We arrived in Las Cruces to do some basic RV chores and enjoy something cooked with those famous Hatch green chiles. We hooked up water and electric but there was no electric. No battery power, either. Them’s week-old batteries, Jim: can’t be nothin’ wrong. We checked every breaker, tried every connection (including the batteries), and even sniffed around the breaker box for damage. Maybe we’re plugged into a dead outlet! I asked management to have someone check it, and in a few minutes Steve appeared with a voltage tester and a lot of tattoos. He determined that the outlets had power. I asked him “Who’s a good RV repair guy in Las Cruces?” “Me.”
He tested power here and there, then pulled out a couple of surge suppressors linked in series. The redundancy surprised him, but when he plugged them back in, Kat cried out “We have power! And the batteries are good!” Steve looked as stunned as I felt, but we slipped him a couple of bills. I asked if he knew anything about dual-powered water heaters. “Yes I do.” Kat explained that we’d lost water through a pressure release valve in Marfa, and now that we’re hooked up to city electricity, the electrical water heater doesn’t work. He checked a few circuits, and informed us that we needed a new pressure release valve and a new heating element.
I purchased his parts list. Steve installed them. He never got the electrical heater to work. But he told us a lot of tall tales while he changed parts and tried various home remedies:
“I joined the Army at 17, then broke both shoulders in my first jump at Fort Benning. (The ‘chute was attached to a static line but didn’t open … when I ran out of cord the static line and parachute harness stopped my fall, but I was still hooked to that jet plane, bouncing me around like crazy … the pain was unbelievable, but I got my knife, reached way up despite the pain, and cut the cord … after falling a thousand feet I pulled the rip-cord on my emergency ‘chute. They did surgery on both shoulders, and when I got back to Jump School I was a legend among the instructors. After that they asked me to join this secret unit that civilians call ‘Delta Force’. I like adventure, and went to 40 countries on secret ops missions I still can’t talk about. I was in the Gulf War, and when I got back I was amazed to hear the stuff about Saddam Hussein having body doubles, and how the US Army could never find him. Hey, I was a sniper and I had him in my sights twice, but the brass wouldn’t let me pull the trigger. I would have prevented the second Iraq War. But when my six years were up, I wanted out. It’s just too political, and I won’t suck up. They offered me a $250,000 re-enlistment bonus and two more stripes, but I just smiled and told that Colonel ‘Sir, I wouldn’t re-up if you gave me stripes down to here’ (his elbow).”
Editor’s note: Saddam was not a target in the 1991 Gulf War; he stayed in Baghdad and we didn’t go there. Steve’s been out of the Army 19 years and couldn’t have been in Iraq, Part Two. Nonetheless he rattled on:
“I hate my job but I get paid and draw unemployment. That front desk woman, she and I don’t get along. She put out word that we was havin’ an affair. What? Who can see me with a 300 pounder? Got me and the Mrs. in a bit of a squeeze, but she finally come around.”
Yes, dear reader, in hindsight, I should have stopped him at “legend at Jump School”. But such wild stories! A fiction writer can but envy that kind of creativity. Besides, had I cut him off, never would you have heard his story.