|Palo Verde tree
Since I had planned to go to Nancy’s in Illinois for Christmas, I had not made any other plans. All of a sudden I realized that everyone was disappearing and soon I would be in Hesston alone for the Christmas break. Mom was living in Phoenix, so I decided to hitch-hike home."
Sure why wouldn’t Uncle H hitchhike – that is totally reasonable. It was only three states away and a mere 1,000 plus miles, makes sense to me – NOT!
"A friend said I could ride with him to Guyman, Oklahoma. I spent the night with him at his home in Guyman and the next morning he took me out to the highway. I got a ride before too long and rode to some other town where I again had my thumb out. After a while a guy stopped and picked me up. He was going to Tucson, Arizona. He offered to let me off at the junction leading to Phoenix, but since it was out in the middle of nowhere, I said I would ride all the way to Tucson with him.
We arrived around 10:00 p.m. after dark and he took me to a truck stop. I tried for quite a while to get a ride and when it seemed I might have to give up a man stopped. Once I was in his car and headed for Phoenix, I realized I had made a mistake. He was very drunk and was speeding down the highway in a much uncontrolled manner. I decided I had to get out at the first opportunity. A sign came up indicating some kind of junction, so I told him that was where I needed off. He questioned why I would want off there but I insisted that was where I wanted off.
I found myself out, really in the middle of no-where in the middle of the night. There was no way anyone would stop for me now. Finally a bus came along and left someone off and a car came up to pick him up. They were heading down the opposite road than where I wanted to go so I was out of luck. They did give me a book of matches which proved to be very welcome. It is cold at night, even in Arizona, at that time of year so I soon had a fire going under a Palo Verde tree. This is where I was to spend the rest of the night.
I didn’t sleep a wink however, because before long three men showed up and wanted to get warm at my fire. One had a lot of blood on his head. They said, he had fallen from a rail-road trestle not too far from there because of the darkness. We sat eyeing each other across the fire for the night. I was sitting close to the suitcase I was carrying and every time they moved I must have gotten closer to it because the one said, “ We aren’t going to bother you for what you have there “. I don’t know why I was so protective of it, because there really wasn’t anything in it of any worth. Just a few hand-me-down clothes, but it was mine and I planned to protect it. I was very happy when the first rays of morning began to show. I bid my companions goodbye, left the fire going for them and headed out.
The very first car that came along stopped and I could hardly wait to get in. He was a nice man that was headed for Phoenix, so I was in luck. He dropped me off on 7th street close to Sunnyslope and I began walking home from there. Believe it or not, my brother, W had come home for Christmas and was driving north when I put my thumb out again and he stopped to pick me up. He was really surprised to see me as I was him. No-one knew that I was coming home. Neither did I, until the last minute. I’m sure that I got my bag of candy again, though."
(As poor as they were, his mother always managed a small bag of candy for all of her one short of a dozen kids on Christmas. Gifts were not part of the Uncle H’s Christmas celebrations. Once when he was younger he made up a big story to his classmates of the elaborate Christmas presents he got when he actually only had received a small bag of candy)
"As luck would have it, there was someone in Phoenix from Hesston and agreed to take me back when I returned. I was glad I didn’t have to hitch-hike back. Mom’s house in Phoenix was right next to the Mennonite Church so that is how we made the connection for the ride."
Several things struck me as interesting in this story. My Uncle H thought nothing of hitch-hiking over 1,000 miles to go home for Christmas. The danger of such a journey came to light on his trip and thankfully he made it home safely. The other was, his unwillingness to go to his girl friend’s if he could not contribute – Uncle H was no free loader. The last, here was another time that by his wits, Uncle H always seemed to make things work out.