Detour never quite explained

Tucumcari has seen more than its share of travelers, thanks mostly to historic Route 66.

Sometimes the strangers leave strange stories behind.

That was the case when a confused, unemployed trumpet player passed through 50 years ago this month.

B. William Kittler, 29, left his California home late on May 22, 1962, with his girlfriend, Judy Sell. They were en route to Kittler's former home in Bismarck, N.D., when they stopped for gas and cigarettes in Tucumcari. Sell said she was driving when they left town, headed for Texas, and Kittler was sleeping.

Near the state line, he suddenly woke up, demanding to know where they were going, according to a story in the Albuquerque Tribune, distributed by United Press International.

"Where in hell are you taking me? Back to California?" Sell said he asked her.

Moments later, she said Kittler took the wheel and turned the car around, and they headed back west toward Logan. At Logan, they turned north on NM 39 and drove 90 miles to Abbott. From there they traveled about 15 miles on a dirt road, while Kittler sang a Hopi buffalo hunt song. He was fascinated with Native American music, Sell said.

Then the road ended and they hit a fence. Then he drove his MGA sports car through the fence, then through another fence and then another.

Barbed wire wrapped around the vehicle's drive shaft and finally brought the couple to a stop in a pasture somewhere in Colfax County, UPI reported.

Sell said Kittler exited the car and started walking, throwing away his keys, one at a time.

"Where are you going?" she asked him.

"I'm going out there with those cows," he told her.

Newspaper accounts show Sell walked a different direction until she found a farmhouse and called state police. She never saw her boyfriend alive again.

Police located his body almost a month later on a nearby ranch. He was nude, his clothes piled nearby. A coroner ruled he died from natural causes.

Sell said Kittler did not drink or use narcotics, but he had been "sort of confused," in the days leading up to their road trip.

"Why he did this, I have absolutely no idea," she told UPI.

David Stevens writes about regional history on his blog at www.highplainsyesterdays.com. Contact him at dstevens@qcsunonline.com

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