Just this week I had a reminder of how quickly history can disappear on Route 66. On the western side of Truxton, Arizona, once a small but lively town until the interstate opened in 1978, on the opposite side of the road to the old Orlando Motel, was a boarded-up building. Few, if any, people took any notice of it and if they did it was to smile at the misspelled ‘NO TREAPASSING’ sprayed on the side. But this was once someone’s livelihood and the scene, one might argue, of a miscarriage of justice.
For sixteen years Wesley and Alice Bryant had run the grocery store in Truxton but in 1976 they had been robbed and the beating they suffered during the course of that crime put them in the hospital. They asked their grandson Guy Mefford to come from California and run the store for him, although that hadn’t been what Guy had been planning for his life. An Army vet who had served in Vietnam, he wanted to train as an auto mechanic and he was just doing just that when the call came from Truxton. The Bryants were by now in their seventies and so Guy and his wife Esther ended up staying and taking over the store.
After the interstate opened, trade fell away although Guy liked the fact it gave him time to sit with his feet up and read a book. The store didn’t make much but, as he said, they didn’t need much. Esther, on the other hand, wasn’t keen on the isolation. If Guy was on a run into town, she would lock the door if she didn’t like the look of a potential customer.But over time the Meffords found what little they had was being stolen from them. By 1990, the store had been burgled some 50 times over the previous six years. The police could be of little use – the nearest officer was in Kingman, 45 minutes away, and on one occasion when Esther detained a shoplifter it took almost three hours for law enforcement to turn up. By the summer of 1990, Guy was fed up. So one night he hid in his store and waited. He didn’t have to wait too long; 34-year-old Victor Randall dropped through a hole in the roof and instantly made for the beer cooler. Guy shouted at him to stop, and when he didn’t, he shot Randall in the buttocks.
One might think this was appropriate if rough justice. Randall pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, 200 hours of community service and four years of probation. That might have been the end of it, and made future burglars think twice about robbing the store. But in June 1991 Guy Mefford found himself in court, charged with aggravated assault … and convicted. The judge was harsh; not only did he sentence Guy to four years’ probation but he ordered him to pay $10,000 into a Hualapai youth programme. And then there was a final blow. Judge James Chavez ordered that Guy Mefford sell his store by 1st January 1992.
Guy had little option. The store was closed and sold. As far as I know, it never reopened. Esther, who was eleven years his senior, died in Los Angeles two years later. When Guy died in Mesa in 2008, the funeral home didn’t even know his date of birth and had to appeal for information.
For years the store has remained on the side of Route 66, overlooked by tourists, a little snapshot of a domestic tragedy. And then last year it was gone, demolished by the county.