One hot July a few years back, my friend Bill and I were traveling from Salt Lake City to Mexico when his '67 Bus konked out. Turned out it was the generator. We were out in the middle of the vast Navajo Reservation, about sixty miles from Badwater, Arizona and 80 miles from Fanbelt, New Mexico. Beautiful red desert and mesas all around. About a mile off in the distance we watched a young girl herd sheep. Remembering a sizable junkyard about thirty miles back, we decided to give it a shot.
We finally heard a car coming down the road. Bill stuck out his thumb (the engine hatch was open: we were obviously S.O.L.). Three young Navajos pulled up in an old pickup, pulled some chains out of the back and towed us back to the junkyard. They refused payment and wished us good luck. I spied what looked like an old VW Bus way off across the desert. We opened the door to the Quonset hut that served as the office. The air was cool from the swamp box cooler humming in the window. It felt great. There were several Navajo men sitting around, taking a break from the heat. They looked at us, expressionless.
Bill said, "Hey, fellas, we're knee-deep in shit right now, I'm sure hoping y'all can help out a couple a down-on-their-luck, dusty-assed sonsabitches." They just stared, no expression. "Uh, anyway," he continued, "the generator in our old VW Bus just went south and I's wonderin' if you got an old Volkswagen maybe we could get some parts from."
Finally the guy in charge there (?) said, "No. Don't got that."
I said, "I noticed that you've got an old VW bus out there in the field. Mind if we look at it?"
He shrugged, "Look if you want."
So, off we trudged through the desert, with a few tools and a couple of cold Coors Tallboys.
The bus was a pre-'68 model and had a 12 volt generator, so we figured it must be a '66 or '67.
An hour or so later, we had extracted the entire top portion of the engine shroud, complete with generator, fan, voltage regulator, pulley, fanbelt, etc.
We took turns carrying the thing back to the office. "Well, we found somethin' that might work here," said Bill. "So how much you take for this old thing?"
The head guy said, "Hundred dollars." The Navajo men all glanced at one another, waiting to hear whether we would cough up that much dough.
We looked at each other. Suddenly Bill's eyes lit up. "Hang on a minute. I got somethin' I GOTTA show you."
Bill went out to our Bus and, digging through some boxes in the back, brought in the trophy: a stuffed armadillo, its feet nailed to a varnished wood plaque, the kind you might find in a Mexican tourist market. He'd picked it up for a couple of bucks at a garage sale. It had a couple of toes missing from one foot (paw?).
Suddenly, the men's eyes opened wide with amazement. They'd apparently never seen such a wondrous creature. You could tell they loved animals by their expressions.
"Trade?" Bill asked.
The men looked at each other for a few seconds and the head guy said, "Yeah." You'd think he'd just won first place at the rodeo, from the proud look on his face.
So, we took the gizmo out to the Bus and, in a couple of hours, after push starting it, had it running. The generator ran fine and the idiot light went out. We didn't have any more problems (mechanical, anyway) for the rest of the trip. But that's another story.