December 07, 2012


By John R. Greenwood

A teenage memory lingers
It remains thumb-out on Rt #9n
Morning, noon, and lonely night I stood upon the shoulders  of my 1970's friend waiting for a samaritan with trusting soul and open door
Hitchhiking; a lost art, a missed miss-adventure
Sadly, safely, banished from the list of a young man have-to's
Each time an approaching car 

Each time a racing heart, a hopeful spirit wish
Will this be the ride that satisfies freedoms joy
Right thumb out, arm bent and swaying slightly back to front
Sometimes rigid as if to say:

Go ahead, pass me by
A lifetime to stand here free as a tree waiting for a change of season
But as each begging eye meets the oncoming pair
A sense of lottery seeps in
Brightened brake lights proclaim thee a winner

"Hitchhiker" Read by the author John R. Greenwood

Fortunately as a fifteen year old I was able to experience hitchhiking. I can remember how much courage it took that very first time I stepped from the yard to the road's edge. I recall being more afraid of an angry father than I was of being picked up by a serial killer. Once you've secured your first ride, each ensuing trip to the shoulder becomes easier. There is an art to hitchhiking. My ticket to a prompt pick up was carrying my Saratoga Blue Streak gym bag. That coupled with a baby smooth, whisker-less face pretty much insured I was as harmless as a pack of lambs. I didn't usually have to walk too far. In fact it was best when heading into town to stay put. People were used to seeing me there and a ride within the first few cars was common. The return trip had more challenges. Many times it was dark by then. Gym bag or not, the ride home took a bit more work to secure. 

Hitchhiking was dying a slow death. More families had multiple vehicles and more teenagers were driving them. Hitchhiking and teens riding school buses were on the decline. It was also becoming more dangerous to be on either side of an outstretched thumb.

We lived on a busy state highway. Traffic and the ability to snag a ride were much easier there than on the secondaries that ran parallel. I lived about six miles north of the city where my girl friend lived. When your fifteen, love runs strong, six miles is trivial pursuit. The pretty young thing with the Irish dimple was well worth the travel time--in fact she still is. 


  1. Reminds me of my youth..I lived out 29 towards Rock City Falls though... 4.9 miles from the Jamesway..and though I walked it countless times,I agree that certain times (especially late at night) it was better to stay put.Find a place where they could see you in advance and have a good place to pull over....It was indeed an art IMO.I have countless miles on my thumb and just as many memories...Thanks for jogging them again...jeff

  2. Your post digs up some of my first memories as a child -- seeing servicemen hitchhiking along the road and my father explaining to me that they wear their uniforms to inform folks that they are trustworthy. Was all perplexing to me at the time but as I grew older I realized it was the soldiers heading home from WWII. Good post -- barbara

  3. Like anonymous and Folkways, i too shared many a 'hemp'or sensimeil colognes in back and front seats of ford fairlanes, corvairs and psychodelic vw vans.

    Carefree overtook any semblance of fear from a stranger's intent.

    Gracias for re-'hash'ing old memories, mi amigo