a bodyguard. She has a way of detecting things, and with the twitch of an ear, a double sniff or an uneasy body shift, I can read her warning signs well before any of my gauges or my own intuition. You can’t blame me. If I disappeared with nothing left but a shoe, I don’t have a lick of faith anyone local could track me down.

The man I drove to Daddy’s Pub turned out to be a perfectly pleasant individual. He was a quiet Native American man with cool blue earrings and a disposition to match. He spoke in a calming manner with long pauses, the end of each sentence teetering in the wind like a dandelion puff until it finally broke free and trailed off. When we arrived, I dropped him at the corner of the dark Daddy’s parking lot, which is slammed against edge of the Canadian border by a dumpster. He unloaded his pack, rolled his sleeping bag and vanished into the night. As odd as the journey seemed at first, it was uneventful, but the real strangeness was yet to come.

On the way up, I had passed a state border patrolman stealthily parked in a giant, all-white Suburban. On the way back, I passed two, and as I did so, they pulled behind me, tailing close. The lights didn’t come on at first, oh no. Too simple. They just tailed dangerously close for 30 miles. Three times I almost pulled over to just speed up the process. They were going to stop me. The question was for what, and why?

When the lights did come on, it was a relief. The tension rushed out of me like my fourth cup of coffee had earlier. As I watched the silhouettes of the men approach my taxi through the pulsating light in my mirror, I could tell they were straight out of a cliché’ movie. One, waddling toward my vehicle, was robust and squat. The other was goofy, tall, gangly and awkward, like a young fawn following a cranky boar. Both sported huge hats, and everything seemed normal as could be. Wrong. As soon as they closed within 10 feet of the car, my dog unleashed menacing and deep growls mixed with guttural barking, the like of which I’d never heard before. It was then that I knew the weird was about to take hold of the evening and shake it like a health food drink.

When they reached the car, I rolled down the windows. Giant hats and large accusatory faces that flashed from blue to red to dark in the police lights filled the empty space. They gave me the normal question, and then started asking me about about coyote smugglers and the illegal transport of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints members.

I was informed that on the Mexican border, taxis smuggle people all the time. The next thing I know, I’m standing on the side of the road at 1:30 a.m., restraining my furious dog as Rocky and Bullwinkle search my taxi for stowaway Mormons. They even looked in the glove box for them. I began to wonder if perhaps my passenger was some sort of Mormon coyote border guide. Why did they need to sneak across? To get more fabric from Walmart? How many jean skirts could one need? Is there really a market for Mormon smuggling?

To find out how this unfolds and other strange happenings tipped off by Taxi Dog, pick up a Reader in two weeks, because this is TO BE CONTINUED

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