“Well, I’ll show him! I’ll just go on my own”

My middle sister is here for a few days, helping to take care of our old parents. Last night, in the cool of the evening, sitting outside in front of the house we grew up in and talking about our crazy childhood and how some of the neighbors used to beat their kids with a belt, which was considered normal back then, she told me the story of how she hitchhiked with her little dog from Ojai to Long Island.

When she said, “Long Island,” I blurted, “Long Island! You mean to tell me you hitchhiked all by yourself with a dog across the United States? When was this? How come you never told me?”

My sister looked at me and said, “You mean you didn’t know? Oh, this was around 1971. You must have been busy with your baby.”

“Yeah,” I said, laughing. “While you were off on adventures I was changing diapers and working nights as a janitor at the Thacher School!”

She proceeded to tell me the whole saga of how she had been living on an organic farm on Burnham Road, with her boyfriend and half the now old hippies still living in Ojai. She and her boyfriend were planning to hitchhike back east together, but they got in a fight and he took off without her. She vaguely knew the address where he was headed, so she said to herself, Well, I’ll show him! I’ll just go on my own.

“All kinds of nice people picked me up,” my sister went on. “Families with children . . . truck drivers. One truck driver let me sleep in the back of the truck. One guy let me stay in his apartment, where I could take a shower. It was beautiful going through Colorado . . . Iowa . . . West Virginia. One family took me to a corn festival, and I remember John Denver singing “Country Roads” on the radio. This was in the summer, so the scenery was absolutely beautiful. People on vacation gave me rides . . . For part of the way I made friends with another hitchhiker, so I kind of tagged along with him . . . he quickly realized that it was easier to get rides if he had me and my little dog standing on the road with him.”

“What about your boyfriend? Did he know you were coming? Did you have your cell phone with you?” I joked.

She answered gleefully, “Early on I passed him hitchhiking on the highway . . . he didn’t see me, but I saw him!”

“But were you ever in danger? Did you ever not feel safe?”

She paused to reflect. “Well, yes, toward the very end of the trip there was a guy who picked me up and tried to start something, but I just jumped out of the car.”

I remembered doing the same thing when I hitchhiked—you just jump out at a stoplight.

“And was your boyfriend surprised? Was he happy to see you?”

“Yes,” she said.

As we talked, I realized that there are many things I don’t know about my sister. As I was leaving, I told her, “You’ve got to tell this story to all your nieces. They see you as this bossy, square old aunt . . . you’ve got to tell them the story about how, when you were their age, you had such a spirit of adventure that you hitchhiked thousands of miles all by yourself, all the way across the United States, and how you ended up living in a teepee in Alaska . . .”

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One Response to ““Well, I’ll show him! I’ll just go on my own””

  1. Jean Killion Brewer Says:

    I love your stories! They are amazing.

    Like

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