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Retro: There ain’t no water in that there river

10th March 2004, early evening | Comments (20)

A trailer park
Jim’s trailer and cactus

Tucson, Arizona, USA ~ April, 2002.

About 200 metres from Molly’s house in Tucson, her road is brought to an abrupt end as it meets the high banks of the Rillito river. Standing at this intersection you can look straight down into its dried bed, replete with scrub, discarded plastic chemical drums, and the odd abandoned car. A glance to the left, up stream, puts you face to face with the Catalina Mountains, while looking right affords a glimpse of an old Mormon adobe church, tucked away behind the trees.

On my first evening in Tucson I’d gone exploring and had found myself at the edge of this river, wondering at its dryness, and questioning the use of a channel 150m wide and 20m deep in what is essentially a desert. (Flash floods, is apparently the answer.)

As I stood there I was hailed by a skinny old man from the trailer park to my right. He seemed to be taking great delight in hopping up and down in his socks and shouting There ain’t no water in that there river, boy! I say, there ain’t no water there! HAW HAW!! again and again.

Strange man, I thought, and having thrown a placating smile at him strolled off in the opposite direction to that of M.’s house. The last thing I wanted to do on my first day was lead sock-clad lunatics to her front door.

The next time I returned to the spot — this time with my camera — my new friend recognised me and took the opportunity to reiterate that there ain’t no water in that there river. I told him I’d remembered his advice from last time and so hadn’t brought my trunks, but as he didn’t know what ‘trunks’ were, the remark was rather lost on him.

After five minutes of alternately watching me take photos and calling out his River Monologue he changed tack slightly and asked if I wanted to sit on his porch and have a beer. At first I declined — our short acquaintance hadn’t endeared him to me as a drinking buddy — but then, as so often happens when I’m travelling, I had the “well, when else are you going to get to do this?” thought. So, I put my camera in my pocket, opened his chain-link gate and went and sat with him a while.

My name’s Jim.
Mine’s Dunstan. How you doing Jim?
Why, I’m fine, thank you.
And who’s this little dog… er, attached to my leg?
Why that’s Milly, ain’t she cute?
She? But she’s got a pe… Oh. Yes. Yes, she is cute, Jim. Delightful.
Man and his dog on a trailer porch
Jim and Milly, on the porch

Jim and Milly (how did he not know it was a male dog?) had lived in their trailer for six years, ever since moving in from California (Too much sand there, I had to get away.) He worked from 6am to 12am every day at a hotel (Real classy, not some rectangular square box like the rest of them), then walked home and sat on his porch, drinking beer and looking at the mountains until he went to bed.

His pride and joy was a 64in TV with 120 channels and 7 speakers. It came with a huge remote control, and occasionally, in the dark, he’d press the wrong button and the whole thing would get messed up to hell.

Apart from (the possibly hermaphroditic) Milly, Jim’s best friends were the tiny birds that lived in his cactus and drank out of the leaky garden tap. In his spare time he liked to abduct tourists whom he lured onto his porch with the promise of beer.

Jim asked me what I was doing in Tucson and I explained I was building a web site for a friend:

You can do that!?
Yes, it’s not so hard once you’ve worked it out.
No, no, it is! Wow. You are an amazing individual did you know that?!
Really? Are you sure?
Yes! That is incredible, you’re amazing.
Oh, well thank you Jim… um, you’re amazing as well.
Do you know Dunstan, you are one of the most fascinating people I have ever met.
No really, you are. I’ve never had anyone this interesting on my porch.
Gosh, thanks Jim. You, um, you have a beautiful home.
Why thank you. You wan’ another beer?

It was a picture-book moment — the camradery, the mountains, the sunset, the transgender dog humping my leg… lovely.

Later on Jim gave me the low-down on what to do in and around Tucson, strongly suggesting I go to Tombstone near the Mexican border. I said I was a bit stuck as I didn’t have a car:

Well that’s not a problem, I’m free Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you come over here and I’ll drive you to all those places.
Crumbs, that’s very kind of you Jim, um… Jim, can you stop Milly doing that, please?… thanks, so, um, yes, that’s very kind of you Jim, but we’re working flat out over there so I don’t think I’ll get the time. But thank you, that’s a very kind offer.

After a couple more beers I said goodbye and wandered home, leaving Jim on his porch to figure out his monster-sized remote control, and Milly by the fence to figure out her shitsu-sized erection.

The people you meet, eh?

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Comments (20)

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  1. Paul G:

    Dunstan, you absolutely made my day. Your site is a real inspiration to me, and stories like this are a big reason why.

    I needed the laugh today, thanks :)

    Posted 20 minutes after the fact
  2. Darice:

    I liked this story. You have a very classic writing style. Somehow
    it had a feel of Cat in the rain by Ernest Hemingway. Looking forward
    to more...

    Posted 1 hour, 10 minutes after the fact
  3. Todd:

    I was having a crappy day Dunstan. Thanks for giving me a good laugh just when I needed it. I believe the part where I really lost it (leaving everyone here at work wondering what I was laughing at) was right at the end: "and Milly by the fence to figure out her shitsu-sized erection"

    Posted 2 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
  4. DarkBlue:

    That's so funny. You just crack me up Dunstan.

