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A travel center for explorers of Baja California, México.

'Till Death Do Us Part
By Fred Hoctor   < >

The following is an excerpt from the book Baja Haha which, although a popular book among many veteran Baja travelers, seems not to have yet been discovered by the latest aficionados of the peninsula.  The author, a noted Baja editor of the Western Outdoor News for many years, resides in Baja along the Punta Banda peninsula.  For more information on the book, and a newly-released one-of-a-kind music/humor/recipe album entitled Fishin' With Fred, visit

The American retirement communities in Baja fairly burst with dingbats who march to different drummers.

Mr. Dimmick is one.  He's a guy who always seems to be in some kind of difficulty.

Dimmick -- "The first name's Theophilus, but (self-conscious chuckle) you can call me Ted" -- is a tall, skinny, disaster-prone nebbish who always has a story about his latest Baja "troubles," usually told in a monotone with sad resigned eyes and along reflective pauses.  He has taken to plastering his sparse strands of dyed-black hair down on his dome with some kind of goo, though I remember his when his follicles were more bountiful.  This, combines with his excessive Adam's apple, his paucity of flesh and a certain rolling gait, gives him the appearance of a semi-bald Ichabod Crane.

The way Dimmick explained one of his mishaps to me was this:  His wife had invited her mother, a lady of some 80 summers, to visit the Dimmicks' Baja home for a week.  After a rough trip down from Los Angeles, the old woman was feeling puny for the first few days, and even worse after that.

In fact, she had a massive heart attack and died.

Now, if you're a gringo (or, in this case, a gringa) you don't want to die in Baja.

The paperwork is all in triplicate.

It is altogether a very sticky business.

Mr. Dimmick, being a Baja resident for some years, knew all about that, which is probably why he did what he did.  He simply neglected to tell anyone in Mexican officialdom about the demise of the old girl.  Instead, he very carefully placed the body in a large green sleeping bag, zipped it up, and strapped the whole shebang to the top of his station wagon.

The problem, now, was to get the body through U.S. Customs.  Dimmick's wife stayed home, too upset to argue about his unconventional modus operandi.

Dimmick pulled up to the Customs gate with a smile.  Over the years he had learned that a smile was the best weapon to use in the border war.

It worked.

A young officer with curly blond hair and fuzzy cheeks peered briefly under a front fender, kicked a tire, and merely grunted at the lumpy green bag on the roof.  On the OK-to-pass signal, Dimmick took off so fast he nearly whiplashed himself. 

He buzzed up the freeway till he came to the big shopping center in San Ysidro, where he planned to call a mortician friend and tell him about the silent passenger above decks.  Dimmick was upset, naturally.  The worry of the border crossing was past, but he was still somewhat shaken by the whole experience, and he cursed under his breath as he cruised around the Safeway parking lot without finding an empty parking space.

Finally, after he had made three turns through the lot, a little blue Volkswagen eased out of a slot just eight spaces from the public pay phone.  Dimmick pulled into the space slowly, so as not to further jar the body, took a small book of addresses and phone numbers from his breast pocket and jingled the coins he had carefully loaded in the little zipper-pocket on his jacket.  Always a stickler for detail, his planning so far had been perfect.  He had even brought along an extra can of gasoline so he would not have to stop at a station where some nosy attendant might start asking about the supercargo. 

Then, just as he was about to head toward the empty phone booth, a large Mexican woman, dragging a cranky child, jammed herself and her kid into the booth, puffing to get the door shut.

Dimmick sat silently in the front seat, drumming his fingers against the face of his Bulova.  He had come this far, he could wait another few minutes.  He watched with irritation as the fat woman gesticulated while talking, nearly punching her fist through the glass panel behind the phone.

She talked for 25 minutes, and as she emerged, pushing the squealing child ahead of her, Dimmick sprinted toward the booth.

He rummaged for the change, set the nickels, dimes and quarters in neat stacks on the little steel shelf, and prepared to call the mortician's number.

As Dimmick's bony finger pushed the buttons, a young man wearing a fringed buckskin coat, leaning against an electric rocking horse in front of the market, stared intently at him.

The boy had a sallow complexion and a drooping left eye.  Dimmick would remember that later when making out the police report.

Slowly the boy sauntered over to the station wagon.  Then he jumped in and drove away.

Just drove away.

That was three years ago.

The police have never found the station wagon or Mr. Dimmick's mother-in-law.

The whole incident, Dimmick says, shaking his head sorrowfully, has placed considerable strain on his marital relationship.


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