Tales of Open Road

One Very Wet Night

... a young boy who was cold, hungry, afraid -- too young to be a wanderer.

Tales of the Open Road, by Bill Jodrey

Recently I was sitting in my car listening to the rain falling on the roof and I was reminded of a day a whole lot of years ago.

The rain was falling and I was walking. I was very wet and it was very dark one late evening in September.

I was close to an area with dwellings and sheds and through the murky rain and dark I saw a likely looking shanty just off the road so I went to it and felt around for the door.

Finding the door not latched, I carefully stepped into the totally dark interior and also into two inches of water. I was so wet it didn't really matter.

As I closed the shed door behind me I was immediately aware of other persons in the room because of snores and deep breathing and the quiet sobbing of one.

It turned out to be a young boy who was cold, hungry, afraid and much too young to be a wanderer.

In the dark I carefully eased my way around and as I lightly touched the clothing, but did not awaken the sleepers, I then felt a tabletop with one sleeper on it but still room for another.

Gently I eased myself onto the table without waking the sleeper and out of pure exhaustion I slept and was unaware of the rain which dripped through the roof.

At early dawn the quiet commotion of five men waking up, moving out without a word being spoken, was not unusual. Each one moving - just moving - who knows where. One learns to be quiet and faceless in vulnerable situations.

I realize that there are much worse circumstances than being a hobo, but I readily confess that some of the conditions in which open-road travelers found themselves would wrench the heartstrings of anyone who has not done it.

The boy and I were alone and he was sleeping. I didn't want to waken him but I couldn't walk away and leave him, so I touched his shoulder and he immediately was wide awake and frightened. I soothed him with words and as we talked he said he was a runaway but now he was sorry and wanted to go home.

We left the shanty and started to walk. It was still early and we were very wet but with no options, one does it no matter what. As we walked and talked, we agreed that the police department was the best way to get him home.

It was about noon when we reached the town and with eighty cents in my pocket, we had a sandwich and milkshake, after which we found the police station. As he entered to tell his story, I faded into the countryside.

Finally, mostly dry by midafternoon, I got a lift in the back of a moving truck and closed out another trying, but memorable, experience.


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