Today, I’d like to continue the story of how I came to work with Bill and Dan Denning. If you missed the first three installments, catch up here, here, and here.

The train rolled into Mazatlán’s main marshalling yard, and the engineer uncoupled the locomotive. Time for me to find a new ride.

I climbed down the side of the gondola, picked my way over three strings of parked railcars hemming me in, and made my way out of the freight yard.

I walked toward the ocean. A large ferry was docked at a quay. Eighteen-wheelers were lining up on the wharf. They were loading them one by one onto the top deck of the ferry with a pneumatic elevator built into the ass of the boat.

I went over to the little office and poked my head in the door.

“Where’s the ferry going?” I asked.

“San Lucas.”

“What time?”


“Can I get a ride?”

“Cargo only,” he said.

I walked to the wharf. A port official was standing by the loading ramp.

“Puedo pasar?” I asked.


I retreated to some nearby shade to consider my options. Then, as if a mystical force was intervening on my behalf, the guard lit a cigarette, walked off the quay, and disappeared!

I picked up my bag and walked up the ramp, expecting – with each footstep – to hear shouting behind me. There wasn’t any. I didn’t dare look around.

On the boat, I climbed a staircase to the second deck. There was a 20-foot-high hollow metal column shaped like the tailfin of an airplane at the back of the boat, among a tangle of marine-grade ropes and chains. There was an oval-shaped cut-out in one of its sides.

I crawled in and wedged myself inside it – out of sight – for the rest of the afternoon.

When I saw the late afternoon sunlight suddenly pour in through the oval and paint a slow arc across the floor, I knew we’d left port.

To be continued…

– Tom Dyson