Avoiding God's Gun On Route To Santa Fe

We rode just over the Mississippi river in the early morning across from Memphis where Nick dropped me off and turned back to town. I'd just spent a few days kicking in and around the city with him, now I was thumb out looking towards Santa Fe where Marilyn would be visiting for a work conference.

I got a ride quickly from a man heading towards Dallas, I rode with him as far as Little Rock where the freeways split ways. Next came a short ride from a woman in a purple jumpsuit with her daughter, then quickly picked up again by an older man who offered me a smoke straight away. He was a music producer who kicked it with people like Roger Waters and Bill Clinton, now living in the hills and relaxing away.

A construction woman got me a ways after that, then I was scooped up by a big 18 wheeler driven by a preacher truck driver. By the time we pulled into the truck stop where we'd be parting ways he done a fair share of preaching and was now asking me if I wanted to swear in, turn my heart into Jesus and the sort. I'd been picked up and approached with this sort a number of times on the road and in fact had humored the repeat-after-me session a few times, given bibles, the whole bit. For once I turned it down, I was done being saved, already saved, unsaveable and saving my time to spend it.

I hopped out of his truck, he'd gone cold and ignored my goodbye after I declined his offer, failing to stoke his sense of purpose and adding one more devil to his memory bank.

I wandered on back to the freeway and was soon in the passenger seat of a little car heading westbound. The driver wore a coarse cloth robe, thin gray hairs on his round head and spoke articulately.

"You shouldn't hitchhike", he warned me right as we got moving, "You'll get shot and killed!".

I smiled and assured him I'd be alright. He wasn't going very far, just a few exits. In this time I further tried to convince me that hitchhiking was certain death and I was a fool. As we pulled off the freeway he pulled over saying he'd give me half the money he had on him if I'd start hitchhiking. He reached into his wallet and surprised himself when he found a hundred dollar bill amongst a few smaller bills.

He placed the money on the console between us and fiddled around with something else for a few seconds. He stopped that then looked over at me, "You would have taken that stack of money and ran if you bad", he paused and stared at me, "OK, what I'm going to do is give you all this money if you promise to get a bus ticket and stop all this hitchhiking".

"Ah, wow", I responded, "Yeah I'd use that for a bus ticket to Santa Fe if it's enough, for sure. I still have to keep hitching though, at least as far as the next town that might have a bus station".

He thought for a second and then decided he'd drive me to the nearby town to find a bus station. He got all of a quarter mile when he realized he didn't know where the bus station was and maybe just didn't want to spend the time looking around for one. He pulled over into a little parking lot next to a lake and stopped the car.

"I'm not sure where the station is, but listen. Get to where you're going, but never hitchhike again after. In three weeks, you're going to die. If you keep hitchhiking, in three weeks, someone is going to shoot you", he said this with piercing eyes, then handed me two five dollar bills. He could tell I wasn't buying it really.

He then reached his hand behind his back and held it there, "What if someone reached behind their back and said they had a gun and was going to shoot you between your eyes, then drop you into that lake", his eyes burned into mine. After a full pause he continued, "Have you ever had a gun pointed at you, right in your face and heard the click, do you know what that sounds like?", our eyes still locked, his pools of focused black.

I suddenly felt my adrenaline at the ready from this Princess Bride Vizzini looking fool. I was mostly certain he didn't have a gun or intention, that didn't add up, but I suspected he might continue the charade by pulling his hand from his back quickly to further get a rise out of me to make his uninformed point that hitchhiking was going to get me killed. I Sherlock Holmesed the action in my head of what might happen next, ready for the angle at which his hand would come out, gun or not, how'd I'd swat it with one hand, strike with the other disable him long enough to grab my bag and be out.

Mostly I just hoped he'd relax and not get himself hurt, I certainly didn't want to be the hitchhiker who smacked an old man for being a dumbass, to the police and anyone else I'd just be a hitchhiker who smacked an old man.

For a moment I thought perhaps he wanted a scuffle to prove a point. We stared at each other in a stand off for a moment that lasted longer than it's weight in seconds, waiting for the other to blink. At last he slowly pulled an empty hand from behind his back.

He put the hundred dollar bill in my hands which were already holding the two fives.

"Promise to never hitchhike and you can keep that", he pleaded.

I shook my head, "I appreciate it, but I can't keep that promise", I said, angling the bill back towards him. He slipped the hundred out of my hands and replaced it with a twenty.

"This is for your honesty", he explained. "I promise there's a place in heaven for fools who like to ramble. Your girlfriend won't be there, but I have made a place for you", he confirmed for me. Apparently I was in the car with God, Nostradamus maybe.

I hopped out of the car, grabbed my bag, said thanks and goodbye as he blessed me one last time, then walked to the freeway thirty dollars and one more strange experience richer.

My next ride was my last for the day, a steel worker heading to Oklahoma City. We arrived at night and I got in touch with an old friend who was living in the city. He came and scooped me up, I told him the stories of the road as we headed back to his apartment where his girlfriend had cooked up a great dinner. We spent the night reminiscing on childhood and filling in with our stories of recent.

In the morning he gave me a lift to the edge of the city so I could continue on, I was already making pretty good time. A short ride came from a lady driving to her oil truck driving job, then another short ride from a guy going a few more exits. After that I walked and walked and walked for some hours as the wind gusted in the new madness of the day.

At last the ride came, a big rig slowing into the shoulder of the freeway as I ran up and into it, meeting the Sri Lankan driver heading for the west coast. The feeling of relief after waiting and walking that long, running a hundred yards and finding out a ride is going that far is always amazing.

We cruised and cruised chatting, stopped for a sandwich and kept going, through Texas and into a dark New Mexico. I hopped out once we hit the Santa Fe bound road and he continued on. I found myself at a deserted truck stop now fifty miles south of Santa Fe, hoping a pair of headlights would spot me and pull over.

Some time went by and it wasn't looking too promising. There was just about one car that headed north in an hour's time. I buzzed Marilyn to let her know my situation, that I'd likely be camped for the night and see her by the next day. She wasn't having though, still in possession of a rental car she decided she'd come down the 50 miles and scoop me up.

I was happy to soon see her face and be cruising through the dark up to Santa Fe knowing that we'd be enjoying each other and the town for a few days before I continued further west, always moving.

January 21, 2013 to January 22, 2013