Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln
Hello Ernie
In the Autumn of 1960 I hitchhiked across the country. from Massachusetts to California. Along the way I met some interesting people with some fascinating stories. Yesterday afternoon I was telling an acquaintance about some of them. She is a woman who had an unfortunate marriage to a guy who turned out to be no good to her, himself or anyone else. Out of it she has a daughter and three grandchildren. The husband is out of her life.

The following is an extract from the rough draft of a novel I wrote about my trip. It needs editing and some rewriting. I'm sdorry it doesn't come acrss with the paragraphs. But I hope yu enjoy it. The novel is called "Brian On The Road." It starts out on the Arizona desert, Route 66. It's a true story.

At one point a car passed that was completely full of people and things. Brian could see through the passenger window a woman with a child on her lap and a pile of clothes behind her. There was definitely no room for him in that car. He kept walking and in about five minutes he was amazed to see the same car coming down the road in the opposite direction. The driver slowed down, made a U turn and stopped next to Brian. The woman was tossing kids and things into the back seat, then she opened the door and moved on over next to the man who was driving. The woman smiled at Brian and patted the seat, so he got in and pulled the door closed with his left hand. It was a tight squeeze but he was in. The man said he had been a hitchhiker in his younger days, knew what it was like and couldn't bear to pass him up. They went on their way. The man was about 30 Brian guessed. The woman was a few years younger. Brian looked over his shoulder into the back seat and saw some suitcases and a pile of clothes. Sitting on the clothes were two twin boys about 4 years old and one small brown curly haired dog. As they were driving along the man asked Brian a lot of questions about him, including where he came from and where he was going. When Brian said he was on his way to California the man said "Well, we'll take you there." Brian was relieved to know he had his ride across the desert. The man asked him what he was going to do in California. "A friend and I want to open a movie studio." "Oh, I love movies" said the woman. "I almost never get to see them. I hope you and your friend succeed. Make some good ones." "We'll try." They passed over the border, went through Needles, California quickly and headed out on to the desert. Brian looked behind him again at the two boys and the dog. He was amazed at how quiet they were, even the dog. The woman asked them a few times how they were doing and one boy would answer "Okay." "Where are you folks headed?" Brian asked. "Oregon" was the only reply. "Where'd you come from?" "We came from Saint Louis" said the woman. "And we're moving to Oregon." Brian was impressed with her. She was a very sweet and polite person, and was not complaining at all that she was being jammed in between two men without much room to move. Brian watched out the window as the desert flashed by. It was a lone and forlorn looking place but also beautiful in its severity. There were strange plants growing out of the sand, twisted trees and cracked earth. There were tiny flowers growing from what looked like dead wood. There were dunes for miles with occasional trees in them. A colony of cactus in strange shapes seemed to burst up out of the ground in clumps. In the distance towered demanding natural rock formations like castles and temples. If there was animal life it was furtive and hidden. Everything else was exposed by the blazing sun. This is a mystical place, thought Brian. I wonder who lives here. After a while the woman spoke up suddenly and quietly as if she had been keeping a secret or a valuable piece of gossip. "I'm leaving my husband." Brian was stunned. He couldn't speak. "He's a mean man" said the woman. "He beats her" said the man. "He beats me. My husband is a cruel man. He's unfaithful. He gets drunk and beats me up and he smacks the kids around and the dog. We're all afraid of him. I can't take it any more. So we're leaving him. It's awful." "You seem like a good man. So I guess we can tell you" said the man. "Bob here is not the other man. He's my friend." "We've been friends since we were kids in school together" said Bob. "I'm Mary Lou." "I'm Brian. Why Oregon?" "My brother has a farm there. He said to come on up and stay. He can use the help" said Bob. "Are you also from Saint Louis, Bob?" asked Brian. "Yes, but I don't have a family there or anything so this seems like the right thing to do, for me also." "How long have you been on the road?" "Three days ago. We only stop for gas and a short nap. I want to get there" said Bob. "How did it happen?" "He went to work in the morning. I packed as much as I could in the suitcases and the rest I just piled in the back. Bob helped me. And then we left." "Did you leave a note?" "Yeah. I told him not to try to follow us or find us. I don't think he will. He doesn't want the responsibility any more. I think he's probably glad to see us go." "Probably" said Bob. "It's best for us. A new life. For me, the boys and Fluffy." "Who's Fluffy, the dog?" "Yes." Brian looked behind him at Fluffy who was sitting up and wagging a tail at the mention of his name. "He's a cute dog." "He used to kick Fluffy" said Mary Lou. "Well, I'm sorry you suffered so much but you're probably doing the best thing" said Brian. "I have to thank you two times for picking me up in your full car and considering your circumstances." "Happy to do it" said Bob. The blazing afternoon sun was setting behind the hills ahead. Slowly things were becoming greener and cooler. They went on for another hour until Bob pulled into a gas station and filled up the car. Then he drove over to a convenience store, everybody got out, snacks were bought and he said "Nap time." "Nap time" meant a lot of activity. Bob took the boys into the rest room. Fluffy was led out and taken on a walk to sniff out the right tree for his business and then was fed and watered. Brian went into the store and bought a pack of Pall Malls. The cigarette he got from the Cherokee was so good he thought he'd have another while he waited. Soon snacks were distributed and quickly consumed. Everyone was back in the car with the doors closed. Bob put his head back and was quickly asleep. Brian was exhausted, so he had no trouble nodding off. He woke up briefly once to find the car on the road again. He saw it going over a series of corrugated hills, up and down like a gentle amusement park ride. It soon lulled him back to sleep. November 16, 1960 When he woke up again it was daylight and there was more traffic on the road. "We're coming into the edges of LA, Brian. Is that good for you?" Brian didn't know where in California Green's Point was but he thought that LA, Hollywood would be an appropriate place to start. "Yeah, I think so." Bob pulled the car over. Brian opened the door and slid halfway out of the seat. He looked behind him. Fluffy picked his head up, the two boys were watching him, Bob and Mary Lou were smiling. "I am really grateful to you for bringing me all this way, Bob. I know it's been hard on you, but I'm very thankful. I hope you have good luck in Oregon and a happy life from now on, all of you." "Thank you" said Mary Lou. "Well now, you have good luck and happiness yourself." "Thank you, I'll try." He closed the door and stepped back. The car drove off. He was sorry to see it go. Bran would never see those people again but for the rest of his life he would wonder how they made out in Oregon.
Dana Bate - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up


DB said...

Sorry folks. Google screwed up. It would take me hours to edit it back in shape.


Beth said...

Yes, I remember "Brian's" adventures in hitchhiking. The dips and hills mentioned were a fun ride the other day!