You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead— your next stop, it’s the location of the Stolen Soldier in the Twilight Zone— da, da, da da— da da da da.
Esperando and I took off at 10 am on a sunny day to go to Loreto and pickup visitors at the airport. We had a pleasant day for our 3-hour drive. A bit out of Mulege (about an hour into our trip) on the opposite side of the highway we approached a humvee full of soldiers, with a foot soldier in front of them who held a rifle and was scouring the bushes to the side of the road. The main dude flagged us down and said do you speak Spanish, did you see the soldier? Esperando thought he was referring to the one with the rifle and wondering why we didn’t pull over. We both said yes, there he is in front. No, no, said the officer, another soldier further ahead. Esperando said, oh have you lost one? No said the officer, one of our soldiers was stolen. Stolen? Yes, stolen accidentally. The soldiers were at the checkpoint (still an hour and 15 minutes further ahead of us, where you are alternatively waved through or they ask you to get out of the vehicle so they can inspect it) and this soldier was inside a trailer inspecting it when the trailer door accidentally got shut with him still inside. The trailer took off with him in it. They didn’t realize until later that he was missing. The officer looked quite sheepish. No we didn’t see any soldier, we said.
We got back on the highway and continued our drive. Periodically one or the other of us would burst into laughter. We considered all kinds of variations on the ending of this soldier’s adventures. We discussed what the gringos would think when they arrived at their destination and found a soldier was in their trailer, would they get all the way to the border—would they actually get to their home before they opened the trailer and discovered they had accidentally kidnapped someone from the Mexican army? How do you deal with that? Boy, I said, I wish we knew how this one ended, it’s just so amazing. I thought of the news article I read several weeks ago where some Mexican army soldiers got arrested in the U.S. by the border patrol when they accidentally got lost on the wrong side of the border while on patrol.
We traveled on for another 45 minutes, and there on our side of the highway was a young soldier in fatigues trying to hitch a ride. He looked about 16 years old. There he is! we cried. We pulled over to pick him up and asked, are you the lost soldier? Oh yes, he said! Your comrades are way up the road looking for you. We asked him what happened. Well it turns out the trailer was a big refrigerated semi full of chile peppers. He said it was really cold inside and he was sure he would freeze to death. He pounded on the sides of the truck but the driver couldn’t hear him over the highway noise. Finally the trucker encountered some problems and stopped the truck, and then our soldier started pounding on the floor of the truck. The man wondered why his chiles were making such a racquet and opened the trailer door to find our soldier inside. Now our soldier took out across the desert as a shortcut (and probably this is why his comrades missed seeing him) then came out to the highway and starting hitching. No one would give him a ride until we came along. It’s a good thing we did come along, as it was 30 minutes of hard driving to the checkpoint and would have been a veeeeeeeeery long walk. We dropped him off, much the joy of the other soldiers who had stayed to man the checkpoint. Boy I thought we’ve really earned some brownie points with this one—it should be like having a ‘get out of jail free’ card coming back when they recognize our vehicle and thank us for the favor and wave us on through from this time forward to evermore. Guess what? No one recognized us on the way back, it was all a new crew manning the checkpoint. Everyday—just a new adventure down here.