Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Race - Part I

by John Mickman 

My mom and I disagree about how old we were when my brother Mark and I embarked upon our first long distance hitchhiking excursion. She says I was about 13; I’m sure I was no older than 11 and our dad thought that was about right. My brother was 20 months younger than me.

At any rate, we had talked our parents into letting us stay a few days longer at our ‘rich’ cousin’s lake house near Crookston, MN – about 300 miles from our house in the Twin Cities. How were we going to get home? We were going to hitchhike.

So, on the fine July day back in the early ‘60’s when we started our journey, Uncle Jack dropped us off at an unremarkable intersection in the Red River Valley – pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t any traffic; all we could see were the rich green corn fields with a narrow ribbon of highway running through the middle of it.

Not long after we were dropped off, Mark and I got into a discussion of who was the better hitchhiker. I was older and had hitchhiked home from school way more times than brother Mark, but Mark was adamant that he was better at getting rides than I was. Being extremely competitive in everything we did, we ended up making our trip into a contest - a long distance race; the first one home would be the better hitchhiker, the winner of the race – no bones about it! We flipped a coin and Mark won. I slipped off into the cornfield to await my turn on the old, potholed, strip of highway.

The first vehicle to come by was an old, beat up pick-up truck which stopped and picked up Mark. Bad ride, I thought to myself; that old guy isn’t going to go very far. I jumped out of the cornfield and waited for my ride. The next car was a guy going about 30 miles down the road and I grinned and waved to Mark in the old pick-up when we passed him along the way. I was sure I was going to win.

My second ride took a little longer to get, and while I was waiting, Mark passed me by in the front seat of some car with a lady driving. Shoot! I wondered how far she was going to take my brother? We played ‘leap frog’ 3 or 4 times like this, each time waving to the other brother with a big grin, each of us gloating big time when we were in the lead. This was a great race! The day was warm, the sky was blue and all was well with the world.

Finally, some distance north of Little Falls, I picked up a ride with 2 guys in a new Plymouth who said they were going all the way to ‘the Cities’. These guys were really surprised that a little kid like me was hitchhiking all the way from ‘Up North’. I told them all about my cousins and how I talked my dad into letting me make the trip – not saying anything about my mom who didn’t like the idea at all, or my brother Mark, who I knew was in front of me somewhere. After quite a conversation, they offered to go out of their way and drop me off at an intersection only about a mile from our house. Way cool; I was going to win. There was no way Mark could catch up now!

Unfortunately, on our way through Little Falls, I saw my brother a few blocks ahead, hitchhiking near a stop light. The two guys saw him too, “Look at that”, the driver said. “Another little kid hitchhiking. Let’s pick him up.” I was horrified! “No, don’t pick him up”, I stammered. “There isn’t any room back here for another person”, and I stretched both arms as wide as I could reach across the huge back seat.  The two guys gave me a puzzled look, eyeing the skinny little kid with a crew cut in the back seat of the huge Plymouth, and said, of course there was plenty of room. 

Extreme frustration set in and I realized that Mark and I hadn’t thought of the possibility of both of us getting a ride in the same car all the way home. When Mark got in the car, I immediately explained to him that this was actually ‘my ride’; that I got into the car first, so I must be the winner.

“Na-ahhh”, Mark said. “The first one home wins the race, and we aren’t home yet”. We argued back and forth on this fine point regarding the revised rules for our race, there in the back seat of the Plymouth.

Sometime during this sophisticated discussion, the two guys looked more closely at us and realized that we were brothers. When we explained that we were in a hitchhiking race they had a hard time believing us. But, there we were; how else could they explain how two little kid brothers were hitchhiking alone, separately, through rural Minnesota?

Mark and I finally agreed to the new revision of the rules for the race: The first one of us to actually touch the front door of our house would win. Nope, not the first one in the yard; the first one to touch the door. OK, so this was going to end up being a footrace.

End of Part I

Find out who won the race in Part II of  The Race in next weeks’ eNewsletter!

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