Hitchhiking: Part 2. Summer 1983
From 2625 Jerseyville road west, to C.H. Bray elementary school, Ancaster On.
Yes, by the following summer, hitch hiking along Jerseyville road, was well established by ‘me’ and myself alone. I never, ever, saw anyone else hitch hiking on the road. Saw a few people walking, or riding bikes though. One of the few people I’d often see walking along the road was Richard Klimowski. He was the guy that if you’d honk at him driving by, he’d stop walking, grin and point at you as you’d drive past. His finger following your car. Always made me laugh as a passenger...still does, just thinking about it! He romantically, brought my mother a hand picked bouquet of flowers one early summer’s eve...sweet, but he knew damn well my mother was married.
Anyway, he used to make Jason and I laugh by telling us that his cousin played drums or something in Coney Hatch! I’m sorry, I wish I could remember...actually I think it was guitar. But try as we might, Jason and I just could not place Richard anywhere near ‘countin’ the cars by the monkey bars’, no effin’ way! So we always laughed, … Some people called him ‘the village idiot’, which I thought was kind of harsh. He was no idiot. He could have been described as simple maybe, is that mean? At least he knew what he wanted and never hurt anyone, but then he brought flowers for my mom… Anyway, I’d be out walking and I’d be miles from home… and I’d spot him. Well from a distance, you just know that it’s ‘someone’ out there, walking, that’s all and I’d stop, to wait and see who it was. I’ve the time… so the first few occasions, standing, waiting the odd 20 minutes it took for them to come close enough, just to see who they were, I’d be stunned to see Richard. I knew he was a walker, but back then he was at least twice my age and older. So yeah, I’d say “Holy shit Richard. What are you doing out here?” And he could always top me with… “Hey Jimmy, I could ask the same of you.” of course I’m not going to tell him that I’m smoking weed and exploring, some people might tend to gossip...so I’d shrug and hit him back with, “I don’t know. Just walking around. Whatever.” He’d just be standing there grinning at me, sun bleached blue eyes. Bushy white eyebrows. Silent like. Grinning and staring. Until I’d say, “Okay Richard. Have a nice walk.” He’s still grinning when he’d go and say something like, “Okay now Jimmy. Say ‘hi’ to your mom for me!”
Alright, alright. He was harmless, Richard was one of the first people that I'd met when I came to Jerseyville. I'd be out and about, back the tracks, or at Prosser's.' Richard didn't work. I think he was looking after his mum or something. So he'd be out walking around too. He didn't drive. I think his mum did, but I never saw her. And we'd always just be out at the same time. He was the first person to tell me that if you followed the creek back to the lake, there was a trailer park where you could go swimming and they had dances at a pavillion. I know because I'd heard the music and asked him. I'd been sitting on a downed tree, where I'd seen an owl back at Prosser's and I heard Copa Cobana playing off in the distance. The music carried over by the summer's breeze. It'd just come out that year, because I'd heard the song on the radio. So I knew something or another was back there beyond the woods. The next time I saw Richard was on that side of the creek, near where I'd heard the music. I'd asked him where he was going and he told me he was going to a dance. Stunned, because I had no idea. Was like, "Dance? Where's a dance?" all I could see was fields and grass and the woods. And I'm looking around, that was when he told me about Dunmark park. Back the creek and through the woods, at the far end of the small lake was a good little trailer park, and it was busy in the summer. They had swimming, camping, a concession stand with video games and a pavillion off the side of it where they apparently played Copa cobana and danced...So they had dances! This was early years of Jerseyville for me, when I found this out and I was into disco at the time...Apart from that story though, I swear, I'd always see him way out there, in the middle of nowhere. Just when I thought I was far from home, there'd he be too and it was always him and he was always just out ‘walking’ too… huh, who’da thought?
So the following summer of my ‘Introduction to hitchhiking’, I'm starting to get really bored of just hanging around my home in the village, or behind the school, maybe back the tracks, at Prosser's etc. Smoking cigarettes, the odd pilfered beers, skunky '50's from Prosser's garage... I was thinking it was way more fun in Ancaster, not being a delinquent per se... No! We were all pretty well behaved, my gang of friends there, for the most part. What are you gonna do?The odd moment maybe not so.
