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I fished in my brain and came up with, “Do you know Tom Stapleton?”
“Yes, where is Tom?” Six Degrees of Separation turned out to be only one.
The next morning, Arturo showed up at 8:30 a.m. with his tour-mobile, a pickup truck out-
fitted with automobile bench seats in the truck bed. He surprised us with two additions,
Heidi and Amber, mother and daughter, whom we had seen on the bus ride into the canyon.
Arturo said we could split the cost five ways. I was surprised by his generosity. A four-
hour tour, $30 divided by five, brought the price down to $6 each.
I hopped in the back. Arturo drove a block, stopped at a store and called out for gas. There
are no gas stations in Batopilas. A woman, wearing a pink tank top and jeans with a red
stripe highlighting the pant's seam came out from the store with a four-gallon white plastic
container. She inserted a rubber tube into the gas container. The woman sucked on the tube
and siphoned the gas from the plastic container into the truck's tank.
We drove out of Batopilas towards Satevo, the site of an early Spanish mission church. We
bounced and weaved on the rough road. I told Carmen, “I haven't had such a great ride
since my dad hauled trash and I got to ride in back, but without this comfort.”
We had a great view of the canyon, the steep walls, the river, the desert cacti in bloom
and the cows. “More cows than Texas,” I said. A bull faced off the truck then changed his
Arturo stopped when Mission San Miguel Archangel came into view. It was a National
Geographic picture-perfect view: a canyon, river, swinging bridge, ancient bell-towered
mission, originally built in 1707, set in a valley with a mountain backdrop.
There was a small community living in Satevo. Arturo asked a girl to get the key to the San
Miguel Archangel church. The interior was simple, without benches. The building was un-
usual. It was built of red bricks and designed in the form of a Roman cross, the cross arms
rounded, not squared off.
Outside I learned about the pitalla tree, a hands-on experience. It looked like a young cot-
tonwood. When I stepped up on a stone wall for a better angle to photograph San Miguel
Archangel, I put my hand on the pitalla tree for support. My hand jumped in reflex. It was
my first opportunity ever to use the tweezers in my Swiss Army knife. Seven needles im-
planted themselves into my left hand. The four in my fingers I pulled out with my right
hand. But three broke off in my palm, and once again I praised the Swiss.
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