I don't always pick up hitch-hikers but I couldn't pass up this one. He was about the age of my 2nd son. He looked a little rough and needed a shower. I had a split second to decide as I was entering the freeway on-ramp after work. Banjo case, dog, backpack...OK I gotta do this. He looked a little surprised that I stopped my Camry to give a ride to man and dog. He threw his gear in the back and asked if his pit-bull, Abby, could sit on the floor between his legs in the front. My nose confirmed that he hadn't showered in awhile. He sported a few tattoos and a short haircut. He was polite and grateful for the ride. He had been waiting for a lift most of the day. I told him that I was only going 5 miles ahead to the edge of town and that there was nothing for the next 50 miles. In 5 miles I learned that he went by the name of Phoenix and like me he loved the outdoors. He had been on the Mississippi in a canoe for 3 weeks with the idea of paddling from Wisconsin to the Gulf. The weather and other factors made him ditch that idea. He had spent considerable time traveling the country; backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. He had hopped trains with his dog and had stories of many friends along the way. I dropped him at a gas station at the edge of town. The sky darkened and the storms loomed in the sky. I drove home.
I couldn't stop thinking that I should have done more for Phoenix and Abby. I had meetings to attend that night at the church. Judi had made a nice dinner of roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy. She ate with me then left to take Dana to the church for activities. I decided to get excused from my meetings and change my plans for the night. I called Judi's cell and asked if it was OK to bring home a guest and his dog then rushed back to the gas station. He was still there with Abby and a cardboard sign advertising that he needed a ride to Baton Rouge. He did a double-take when I drove up; wondering why I was back. He was talking to his mom on a cell phone. I invited him to come to my house for a home-cooked meal, a shower and a bed. We have a spare room since our older kids moved out. I tod him that my dogs would get along with Abby and that I could get him back on the road in the morning. He was very appreciative and accept the offer. I told him that he may have to sing for his supper and hoped that he would play banjo for us later.
He turned out to be a respectable and decent guest with a big appetite. He accepted seconds of roast beef and potatoes. We even had some Blue Bell ice cream to top it off. He told some great stories of his travels and after enjoying a hot shower, played some wonderful "claw hammer" banjo for us.
It rained that night with lightening and thunder but we all slept pretty well. After breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast he showed me a stack of snapshots that looked like they had been through a flood. They were of people and trails and mountain lakes. Some of the photos were so stuck together that he didn't dare pull them apart. I gave him some canned sardines and granola bars which he found a place for in his backpack. Soon I had him back at the gas station, rested, fed, and ready for the road.
The next day he had left a message on my office answering machine. He said some words of thanks, let me know that he made it to his destination and told me he would pray for our family. I'm glad that I got to meet Phoenix and Abby. May our paths cross again.
Charlotte & Penelope's "big girl" room
2 years ago