Painting - Bill Duryea
He found a phone booth, closed himself inside, stuck his finger in the dial and drew a circle… “Collect call from Eugene, Oregon, will you accept the charges?” “Yes,” said a voice on the other side. “Hey Dad, I wanted to let you know that I’m coming in your direction. I’m hitchhiking south, and I should be passing through L.A. in a few days,” said the boy. “Do you need me to wire you any money?” asked his father. “No that’s ok,” said the boy, “I have a few oranges, a loaf of bread and a tube of braunschwieger, I should be fine…”
He felt like he should be self sufficient and felt guilty about asking his parents for anything; he would rather be homeless and starving. Besides, it was an adventure for a boy of fifteen to be out in the world with nothing but his backpack. He had been reading the bible not because of any religious convictions, but being a drop-out he knew it was important to educate himself as best he could. Often when engaging in philosophical discussions with the old-timers back in Crete, they would say that his opinions were faulty because he had never read this book or that (usually the Bible), so he was determined to read it cover to cover. He liked the part where Jesus talked about the “lilies in the field.” He believed in the Buddha’s philosophy that one should “live for the moment.” He had faith that the universe would take care of him ….no matter what.
He walked to the highway, and held out his thumb. Getting out of Eugene was easy. His first ride was in a VW bus with a Rainbow Brother, named Chance. Chance talked cheerfully as they drove south and gesticulated wildly with his hands as he spoke. “Going to Santa Fe, huh? Far out, Man, that’s great! Listen man I got some dynamite acid, you know anybody who wants to buy some? Hey man, don’t answer that, you know? It’s cool man, really. Look man I got some good grass let’s get stoned…” time and space collided into one and, as dusk approached, Chance announced that they were getting near his exit. “You should let me drop you here. You’ll have a better chance of getting a ride here than where I’m getting off—there’s no on ramp there.” The boy tried to think through the foggy delirium caused by the grass. “No that’s cool, you can let me off at the exit.” he stammered. “Suit yourself.” said Chance. As the sun was going down he found himself at the deserted off-ramp. It was illegal to hitch-hike on the freeway so he had to sit there at the entrance to the on-ramp and watch cars go by for hours while waiting for someone to come along. Since only one out of many vehicles was going to actually pick him up, he may have to wait for a long time to catch a ride. Although the freeway was only 100 feet away he would have to walk miles to find an on-ramp were the cops wouldn't hassle him.
He had a nylon camping hammock that his father had mailed to him years before. He had carried it around for years but had never really used it before. He tied one end to a solitary old oak tree, at the edge of an immense field of dirt-clods; the other end he tied to a steel cable which was anchored in the ground nearby and lending support to a telephone-pole, which in turn supported a lonely phone-line that enabled communications with some nearby hamlet. He ate the last of his braunschwieger and read out of the bible as the light faded and the stars began to appear. He looked up at the full moon through the boughs of the oak and drifted to sleep.
In his dream he saw himself in the hammock: One end was tied to the oak and the other just went off over the field of dirt-clods, into the infinity of the Universe. The moon and the stars spun over his head, and he was free. He had no idea where his next meal would come from, but he wasn’t worried; he was a child of the Universe and the Universe would provide…
When the sun promised to break the horizon he clumsily got out of the hammock—it was difficult to exit the sleeping bag at the same time. It was cold so he quickly got his shoes and socks on, dug through his back-pack for a roll of paper, and looked around for an especially large dirt clod to host his morning toilette. He had a fast squat in the chill morning air, and stumbled back to the tree. After carefully rolling up his hammock and sleeping bag, he loaded his pack, hoisted it, and started off across the endless field of dirt clods. He knew that if he just followed the freeway, eventually there would be another on-ramp.
As the sun climbed into the sky and the exertion of carrying his heavy backpack over the large, uneven dirt clods started to take their effect, the boy began to wish he had remembered to bring some water along. “What an idiot!” he spoke to himself loudly. His heavy combat boots began to feel heavier and the dirt clods seemed to become larger and larger as he struggled to step over them. He had already crossed two immense fields and there was still no end in sight. Finally, after a couple of hours, he decided he would rather risk arrest than continue through the endless fields of dirt clods. He turned left, jumped over a fence and climbed up the embankment to the highway. Sweat was rolling off the end of his nose as he extended his thumb again. The first car that came by slowed down and pulled off the road. The blinker was still flashing as the boy hurried towards the car--a 1969 Chevy Impala; its driver, a “roughneck” on his way to Los Angeles. Alaskan oil-drilling platforms needed men to run them and wealthy oil companies were willing to pay a good wage. Guys from the Pacific coast states would often go to work out on the platforms for six months and then come back to their home towns in the lower forty-eight to spend their money.
Hank was just such an oil man. He wore a miniature silver drill-bit around his neck--like those used on the oil drilling platforms. He proudly held it out for the boy to see and explained its unusual shape. His robust build and hard, calloused hands spoke of the vigorous life-style of his trade. “I’m on my way south for my best friend’s wedding.” he said. “You want some speed?” No thanks said the boy, he wasn't into speed...
Hank drove fast and talked constantly. The boy was still thirsty and hungry, too. He was glad when Hank pulled off the highway at a lonely truck stop for gas. After getting a long drink of water, he got the key to the bathroom and tried to clean himself up a little. He went back to the car and climbed in. Hank came out of the store with a six-pack of beer and two breakfast burritos. He continued his constant monologue as they pulled back on to the highway. He handed a burrito to the boy and told him to help himself to a beer. "But keep it down," he said "and keep an eye out for the pigs."