Butter Rum Cartoon

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Thursday, August 7, 2008


When I was about to leave on my first cross-country hitchhiking trip in 1967, at age 18, people were telling me, "It's not as safe as it used to be. There are a lot of crazies out there." When I had my wife and just-under-two-year-old son join me in a cross-country hitchhiking trip in 1980, a co-worker yelled at me when we got back, because, "It's not as safe as it used to be. There are a lot of crazies out there." And now our youngest son, himself 18, is planning a cross-country hitchhiking trip, and many are warning us, "It's not as safe as it used to be. There are a lot of crazies out there."

But...there was one time, during my first hitchhiking journey, that I was indeed scared. I was on my way from my sister's in South Carolina to Washington, D.C., riding in a car in Virginia, driven by a quiet man in his twenties, several years older than I, when suddenly he turned off the highway onto a dirt road, went over some train tracks and into the woods, and stopped. It seemed a horribly suspicious thing to do, and, to make matters worse, he turned and asked me, "Do you have a knife?"

Okay, he appeared to be about to kill me, and with my own knife! But being the nice guy I was, I said, "Yeah," and took out of my pocket the stiletto I had filed down for quick release of its four-inch blade, and handed it to him. He then got out of the car and went back and opened the trunk, and I thought, okay, that's where he's going to put my body. Then suddenly my door flew open and out of the corner of my eye I saw the man holding something toward me; and I jumped with fear.

I looked, and saw that he was giving my folded knife back to me. Then he returned to the trunk and began working with clomps and clinks and squeaks, and finally I stepped out to see what was what. He had a flat tire! And he assumed that I knew he had a flat tire on the highway. He pulled off the main road to fix it safely, but his car trunk lock was broken and he needed a knife to get into the trunk for his spare and jack and lug wrench. Being the quiet fellow he was, he didn't want to bother me with a bunch of talk about what he thought I knew, and I sat down and handed lug nuts and a hub cap to the man who had caused me the worse fear in all of my hitchhiking travels several times across the U.S. (Although rolling over in a semi truck wasn't too soothing either.)

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