From Thailand Tales from Thailand Escape.

I was standing on the side of the road with a baby under one arm, ‘shooting at rabbits’. This is a time that gives way to reflection for many of us. I was reflecting upon the slight differences between the cultures of California and the outer boondocks of northern Thailand. I was also mildly curious as to where the jeep had wandered off to. Not seriously concerned, but idly wondering.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. We encountered a woman with a baby standing on the side of the road, trying to catch a ride. From what I was able to glean, the baby’s mother had decided to give birth to an appendix and the baby was handed over to a relative in the city. But the relative had got called to go in to work and had given the baby to a friend to take care of. In turn, this friend had given the baby to a woman who was going near to the baby’s mothers village where she would deliver it to relatives of the kid. At any rate, that was the story as I put it together over the half hour of explanations. Explanations that became increasing hard to hear as we had just fixed the jeep.

Right. Fixed the jeep. Fixing the jeep meant summoning the powers of the universe into a divine enclave something along the lines of the writers of a television sit com. Something else would have to break. That was the absolute order of things and the entire universe would get out of balance if it didn’t happen.

And so, right after we got off the paved roads the jeep started sounding a little nosier. As I grabbed 4 wheel drive to scale a series of cliffs, the inevitable ‘next thing to go fut’ made itself much more evident. I had been thinking about replacing the exhaust pipes ever since I got the jeep. I use the words exhaust pipes in the loosest possible sense. A series of pieces of plumbing scarred by countless welds, twists, tweaks and turns would better describe. As we topped a rise the morning sun revealed another describe. The shadow the jeep casts with its two massive mirrors resembles a mouse according to my wife. She then named the critter the diesel powered mouse. That seemed extremely appropo to me at that moment. Whereas your average vehicle makes some pretty horrible noises sans muffler, that is hospital zone whispers in comparison to an industrial diesel snorting its way up an assortment of 10 to 20 degree grades.

As we approached another village we had an ever growing agenda. The baby had a load in its shorts that was close to bluging down to its ankles and making it decidedly bottom heavy. I was reminded of those ‘weeble’ toys. We could probably have stood the baby on the floor of the jeep and he would have just rocked and swayed in place. Unfortunately, I was not similarly equipped and over the past hour my desperation to find a convenient tree was growing. As we the strange woman in the vehicle propriety demanded certain dues which left me with my eyes turning yellow. We also had to stop and ask for directions, as well as working something out to refill the bay’s tank.

I stopped on the road just outside of the village. The ladies left  the snotdragon, as I had named the juicy little tyke, in the jeep while they went to make inquiries. A number of thoughts passed through what functional parts that remained of my brain. I saw an elderly farmer ‘shooting rabbits’, the local euphemism for relieving oneself on the side of the road, and decided to join him. As the jeep was hot from pulling the several thousand feet of mountains I didn’t wish to shut it down and have it barf out the radiator water. Unfortunately it had no parking brake and the only way to keep it from wandering off on it’s own was to shut the engine down and leave it in gear. But the grade we were on was a gentle slope which terminated in a vast open area in the center of the village. I had played this buffet before and knew exactly how fast and far the jeep would go. Not wanting to take any chances I grabbed the baby and stuffed it under my arm as I went to answer the calls of nature.

I exchanged pleasantries with the farmer then wandered off in the direction the jeep had gone. The driverless vehicle hadn’t caused all that much of a commotion as far as I could tell, and, contrary to what would be expected in Middletown USA, it only made people chuckle as they strolled out of its way. As I caught up with it I idle wondered how the ladies were doing with getting directions. This was the worst and commonest nightmare of wandering the outer boondocks. We once were given the ultimate direction of ‘turn left after the big tree’ while in a forest surrounded by several thousand big trees and rutted dirt side road every few hundred feet. This was another cultural difference. In USA blood pressure would start climbing as desperation started setting in around hour four or five of being completely lost while in these parts the next wrong turn only adds to the mounting humor of the situation. No reason to be concerned, we almost always find our way out before nightfall.

The ladies returned after a few minutes and I enjoyed a few more cultural differences. They had found a friendly household that had a hose. Just get the diaper off then sit the baby down on that flat rock and hose it off. They also hosed out and washed the diaper then exchanged it for a clean one from a woman who had been called to that house and us by coconut wireless. She was packing her own baby which she surrendered to us to watch while she nonchalantly dug out a boob and topped up our baby’s tank. Try finding that kind of service at your local gas station and convenience store.

The rest of the journey out was a bit anti climatic. We found the village with only three wrong turns and no more than an hour and a half of back tracking. The scenario of us bringing the long lost child home to its family was quite typical. An, ‘Oh, you got that kid I see’ reaction. Finally a girl of about 12 came out of a house and matter of factly relieved us of our charge and that was that. All that was left was to deliver the baby sitting woman to her own village a little distance off. A little distance being that village we can see, right over there in that valley, but never mind, she will walk. By road it would take over two hours.

And so all we had left to do was get the great thundering bellow monster down into the city and to a muffler shop. The entire exhaust pipe assembly had by then come completely loose and was dangling and dragging on the ground. I solved that issue by attaching our tow cable (push rope) to the remaining bits of pipe and a sturdy tree and ripping the entire mess out from under the vehicle. We made a few friends doing that, leaving a farmer couple and their kids in hysterics. We also left them with the remains of the exhaust pipes. I figured by the time we got out of the mountains they would have incorporated it into their irrigation system.