New York writer Ray Jadwick had been through a lot in his journey out West.
Roswell, New Mexico: He bought a pair of rattlesnake boots from a roadside Indian who kept calling him "Bro."
Tombstone, Arizona: He ran into a guy who thought he was Johnny Ringo reincarnate--the legendary foe of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
Phoenix: He worked a week on a construction crew, picked up a paycheck and split.
Then the 41-year-old Jadwick, a self-styled romantic who'd hit the road intending to send back dispatches about his Western wanderings--and to spend as little money as possible doing it--hit Littleton, Colorado. There he had his most memorable Western experience, after which he hightailed it back to New York as fast he could.
First, a little background:
In 1993 Jadwick began publishing an underground 'zine called the New York Lizard in Cooperstown, New York. Last fall he set out to chronicle the West in a used Suzuki Samurai. He called his stories "Lizard Tales" and produced several page-long pieces.
In the inaugural "Lizard Tales" article, from March 1998, he wrote, "It occurs me to that if one were to find 52 places around the country to be welcomed for a week, he (or she) would be free to travel the country for the rest of one's life without seeing (or mooching off) the same people more than once a year."
His first leg of the journey took him from New York all the way to Dell City, Texas. That's around 2,100 miles, but Jadwick had his reasons.
The writer's association with Dell City began ten years ago, when he and a girlfriend ran into car trouble driving through west Texas. They managed to find Dell City, a town of about 400 people that sits, surrounded by alfalfa sprouts, 100 miles east of El Paso and 100 miles west of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Eighty-eight-year-old Jenny Tietsworth runs one of the two bars in Dell City; Bonnie Prather runs the other. Back in 1988, Prather put Jadwick and his girlfriend up in her bar, on an air mattress. Jadwick stayed for a few weeks, did some carpentry work to earn a few bucks and then left.
If the Texans of Dell City are prejudiced about anything, it's toward people who don't work for a living. And Prather (somewhat) fondly remembers Jadwick as a Freddie Freeloader.
"I think he's just a damned idiot," she says. "He's a lovable idiot. I was taught you get a job and you keep it. He's a guy that wants to be on the move."
When Jadwick arrived back in Dell City this year, folks still remembered the Yankee. "For one thing, I'm a New Mexican Texan and he's a New Yorker," says Prather. "You know, you never forget how a rattlesnake bite feels."
Prather says she found that, even after ten years, Jadwick was still a pain in the ass. "He never shuts up, always wandering around, asking what's this for, what's that for," she says.
Jadwick stayed with Jenny Tietsworth this time around, helping to fix her plumbing and roof. He did other odd repair jobs around town. He tried to match Prather shot for shot in a night of drinking and failed. "I wouldn't fuck with her," he wrote admiringly in a story for the Lizard, "and neither should you."
Leaving Dell City, he fired off dispatches from Kingman, Arizona, as well as from Phoenix and Tombstone. He headed through New Mexico and then into Colorado.
Jadwick was on his way to meet Joe Tietsworth, Jenny's son, who up until last year ran a bar of his own in northwest Denver. The plan was simple: Drop off some family photos for Joe, who sold his venerable blues joint, Ziggie's, in November 1997, then head back East.
But at the corner of Bowles Avenue and Federal Boulevard this past May 3, Jadwick's plan was derailed. Littleton police officer Carl Sharp spotted Jadwick driving through a red left-turn arrow and pulled him over. It turns out that Jadwick's trusty Suzuki, which he'd driven all the way from New York, wasn't insured. Also, the temporary registration had expired in August 1997.
What's more, wrote Officer Sharp in his incident report, "I noticed the expiration on the temporary plate had been altered to show an expiration date of 5/29/98." He asked Jadwick about this, and Jadwick told him he had altered the date so he could make it back to New York without being pulled over.
Sharp says the forgery was pretty weak: Little white squares with the altered numbers were pasted onto the tag. Jadwick was scared, Sharp recalls, but polite. Sharp confiscated the tag.
Sharp also smelled marijuana inside the car. Jadwick admitted to him that there was a small amount--seven grams, as it turned out--in a white three-ring binder in a milk crate behind the driver's seat. Jadwick was arrested, then issued a summons and released. His car, however, was towed. All of his possessions were in the Suzuki, save the clothes on his back and a small tote bag of photographs. (It was a tough day for Sharp, too. His squad car overheated during the stop and wound up in the shop overnight.)
Jadwick started walking.
Several miles later he appeared at the end of Joe Tietsworth's driveway, near the intersection of Kipling Street and Coal Mine Avenue. Tietsworth was out shooting hoops with his son when Jadwick came up the driveway wearing jeans, cowboy boots that didn't fit, and a shirt "that doesn't belong on anyone. Even a dumpster rat wouldn't have picked it up."
Tietsworth further recalls that Jadwick stank.
"Are you Joe Tietsworth?" the stranger asked. "My name is Ray, and I'm a friend of your mom's."
Tietsworth didn't believe him. "I'm thinking, 'What does this guy want?'" he recalls. But then Jadwick started in with details about Jenny and Dell City and fished out the photographs he was to give to Tietsworth.
Tietsworth helped Jadwick get his car, which was at an impound lot on South Santa Fe Drive. Once the police signed the paperwork to release the vehicle, Jadwick made a detour to Safeway to get some cash from his nineteen-year-old son via Western Union, which seems to be his primary funding source.
Tietsworth offered Jadwick a shower, but the beleaguered writer was anxious to get on his way. "He said, 'I want to get out of the state of Colorado,'" Tietsworth recalls.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Jadwick, who did not return Westword's calls, apparently hightailed it back to New York without incident.
Should he return to Denver, Tietsworth is still willing to play host. "If he ever came back to town, I'd say, 'Ray, come over,'" says Tietsworth.
But don't count on Jadwick's return. Although he was supposed to appear in Arapahoe County Court Monday to answer to charges of displaying an altered number on his plates, driving an uninsured vehicle and possessing one ounce or less of marijuana, he failed to appear. A warrant for his arrest has been issued.
Read all about it in the next edition of the New York Lizard.