I’d established what I felt to be a relatively sound statistical analysis of PPP Trends (Provider vs. Potential Passenger Trends), my own largely internal model. I had a wide and generous time frame to work with. Literally 6pm – 6am. A solid half-day. Meaning, that with the right diet, rest and lack of obligation, I could potentially disappear from between ‘After dinner’ and ‘Dawn the next day’… This allowed me to focus on the various aspects of, what it was that I was doing and where I was going out there. Seriously, I mean every kilometer of Jerseyville road, Every thousand strides. The nuances of it’s many hills, my current position on each hill, visibility, hidden driveways, stopping, narrow bridge etc. If it sounds funny, probably because it is! It’s not something that I’d dwell on, or obsess about… but all the same, these little factors of 'for and against' are just things that occur to you while walking the same route and each time you do so. It was kind of fun in a way, with my walkman and tunes, yes it was. I got pretty fit, walking the distance. 'Closing the gap', as I called it... I still call it that, to this day.
We'd meet up at C.H.Bray Elementary school, my friends and I, on weekends when it was closed, or in the evening. It was a popular meetin' spot for us there, for a while. Right behind the bowling alley pretty much. On what we called the 'Bray Path'. Under the shadow of the water tower. We'd hang out and smoke, talk, joke. We'd also go to the bowling alley to play video games and pinball...'Strikes and Spares' anyone? And we'd stay out at Bray til late at night, in all seasons. There at the crosspaths of the rail trail to Bray and the cut through, from Jerseyville road at the top of Spring valley to Wilson street. Well past midnight we'd stand, or sit on the concrete at the front entrance. A gravel foot path running crosswise. Then a rusting fenced enclosure for the looming, pale green Ancaster water tower, and the old rail trail lengthwise. sometimes and occassionally the 'cops' would come. Yeahhh they're out on patrol and looking for something to do... I'm pretty sure it was Officer Bogle. He drove an '82 Ford Bronco. Bogle's Bronco we called it. Similar to this one but dressed up as a cop car:
We'd see him coming. My friend Kenny would say, "Look it's Bogle!" And he'd be driving it on the rail trail going behind the old Dominion grocery and towards us at Bray. Being a cop. About a quarter mile away. His highbeams on. It always seemed to be Kenny or his brother Bob, that saw Officer Bogle first. It was always the same, "It's Bogle!" or even, "Bogle! Run!"There was plenty of time for us all to just scatter. It was easy splitting up eight to ten people in any direction there, so we did. And never got caught. In fact I remember laughing hysterically, fleeing from Officer Bogle...screeching! A big bunch of us running down the side path laughing and knowing that he can't follow in his Bronco. He was too lazy to get out of his Bronco and chase us on foot, that made him easy to avoid. For any of us at the time though, seeing the 'cops coming' always struck fear in our heart. Especially me...Holy shit, the consequences. And I'd run, my heart pounding, thinking all the worst things possible. Would I get get caught? Handcuffed? Would he shoot? In truth though, would officer Bogle ever, even entertain the idea of getting out of his warm Bronco some crisp December's eve, zipping up his coat and chasing kids hither and thither into the night? Nawwww.
Nor would he deign to spend his whole shift either, hunting anyone of us little peckers down. In the meandering surveys along Lloyminn and into Spring valley. I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, so I've decided on a tale. A momentous night which stands out in my mind like no other.
I think it was spring, because it was still chilly at night. I'd been taking Young drivers of Canada and learning to drive an '81 Dodge Omni standard... starting in first gear sucked...but doing quite well otherwise...so yeah that's spring, my fifteenth. April then?
