Why do people sometimes yell Geronimo when jumping from a great height? It was a practice that was adopted by some paratroopers in the US Army and may have come from a movie they’d seen or a song that was popular on the radio at the time. Another origin story of the tall tale variety is that the famous warrior once escaped capture from a posse by jumping his horse off a high cliff and simultaneously calling out his own name.
The monument I was about to visit, outside of Skeleton Canyon, is said to mark the spot where Geronimo finally surrendered to General Miles in 1886. What a place to finally get a speeding ticket, in the twilight of my epic road trip.
Geronimo was a medicine man of the Bedonkohe Apache band who carried out raids in northern Mexico and Arizona and New Mexico. He was a great leader who sometimes led up to fifty warriors. The Apache resented the confinement of the reservations and Geronimo escaped from them three times. After finally surrendering, he was put on display in fairs, exhibits, and parades, about as demeaning as keeping a mountain line in a cage, until he finally died at Fort Sill in Oklahoma in 1909. Since then, he has gone on to symbolize resistance, being the last of the great Indian warriors to give up the fight.
It was late in the afternoon when I reached the monument, out in the middle of nowhere. I parked the Mountain Bluebird and got out. There were concessions I’d made along the way, and others ahead of me. That is what happens when you grow old. It would’ve been easier to go out in a thunderbolt of youthful impetuousness, but that wasn’t the hand I’d been dealt.
How much of the future would involve remembering and embellishing upon old battles rather than waging new ones? I’d had very little in the way of support and no followers. I would’ve been happy to jump a horse off a high cliff, but no one had ever been chasing me, outside of my own fears and doubts.
What was the war that I’d been fighting all these years? Only this. That life should mean more than what we’ve made of it.
The sun was setting as I posed for a picture. Yes. This would be a good time for a selfie, the dying sun in my eyes, my shadow falling on the scripted pillar at my back. Now a picture with my great valiant steed, the Mountain Bluebird, parked in front of it. If it could talk, what tales it would tell, how it had been freed from its little pen in Huntington Beach to roam the country far and wide. I got back in and started to drive, only the whirring of the tires on the blacktop as my soundtrack. Clouds came down, first golden, then turning red. They created a firestorm in the heavens, looking as if they could touch down and scorch the earth to sleep.
I was close to the Mexican border. The Mexican state of Sonora was just across the other side. When I got to Douglas there was a wall separating it from Agua Prieta. I turned right and followed it a half mile. Then I took another right, saving Mexico for my next journey. A mile away, I came across a Motel-6. Fifty-nine dollars a night. Not great, but I could live with it. I still had two more long days ahead of me.
It was just like the good old days, slumming in a Motel-6 on the Mexican border. I remembered my last extended stay in one, with my front tooth missing and the engine seized up in my pickup truck. Ah, the glory days. Don’t get me started.