County Lines by Bob
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
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
"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,"
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?Ó
"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