Tales of Open Road

A Youngster on the lam

...a day's adventure moving west

by Bill Jodrey

Drawings by Bill Jodrey

The day had been longer than usual because of the heat and humidity, and then too, there had been fewer offers of rides.

Daylight was almost over when I glimpsed from the corner of my eye what appeared to be a small tool shed set back from the road. It seemed to be an omen, all things considered, so I walked through the tall grass and, as I approached the shed I heard a rustle and soft sobbing from within.

I walked around the shed, which was very small and tapped on the siding. Speaking softly, I asked "Who is inside?"

There was instant reaction as a small person sat up and, in a voice filled with panic, cried "Don't hurt me! Please!"

"I won't hurt you, young lady. Come out and we can decide what to do."

As it turned out, her name was Grace, and she was ten years old. She decided to run away because her brother, Jerry, had taken her favorite set of colored pencils. "He does things like that all the time," she said. "I was working on a special project for my art class and I decided I had had enough, so I left and now I don't know how to get back home."

"Are you hungry?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"I am, too. I have a sandwich in my sack. Let's split it, and then we will both feel better. We can decide what to do after our tummies stop complaining. Does that sound like a good idea?"

"Can we sit down?" she asked. "I've got to go to the bathroom."

"I'll go around to the other side of the shed and wait. Here is some paper that I always carry in my pack."

In a few minutes we were ready to find a rock to sit on while we ate our evening meal, or so we thought. We soon found a friendly looking rock to sit on that was just a shade off of the highway. We were on the third or fourth bite of our sandwich, when we heard the scream of a police siren. With flashing lights it went by us like a low flying plane, and suddenly there was the shrieking of tires on the road surface as it tried to stop on a dime. Then there were skidding sounds as it tried to return to where they had glimpsed two young wayfarers at their evening meal.

They were out of their car in a flash, looking for possible trouble. All they actually found were a couple of young people enjoying a half of a sandwich each.

One officer asked the youngster her name, which she said was Grace Parley and in answer to where she had been, she said, "In that shed." She pointed to the shed where we had met.

"Alone?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered.

"When did you meet this person?" the officer asked.

"About ten or fifteen minutes ago," she said.

"Do you know his name?" he asked.

"No," she replied.

Turning to me, he asked if I had any I.D. on me and I said "In my pocket."

Actually he patted me down and said, "Take it out slowly."

I opened my shirt and removed the envelope with my I.D. and handed it to the officer who scanned them briefly and handed them back. I returned them to my shirt.

Obviously he was the senior of the two men. He said, "Okay, now let's call in and call off the hunt, and get this young lady back to her home."

It probably was only a couple of miles to her home. It was a very touching reunion to watch.

The senior officer told the parents what he knew of the situation, and that he would call the next day just to check.

He motioned me to get into the car, which I did, and we drove to the police station with not much conversation. When we arrived at the headquarters, the boss man said, "You will be much more comfortable here for the night, rather than that old shed with the bugs and whatever."

He continued "Do you mind if I let your station know that you are all right, and you are staying the night with us?"

I assured him that it was fine with me, and he led me to a cell. I was the only 'visitor' that night.

I went to sleep almost immediately, and the same officer let me sleep until the end of his shift. After all the odds and ends were taken care of, he drove me out to the edge of town and handed me a paper bag and said, "You have courage, young man. I wish you well. Good luck."

When he had left, I opened the bag. It was apparently his own midshift meal. I guessed that he thought I needed it more than he did. I remembered him in my prayers that day, and the next day also.

But my next ride was with a driver with a sad tale of woe who said that he was trying to get to his home to attend his father's funeral, but he had spent the last of his money on gas for the car, and could I help him out so that he could buy more?

When I told him that I did not have enough to buy a cup of coffee, he stopped the car and said "Get lost." I said, "My friend, I am lost. Have a nice day."

There were days like that, moving west.

January 5, 2001

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