The night before had been a Friday and a bunch of us had met in Spring valley at what we called 'The Pines'... some of us called it 'The Cross'. Whatever... It was a gravel parking lot down in Spring valley, the opposite side of the road as the baseball diamonds, with a cub scout's log cabin and picnic tables, and a big old cross. Just down the path, past the swimming pool in the valley. This particular night we'd had the door of the cabin open and were partying inside and outside. We had tunes and beer and we were all having a great time. I remember sitting outside at a picnic table with friends just because, inside the cabin at the tables with the flickering candles, it was getting kind of 'intense'. Ha ha! Seriously... so I'd had my wallet out, where I kept my rolling papers and I had cherry hash oil too, that I'd gotten for my birthday... so yes, early April... Anyway, I had a big safety pin, that I used for spreading oilers and I'd wipe this pin on a paper to clean it. I had a few oily papers from wiping the pin in my wallet, as well as the safety pin and my ID. It was one of those tan leather, hand stitched wallets, big and bulky and uncomfortable to sit on. Sitting at the table we all heard the sound of car tires crunching gravel and we also knew it was probably the cops. The first person who said the word, '"Cops." and we were off. Grab the beer, grab the tunes and go. We can always meet up somewhere else later, or come back after they leave. So we scatter, like professionals, into the night woods. Into the dark and up the steep muddy hill with twigs and branches underfoot, we just plow right on through until about halfway up Spring valley hill and pause, all of us in the dark, almost simultaneously. To listen. To the cops. Two cruisers, three or four guys, maybe just three, original patrol, plus back up. And they're thrashing around in the underbrush huffing and puffing, making tons of noise and they have their flashlights out. They're using the flashlights so that they can see where they walk and not looking for us. It's funny and we start to laugh. So funny, cuz now they're swearing and cussing us out and we're laughing louder too, each time one of them curses as he gets whipped with a branch or trips on a root. So then they start getting angry, of course and start to threaten us. Saying they're gonna beat the crap out of us and stuff and were like, "Oh come on, what a bunch of assholes!" And somebody throws a beer bottle. You can hear it hitting branches as it tumbles through the air. It comes nowhere near to hitting a cop, that's not really the point. So somebody else throws another and another. The cops realize we're throwing bottles at them and they put their arms up, waving their flashlights frantically to fend off any incoming bottles. None of us have a clear shot anyway, it's just harmless and we take off again... yes laughing hysterically. Gibbering hideously into the night... So that pretty much does it. A few people head toward home, a few go to the plaza for a bit and I start to go home myself. I walked the whole way that night. I remember. I knew I had to get up early in the morning because I had my Young Driver's beginner's road test. Not that getting my license would do me any good. I have three brothers and when my Dad was at work, the '81 Omni was the only other car available. Besides, it's not as if I could use the car on a whim and bring it back at two in the morning. Ha ha! Nope, no chance of that. So the license was not going to change my hitch hiking habits after all. Although their were plenty of cars that night and it was clear out, I didn't get a ride, but pushed my walking and made a quick time of it. By the time I got home that night, I was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as I lay down in my cool sheets.
The next morning I pushed my luck and slept in. Everytime that my mother called upstairs to me, asking if I was up yet, I'd groan and say "Yes! I'm up!", even though I wasn't. I'd tuck my hands deeper uner my pillow, close my eyes again and try to get a few more minutes. I was tired and hurting. I finally started to drift off into that warm sleepy place, when I heard my mother yelling for me, "He's here Jim! Where are you? What ARE you doing?" Which was also a favorite of hers for me, "What ARE you doing?" With the emphasis on 'Are'... like I'd better have a good reason..."You're driving instructor is at the door! For your road test!" She's yelling. That got me moving. I jumped up, pulled my jeans on from the night before and raced downstairs. She must've told my instructor I'd be right down, because he was waiting out in the driveway, in the passenger seat of the car, filling something out on his clipboard. I'm leaning against the side door, tugging my shoes on and sure enough she walks into the dining room. "You haven't even had breakfast yet." Admonishing and hands me one of her muffins with raisins, walnuts and chocolate chips in it. Energy remedy. She then asks me, "Do you have everything you need?". I say yep and inhale the muffin going out the door. I'm sitting in the driver's seat now, pulling on my seatbelt and I'm driving the instructor's car today. Which is good, it's an automatic, unlike our '81 Dodge Omni. As I adjust the rearview he asks me, "Do you have your beginner's license with you?" Meaning my written portion that I'd gotten after writing the test for 15 minutes. I could've lied and said yes, but I didn't have it. In that split second that the instructor had asked me, I'd remembered forgetting my wallet the night before, at "The Pines", when the cops had come. I was honest though and hurriedly said, "No, but I know where it is. I left my wallet on a picnic table in Spring valley, right by my highschool. Is it okay if we go get it?" I think I got some eyebrows for that one. But he was a kindly old man and agreed. He even let me drive without my license! So I drove up Jerseyville road, past the school and down into the parking lot for Spring valley outdoor swimming pool. I pulled into a parking space, turned off the car and as I got out, said,
"Thanks! I'll be right back."
I jogged down the gravel path towards the pines, hoping against hope that my wallet was still there. I sensed something was different already, there'd been a lot of traffic through the gravel last night. The cops had come and gone, but it seemed there'd been even more traffic than that. When I came around the corner of the pine trees along the path, I was stunned to see the log cabin was gone. It had burned down. To ash. I saw metal brackets for a picnic table in the ashes where the log cabin had been and I remembered the candles burning on the wooden table tops. The candles must've burned down into the wood and started such a fire as to destroy the whole cabin. Slowly I walked through the stones, the table I'd been sitting at was still untouched where it had been, far enough from the cabin to have not burned, but even from this distance I couldn't see my wallet. My heart thudded at the implications, cops, wallet, oilers, identification, fire...not to mention my license and road test and my mother..."What ARE you doing?" Ahhh fuck... I walked up to the table and looked under it, around it, nope. Not here. Huh. Holy shit. I stared at the ashes of the cabin. Tiny little streamers of smoke still rose in some parts. Okay, I'll lie...let's see how well that works.
