In the very beginning of January 1992 my friend John DeHeart and I had just finished driving shifts from Pueblo, Colorado to San Diego, California. We were both 23 years old at the time, we shared a two bedroom apartment in the North Park community of San Diego. Both from Pueblo, Colorado, we’d both just spent the winter holiday season with our families and closest friends. The drive is more than 1,100 miles, it’s an 18 hour drive. By the time we had walked through the door we were both very tired from the road. But as we walked in the phone was ringing. I answered. It was a friend of a friend. She was crying. She gave me the news; Rusty Baird had been in a fatal accident.
Just two weeks earlier DeHeart and I had arrived in Pueblo. We met up with Rusty within hours of arriving. John at his parent’s house, and I at my dad’s place, Rusty swung by each. The three of us headed off to the Pueblo Mall to get some last minute Christmas shopping done. The whole way DeHeart was going on about the new Dire Straits CD that had just been released. So while at the mall DeHeart stopped by the music store to purchase it. Rusty had a CD player in his truck (a big deal back then), so as we exited the Mall parking lot we had already started listening to the new Dire Straits’ “On Every Street”. A few years earlier Rusty was one of the first persons I knew who had a CD player. His original collection only included a handful of CD’s, of which I remember Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. As we entered the Interstate 25 Southbound, I still remember vividly Rusty had pointed out a shoe on the road. He had made some remark like, “how come you only ever see one shoe in the road?” I am screwing it up though, because however he had said it made us all laugh.
The next week or so was fun. Spending time my family, and going out with my ole friends every chance I had. Rusty was engaged to be married, and the two of them were shacked up in a cozy little abode down the street from his parents’ homes, just across from Pueblo’s City Park, and overlooking the Arkansas River. It was a great holiday season. All of my childhood friends, now in their early twenties, were in the makes of moving into adulthood — but not quite there yet. It was a moment indeed.
Receiving that phone call was really rough. Rusty, and another close friend Vince Murray, and one of Vince’s relatives were in a car crossing Pueblo’s Main street at the exact moment that a teen-aged driver had run a red light and t-boned Rusty’s car. Both Vince and Rusty died in that car accident. DeHeart and I found ourselves on the next available flight back to Colorado to attend both funerals.
I’ve fond memories of both Rusty and Vince. Around 1987 I had a job as a cashier working for my stepmother, working at the Loaf’N Jug downtown Pueblo, and Vince had the same hours at a nearby 7-11. By the time we both got off work each night, the town was dead! So I’d swing by the 7-11 and pick him up, and we’d take a six pack down to the river bottom below City Park. We’d shoot the shit until the sun started on the horizon. Vince had a heart the size of Texas.
Rusty and I became friends sometime around 1986. We both had known each other since years before that. Sometime in 1987, I was sharing a house with some other friends, all musicians (we were in a band, and we had hopes of becoming a successful rock band). Those who were part of those days know, those were memorable times! In retrospect, it seems like Rusty was over there daily! After those memorable times in that old house on Jackson, the house clan broke away, and from there Rusty and I became roommates. For almost two years I had shared rent with Rusty in his aunt’s little house on Moore. We had plenty of memorable times within that period! Summertime spent jumping off cliffs at the res, autumn jumping the wall at the Colorado State Fair, and endless house parties in between. I worked at the County Market Grocery Store, and he worked for his father mostly. His father had a concrete business. Rusty was an accomplished concrete finisher. He did well for himself.
Rusty was a dear friend to many, that was always apparent, and to each of them a unique set of memories. It’s been twenty years. “On Every Street” will always remind me of Rusty Baird. There is much speculation on Mark Knopfler’s message in the lyrics of this song. However, it’s just barely vague enough, and the lines run so parallel, it takes my mind to no other place than to my memories of Rusty Baird. In Fact, Rusty’s fingerprints do remain in concrete, on many of the streets in Pueblo, Colorado.