Nothing very extraordinary happened during our week-long and accidental stay at Black Warrior in 1974. Our Land Cruiser, La Tortuga, was busted and in repair. Without a vehicle we had lots of time to kill, walking around town and sitting in small restaurants talking or reading over coffee. I had always kept a log and that filled my time. Mary Ann read romance novels. I was jealous.
One day, out of boredom, I decided it would be nice to have a bottle of red wine. I had no idea where to find one or even if there was a liquor store in the town. I left Mary Ann in our room, reading her book, and walked down the side streets to the main thoroughfare into and out of the town, a wide dirt road. In the center of town was a single, dust covered taxi. I asked the driver if he knew of a store that sold wine and liquor. He certainly did and immediately gestured for me to get into the cab. I told him I was fine to walk. He said it was too far to walk. He was animated and quick and insistent that I sit in his cab and be escorted to this store. Seeing no simple alternative, I climbed into the front passenger seat and we took off, east.
We passed through the salt company part of town and continued through the eastern part and we drove through the dump and straight out of town, under my constant questioning and his strong assurances that he knew exactly what I needed. We drove to the junction of the transpeninsular highway and, where the road forked for the northern and southern routes, we went straight, right up the middle.
We intersected the transpeninsular highway at 90 degrees and still we continued east into the desert. We drove several kilometers into an apparent nothingness. I would have been concerned, but my host was so carefree and casual. After a number of kilometers from the highway I could see a cluster of buildings in the distance. We entered the odd assemblage of fifteen or twenty one- and two-story structures spread across both sides of the road. There were men and women crossing the dusty street and coming from and going into the buildings. Many of the buildings had large signs advertising the availability of beer, music and dancing.
The driver stopped in front of one of these and jumped out and opened my door and with a bow and outstretched arm ushered me inside a dingy cantina. I'm thinking maybe they sell wines and liquors to go also. No such luck.
We entered a dark, large and windowless room with a bar and number of tables, a scattering of chairs. A number of men and two women stood at the bar, drinks scattered around. More men and women were sitting around the tables, some playing cards and dice. Rowdy recorded Mexican Mariachi music radiated from a dusty, battered record player in a corner of the room. Several couples were dancing. Many of the men were drunk. A sign on the wall told me that I could buy a dance for a peso, about a dime. I could judge from the scene that I could buy more than a dance for more than a peso. A scene out of the early American west, dark and dank, smoky, smelly, sleazy. I realized then that this actually was the early American west. It was just on another side of a border.
The place was a grimy dive and I was stuck with my friendly driver whose feelings I didn't want to hurt. But I had mixed emotions with the sorry sight of this roomful of dusty cowboys and oily overweight prostitutes. We went to the bar and I ordered two beers, one for my driver and one for me. I told him that my mediocre Spanish had perhaps conveyed the wrong message and that I really did just want a bottle of wine. I said that we should enjoy our beer and get back to town because people would be worried about me.
We watched the women, loudly mouthed and dressed, sidling with their men around the dance floor, their bodies close and suggestive and rocking with the music. I assumed that the second floors of the buildings were bedrooms. I was happy that this town existed for these people. But I had been ready to leave before we entered.
We finished our beers and I convinced a red-eyed semi-conscious fellow beside us that I really couldn't, at the moment, enjoy the services they had to offer, whatever they were and that I didn't know how to dance, thank you. We left, got back into the car and returned to Black Warrior, with my apologies to the driver.
I looked at our various maps of Baja occasionally over the many years since my experience with the friendly drunks and whores and have not found this town identified. Until today. As I finished reviewing this before posting I opened my Baja Almanac and turned to N-29. There I spot it. It's just the right distance from Guerrero Negro, out in the forlorn desert. And it does have a name, after all. It's Las Bombas. The Pumps. How appropriate.