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80 Years Ago

Archives 11-15-2000

North County Lines by Bob

An Award Winning Column

For comments or questions contact Bob at bobncl@hotmail.com



I was standing beside a highway outside Taos, Mexico with my thumb out when a Volkswagen van pulled up next to me. I opened the side door and jumped into the back.

A half dozen hippies were sprawled among flowered pillows. Beads covered the side and rear windows. LOVE and PEACE were swirled on the ceiling in purple and yellow paint. The smell of strawberry incense infused the air.

Flopping down, I said, "I've always wanted to ride in a gypsy caravan."

A blonde chick with violet shades said, "Welcome aboard the Starship Enterprise. Exploring space, discovering new planets, going where no earthling has ever gone before."

Definitely a water sign, I thought, probably a Pisces. "Where's Mr. Spock?" I said. "I want to ask him about life on Vulcan."

The blonde and three other chicks in the back laughed. The two dudes looked at me like I was a grizzly invading their territory, which was truer than they realized.

They reminded me of Mutt and Jeff. I kept that to myself, though. Like my father said, "Never start a fight but always finish one."

"Where you going?" Mutt asked.

"Denver," I replied.

"Why?" Jeff asked.

I resisted the urge to say, "I want to find out why an omelet's named after it." Instead I lit a Tareyton and thought back to how I'd arrived at this place.

Several weeks earlier, I was riding with the Sundowners. We weren't as bad as the Hell's Angels. We weren't boy scouts either.

Our motto was simple: "Don't mess with us." Joining the Sundowners wasn't that simple.

A prospective member would be dropped in the woods, wearing only underwear at sundown. If he made it back to the house where the Sundowners lived before sunrise, he was a member. If not, he was probably in jail on an indecent exposure charge with a drunk and disorderly thrown in for good measure. Some made it. Many didn't.

I made it by developing a plan and sticking to it. I stayed on the paths in the woods until I had to cross a major road. When no traffic was coming, I ran across and disappeared into the woods on the other side.

The Manatee Bay Bridge was the biggest obstacle. It connected where I was to where I was going.

Most of those who didn't come back by sunrise were stopped by the cops while crossing the bridge.

Some lost their nerve and didn't try to cross, which left them in their underwear on the wrong side at sunrise.

A riddle helped me solve the Manatee Bay Bridge problem: "What can you listen to, drink from, and sleep on?" Think about it for a minute.

Give up? "A radio, a glass, and a bed."

The lesson of the riddle is don't overlook the obvious. Obviously, the Manatee Bay Bridge wasn't the only way to get from one side to the other. I swam across. The sharks and the stingrays left me alone. I arrived back before sunrise with time to spare.

I drank two six-packs of malt liquor and passed out to celebrate my achievement. I was a full-fledged member of the Sundowners with all rights and privileges befitting that position.

I'm not saying I joined the Sundowners just for chicks. But the groupies who hung around the Sundowners got right to the point, no beating around the bush, playing those I'm-the-fly-you're-the-spider games, which are common among the status quo.

I quit the Sundowners after the leader, a dude called Panama Budge, came up with the idea of making crystal meth and selling it on the street. "Count me out," I said. "Speed kills."

After selling my Harley, 64 horses rumbling on full-throttle, I began a journey toward a Buddhist monastery in Denver. When I arrived, I would kick back, dig the scene, get enlightened maybe.

I didn't have to sell my Harley. I could have ridden it to Denver. But why be hassled by the responsibility of ownership, when my thumb could get me there?

Hitchhiking was easy in the late sixties. Scores of young people were crisscrossing the United States looking for something. Catching a ride wasn't a problem.

I caught a ride to Alabama, then to Arkansas, then to New Mexico, then one in the Volkswagen van where Mutt and Jeff were giving me the third degree.

"I asked you a question," Jeff said.

"Where'd you get the idea," I said, "that your questions must be answered?"

Mutt pulled a knife from his pocket. A skinny, three-inch blade flipped out. "Answer the question, man," he said.

I pulled a hunting knife with an eight-inch blade from a sheath I kept tucked inside my right boot. "Mine is bigger than yours," I said.

Mutt pushed a button. The blade disappeared. He shoved the knife back into his pocket.

"I have a question," I said. "What are all you hippie types on the road searching for?

"Freedom," Mutt said.

I remembered something Mahatma Ghandi had written: "We must not forget the most important freedom, the freedom to be free."

All these seekers on the road, looking for what they already have. Typical, I thought.

When the van stopped to turn left, not the direction I wanted to go, I jumped out. The blonde followed.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Going with you," she said. "I got the feeling you can teach me a few things."

A Pisces, I thought, no doubt about it. "Yeah," I said, "I have the feeling you can do the same for me."

And we did.



Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
fax 931.823.6486

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