So I ran back to the car, totally breathless and climbed in. As the Young Driver's teacher looked over at me, I smiled and said, "Okay. I got it. Let's go!"
"You have your wallet then?" Again he asked with the eyebrows.
"Yep." I said cheerfully, backing out of the parking lot. I sped out of there, spitting gravel as we turned onto Jerseyville road. I just wanted to get this over with. This and whatever else was waiting in the wings.
I don't remember much of the road test except that I passed with flying colors. The automatic was a treat, compared to the Dodge with the slippy clutch. He didn't ask me to produce my license or anything else, so that was good. That part was over. After I pulled into my driveway and gave him the keys to his car, thanking him, I went in. My mom asked me how it went, so I told her I'd passed and went upstairs to hide in my room for a while. I'd only been home about half an hour when I got called downstairs again.I started thinking, "Uh oh." and my heart began thudding again. I walked into the kitchen where my mom was and our phone was. She says,
"Dundas police station just called and they have your wallet. Why would THEY have your wallet?"
"Because I lost it in Spring valley last night."
No questions about the fire. No questions about what I'd been doing in Spring valley last night. No questions about the oilers in my wallet... All she said was, "It was found by a jogger, so they turned it in to Dundas police station. They said we can come in and pick it up."
"Oh, that's great." I said smiling. Yeah that's great. That's just fucking great.
"We'll go in a minute." She said.
So I slowly walked to the door like a condemned man. Slowly put my running shoes on again. And sat there slowly thinking and waiting for my mom to back the car out.
I don't remember the drive, or the conversation during the drive. It probably turned to my road test, she probably asked me how I could have done the test without my wallet and license, I thinks that's probably the reason why I don't remember much about the drive. All I remember is pulling into the tiny parking lot of Dundas central police station and thinking all the worst things again. I pictured being handcuffed for the drugs, I pictured my mom being told that I was now in custody. I pictured being questioned about the fire at the cabin. I pictured a lot of things. Now here's what happened....
I got out of the car and said,
"I'll be right back."... Hopefully...
"Alright." She said absentmindedly.
I walked toward the glass door where I could see the desk sergeant standing behind a counter, writing something down. My heart was pounding, but I'm one of those people that just has to get it over with. I don't want to delay the inevitable and prolong the torture. So I walk in and happily announce, "Hi I'm here to pick up my wallet?"
"Name?" The cop asks.
"Jim Beer." I reply.
He looks up at me, spins the clipboard around and hands me a pen. "Sign here Mr. Beer." and starts to rummage in a box under the counter. I look down at the clipboard, sign my name and start to shakily fill in the date..."It's okay." he says. "I'll do that."
"Okay thanks." ...and he hands me my brown, leather, stitched wallet.
I look at him and he just nods, goes and fills out the date.
"Is that all?" I ask.
"Yep," he says, "that's it."
That's it. I thank him and turn and leave the counter. I walk through the door into the sunny parking lot and I'm already tearing through my wallet, looking for the oily papers and the big safety pin. It's all there...all of it. But it's been moved. Someone has taken it from the pocket where I keep it and put everything into the unlikely location of a clear plastic credit card sleeve. I look around, half expecting a 'Sting operation' to descend on me, but there's nothing. The birds are singing, crickets abuzz and I can see my mom through the windshield reading something she's brought with her. The thudding of my heart eases a little and I start to smile. "Holy shit. No way. What the..?" How could this come about? They said a jogger had found it on a picnic table that morning, in Spring valley and been a good citizen turning it in. No questions about the drugs in my wallet. No mention of the fire that burned down the log cabin. No word from the Ancaster police about unruly teens in the valley the night before. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing at all. Then here's my mom asking me as I open the car door, "Did you get it? Ready to go?", as she puts down her magazine and starts the '81 Omni. I get in. The next thing she says is, "I don't know how you were able to do your road test without your license."
"I don't know either." I say, laughing now. "But I did and it's coming in the mail."
About the Creator
Jim E. Beer
I was raised outside of Ancaster, Ont. I write about what I know and what I've survived. I hope you enjoy what you read. Leave a comment and feel free to tip. There is an option to do so at the end of each story if you feel so inclined. Jim
There are no comments for this story
Be the first to respond and start the conversation.