I headed north on Highway 666, unaware of this number’s modern-day association with the antichrist or the devil. (Some 15 years later, as a result of its Satanic connotation and periodic thefts of its official highway signs, the “Devil’s Highway” would be renumbered/renamed 491.) Scattered along my first 10 miles of 666, ghostly apparitions coalescing in my headlights, were some one dozen northbound hitchhikers, presumably Navajos. On the one hand, it was an odd sight: in a nation overflowing with cars and trucks, all these individuals afoot and seeking rides; on the other, it suggested a solidarity, a remarkable faith, surely tribal in nature, on the part of each and every one of these hitchhikers that, sooner or later, despite the obvious competition, he or she could count on a car or truck for a lift to Sheep Springs, Newcomb, Sanostee, Little Water, or Shiprock before the 10 o’clock weather report. Few, I sensed, are forever left by the wayside in Navajoland.
Although, that night at least, no thanks to me: I passed them all, wiping their existence away in the wake of my high beams. My current solitude was too delicious, too white man, obviously very un-tribal. Meanwhile, KTNN broadcast “No Reason to Quit” by Merle Haggard, the ultimate drunkard’s rebel yell (without the yelling, however, only Haggard’s incomparably beautiful baritone).
After 70 more miles of darkness, flecked only by the occasional light of a house near to or distant from the 666, I arrived in Shiprock, New Mexico, a veritable metropolis in this remote country, for the first time in a dozen years. At a Taco Bell, I purchased some Mexoid and a Pepsi to go.