The beautiful, peaceful roadside park

By Heradio Luna —

He had traveled all the way from Oregon with no happenstance. He
pulled into the driveway at exactly 6 A.M. It was a Sunday morning and I
had just checked in to work at the service station located at the
southwest corner of highway 80 and highway 90. “Fill‘er up, please.”
Very polite, very courteous.

I did as instructed, and once he had paid, he drove across the
street, parked his car at the El Capitan Hotel and walked back across to
the service station. This man was a retired Nazarene preacher who was
fulfilling a lifelong dream. He wanted to see this great country called
America, and he was not going to be in any hurry. Strange as it may
sound, he spent the entire day conversing with me about many different
subjects: marriage, infidelity, children, school, different races and
languages of people, and above all, religion and what it meant to me.

I found his conversations quite interesting.

He had a knack for making me express my innermost feelings and
sentiments about whatever topic we were covering in our conversation.

At the end of the day, a twelve hour shift, he asked if Van Horn had
any roadside parks close by where he could spend the night. I directed
him to a beautiful, peaceful park three miles east of town.

That's exactly where he spent his last day on earth.

Three young boys traveling from Georgia to the west coast stopped at
the park and asked this man for a car jack. He obliged. He got out of
his car and opened the trunk to take out the jack, and as soon as he
lifted the trunk door, one of the guys hit him on the head with a gun,
knocking him down but not unconscious. He fell face up and saw the gun.
He pleaded for his life, to no avail.

The young man opened fire and kept on firing until he ran out of
ammunition. After taking his money, his traveler's checks, and whatever
else they deemed of value, they put his body in his own car, and one of
the guys drove back east in the direction they had come from. The other
two followed in their car. Highway 80 was under repair at the time and
there must have been over one hundred piles of chat on the side of the
road. Somewhere amongst these piles of crushed rock, they dumped and
covered his body.

They continued on their journey heading east on highway 290.
Interstate 10 did not exist at the time. One of the young men drove the
preacher's car to the Balmorhea State Park and left it there. The others
who were following picked him up and continued traveling east.
Somewhere along the road they picked up some beer, became intoxicated,
and had an accident in Austin.

They paid their way out of jail with the minister's own traveler's
checks. Evidently they were headed back to Georgia, and one of the guys
got out in Alabama. He has never been found. The other two managed to be
put in jail in Tallahassee, Florida and after the second week one
confessed to the killing in Van Horn.

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK