Grand Canyon Love Story chapter one

Honeymoon Chariot

The rutted dirt road which years later would be known as America’s “Main Street” — Highway 66 — did not even widen as it skirted the wind-bitten service station and general store that made up the business section of Peach Springs, Arizona. On our map the place stood out boldly, the only dot with a name on it along the map’s thin wavy line, representing 90 odd miles in distance, stretching from Kingman to Seligman. My brother Winfield and I had expected a town. But it didn’t matter. We weren’t nearly as interested in Peach Springs as we were in its surroundings.

“Look,” my brother exclaimed excitedly as he crouched by the dusty roadside near the store to examine the map. “The Grand Canyon must be only about 20 miles from here — at least the lower end of it.”

Laying down my pack and faded bedroll, I stooped in the dust beside him “Yeah, 20 miles, but just where will that get us? We’ll soon be at Williams. That’s where you head into the real Grand Canyon. Let’s go. “1

The two of us, hitchhikers before that term had even been coined, and when the twentieth century was still only a wide-eyed youth, were seeking our first view of the Canyon, after having already traveled over 11,000 miles to reach it.

Cars on that lonely northern Arizona road were even scarcer than the area’s population.

In the excitement of finding that we were so close to one of the major goals of our trip we neglected to stock up on food and water before leaving Peach Springs. By midafternoon our two-quart water pail was empty; the only food left in our packs was a pound of uncooked rice. No car had come by, in either direction, for over an hour.
“We’ll go hungry and thirsty tonight,” was all Winfield could say.

A shimmering black dot, no larger than a flyspeck, appeared far back on the desert road. h be a car. Never before on our trip had we flagged a driver down. But we needed water badly. As the vehicle approached, Win stood in the road, making a signal that we wanted a drink.

A Ford truck, equipped with a h¦ me-built house body, braked to a grunting stop. We were soon making the acquaintance of George and Jane Eberly.
“We’re almost out of water ourselves,” George explained. “There’s a little left in the canteen — enough lo you can each have a good swallow.”

We both took our swallows. The lukewarm water tasted more delectable than the sparkling apple cider which we savored each autumn back in our Michigan home.
“Can’t we make room for them on the bed, George?” It was Jane Eberly coming to our rescue. George was agreeable and we were soon comfortably resting on a real bed with the long desert miles melting behind us.

“We’re from Washington state. Moving to Cuba, New Mexico.” From his driver’s seat George had to raise his voice to a shout so that we could hear him above the clatter of the old Ford housetruck as it bumped and careened along the rutted road. Smiling at Jane, he added, “We just got married.”

Winfield and I had some difficulty concealing our amazement. A few moments before, we had been parched with thirst. Now here we were, charioting over the desert in the traveling home of a couple of honeymooners. The Grand Canyon state was treating us well.

Although newlyweds, George and Jane had a kid — a small baby goat named Lily. The little fellow had been abandoned on a mountainside, nearly frozen to death. Jane had adopted it, nursed it back to health, and named it Lily Eberly. The young animal was now so full of life, so interested in the two newcomers, and so curious about everything both inside and outside the car, that the four of us sprinkled the trail with laughter all the way to Seligman. It was a jolly time.

At Seligman, we offered to leave our new friends, but they almost resented the idea. The four of us, plus Lily, camped that night a little east of Ashfork and cooked a meal befitting two joyous newlyweds on a honeymoon, and two hardy hikers on an odyssey across America. For over an hour, we talked, sang, and showed pictures. We heard about the way they had met, and what a fine wedding they’d had. They told us of their plans for New Mexico.

The conversation turned to us. “So you’re brothers,” George said for the second time since we’d been talking around the campfire, and I explained that Winfield was only 15 months older than I.

“What in heaven’s name brought you way out here?” chimed in Jane as she rekindled the fire with some dead pine boughs.

“That’s simple. We’ve come to see the Grand Canyon.”

Winfield’s answer proved to be not so simple after all. Around the glowing camp fire, we told our newly found friends the reasons for this unusual trip of ours and sketched in — as related a bit more fully in the next several pages — the highlights which had brought us to this moment.