When Ricky Gilmore recovered, he realized he had been flung out of a truck by a couple whom he had wanted to invite home for steaks.
Gilmore, who lost the use of his legs in a car accident 19 years ago, was hitchhiking from his home in Newcomb, N.M. to a liquor store in the nearby town of Shiprock, when a couple pulled over to give him a ride. He remembered the man to be in his mid-20s, with cursive writing tattooed on his neck. The woman looked plump and 20 years older than her male companion, he later told the Farmington Daily Times. Gilmore says they dropped off his wheelchair at his house, where he’d offered to make them dinner, and then went for a joyride — which is where things turned ugly.
The couple became angry after Gilmore refused to share his alcohol. The tattooed man grabbed Gilmore by his paralyzed legs and tore him away from the truck, abandoning him on a rarely used road in the New Mexico desert.
Gilmore began to scoot himself with his hands and hips across the scrubland. When the temperature plunged overnight, he shelterd behind a bush from the desert winds.
Gilmore spent the entire next day dragging himself along the road. Twice, cars passed him by, but the drivers did nothing but honk at the 49-year-old as he waved for help.
He woke up sore and dejected after another night in the desert. There was no water, no food, no one.
“I could have easily gave up and said forget it, but I said I’m not going to freeze out here and I just kept on going,” Gilmore later said to the Associated Press. Which is what he did — dragging himself an estimated four miles from where he was abandoned until a man in a blue pickup spotted him and called an ambulance.
The doctors at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock found Gilmore’s wrist sprained and the flesh of his left leg and buttock cut to ribbons. The exertion and lack of water had left him with acute kidney failure. Holes riddled his jeans and shirt from days of rubbing against dirt and rock.
Gilmore said he has successfully hitchhiked for 19 years, but from now on, he will take a break from getting a ride from strangers.
“I just got on the devil’s ride,” Gilmore told the Daily Times of his ordeal. ”I just want to heal up and go home and change my life around and keep going.”