The desert air was crisp and sharp on the morning of February 3rd, 1980, but the cacti and scrub brush that peppered the bleak flatland near Lozen, Arizona didn’t mind the weather. Winter, spring, summer, fall, it was all the same to these hardy inhabitants
of the desert.
It was a cloudless day. A beat-up Pinto station wagon wove erratically down Highway 60, a newly constructed four-lane highway. Separated by a hundred yards of sagebrush, the new highway ran parallel to old Highway 58, a two-lane road that was a throwback to
the Route 66 days. Highway 58 had served earlier, more gentle generations of drivers, and it was because of nostalgia that many locals had urged the City Council to let the old highway stand and not tear it down. The Council had agreed, at least for the time
being, and even though 58 was an eyesore, it was still there, cracks and all, with grass sprouting through the crumbling asphalt.
But Marvin Niebold didn’t care about all that. He was nursing a broken heart. His wife of forty years had left him and moved out, leaving Marvin with the reason for her departure—a huge drinking problem.
Marvin, a car salesman, was slumped over, bleary-eyed, his potbelly caressing the steering wheel. He was drunk and barely awake. He had spent the night boozing in a roadside bar a few miles down the highway to the west and was due at work in two hours.
A local radio program featuring radio host Blake Burdett was blaring loudly. Burdett had just finished playing a song.
“That was Simon and Garfunkel’s gorgeous ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ It’s seven a.m., an’ speakin’ of troubled water, this Sports Dome thing’s gettin’ outta hand. My wife Lanie and I are hardly speakin’—she’s a Pro-Domer, I’m a No-Domer. I think it’ll bankrupt
the county but Lanie doesn’t care about that. She was a cheerleader in high school, and she’s all hopped up about the idea of havin’ a spankin’ new place where she can see high school jocks play football or watch track meets or attend rodeos and other events.
I suggested she get a lobotomy, she suggested I jump off the roof. Ouch!”
Marvin was clutching the steering wheel tightly. He’d slowed to a speed of forty miles an hour because of his double vision, but the car was still weaving down the road, crossing over into the oncoming lane. Fortunately, there weren’t any other cars on the
highway. Marvin’s eyelids drooped momentarily. He shook himself awake, looked back at the road, then glanced casually to his right. His puffy eyes widened.
He was staring at a profuse column of bubbles rising into the early morning sky a great distance away. The bubbles were reflecting the early morning rays of sunlight and looked like thousands of tiny sparkling suns rising upward into a sapphire sky. The sight
so awestruck the tipsy driver, he forgot he was behind the wheel of a car. The station wagon swerved, spun off the road, and came to a rest upside down. A moment later, Marvin stuck his head out, looked around, and crawled out as the disk jockey continued
his harangue: “Lines are still open for that call-in vote: Pro-Domers use 555-1231, No-Domers use 555-1232, and watch your language, folks, my kids Sarah and Janice are listenin’!”
A little while later, the Sheriff’s patrol car and a tow-truck pulled up to find Marvin sleeping on the road beside his overturned vehicle. As the tow-truck driver hooked up the Pinto, the Sheriff, a tall, leather-faced, forty-five-year-old Chiricahua Apache
named Goyathlay Terrell, awakened the weary drunk and began instructing him in the intricacies of walking a straight line. As he negotiated the mark, Marvin tried to explain to Sheriff Terrell the reason for his accident by pointing in the direction of the
bubbles. The Sheriff looked over and saw a bungalow a quarter mile away. The sky above was clear and blue.
When the Sheriff looked back, Marvin had fallen to the ground and was lying on his back staring blankly at the sky. Terrell helped the woozy man to his feet and into his patrol car. As the car sped away, the faint sounds of a trumpet playing Ravel’s Bolero
could be heard piercing the clear desert air.