Friday, March 14, 2014

"You might think that after thousands of years of coming up too soon and getting frozen, the crocus family would have had a little sense knocked into it."  ~ Robert Benchley


There is a second part to the adventures in "On the Road with Linda, Maggie, and Terry." If you remember... in our last episode we three were hurriedly escaping from the entire state of Mississippi... and my sobs were finally trickling down to mere sniffles and annoying hiccups.

Eventually, we saw a sign that said we'd just crossed the state line into Missouri, and we gave a rousing Cornhusker cheer and individual sighs of relief. Karen said that we ought to stop in Kansas City for the night, and then we could drive into Lincoln the next day... home, at last. Sounded like a plan... a good plan. Of course, when we took the rest of our money out of our purses and added it up, we realized that we wouldn't be spending the night at the Missouri Ritz. But it WAS a good plan...

If it wasn't for a sudden thump, a crash, and a loud scraping of metal against road pavement, I'm sure we'd have done just that, I promise you! But the car had decided to slow itself down, even though Karen pushed down on the accelerator as hard as she could. We saw a gas station up ahead, and the car seemed to run out of energy, or gas, just before we reached the pumps. When we got out of the car and looked underneath, there was some sort of metal thing leaning on the road. "Gee, that doesn't look right..." said Maggie. I couldn't see very clearly because my old water-works were at it again! "Something under the car broke!" Karen wisely surmised. Yes sir-ree, Karen was definitely the smart one of this group!

Inside the gas station's "office" sat a huge lout of a guy and a smaller peewee-sized other guy. We told them that there was something wrong with our car. They both seemed awfully disappointed when they found out we didn't want any gas. Instead we wanted a huge band-aid for the dragging metal thing so we could get back to Nebraska in time for classes on Monday morning.

Imagine our surprise when the large ruffian said, "Are you NUTS!" He told us that it was a broken U-joint, or T-square, or something technical like that. Karen, our always rational leader, said, "Well, can you fix it for us, please. We have to get back to school tomorrow." It was a perfectly reasonable request... sort of like when my Dad would go to the gas station and say, "Fill 'er up, please."

The burly, bull-necked gas station guy began to laugh! It was a kind of a "bad-guy" laugh. "We're closin' in hour, an' we need a new part for this car an' I'd have to drive into St. Joe to get it."

Karen said, "Well, do it!"

Big Burly said, "Well, I don't want to go alone! You girls have ta go with me!"

Karen and Maggie said, in unison, "We're NOT going with you into town! YOU do it!"

The enormous lout looked kind of insulted. And all at once I felt for Big Burly. He was rejected! I knew how that felt. I'd felt that hurt before. "I'll come with you!" I whispered.

"Jump in!" said Big Burley. So I jumped into the front seat of a big old rusty truck, and off we drove to Saint Joseph, Missouri to get a T-square... or something... It only took about a mile before it occured to me that I didn't know this person at all... Something might happen to me... something bad... something awful...

Then Big Burley cheerfully announced, "I just got outta the pen!" 

I'd noticed some tattoos on him, and, that was in the days BEFORE tattoos were our national pass-time. They were poor ink drawings, sort of gouged into his arms, this future art teacher was thinking. Whoever the "artist" was, he desperately needed a few drawing lessons!

"What pen did you go to?" I asked. He twisted his head around to look at me... really look at me, and then he shook his head.

"Do you know what a pen is?"

"Well... not really.  Were you working on a farm somewhere?"

"In a way," he laughed. Then he explained to me what the "pen" was...

"Boy, I'm sure that you won't ever do whatever you did again! You probably feel really bad about doing it, too. But it's really not fair that you had to go to that place! What was it like? ...you don't have to tell me if you don't want to... it's none of my business... I know that..."

He turned and looked at me again, and his voice got softer and kinder! "Do you really want to hear about it... really?"

And without waiting for an answer, he began to tell me about what he'd done to get there, and what he'd had to endure in those couple years. My heart went out to that man... I felt so sorry for him... sort of the way you'd feel for a little kid who'd had cruel, cruel parents...

Well, we got to St. Joe, and at some warehouse place he jumped out of the truck to get the car part while I waited. When he climbed back into the rusty old truck, he said, "You're nice!" Then he added, "I know this little bar... wanna go get a beer or two? C'mon..."

"That's so nice of you to ask," I said as I quietly scooted so close to the truck's door that I was crouching on the arm-rest. "I can't, though. My friends are waiting, and you've got to fix our car, 'member?"

As soon as we got back to the garage, I jumped out of the truck, and, from the truck window, Big Burley announced that his work day was over... He'd be back in the morning to fix our car, and off he drove, probably to have a brewski or two.

What to do? We had no car... no room to stay in... and the skinny gas station guy said he had to lock the station's doors, and go home, too! "Go next door to the cafe or something..." he yelled over his shoulder as he jumped into his car. "See ya tomorrow!" and off he went!

"Terry, stop crying!" Karen yelled. "We'll figure something out at the diner."

We didn't figure anything out, but our waitress was a real "go-getter." She knew what to do... she called the Highway Patrol!

When the policeman arrived, he said that there was a place that the police took vagrants and people like that... like us, I guess... He kept apologizing for it on the way there, and when we arrived, I thought he ought to be begging our forgiveness, but then I was in no position to become haughty, was I? The only good part was that the proprietor wouldn't charge us for the room, as a favor to the police department. Now, I'm not going to go into what I think that room was normally used for... Let's just say that Mother Jones, our sorority house-mother, would have tried to wash my mouth out with soap if I'd said it!

The policeman said he would send a day policeman back in the morning to pick us up and take us back to the gas station.

He did, and Maggie and I spend the better part of the morning and lunch-time in the cafe, trying to make a Diet Coke and a donut last until Big Burley announced the car could limp its way back home to Nebraska. Meanwhile, the trusty policeman had taken Karen back to St. Joseph call her parents and beg them to "Western Union" enough money to ransom the car back from the gas station.

Well, we made it home to Lincoln in time to miss all of our Monday classes, and just in time to have Mother Jones squeal at us about the etiquette of calling a housemother if we were intending to come back later than she expected. And, just in time to get all polished up for Monday night's dinner. Monday nights were when the new pledges came over for dinner, and we MUST look presentable at table, mustn't we?  

Oh, rats, Mother Jones... Oh, rats... 

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