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Saturday, January 1, 2011


Here’s a letter written to my parents after my first hitchhiking trip, from Sultan, Washington, to Wichita, Kansas, in 1967, the year I graduated from high school. I left home with $20, but Dad came while I was still on the highway shoulder in Sultan and gave me an extra $10.

835 So. Millwood
Wichita, Kansas
Oct. 12, 1967

Dear Mom & Dad,

Well, here I am, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to get here. I was picked up in Sultan and taken to Gold Bar by a sailor on leave; then I was picked up on the other side of Gold Bar by a foreman for the railroad. He bought me a candy bar in Skykomish and took me clear to Wenatchee; then I was picked up on the other side of Wenatchee and taken three miles by a big man in a truck. When I got out I found that I had lost that pencil you gave me. I felt lonesome because of it. Then I was picked up right there and taken to a café at Orondo by a man testing his car--we went almost a hundred m.p.h. I had an orange drink and left. On the other side of Orondo, I was stopped and questioned by a policeman. Then he left. I was picked up there by an elderly lady and taken to the Jamison Lake turn-off where she turned off to go fishing. She told me to turn around when cars come so they could see that I was young. That’s the only reason she stopped for me.

So there I was--stuck in the middle of a desert. Cars only passed every fifteen minutes and many passed me without stopping. I got to feeling kind of worried and lonesome. I looked down at my feet and sure was surprised at what I found--a marble! Here, in the middle of nowhere, I found a marble. I put it in my pocket and felt kind of relieved.

Eventually, a nice couple from Montreal, Canada, picked me up and took me to Spokane. I got there at 7:30 P.M. I didn’t know where I was going to stay, but finally walked into an old hotel and asked the lady if I could stay overnight in an unfurnished room for a dollar. She said that she needed more than a dollar, and she told me to try the hotel next door. So I went there and asked a man the same thing. He said no, so I asked him if I could sleep in the attic, and told him that I had my own bedding. He smiled and said, “Well, if it’s just for one night…” He went and got a key, and took me to a room on the third floor--with a double bed with no bedding, a kitchen with no electricity but with running water, and good lights--and with a wonderful view of a brick wall on the next building. I slept good that night and was warm. I bought pastry and beans to eat, at the market across the street. When I left at 7:00 in the morning, the man wouldn’t even take my dollar.

I was picked up on the other side of Spokane by a teenager, a real nice guy, and taken to the Pine Road Exit on the freeway--about 5 miles. There, I was stopped by a policeman and was questioned again. He told me that I was subject for arrest for walking on the freeway. He drove me several miles ahead to where the freeway turns into a highway, and dropped me off about a quarter-mile from the Idaho border. I was picked up at the State Line and taken to the other side of Post Falls by a man; then was picked up by another man and taken to Couer d’Alene, where I heard thunder--then lightning came--then rain--then wind. On the other side of Couer d’Alene I was picked up by a nice elderly couple, a Christian couple, and taken to the other side of Lake Couer d’Alene. He offered me money, but I refused it. The rain stopped. Then I was picked up by a physical therapist--which is what I want to be--and taken clear to Missoula, where I stopped at a café for another orange drink. I was picked up on the other side of Missoula and taken to Butte by a high school senior. I walked through Butte and ate in a café. I stayed in Raymond’s Motel on the other side of Butte and ate in their restaurant.

The motel was nice. It had a TV--and it cost $6.50. I left at 9:30 in the morning and just started walking when I heard a loud “hello.” I looked and found that the Canadian couple, who took me from central Washington to Spokane, had spent the night in the motel right next to the one I stayed in. They weren’t even going to go down as far as Butte but they did. I found out that their names are George and Alice Pearson. We went through the Lewis and Clark Cavern on the way to Sheridan, Wyoming, where we stayed in the Wyoming Lodge--in rooms next to each other. The motel was really nice--with cable TV and a swimming pool. It cost $7.00. At 6:30 in the morning, George knocked on my door to wake me up, and we left at 7:00. We went to Mount Rushmore. We saw wild buffalos, begging wild donkeys that stuck their heads in the car windows for food; we passed through an old cowboy town and we met an Indian chief. We stopped at Chamberlain, S.D., and stayed at the Lake Shore Motel, another TV motel, for $6.00. The next morning, I woke up before they knocked, and we left at 8:00. The previous morning, I treated them to breakfast, because they had bought me several meals, and now I was broke--and they knew it. We stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., and they treated me to breakfast in a café there. Then we went to Omaha, Nebraska, where I had to leave them. They offered me $10. I refused it, but they insisted that I take it, and pay them back when I can. I took it. [I did later pay them back.]

