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Chuck Hinman. IJMA 091: Hitch-Hiking, Soliciting a Ride by Thumb

It's Jut Me Again No. 091: Hitch-Hiking, Soliciting a Ride by Thumb.Is Chuck Hinman your favorite Sunday with CM columnist, as many tell us? If so, we hope you'll drop him a line by email. Reader comments to CM are appreciated, as are emails directly to Mr. Hinman at:
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 007, (Old Pictures Memories

By Chuck Hinman

I've written about almost all the exciting, unusual things in my going-on ninety years-of-living except my hitch-hiking days or "traveling on my thumb."

Sitting comfortably in my recliner yesterday at Tallgrass Estates waiting for the weather to warm-up and the snow to melt so I can get out, I recognized I am coming down with a terminal case of cabin fever! The remedy is -- I need to get out and cruise a little as the young folk say.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not so desperate that I want to go "where the wild goose goes"! I would settle for a ride out to Osage Hills State Park (under 15 miles) to see my "deer" friends and the wild turkeys fed by the park rangers. Or maybe I will happen on a few vultures feeding on the latest road-kill on the park roads.

Sometimes I just get a hankering for a change of scenery -- wanderlust, if you will. In the olden days, I used to "see the USA" in my Chevrolet convertible with the top down. Not really, but I admit to having seen a lot of the USA, using nothing more than this old arthritic right thumb, the one sitting contentedly here in my lap as we speak.

About half asleep yesterday I got to musing where I have been using this thumb hitching a ride, a freebie.

I haven't seen a hitch-hiker in years. It's probably a lost art by necessity - fear of getting hurt. Too bad, it hasn't always been that way fortunately. It was a part of Americana at its best coming out of the depression days! Everyone was on the move -- many by necessity looking for work.

My first "hitch" was in the summer of 1939. I was going to the summer session of college at Peru State Teacher's College on the banks of the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska. I wanted to go home (90 miles) to the farm between Liberty and Wymore, Nebraska, for the weekend and get my clothes washed. But I didn't have a car and my parents weren't about to drive over to get me. In fact, I didn't have a car for another ten years or so.

So I did what all young males of the day did, they got out on the road and used their thumb to solicit a ride. And no, I wasn't on fabled transcontinental Route 66 (and yes, I've hitch-hiked on that hitch-hiker's dream road) but this day I would be traveling the back roads of rural southeastern Nebraska where my freebie rides were with local people just going a few miles. But they were glad to give me a lift. It wasn't difficult at all. You just had to have the verve to do it.

You'll spend a lot of time in one spot if you show timidity or appear indifferent as to your reason for being on the road in the first place.

After being hugely successful plying the roads between home and college carrying only my laundry bag and shaving articles, I ventured into big-time cross country hitch-hiking with a small bag of necessities and a lot of guts!It was in the summer of 1942. Brother Bob was already in military service and I was about to follow. He was in a glider training outfit at England Field out east of Amarillo, Texas.

I hitched rides from the farm to stay overnight the first night at Uncle Floren and Aunt Norma's house in Wichita, Kansas. The next morning they hauled me out to the south part of Wichita, Kansas, where I would compete with other hitchhikers for a ride to Oklahoma City.

This was my first attempt at hitch-hiking in and through large cities. I soon learned you have to know your routing and not accept rides with just anyone. Otherwise you can spend a huge amount of time just wandering. No one else but you knows where you are going. I learned patience and perseverance from hitch-hiking. I also learned how to "pour on the charm" of a good-looking teenage smiling Nebraska farm boy who was out to see the world and wasn't a threat if you offered me a ride. My appearance must have been "right" because I was very successful at snagging good rides. I only had a couple scary rides.

I remember distinctly my ride into Oklahoma City (from Wichita) on a beautiful day. The refined couple driving a gorgeous Cadillac who offered me a ride also bought my lunch at an up-scale restaurant (I believe it was Beverly's -- perhaps not) out near the capital building before depositing me on Route 66 going to Amarillo, Texas, and points west.

It was several hours before I caught a ride and that was with a service-man about my age driving a convertible. His destination was the west coast so I "lucked out" on this hitch -- one of my all-time best. We hit it off great! Between us, we decided to stay in a motel overnight in Clinton, Oklahoma. I believe it was called the Golden Crown Motel. Any way, it was getting dark. He was tired of traveling and I didn't have much desire to hitch-hike at night on my first big-time outing.

We paid our own way for the expenses of eating and lodging. The next morning, he deposited me at the entrance to England Field where I made contact with my brother.

Several days later I hitch-hiked home to Nebraska, having completed successfully my first attempt at hitch-hiking big-time and loving it. I found I was good at it.

In the next account, I will tell of some of the memorable people I met in this stage of my life. I'll bet you would never dream that ol' Chuck Hinman has slept in a cemetery somewhere in Wyoming. I never told Dad and Mom or my hitch-hiking days would have been over!

It was late and there was no traffic. Cheaper than a cheap motel and not all that bad, my buddy Ed York and I decided to "turn in" in the cemetery near where we were hitch-hiking. Ed had been a P-38 pilot during the war and was used to thrills.

Conversation heard during the night in the cemetery went ... "Move over whatever your name is . . . you probably hogged the bed last night!"


Written by Chuck Hinman, December 2006. The original version said "eighty-five years-of-living." - Robert H. Stone

This story was posted on 2011-07-17 05:51:49
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