Down and dirty at the carwash

Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.

Julie Carter

Today I drove by the car wash in town and predictably, there was one bay full of mud clods the size of a small dog. I smiled to myself and thought, “ranch pickup.”

However, since it hasn’t rained in months, I had to wonder what was the source of the mud? Pipeline leak, no doubt.

This is one of those do-it-yourself car washes, where a handful of quarters allow for a sudsy brushing, power spray and if it’s working, a light waxing coat for a finisher.

Rural community car washes get a slightly different clientele than those in the metro areas. It’s not uncommon to see a pickup with a stock trailer in tow pulled into one of the bays and everything, including the livestock, is getting a good wash down.

I didn’t always have access to the quarter brand of vehicle bathing, so when I did venture to the big city, always at the top of my very long list of errands and shopping demands was a trip through a car wash.

I would head directly to one where they would vacuum, dust, wash, polish, and then top it off with my choice of one of 10 flavors of smell good. For those that live where this amenity is a way of life, there would be no understanding of the feeling of “royalty” that came with this luxury.

I would gleefully turn the vehicle over to the guy with the vacuum cleaner and wander down the hall to the waiting room. While paying the attendant for the service, I would try to make polite conversation. Apparently that is a lost art in the city because she or he rarely seemed interested.

Waiting for my truck to come by the viewing window offered time for my favorite sport of people watching. It is the absolute best entertainment when in the city.

Quickly I realized I was quite underdressed for the city car wash scene. My Western boots and cowgirl denims paled next to the girl who had arrived in a sports car. She was dressed in black leather pants, sparkly sequined top and red five-inch spiked heels to complete her ensemble. The amazing part –it was only noon on a Tuesday.

Validating my feelings of inadequacy offered up by my country couture, the manager came in and told me there was still quite a bit of mud in the wheel wells of the pickup. “We’ll have to run it through a second time,” he said. I wasn’t sure if his tone indicated disgust, amazement, pity or some of all.

I thanked him and sat back down thinking I’d probably have to find a different car wash next time I was in town. I could easily imagine the closed sign arriving quickly in the window were I ever to return.

How do you explain to the folks in the city, specifically at the carwash, that to the country folk, mud is like gold? We take a lot of pride in showing off our mud and congratulate each other on the good fortune to have it.

So to all of you who find your life at the end of a dirt road. May the mud be with you.

Julie can be reached for comment at



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