Then I was picked up by a truck full of corn and taken further down the freeway. I went to the nearest on-ramp and was picked up there by a man and taken to the outskirts of Lincoln, Neb. A young guy picked me up and took me further into the city. Without “thumbing” I was picked up by an elderly lady because she said I looked so tired--which I was. She took me to the heart of the city. She asked me if I had a place to stay that night. I told her that I was going to stay at a hotel. She said that I was welcome to stay at her house that night, and that her son had been pretty lonely ever since his big brother left home, and that he would like to have company. I said no but thanks anyway and I left.

By that time I was tired--physically and mentally. I took the ten dollars, and the dollar-and-something I had left in my pocket and went into the Continental Trailways bus depot and bought a ticket to Wichita, that cost nine dollars and something. Wichita is about 200 miles from Lincoln. The bus wasn’t leaving until 7:50 in the morning, so I went to the first hotel I saw and asked the man what his cheapest room costs for one night. He said $2.56 including tax. I had exactly $2.56 in my pocket, to the penny. The next day, I arrived in Wichita at 3:30 P.M. flat broke. I walked from the bus depot many blocks to Linda & Ron’s. I sneaked in the back door and walked up behind Linda while she sat there writing a letter to me, telling me not to hitch-hike. When she saw me she screamed so loud it scared me.

Here I am. There was so much luck and coincidences on the way, that I’m sure that God was walking with me all the way. No one can realize how wonderful God is, until he is alone with Him.

I got a job today! I am going to work for the Cessna Corporation beginning Monday! I took their aptitude test and was graded high on it. Today they gave me all the papers and booklets. Tomorrow I take my physical. The next day, I go to Cessna to find out where I go to work, etc., and Monday I start a week of being trained to assemble sheet metal. During this week, I’ll get $1.60/hour. Then, after training, I’ll get $2.35/hour. I’ll be working on the 2nd shift--3:30 P.M. to Midnight, usually five days a week. Isn’t that neat?! Tell Paul that he’d better be careful about flying Cessna airplanes because now I’m going to be building them. HURRAY!

I found where I’m going to live, too! I’ll have my very own little house for $50 a month, plus electricity payments. It’s only about 3 ½ blocks from Linda & Ron’s. At first I thought it was a playhouse, but it’s real, with a living room, kitchen, and bathroom--I’ll sleep on the couch. It’s really cute. I’ll have my own little yard with a fence around it, too. A minister owns it.

As soon as I get the down payment, I’m getting a BMW [motorcycle]. Until then, I’ll go to work in a car pool. By the way, I’ll be paid every Thursday.

Well, everything is going fine. I worked with Ron on sheet rock the other day.

I sure wish I had my TV, record player, some record albums, the typewriter, and my drafting stuff--along with the Leroy scriber. I wish I wish I wish.

Oh well, don’t worry about me. I miss you and I love you.

Your successful son,

I took the physical and passed it--had to have a blood test. I went to the indoctrination session, and I won’t be working with sheet metal after all. A new thing has come up for small planes--putting fuel tanks in the wings. I was one of fifteen who volunteered for sealing these tanks. They say it’s messy work, but I don’t have to worry about my job not being permanent. If the army would leave me alone, I can have a good job for years and years. I’m going to like it , too. I might have to work on first shift for about a week.

Did you send the draft board my new address, or should I write to them, or what?

How’s Trance? [Trance was my first pet tarantula.]


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