    Posted 2 hours, 38 minutes after the fact
  5. Chris Hester:

    Maybe there ain’t no water in that there river, but there sure is plenty of writing talent on this page. I mean you Dunstan. Hey, maybe Jim was spot on. "You are an amazing individual did you know that?!"

    I hope this is the start of more posts about America. I thought you'd left early until I saw the date! My only plea would be to have the picture link to a larger version. (I wanna see that cactus.)

    Posted 2 hours, 39 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  6. Dunstan:

    Sorry Chris - I've uploaded a larger version and linked it through the image in the post, as usual.

    You can even make out Jim, sitting on his porch :o)

    Posted 3 hours, 12 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Chris Hester
  7. Sian:

    What's a "shitsu-sized erection" when it's at home?

    Posted 3 hours, 15 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Dunstan
  8. Dunstan:

    An erection that a male shitsu dog gets.

    And being very little dogs...

    Posted 3 hours, 27 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Sian
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  9. Sian:

    Ah ha!

    Posted 3 hours, 30 minutes after the fact
  10. Karen:

    I've got to agree—you certainly have a natural flair for storytelling.

    Jim reminds me of a ragged-looking fellow I met on a Greyhound bus from Springfield to Topeka a few years back. Dennis borrowed my Bob Dylan CD, chatted with me about politics, then revealed that he had just been released from prison and was looking forward to his new career as a nurse.

    "What were ya in for?" I asked, feeling worldly.

    He just shrugged. "Shootin' a guy. But it wasn't no big deal. He didn't die or nothin'."

    Traveling can be scary stuff, sometimes.

    Posted 3 hours, 33 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Dunstan
  11. Dunstan:

    Or, I guess it could be an erection, the size of a shitsu dog... that might make my story appeal to a different readership...

    Posted 3 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Sian, ↑ Dunstan
  12. Dunstan:

    Nice story, Karen :o)

    I have one of those 'talked with a felon' tales lined up as well (I'll post it next week), and oddly enough it happened at a bus stop - public transport puts you in touch with some fabulous people, doesn't it?

    Posted 3 hours, 40 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Karen
    Inspired: ↓ Phil Baines, ↓ Dunstan
  13. Phil Baines:

    Can't wait for that one Dunstan!

    Great stuff yet again. Good story, and good writting it also.

    Since you are such a good writter, I can only hope that this is so, becuase you have taken a real interest in becoming so. I am hoping to gain better writting skills myself, so if you have any tips, or links, I would be forever grateful.

    Posted 5 hours, 29 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  14. Dunstan:

    Writing tips? Gosh... um, not really, I don't know much myself - I just get the basics of the story down, then umm and ahh over it for a long time until I'm happy with the tone and direction, then I write it, and keep reading it back to myself time and time again.

    I edit as I go, hacking out big lumps and trying to say the same thing in fewer words.

    I think that reading out loud really helps - it highlights the bits that don't flow properly and lets me single them out for extra treatment.
    Not that I always manage to improve them, sometimes I just can't find the words.

    I wrote this story back in 2002, as an email home to my friends. (I must have spent ages getting it right at the time), then I re-edited it for a sort of a private book, then again for a web site of my travelling tales (that never went live), and then one final edit for this site.

    I expect that the original email version looks terrible compared to this :o)

    I guess my biggest tip would be not to be afraid of deleting everything and starting again - if a tone or direction doesn't work, try approaching it from another angle. I do that a lot.

    Posted 6 hours, 12 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Phil Baines
  15. Rick Yribe:

    Awesome post my friend. Got a few laughs out of it, and, well, thanks.

    Posted 9 hours, 36 minutes after the fact
  16. Chris Vincent:

    As one who's lived in a trailer park in his lifetime, this is just hilarious. That's exactly how it was; people just kind of sit on their porch with nothing to do but watch the grass grow over the rust-covered car that's been there since the 1940s. Once I saw a fat man running around on the roof of his trailer.

    Of course, we didn't call it a trailer park. We called it a "modular home community". Imagine that. :P

    Posted 10 hours, 20 minutes after the fact
  17. Rich:

    Excellent work Dunstan. I'm looking forward to more like this - but reckon you'll find this one hard to beat.

    Posted 17 hours, 53 minutes after the fact
  18. [m]:

    Apart from (the possibly hermaphroditic) Milly, Jim’s best friends were the tiny birds that lived in his cactus and drank out of the leaky garden tap.

    There ain’t no vulva on this here dog, boy! I say, there ain’t no vulva there!


    Yeah. My thoughts are random at the moment. Sorry for thst.

    Posted 1 day after the fact
  19. Mathieu 'P01' HENRI:

    How could you keep serious with Milly humping on your leg ?
    BTW Do you have some news from Milly ^__^

    Posted 2 days, 2 hours after the fact
  20. Dunstan:

    Karen, my story about the people I met at the bus stop is now up:

    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Karen, ↑ Dunstan

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