It was not as if there were any other way. If there had been another way, that would have most assuredly been the preferred way, but in this case - there was but one way to make this right.
The journey on foot, from Howard, KS to Wichita, KS is (according to Google) only about 73 miles and that didn't seem like an unreasonable adventure on this particular day. Everybody knows that the pioneers used to knock out those short distances with alarming frequency, and clearly it didn't kill them.
There was no shortage of generous offers from friends willing to donate the better part of their work days to drive all the way there and all the way back. But, an incredible strong will and tenacity combined with a whole pant-load of false pride made any such requests quickly out of the question.
At noon on a Wednesday in June, in full sun with unbearable humidity and a 50 pound backpack on her back, she dispensed hugs and kisses and hoped that she had been appropriately grateful for the kindness she'd been shown - she took off. She thanked herself for her smart and sensible shoes within the first 5 miles.
Two hours of straight roads offering no shade and few vehicles passing by made the travel less than delicious, but at least it wasn't one of the big main roads populated with 18-wheelers nearly blowing her off the road with their speed and weight. She walked faster than usual (which was really pretty fast to begin with) and she never held out her thumb to ask for a ride. It could be illegal and the last thing she needed was some of that special Time Out activity in a police station.
So, she moved fast and looked straight ahead, continually attempting to beat her last best time for how long it took her to walk a mile. She was getting faster in spite of the elements.
Clearly, she needed a walk. She needed to sweat and think. And a couple times she needed to barf on the side of the road. She had also made a promise that she had no intentions of not honoring. Her life-long personal history of being on the receiving end of broken promises had turned this into a mission from God (whom she wasn't even all that sure she was still buying into at the time.)
Three hours into the walk, a really nice, newer model and great big ol' SUV went by, slowed down, pulled a U-turn and came up slowly beside her. She was no idiot and had heard more than a zillion stories of bad things that can happen to girl hitch-hikers, and she was not that kind of girl. She wasn't hitch-hiking: She was just walking. She picked up her pace and didn't look over.
They rolled down the window and a very nice woman in the back seat said, "Hey! Are you going this way?" She stopped then just to laugh out loud and make eye contact with this voice. She kind-of thought it was obvious that she was going "This way" as she had been power-walking exactly in the direction of "This way" as fast as her incredibly powerful gams would let her. Within about a minute she had buckled into the backseat of a sweetly air-conditioned car with 4 really nice people in it.
There were three sisters and one husband. They were on their way to one of their other sister's homes to meet some more sisters. They had a huge family apparently. They offered her water and a towel to wipe some of the glow off her face. They made small talk and treated her exceptionally well for about an hour. Then it was time for them to take their turn where she needed to keep going straight.
She walked for another couple hours, made some great progress, kept improving her time and was probably losing about 2 pounds every half hour. It was a win-win as far as she could tell. She'd been wanting to lose about 20 pounds since winter AND she was getting closer to her destination. There was never one iota of doubt that she would not be able to do what she'd promised she'd do and she'd be on time. She may have been a little OCD about not only doing what she said she'd do, but also doing it on time.
She had no idea how long she walked for this next stretch, but it felt longer than the last one. It could have just been the heat or the weight of her bag, but the day was growing long and she had started contemplating just laying down on the side of the road so maybe somebody would call an ambulance and she could make the rest of her journey flat on her back in an air-conditioned and fast moving vehicle. She thought that if she got lucky, she may have even gotten a handsome and compassionate EMT who would be nice to her.
Right at about the time she hit the most risky part of her trip (4 lane highways with 65mph speed limits) a one-ton Dodge Dooley with gigantic Harley Davidson bumper stickers on the back windows went by, slowed down, turned around and came up slowly beside her. She thought about taking off in a sprint, but her knees were not being cooperative.
Again, the window rolls down and a voice (could have been a man or a woman) said, "HEY! Are you going this way?" Again, with the "This way" thing. She started to laugh a little too maniacally while she thought, "Seriously? You are SERIOUSLY going to ask me if I am going This Way?!?!" How much more clear could it be, really? Was it rocket science to figure out that a really sunburned girl, all by herself, on what was now a big highway nearing the largest town in Kansas, walking as fast as her legs would carry her was, indeed, going "THIS way?"
She looked over at the driver and had a huge wave of understanding androgyny sweep over her. She really could not have told you, at gun-point, whether this was a man or a woman. In this case, there was just as great a chance that this person was a serial killer as not. But, she had started to doubt her abilities and wasn't absolutely certain she could make it on time, so she said, "Sure. Yea. I AM going this way."
The driver motioned for her to jump in and as she approached the truck, she realized that it was literally (and I'm serious here, NO hyperbole) all the way full of shit from the passenger side window to the elbows of the driver. Jumping around on top of this vast collection were three really wound-up Chihuahuas. As she reached for the door, the driver started screaming, "Don't LET THE DOGS OUT! Goddddamit, they'll be dead in a heartbeat on this highway!!!!"
It was too late to decline the kind offer and just too much to even consider how this was going to work out for all the mammals involved. The driver herded the dogs onto her lap and said, "Just jump in! Don't let any of that shit fall out! I'm going to need all of it!" And, in spite of the odds of it happening, she managed to get into the cab of the truck and park on top of about 13 inches of crap. None of the extra special "shit" fell out of the truck in the process. The dogs calmed down and the truck took off at a crawl.
"Yea, I know it's slow, but I think I've got a blown head gasket. This bitch won't go more than 35mph."
Awesomeness. Just freaking great awesomeness.
The driver turned to her, held out her hand and said, "Well, howdy! It's good to meet you! My name is Rebeccah and I'm not gay." It seemed that the only appropriate response was to take and shake that hand and say, "Howdy. My name is Meadow Lynne and I'm not gay either."
The next 20 minutes were spent in Rebeccah explaining that she was now going to take her new rider to a town called Buffalo, somewhere in BFE Kansas. She said that she needed help, Meadow looked strong as an ox and she paid $8 an hour and would provide a single-wide mobile home to live in. It didn't have any indoor plumbing or electricity, but if we Googled it she was sure that could be turned around within a month or two.
The traveling Gods were smiling on her pretty quick here and as the driver went to take a turn (which would have actually made the journey a little quicker and shorter) Meadow said, "Oh yea... OMG! I just remembered! I need to get out NOW! I have this other place I have to be to before the other place and it's not in this direction!"
The driver complied and Meadow jumped out faster than any human has ever jumped out of an almost stopped truck. She was warmly thankful for the ride and went as quick as she could in a direction that she knew this truck couldn't go. Logistical decisions had been made and this was a highway. There would be no turning around for the truck with it's non-gay driver.
It wasn't more than two hours later when she had reached her destination and got to move on to a more conventional mode of travel that didn't involve most of what this one day did.
In the end, she got to where she had to be, got there on time and did what she promised to do. And, when all was said and done, she'd figured out enough to change the course of her story. Then she set about to live happily ever after.
copyright 2010 moemasters