Monday, November 12, 2012

Brian On The Road 11

November 12. 1960

Brian woke after a good solid night's sleep. The first one he had taken on a real mattress in many days. He felt refreshed and ready to move on. Ha ascended the caller stairs into the kitchen. No one was there so he went out the door into the driveway. The car was still there. He dug into his back pack, took out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a thank you note saying that he had slept well. He tucked it behind the wiper and went down the driveway to the road. When he crossed the road he met Ben.

Ben was around 50 years old. He wore frayed trousers of what had once been suit pants, a brown shirt and a broad rimmed hat. He greeted Brian in a friendly manner and said it was a good day to travel. So they started out.

Ben never asked Brian where he was going or where he had come from. But Brian was curious about Ben so he asked him a few questions being careful not to step on areas of history Ben didn't want to discuss. Ben came from Idaho and had been on the road for about 20 years, he guessed, tried to stay south in the winter, didn't go back to Idaho if he could help it. How does he get by? Holding out a tin cup from his pocket he shook it and put it back. He said also that if he was really desperate he could get himself pulled in for vagrancy and sleep in a cell. Did he have any family? A sister in Arkansas. She took him in when he passed that way.

Ben definitely had the look of the road in his eyes but he was remarkably clean and intelligent for a hobo Brian thought. Gradually it came out that Ben graduated from the University of Oregon as a philosophy major, had left a wife back in Idaho who was probably happy to see him go and had been on the road ever since.

As they were walking through Pratt a dog started barking at them. Ben said "Let;s pick it up. If there's one thing I hate it's a barking. snarling dog."

Brian asked if Ben had ever been in the service. "Sure. After I got out of school I joined the Navy. Spent two years. Couldn't wait to get out. The officers were all stupid. Most of them."

After about an hour of walking, as they were reaching the edge of town, Brian's feet were very painful and he realized that he hadn't had his boots off of his feet since the night he spent with Margie and Mary Lou in Cleveland. He told Ben he had to rest his feet a few minutes, sat down on the grass just off the road and removed his boots. It felt very good.

"I hope your feet don't swell up. You won't be able to get your boots back on if they do."

But there wasn't time for that to happen. A few minutes later a car stopped for them. It was an old Chevy. The driver was a surly man wearing a construction hat. Ben got in the front seat, Brian behind him. The driver wasted no time on introductions but started right off. He soon said "I have some meat in the back. We'll stop up ahead and cook it." During a voyage of several hours he said that over again a few times. Brian got the impression that he had no intention of doing that or even if there was any meat in the trunk. And though he stopped to pick them up he seemed to be in a great hurry to get someplace.

When they came near to Liberal Ben said he would get out there, so the driver pulled over without a word and stopped. Ben got out followed by Brian. Brian said "Thank you." The driver didn't answer but drove off.

Ben said "I didn't trust that meat in the back. You never know what it is or how old it is."

"Ah" said Brian. He was learning the ways of the road.

They walked a few miles into Liberal and it was now late afternoon. Ben said he was going to stay there, but Brian felt like moving on so they parted.

Brian walked through Liberal. It was dark when he reached the other side but there were street lights on. So he stood under one of them with his hand out and fairly soon another truck pulled over. The driver asked Brian where he was going. Brian sad he was trying to get to California. The driver said "I;ll take you to Guymon." Brian thought he said "Diamond." But he was used to hearing strange words and strange names so he said "Great."

After a while the driver pulled over and said "This is where I turn off. Good luck."

Brian thanked him, jumped out of the truck and found himself on the edge of Guymon, Oklahoma. He saw a diner, went in and took a seat at the counter. A quite overweight young woman named Teena came over to take his order which was franks and beans and a piece of banana cream pie. Brian was delighted to find that the pie was excellent. He thought, I'll have to remember that the best banana cream pie I had was in Oklahoma.

He finished his meal and walk through the town which didn't take long. He found a restaurant open at the other end, went in and took a table. There were only a few other customers. He really didn't feel like eating anything but he was there to angle for a sleeping place so he ordered a roll and some coffee.

He was about to ask the waitress if she knew of any place he could spend the night when he heard the sound of vehicles arriving, car doors slamming, the door burst open and more than a score of teenagers came in with a great noise and bustle and filled up the other tables. The waitress went around and took their orders which were almost immediately filled. The kids gobbled up the food in less that a half an hour and left as fast as they came. It was like a tribe of youngsters galloping through. Cowboys and their girl friends. Pick up trucks instead of horses.

When the waitress come over to Brian to clear the dishes and leave a check Brian asked her what that was all about. She said "Drive-in movie just let out." Then she said "We're closing up now." Brian thought, Of course, this is small town Oklahoma. No Hayes-Bicks here." Then he asked if she knew of any place he could sleep, but she didn't.

Brian left the restaurant and walked a bit around a completely dark town. Even the restaurant lights went out in a few minutes. Brian was now on the edge of the great Wild West, cowboys and horses, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, cattle rustlers, gun fighters, saloons, six shooters and branding irons. This was the land where lynch mobs took justice into their own hands and where the rule of law was enforced by a sheriff and his posse. This was the land where the bad guys were all red skins and bank robbers and where the good guys all played the guitar and sang. Here was the land of chuck wagons, round ups and stampedes. There was a strong Mexican influence here so that people lived in haciendas, did things pronto, wore sombreros and were plum loco.

Brian was still learning his history from the movies, but he was about to visit the real West. First though he had to find a place to sleep. There was nothing moving in the town of Guymon but Brian. Then he turned up a side street and saw a police car coming slowly toward him. When the car stopped near him Brian walked around to the open window and said into the face of an unsmiling cop "I'm hitching to California and I was just looking for a place to sleep."

The policeman motioned to the seat next to him and said "Get in. There's an empty cell. You can sleep there." Brian didn't know if he was being arrested or not but he got into the car and a few blocks away they stopped at a new brick building which was a combination police station and fire house. Brian was ushered in the door and the cop explained to another one at a desk why he was there. The other one nodded. There were two cells and another cop was asleep in one of them. So Brian went into the empty cell and stretched out an a comfortable bed. The first cop closed the door but didn't lock it.

Well, Brian thought, since I wasn't booked for anything I guess I wasn't arrested. He quickly fell asleep and that was the first and only time Brian ever spent a jail.


To be continued.


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